Sunday, 20th August, Friedrich, with his small Army, hardly above 15,000 I should guess, arrived at Frankfurt-on-Oder: "his Majesty," it seems, "lodged in the Lebus Suburb, in the house of a Clergyman's Widow; and was observed to go often out of doors, and listen to the cannonading, which was going on at Custrin." [Rodenbeck, i. 347.] From Landshut hither, he has come in nine days; the swiftest marching; a fiery spur of indignation being upon all his men and him, for the last two days fierier than ever,-- longing all to have a blow at those incendiary Russian gentlemen. Five days ago, the Russians, attempting blindly on the Garrison of Custrin, had burnt,--nothing of the Garrison at all,--but the poor little Town altogether. Which has filled everybody with lamentation and horror. And, listen yonder, they are still busy on the solitary Garrison of Custrin;--audible enough to Friedrich from his northern or Lebus Suburb, which lies nearest the place, at a distance of some twenty miles.
Of Fermor's red-hot savagery on Custrin, it is lamentably necessary we should say something: to say much would he a waste of record; as the thing itself was a waste of powder. A thing hideous to think of; without the least profit to Fermor, but with total ruin to all the inhabitants, and to the many strangers who had sought refuge there. One interior circumstance is memorable and lucky to us. Artillery-Captain Tielcke happened to be with these people; had come in the train of "two Saxon Princes, serving as volunteers;" and, with a singular lucidity, and faithful good sense, not scientific alone, he illuminates these biack Russian matters for such as have to do with them.
Tielcke's Book of
Up to Custrin, the Journal of the Operations of the Russian Army, which I could give from day to day, ["TAGEBUCH BEYDER &c. (Diary of both Armies from the beginning of the Campaign till Zorndorf"), in Tielcke, ii. 1-75; Tempelhof, ii. 136, 216-224;
East Preussen is quiet from the storms of War; holds its tongue well, and hopes better days: but the Russians themselves are little the better for it, a country so lately burned bare; they are merely flung so many scores of miles forward, farther from home and their real resources, before they can begin work, They have no port on the Baltic: poor blockheads, they are aware how desirable, for instance, Dantzig would be; to help feeding them out of ships; but the Dantzigers won't. Colberg, a poor little place, with only 700 militia people in it, would be of immense service to them as a sea-haven: but even this they have not yet tried to get; and after trying, they will find it a job. "Why not unite with the Swedes and take Stettin (the finest harbor in the Baltic), which would bring Russia, by ships, to your very hand?" This is what Montalembert is urgent upon, year after year, to the point of wearying everybody; but he can get no official soul to pay heed to him,--the difficulties are so considerable. "Swedes, what are they?" say the Russians: "Russians what?" say the Swedes. "Sweden would be so handy for the Artilleries," urges Montalembert; "Russians for the Soldiery, or covering and fighting part."--"Can't be done!" Officiality shakes its head: and Montalembert is obliged to be silent.
The Russians have got into the Neumark of Brandenburg, on those bad terms; and are clearly aware that, without some Fortress as a Place of Arms, they are an overgrown Incompetency and Monstrosity in the field of War; doing much destruction, most of which proves self- destructive before long. But how help it? If the carrying of meal so far be difficult what will the carrying of siege-furniture be? A flat impossibility. Fermor, aware of these facts, remembers what happened at Oczakow,--long ago, in our presence, and Keith's and Munnich's, if the reader have not quite forgot. Munnich, on that occasion, took Oczakow without any siege-furniture whatever, by boldly marching up to it; nothing but audacity and good luck on his side. Fermor determines to try Custrin in the like way,--if peradventure Prussian soldiery be like Turk?--
Fermor rose from Posen August 2d, almost three weeks ago; making daily for the Neumark and those unfortunate Oder Countries; nobody but Dohna to oppose him,--Dohna in the ratio of perhaps one against four. Dohna naturally laid hold of Frankfurt and the Oder Bridge, so that Fermor could not cross there; whereupon Fermor, as the next best thing, struck northward for the Warta (black Polish stream, last big branch of Oder); crossed this, at his ease, by Landsberg Bridge, August 10th [Tempelhof, ii. 216.] and after a day or two of readjustment in Landsberg, made for Custrin Country (his next head-quarter is at Gross Kamin); hoping in some accidental or miraculous way to cross Oder thereabouts, or even get hold of Custrin as a Place of Arms. If peradventure he can take Custrin without proper siege-artillery, in the Oczakow or Anti-Turk way? Fermor has been busy upon Custrin since August 15th;--in what fashion we partly heard, and will now, from authentic sources, see a little for ourselves.
The Castle of Custrin, built by good Johann of Custrin, and "roofed with copper," in the Reformation times,--we know it from of old, and Friedrich has since had some knowledge of it. Custrin itself is a rugged little Town, with some moorland traffic, and is still a place of great military strength, the garrison of those parts. Its rough pavements, its heavy stone battlements and barriers, give it a guarled obstinate aspect,--stern enough place of exile for a Crown-Prince fallen into such disfavor with Papa! A rugged, compact, by no means handsome little Town, at the meeting of the Warta and the Oder; stands naturally among sedges, willows and drained mire, except that human industry is pleasantly busy upon it, and has long been. So that the neighborhood is populous beyond expectation; studded with rough cottages in white-wash; hamlets in a paved condition; and comfortable signs of labor victoriously wrestling with the wilderness. Custrin, an arsenal and garrison, begirt with two rivers, and with awful bulwarks, and bastions cased in stone,--"perhaps too high," say the learned,--is likely to be impregnable to Russian engineering on those terms. Here, with brevity, is the catastrophe of Custrin.