Meanwhile, in spite of all things, the Siege makes progress; "June 22d, Balbi's sap had got to their glacis, and was pushing forward there,"--June 22d, day when Daun made momentary appearance, and the reinforcement stole in:--within a fortnight more, Balbi promises the thing shall be done. But supplies are indispensable: one other convoy from Troppau, and let it be a big one, "between 3 and 4,000 wagons," meal, money, iron, powder; Friedrich hopes this one, if he can get it home, will suffice. Colonel Mosel is to bring this Convoy; a resolute expert Officer, with perhaps 7,000 foot and horse: surely sufficient escort: but, as Daun is astir, and his Loudons, Ziskowitzes and light people are gliding about, Friedrich orders Ziethen to meet this important Convoy, with some thousands of new force, and take charge of bringing it in. Mosel was to leave Troppau June 26th; Ziethen pushes out to meet him from the Olmutz end, on the second day after; and, one hopes, all is now safe on that head.
The driving of 3,000 four-horse wagons, under escort, ninety miles of road, is such an enterprise as cannot readily be conceived by sedentary pacific readers;--much more the attack of such! Military science, constraining chaos into the cosmic state, has nowhere such a problem. There are twelve thousand horses, for one thing, to be shod, geared, kept roadworthy and regular; say six thousand country wagoners, thick-soled peasants: then, hanging to the skirts of these, in miscellaneous crazy vehicles and weak teams, equine and asinine, are one or two thousand sutler people, male and female, not of select quality, though on them, too, we keep a sharp eye. The series covers many miles, as many as twenty English miles (says Tempelhof), unless in favorable points you compress them into five, going four wagons abreast for defence's sake. Defence, or escort, goes in three bulks or brigades; vanguard, middle, rear-guard, with sparse pickets intervening;-- wider than five miles, you cannot get the parts to support one another. An enemy breaking in upon you, at some difficult point of road, woody hollow or the like, and opening cannon, musketry and hussar exercise on such an object, must make a confused transaction of it! Some commanders, for the road has hitherto been mainly pacific, divide their train into parts, say four parts; moving with their partial escorts, with an interval of one day between each two: this has its obvious advantages, but depends, of course, on the road being little infested, so that your partial escort will suffice to repel attacks. Toiling forward, at their diligent slow rate, I find these trains from Troppau take about six days (from Neisse to Olmutz they take eleven, but the first five are peaceable [Tempelhof, ii. 48.]);--can't be hurried beyond that pace, if you would save your laggards, your irregulars, and prevent what we may call RAGGERY in your rearward parts; the skirts of your procession get torn by the bushes if you go faster. This time Colonel Mosel will have to mend his pace, however, and to go in the lump withal; the case being critical, as Mosel knows, and MORE than he yet knows.
Daun, who has friends everywhere, and no lack of spies in this country, generally hears of the convoys. He has heard, in particular, of this important one, in good time. Hitherto Daun had not attempted much upon convoys, nor anything with success: King's posted corps and other precautions are of such a kind, not even Loudon, when he tried his best, could do any good; and common wandering hussar parties are as likely to get a mischief as to do one, on such service. Cautious Daun had been busy enough keeping his own Camp safe, and flinging a word of news or encouragement, at the most a trifle of reinforcement, into Olmutz. when possible. But now it becomes evident there must be one of two things: this convoy seized, or else a battle risked;--and that in defect of both these, the inevitable third thing is, Olmutz will straightway go.
Major-General Loudon, the best partisan soldier extant, and ripening for better things, has usually a force of perhaps 10,000 under him, four regiments of them regular grenadiers; and has been active on the convoys, though hitherto unsuccessful. Let an active Loudon, with increased force, try this, their vitally important convoy, from the west side of the River; an active Ziskowitz co-operating on the east side, where the road itself is; and do their uttermost! That is Daun's plan,--now in course of execution. Daun, instead of meaning battle, that day when Friedrich saw him, was cautiously stealing past, intending to cross the River farther down; and himself support the operation. Daun has crossed accordingly, and has doubled up northward again to the fit point; Ziskowitz is in the fit point, in the due force, on this east side too. Loudon, on the west side, goes by Muglitz, Hof; making a long deep bend far to westward and hillward of all the Prussian posted corps and precautions, and altogether hidden from them; Loudon aims to be in Troppau neighborhood, "Guntersdorf, near Bautsch," by the proper day, and pay Mosel an unexpected visit in the passage there.
Colonel Mosel, marshalling his endless Trains with every excellent precaution, and the cleverest dispositions (say the Books), against the known and the unknown, had got upon the road, and creaked forward, many-wheeled, out of Troppau, Monday, 26th June. [Tempelhof, ii. 89-94.] The roads, worn by the much travelling and wet weather, were utterly bad; the pace was perhaps quicker than usual; the much-jolting Train got greatly into a jumble:--Mosel, to bring up the laggards, made the morrow a rest-day; did get about two-thirds of his laggards marshalled again; ordered the others to return, as impossible. They say, had it not been for this rest-day, which seemed of no consequence, Loudon would not have been at Guntersdorf in time, nor have attempted as he did at Guntersdorf and afterwards. At break of day (Wednesday, 28th), Mosel is again on the road; heavily jumbling forward from his quarters in Bautsch. Few miles on, towards Guntersdorf, he discovers Loudon posted ahead in the defiles. What a sight for Mosel, in his character of Wagoner up with the dawn! But Mosel managed the defiles and Loudon this time; halted his train, dashed up into the woody heights and difficult grounds; stormed Loudon's cannon from him, smote Loudon in a valiant tempestuous manner; and sent him travelling again for the present.
Loudon, I conjecture, would have struggled farther, had not he known that there would be a better chance again not very many miles ahead. London has studied this Convoy; knows of Ziethen coming to it with so many; of Ziskowitz coming to him, Loudon, with so many; that Ziethen cannot send for more (roads being all beset by our industry yesterday), that Ziskowitz can, should it be needful;--and that at Domstadtl there is a defile, or confused woody hollow, of unequalled quality! Mosel jumbles on all day with his Train, none molesting; at night gets to his appointed quarters, Village of Neudorfl; [The L, or EL, is a diminutive in these Names: (NEUDORFL) "New-ThorpLET," (DOMSTADTL) "Cathedral-TownLET," and the like.] and there finds Ziethen: a glad meeting, we may fancy, but an anxious one, with Domstadtl ahead on the morrow. Loudon concerts with Ziskowitz this day; calls in all reinforcements possible, and takes his measures. Thursday morning, Ziethen finds the Train in such a state, hardly half of it come up, he has to spend the whole day, Mosel and he, in rearranging it: Friday morning, June 30th, they get under way again;--Friday, the catastrophe is waiting them.
The Pass of Domstadtl, lapped in the dim Moravian distance, is not known to me or to my readers; nor indeed could the human pen or intellect, aided by ocular inspection or whatever helps, give the least image of what now took place there, rendering Domstadtl a memorable locality ever since. Understand that Ziethen and Mosel, with their waste slow deluge of wagons, come jumbling in, with anxiety, with precautions,--precautions doubled, now that the woody intricacies about Domstadtl rise in sight. "Pooh, it is as we thought: there go Austrian cannon-salvos, horse-charges, volleying musketries, as our first wagons enter the Pass;--and there will be a job!" Indecipherable to mankind far off, or even near. Of which only this feature and that can be laid hold of, as discernible, by the most industrious man. Escort, in three main bodies, vanguard, middle, rear-guard, marches on each side; infantry on the left, cavalry on the right, as the ground is leveller there. Length of the Train in statute miles, as it jumbles along at this point, is not given; but we know it was many miles; that horses and wagoners were in panic hardly restrainable; and we dimly descry, here especially, human drill-sergeantcy doing the impossible to keep chaos plugged down. The poor wagoner, cannon playing ahead, whirls homeward with his vehicle, if your eye quit him,--still better, and handier, cuts his traces, mounts in a good moment, and is off at heavy-footed gallop, leaving his wagon. Seldom had human drill- sergeantcy such a problem.
The Prussian Vanguard, one Krockow its commander, repulsed that first Austrian attack; swept the Bass clear for some minutes; got their section of the carriages, or some part of it, 250 in all, hurried through; then halted on the safe side, to wait what Ziethen would do with the remainder. Ziethen does his best and bravest, as everybody does; keeps his wagon-chaos plugged down; ranks it in square mass, as a wagon fortress (WAGENBURG); ranks himself and everybody, his cannon, his platoon musketry, to the best advantage round it; furiously shoots out in all manner of ways, against the furious Loudon on this flank, and the furious Ziskowitz on that; takes hills, loses them; repels and is repelled (wagon-chaos ever harder to keep plugged); finally perceives himself to be beaten; that the wagon-chaos has got unplugged (fancy it!)--and that he, Ziethen, must retreat; back foremost if possible. He did retreat, fighting all the way to Troppau; and the Convoy is a ruin and a prey.