Friedrich had last left Grussau April 18th; he has returned to it August 8th: after sixteen weeks of a very eventful absence. In Grussau he stayed two whole days;--busy enough he, probably, though his people were resting! August 10th he draws up, for Prince Henri, "under seal of the most absolute secrecy," and with admirable business-like strictness, brevity and clearness, forgetting nothing useful, remembering nothing useless, a Paper of Directions in case of a certain event: "I march to-morrow against the Russians: as the events of War may lead to all sorts of accidents, and it may easily happen to me to be killed, I have thought it my duty to let you know what my plans were," and what you are to do in that event,--"the rather as you are Guardian of our Nephew [late Prince of Prussia's Son] with an unlimited authority." Oath from all the armies the instant I am killed: rapid, active, as ever; the enemy not to notice that there is any change in the command. I intend to "beat the Russians utterly [A PLATE COUTURE, splay-seam], if it be possible;" then to &c.:-- gives you his "itinerary," too, or probable address, till "the 25th" (notably enough); in short, forgets nothing useful, nor remembers anything that is not, in spite of his hurry. ["DISPOSITION TESTAMENTAIRE" (so they have labelled it); given in
With Margraf Karl, and Fouquet under him, who are to guard Silesia, he leaves in two Divisions about Half the late Olmutz Army:--added to the other force, this will make about 40,000 for that service. [Stenzel, v. 163.] Keith has the chief command here; but is ordered to Breslau, in the mean time, for a little rest and recovery of health. Friday, 11th August, Friedrich himself, with the other Half, pushes off towards Fermor and the Cossack demons; through Liegnitz, through Hohenfriedberg Country, straight for Frankfurt, with his best speed.
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?--