WHAT ACTUALLY BEFELL AT HOCHKIRCH (Saturday, 14th October, 1758).
Friedrich, for some time,--probably ever since Wednesday morning, when he found the Stromberg was not to be his,--had decided to be out of this bad post. In which, clearly enough, nothing was to be done, unless Daun would attempt something else than more and more intrenching and palisading himself. Friedrich on the second day (Thursday, 12th) rode across to Weissenberg, to give Retzow his directions, and take view of the ground: "Saturday night, Herr Retzow, sooner it cannot be [Friedrich had aimed at Friday night, but finds the Provision-convoy cannot possibly be up]; Saturday night, in all silence, we sweep round out of this,--we and you;--hurl Baden-Durlach about his business; and are at Schops and Reichenbach, and the Silesian Highway open, next morning, to us!" [Tempelhof, ii. 320.] Quietly everything is speeding on towards this consummation, on Friedrich's part. But on Daun's part there is--started, I should guess, on the very same Thursday--another consummation getting ready, which is to fall out on Saturday MORNING, fifteen hours before that other, and entirely supersede that other!--
Keith's opinion, that the Austrians deserve to be hanged if they don't attack us here, is also Loudon's opinion and Lacy's, and indeed everybody's,--and at length Daun's own; who determines to try something here, if never before or after. This plan, all judges admit, was elaborate and good; and was well executed too,--Daun himself presiding over the most critical part of the execution. A plan to have ruined almost any Army, except this Prussian one and the Captain it chanced to have. A universal camisado, or surprisal of Friedrich in his Camp, before daylight: everybody knows that it took effect (Hochkirch, Saturday, 14th October, 1758, 5 A.M. of a misty morning); nobody expects of an unassisted fellow-creature much light on so doubly dark a thing. But the truth is, there are ample accounts, exact, though very chaotic; and the thing, steadily examined, till its essential features extricate themselves from the unessential, proves to be not quite so unintelligible, and nothing like so destructive, overwhelming and ruinous as was supposed.
Daun's plan is very elaborate, and includes a great many combinations; all his 90,000 to come into it, simultaneously or in succession. But the first and grandly vital part, mainspring and father to all the rest, is this: That Daun, in person, after nightfall of Friday, shall, with the pick of his force, say 30,000 horse and foot, with all their artilleries and tools, silently quit his now position in front of Hochkirch, Friedrich's right wing. Shall sweep off, silently to southward and leftward, by Wuischke; thence westward and northward, by the northern base of those Devil Mountains, through the shaggy hollows and thick woods there, hitherto inhabited by Croats only, and unknown to the Prussians: forward, ever forward, through the night-watches that way; till he has fairly got to the flank of Hochkirch and Friedrich: Daun to be standing there, all round from the southern environs of Hochkirch, westward through the Woods, by Meschwitz, Steindorfel, and even north to Waditz (if readers will consult their Map), silently enclosing Friedrich, as in the bag of a net, in this manner;--ready every man and gun by about four on Saturday morning. Are to wait for the stroke of five in Hochkirch steeple; and there and then to begin business,--there first; but, on success THERE, the whole 90,000 everywhere,--and to draw the strings on Friedrich, and bag and strangle his astonished people and him.
The difficulty has been to keep it perfectly secret from so vigilant a man as Friedrich: but Daun has completely succeeded. Perhaps Friedrich's eyes have been a little dimmed by contempt of Daun: Daun, for the last two days especially, has been more diligent than ever to palisade himself on every point; nothing, seemingly, on hand but felling woods, building abatis, against some dangerous Lion's-spring. They say also, he detected a traitor in his camp; traitor carrying Letters to Friedrich under pretence of fresh eggs,--one of the eggs blown, and a Note of Daun's Procedures substituted as yolk. "You are dead, sirrah," said Daun; "hoisted to the highest gallows: Are not you? But put in a Note of my dictating, and your beggarly life is saved." Retzow Junior, though there is no evidence except of the circumstantial kind, thinks this current story may be true. [Retzow, i. 347.] Certain it is, neither Friedrich nor any of his people had the least suspicion of Daun's project, till the moment it exploded on them, when the clock at Hochkirch struck five. Daun, in the last two days, had been felling even more trees than they are aware of,--thousands of trees in those Devil's wildernesses to Friedrich's right; and has secretly hewn himself roads, passable by night for men and ammunition-wagons there:--and in front of Friedrich, especially Hochkirch way, Daun seems busier than ever felling wood, this Friday night; numbers of people running about with axes, with lanterns over there, as if in the push of hurry, and making a great deal of noise. "Intending retreat for Zittau to-morrow!" thinks Friedrich, as the false egg-yolk had taught him; or merely, "That poor precautionary fellow!" supposing the false yolk a myth. In short, Daun has got through his nocturnal wildernesses with perfect success. And stands, dreamt of by no enemy, in the places appointed for his 30,000 and him; and that poor old clock of Hochkirch, unweariedly grunting forward to the stroke of five, will strike up something it is little expecting!--
The Prussians have vedettes, pickets and small outposts of Free- corps people scattered about within their border of that Austrian Wood, the body of which, about Hochkirch as everywhere else, belongs wholly to Croats. Of course there are guard-parties, sentries duly vigilant, in the big Battery to southeast of Hochkirch,--and along southwestward in that POTENCE, or fore-arm of Four Battalions, which are stationed there. Four good Battalions looking southward there, with Cavalry to right; Ziethen's Cavalry, --whose horses stand saddled through the night, ready always for the nocturnal "Pandourade," which seldom fails them. There, as elsewhere, are the due vigilances, watchmen, watch-fires. The rest of the Prussian Army is in its blankets, wholly asleep, while Daun stands waiting for the stroke of five.
That Daun, bursting in with his chosen 30,000, will trample down the sleeping Prussian POTENCE at Hochkirch; capture its big Battery to left, its Village of Hochkirch to rear, and do extensive ruin on the whole right wing of Friedrich; rendering Friedrich everywhere an easy conquest to the rest of Daun's people, who stand, far and wide, duly posted and prepared, waiting only their signal from Hochkirch: much of this, all of it that had regard to Hochkirch Battery and Village, and the Prussians stationed there, Daun did execute. And readers, from the data they have got, must conceive the manner of it,--human description of the next Two Hours, about Hochkirch, in the thick darkness there, and stormful sudden inroad, and stormful resistance made, being manifestly an impossible thing. Nobody was "massacred in his bed" as the sympathetic gazetteers fancied; nobody was killed, that I hear of, without arms, in his hand: but plenty of people perished, fierce of humor, on both sides; and from half-past five till towards eight, there was a general blaze of fiery chaos pushing out ever and anon, swallowed in the belly of Night again, such as was seldom seen in this world. Instead of confused details, and wearisome enumeration of particulars, which nobody would listen to or understand, we will give one intelligent young gentleman's experience, our friend Tempelhof's, who stood in this part of the Prussian Line; experience distinct and indubitable to us; and which was pretty accurately symbolical, I otherwise see, of what befell on all points thereabouts. Faithfully copied, and in the essential parts not even abridged, here it is:--
Tempelhof, at that time a subaltern of artillery, was stationed with a couple of 24-pounders in attendance on the Battalion Plothow, which with three others and some cavalry lay to the south side of Hochkirch, forming a kind of fore-arm or POTENCE there to right of the big Battery, with their rear to Hochkirch; and keeping vedettes and Free-corps parties spread out into the woods and Devil's Hills ahead. Tempelhof had risen about three, as usual; had his guns and gunners ready; and was standing by the watch-fire, "expecting the customary Pandourade," and what form it would take this morning. "Close on five o'clock; and not a mouse stirring! We are not to have our Pandourade, then?" On a sudden, noise bursts out; noise enough, sharp fire among the Free-corps people; fire growing ever sharper, noisier, for the next half-hour, but nothing whatever to be seen. "Battalion Plothow had soon got its clothes on, all to the spatterdashes; and took rank to right and left of the FLECHE, and of my two guns, in front of its post: but on account of the thick fog everything was totally dark. I fired off my cannons [shall we say straight southward?] to learn whether there was anything in front of us. No answer: 'Nothing there--Pshaw, a mere crackery (GEKNACKER) of Pandours and our Free- corps people, after all!' But the noise grew louder, and came ever nearer; I turned my guns towards it [southward, southeastward, or perhaps a gun each way?]--and here we had a salvo in response, from some battalions who seemed to be two hundred yards or so ahead. The Battalion Plothow hereupon gave fire; I too plied my cannons what I could,--and had perhaps delivered fifteen double shots from them, when at once I tumbled to the ground, and lost all consciousness" for some minutes or moments.