Bad weather set in on 18 December. The baggage and artillery dragged far behind, and the soldiers marched in mud and water up to their knees, ruining their white gaiters. Glogau proved to be rather better fortified than had been expected, and although the Austrian commandant declined to take the initiative in opening hostilities the Prussian invasion threatened to bog down a few miles inside the Silesian border. Frederick was all the more anxious to press on to Breslau because he knew that the city author- ities, although riddled with Prussian sympathisers, were engaged in talks to admit an Austrian garrison.
Frederick accordingly left Glogau under blockade by an improvised 'II Corps', and on 28 December he set off for Breslau with the advance guard of the main body. On 31 December Frederick and his grenadiers arrived outside the massive ramparts of Breslau. The main gates were shut against them, but the wickets were open, and a stream of tradesmen's lads made for the lines of brass-capped Prussians, bearing wine, bread, fish and meat, and dragging casks of beer behind them on little sledges.
Through his emissaries Frederick guaranteed the city fathers that he would uphold all the municipal privileges and that he had no intention whatsoever of establishing a garrison there. In return he desired only that Breslau should keep out the Austrians as well.
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The magistracy agreed to these terms, and the appropriate document was signed on the morning of 3 January. Frederick preceded his assent with the formula 'in the present circumstances and as long as they hold good'. This was dismissed as an unimportant detail at the time. Meanwhile Frederick and a symbolic suite were allowed to make a ceremonial entry.
Just before noon on the same 3 January the royal train entered by wayoftheSchweidnitzerTor. Frederick's table silver was first through the gate. It was borne on pack-horses, which were draped with hangings of blue silk, all a-dangle with gold tassels and little bells. Frederick himself was mounted on a mettlesome steed.
His blue silken cloak was bedaubed with the falling snowflakes, but he repeatedly uncovered his head to acknowledge the greetings of the crowd. He descended at the house of Count Schlangenberg in the Albrechtstrasse, and twice appeared on the balcony in response to the continuing applause.
5 key dates in the life of Frederick the Great
In retrospect the beginning of the Prussian presence in Breslau may be seen as inaugurating the first of the sequence of modern wars. It is strange that it was invested with all the ceremonial of the joyeuse entree, which was so much a part of the medieval era that was slipping away. For this purpose the 'I Corps' was divided into two wings. Frederick and the left continued the march up the Oder, and on the night of 8 January they received the capitulation of the little fortress of Ohlau.
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Schwerin meanwhile took the right wing on a roughly parallel course out to the west, scouring the fringes of the hills bordering the Austrian provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. Five depleted companies of Austrian grenadiers were slow to make their escape, and they were bottled up by Schwerin at Ottmachau on the left bank of the river Neisse. Frederick arrived at the scene of the miniature siege on 12 January, and found that the Austrians were ensconced in a castle perched at the top of a steep mound.
Unaccountably, Colonel Wilhelm von Roth, although one of the few Lutherans in the Austrian employ, refused to surrender the size- able fortress-town of Neisse nearby. This was an embarrassment, for Neisse stood close to the passes with Moravia, and it might offer the Austrians a strategic bridgehead for an eventual counter-offensive into Silesia. Formal siege was unthinkable at this wintry season, and 'a bombardment is the only thing worth attempting - the place is a nest of Papists, and there are not many troops inside' Gr.
Cold shot, red-hot shot heated in the local brick- works and mortar bombs rained down on the town until 22 January, when the enterprise was abandoned as useless. This was to be far from the last time that an Austrian stronghold put a term to a run of Prussian successes in the open field, and it revealed an important shortcoming in the proficiency of Frederick's army.
It was high time to think of giving the troops some shelter and rest. In his Principes GenSraux de la Guerre Frederick con- demned winter campaigns 'as being the most pernicious of all opera- tions of war'. They spread sickness among the troops, and they deprived the monarch of the opportunity of recruiting and re- equipping the army for the next campaign. However, Frederick always considered his Silesian operation of as fully justified, for if he had waited for the spring 'it would then have taken me perhaps three or four hard-fought campaigns to acquire what I could now obtain simply by marching into Silesia' 'Principes G6n6raux', Oeuvres, XXVIII, Frederick left blockading forces around the Austrian garrisons at Glogau, Neisse and the upper Oder fortress of Brieg.
He entrusted Schwerin with the command in Silesia, and commissioned him to sweep the tiny remnant of the Austrian field forces out of Troppau and into the Moravian border hills. The rest of the Prussian troops were quartered in the Silesian towns and villages, and Frederick set out for Berlin on 25 January. There has been an inclination among some historians to ask whether Frederick's theft of Silesia was particularly noteworthy or reprehensible.
Gerhard Ritter claims that the moral indignation on this head was 'conditioned by Europe's much later experiences of the military energy of the Prussian state' Ritter, , I, Likewise Hans Bleckwenn, in correspondence with the present author, has suggested that we should place the episode alongside the colonial aggressions of the British that were going ahead in the same period. However, what struck observers at the time was the unique style of the Silesian operation, which had been determined in a couple of days and carried to completion in six weeks.
The Danish envoy to Berlin, Lieutenant- General Andreas August von Praetorius, expressed his astonishment at the speed, energy and facility of the thing. He will not be content with conquering a province, but will strive to become the arbiter of the German Empire' Volz, , I, See also the nearly identical comments of Colonel de Beauval and Baron von Schwicheldt, ibid.
The time had not yet come for Frederick to take any useful decisions concerning politics and strategy for So far he had no allies in his adventure, and he even found some difficulty in identifying the character of the Austrian leadership. Vienna was certainly proving unexpectedly obstinate in its refusal to renounce Silesia, but Frederick did not yet associate the source of this defiance with the new head of the House of Habsburg, the young and inexperienced Maria Theresa.
Meanwhile the impudent Colonel Roth had got into the habit of kidnapping the pro-Prussian nobility who lived within range of his raids from Neisse, and he spirited his captives away to his friend General Maximilian von Browne, who hovered in the Moravian hills with a screen of Austrian troops. These activities went unchecked by the Prussian hussars, who were still but a pale imitation of the genuine Hungarian originals in the Austrian service. The Prussian inferiority in der kleine Krieg of ambush and surprise was brought home directly to Frederick when he was nearly captured by a party of Austrian hussars at Baumgarten on 27 February.
Frederick received a measure of needful cheer on 9 March, when he learnt that the Hereditaiy Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau one of the sons of the Old Dessauer had taken the fortress of Glogau by a surprise night escalade. Almost all of the open country of Silesia had long been in the possession of the Prussians, but Glogau offered them a solid gain, and it opened the navigation of the Oder up to the region of Breslau. Frederick had still settled on no firm plan to consolidate his hold on Silesia when, at the beginning of April , the initiative was snatched from him by the Austrians.
About 16, Austrian troops had been assembled in Moravia, and Field-Marshal Neipperg now led them in a boldly conceived march from the border hills, aiming to relieve Neisse and recover the open country of Silesia. Frederick was in the hills at Jagerndorf when the first tidings of the offensive were brought to him by seven Austrian deserters, and at once an outburst of firing from the pickets served to underline the urgency of their message.
In fact his position was even worse than he believed, for the Austrians had already slipped past his right, or western flank, and they were well on their way to Neisse. Why had Frederick been caught so badly off his guard? In part the answer lies in the lack of responsiveness of the over-drilled Prussian army. More important still, Frederick was inexperienced in war and he distrusted his own correct instincts, which had been to pull back his detachments and magazines from the hills, in accordance with such reports as had reached him concerning the Austrians who were gathering in Moravia.
Schwerin, on the other hand, was anxious above all to secure fodder for the cavalry, and he wished to keep the screen well forward so as to conserve the fertile neighbourhood between the Oder and the hills. Frederick had met Schwerin on 29 March to debate the point, but he allowed himself to be overborne by the veteran. The consequences taught him never to defer so lightly to another's strategic judgment again. The Prussian troops were now summoned from the companion- able fug of their billets, and they joined their king as he hastened north across the snowy landscape to regain the time he had lost.
The Austrians were well ahead of him. They relieved the fortress-town of Neisse on 5 April, and gained the far bank of the river of the same name. Frederick was for a long time unaware of the location of the enemy, but he knew that a battle could not long be postponed.
He wrote to one of his old companions: My dear Jordan. I do not know what will become of me, but if my fate is sealed I wish you to remember me as a friend who loves you still. Oeuvres, XVII, 98 The ninth of April brought snows so heavy that at times it was impossible to make out objects at twenty paces. From what could be discerned of the Austrians it was evident that they were reaching out to their isolated garrison at Brieg. As long as Neipperg was in com- munication with the force there, he was firmly emplaced across the routes to Lower Silesia and Breslau only the battle of Liegnitz in found the Prussians in equal peril, and there too the enemy were across Frederick's communications.
When there was talk at the Parole of 'columns', and the sequence of the battalions that were supposed to make them up, our brave idiots got together and muttered 'What the hell are these columns? Well, I know what I shall do. I'll follow the man in front, and where he goes I'll go as well! The Prussians owned the advantage of the solidity of their 16, infantry, so well schooled on the parade square. The Austrians had just 10, foot soldiers, many of them recruits, but in compensation their 8, cavalry gave them a powerful offensive capacity, and they had a great depth of recent experience among their officers and generals.
These gentry declared: 'We'll throw them back where they came from. The sun rose into a clear sky on 10 April , illuminating an expanse of thick but hard-frozen snow. The troops loaded their knapsacks onto the company baggage waggons, then formed up in five marching columns. Frederick probably shared the feelings re- corded by one of his drummers: 'Only a fool will claim that he is as calm in his first battle as in his tenth. I know that my heart was pounding when reveille sounded on the morning of that memorable day' Dreyer, , No further news was yet at hand concerning the whereabouts of the Austrians, and the army set off at 10 a.
A little later, news reached Frederick from peasants and captured hussars that the enemy were disposed among the villages of Mollwitz, Griiningen and Hiinern close under Brieg, and he accord- ingly swung the columns to the left. Little could be seen of the Austrians through the gaps in the woods, but the Prussian army was still 3, paces short of Mollwitz when at noon the order came to enter battle formation. The right wing was told to align itself on the prominent village of Hermsdorf or a small wood to its left , and the left wing was to look for the church tower of Pampitz.
Frederick later reproached himself for not con- tinuing the advance directly on Mollwitz, where he believed he might have caught the Austrian infantry intact, like the French troops who were bottled up in Blenheim village in He was being too hard on himself, for we now know that the Austrian infantry was scattered over a wide area around Mollwitz, and could never have been trapped in this way.
Such a head-on approach to an enemy force was a move which Frederick sought to avoid in his later battles, for it brought a check in the advance so as to allow the columns which were not considered a tactical formation to make a right-angled turn and rearrange them- selves into the two lines of battle, about paces apart. Only when the lines were formed could the onward march be resumed. More- over, at Mollwitz the level, snow-covered ground and the low and harsh sunlight seem to have conspired to throw out the Prussians' sense of distance.
If they thought they were much nearer Mollwitz village than they really were, then they underestimated the space they needed to win for their lines, and they tried to crowd all of their forces onto a frontage of about 2, paces when more would not have been excessive. A number of units therefore found themselves without a home - namely a grenadier battalion of the second column, two regiments and one battalion of the infantiy of the fourth column, and the whole of the battalions of the fifth column - and they all had to be fitted in haphazardly along or between the lines of battle.
The effective width of front was constricted still further by the Conradswaldauer-Bach and a companion stream on the south of the field, which served to isolate the left wing of the cavaliy from the rest of the army.
5 key dates in the life of Frederick the Great
After the deployment was complete, Frederick gave the order to advance at p. Now at last the Prussian proficiency in drill showed to full advantage. The right, or northern, wing was slanting forward towards the enemy, and the Prussian heavy artillery went in front by bounds, unlimbering, firing, then advancing to the next battery position.
The Prussian guns were concentrating their fire on a mass of Austrian cavalry that was seen to be forming up to the north-east of Mollwitz. Some of the Prussians saw that the ground turned black when the cannon shot ripped the snow aside. Another witness noted that a strong wind whipped the surface of the snow into a dense, billowing cloud, which enveloped the enemy horse Geuder, , Out of this haze burst the entire left wing of the Austrian cavalry. On this side of the field the hostile cavalry comprised 4, troopers under the command of General Rdmer, who was now intent on winning time for the rest of the Austrian army to form up.
The Schulenburg Dragoons D 3; see Map 1, p. He was already too late, and he was borne away with the mass of struggling cavalry along the front of the first line of the army. What happened next is difficult to reconstruct with any convic- tion, but it is evident that Romer's cavaliy, although broken into groups, returned to the attack on at least two occasions. The fighting was certainly intense. Romer and the Prussian General of Cavalry Schulenburg were killed at this confused stage of the proceedings. The king's friend, Count Chasot, was intent on throttling an Austrian officer, but before he could finish the work he was wounded in the head by a sword cut, and both he and his intended victim fell to the ground.
Schwerin now advised Frederick that he ought to absent himself from the scene. The field-marshal had noticed that the Prussian line had opened fire without orders, and his experienced tactical judg- ment told him that things were in danger of getting out of control Schwerin, , Frederick probably needed little prompting, for he was alarmed by the sequence of sudden reverses. At about 4 p. Frederick and his party of companions rode almost without rest through the evening and the early hours of the night to the supposed shelter of Oppeln.
They found that the town gates were shut, and when they announced that they were Prussians they came under fire from a force of fifty Austrian hussars which had got there before them. Frederick pulled his horse around and was off before the Austrians could open the gates. There he strode up and down the room, giving vent to loud lamentations. Why are You so intent on punishing me? An officer now arrived with a message from Schwerin.
He told Frederick not about the final stages of some disaster, but of how his master had reassembled the shattered cavaliy and pushed the Aus- trians from Mollwitz with the infantry. It is said that the king 'never forgave Schwerin for having rendered a service too important in itself, as well as too wounding to the vanity of a sovereign such as Frederick' Wraxall, , I, Frederick was back with his army on 11 April, but he allowed the Austrians to retire with their forces intact.
He was still a novice in warfare, and he was too glad not to have been beaten to be able to think of exploiting the victory Gisors, , With their 4, dead, wounded or missing, the Prussians had actually lost more men than the Austrians. However, the importance of the victory can be judged only by reference to what would have happened if Neipperg had won, for then 'not only would all Silesia have been restored to the Queen of Hungary [Maria Theresa], but the King of Prussia and his entire army would have been forced into an unconditional surrender' Geuder, , Frederick's tactical summary was forceful and accurate: 'It is to our incomparable infantry alone that we are indebted for the con- tinuation of my good fortune, the preservation of our valiant army, and the welfare of the state.
Regarding the campaign as a whole, Frederick censured his own conduct with unnecessary harshness, and cited three major mistakes: a He allowed his army to be caught in scattered positions when the Austrians opened their advance. Oeuvres, II, 77 It is agreeable to record that Frederick, so ungrateful to human- kind, never forgot his debt to the long-striding animal which had carried him to safety.
The 'Mollwitz Grey' Mollwitzer Schimmel was put into retirement and tended for the rest of its long life. Sometimes this coincided with the season for the reviews, when the ensigns brought out the colours from the Schloss and the whole corps of drums beat out a march. Then the old horse would rear up and go through its paces of its own accord, until the flags and drummers had passed by. Nicolai, , IV, Frederick was disinclined to make the further effort that was needed to push the Austrians from Neisse and Upper Silesia.
His army required rest and repair, and he did not wish to plunge into a further campaign until the new patterns of European alliances had assumed recognisable shape. From 20 April to 25 May Frederick devoted all his efforts to fashioning a battleworthy army in his camp to the north of Mollwitz. Belle-Isle and Torring, the French and Bavarian envoys, could scarce- ly believe what they saw.
Frederick rose at four eveiy morning and made a rapid tour of the camp and the surroundings. He returned to give instructions to the generals, to dictate letters to his two over- worked secretaries, and to question spies, deserters and prisoners. The cavalry was the object of Frederick's particular attention, as may well be imagined, but he drove the entire corps of officers so hard that several hundred of them asked to resign. The requests were refused. With all of this going on, Frederick still found the leisure to entertain sittings of forty officers at a time in his tent and to write verse to Charles-Etienne Jordan, his secretaiy of the Rheinsberg days.
During this period of reconstruction Frederick looked naturally to the assistance of the Anhalt-Dessau tribe. The Old Dessauer himself was drilling 26, more troops in a camp at Gottin, and Frederick tapped his experience in the course of a lively correspond- ence. The eldest of the Anhalt-Dessau sons, the Hereditary Prince Leopold Max, had already proved his coolness and resolution when he stormed Glogau, and Frederick readily entrusted him with inde- pendent commands.
However, the third in the line, the amiable and respected Dietrich, stood closest to Frederick in terms of friendship. He was made field-marshal in , but three years later Frederick gave in to his repeated demands to be allowed to retire from the military life. The Old Dessauer's fourth and last son, Prince Moritz, was a bizarre assemblage of practical ability and brutal ignorance.
He was said to have been left without any education whatsoever, as an experiment on the part of his father, and he emerged into adulthood as an almost complete Naturmensch. It is easy to see why contemp- oraries believed that he was totally illiterate, whereas he probably just gave the appearance of being so. Moritz and the others came to Frederick as a legacy from the Old Dessauer. However, in the spring of we can already discern the rise of the first of a new generation of commanders, singled out by Frederick from among the ranks of their comrades.
This was a lieutenant-colonel of hussars, Hans Joachim von Zieten, who on 17 May played the leading part in routing a force of Austrian cavalry at Rothschloss. Zieten was already in his forty-third year, and his slow promo- tion owed as much to his poor performance as a peacetime soldier as to the clogging of the senior ranks by venerable warriors.
He was born to a family of the poor squirarchy at Wustrau in Brandenburg. Eveiy Sunday from the age of nine he travelled to nearby Ruppin, to have his hair dressed and powdered in the militaiy style by a hired musketeer, and he persevered in his military vocation, despite a series of appalling disqualifications. His stature was slight, his voice on parade was feeble, he maintained bad discipline among his men, he was easily overcome by drink, and his sensitivity and quarrelsome temperament led him into two duels, a period of fortress arrest, and a temporaiy cashiering.
In , however, the achievement of Zieten and his six squad- rons of hussars wrung a compliment from the defeated Austrian commander General Baranyay. In the next year Zieten was to spear- head the advance of the army into southern Moravia, and his men skirmished to within sight of the spires of Vienna. The hussars, under Zieten, were by then an effective force in the field, and their prowess was to be the seed of the regeneration of the whole of the Prussian cavalry.
In the weeks after Mollwitz Frederick came to appreciate that other powers regarded the friendship of Prussia as a desirable com- modity. This sensation was all the more agreeable because the Austrians were obstinate in refusing to recognise the Prussian gains in Silesia. The French gave Frederick a guarantee of his possession of Breslau and Lower Silesia, and in return Frederick promised his vote to the Elector of Bavaria or any other French candidate for the throne of the Emperor of Germany.
The main burden of military operations was to be assumed by the French and Bavarians who, Frederick hoped, would push straight down the Danube on Vienna. Operations in Silesia languished until August , while Frederick and Neipperg built up and trained their rival forces. Desir- ing to have his hands free for possible joint action with his allies. Frederick breached the already tenuous treaty of neutrality with the city of Breslau. Early on 10 August 4, troops seized the gates, and within a few hours Schwerin exacted the oaths of loyalty which made Breslau a Prussian city.
Just as had happened in the spring, Field-Marshal Neipperg and the Austrians were the first to declare their hand when operations resumed in the high summer of On 23 August Frederick blocked their first move, which was a strike from Neisse against the Prussian magazine at Schweidnitz. Now that the two armies were mobile again, Frederick hatched a scheme to cut around Neipperg's right flank and reach the prize of Neisse, which would have given the Prussians an important political and military advantage before the coming of winter closed down operations.
The Prussian advance guard and the bridging train set out from Frederick's camp at Reichen- bach on the evening of 7 September, but in the autumn mists they described a circle and ended up behind the main army, which was not at all what had been intended. The lost time was never made up. Neipperg was quick on his feet over short distances, and he twice headed off Frederick's attempts to make an undisputed passage of the Neisse river at Woitz, downstream from Neisse town - on 11 September and again on 14 September.
In the late autumn Frederick discovered that the Austrians, faced with the disintegration of their monarchy, were willing to pay him very handsomely for the freedom to divert their forces against the French and Bavarians on the Danube and in Bohemia. Frederick was a bad partner in any joint enterprise, whether a marriage or an alliance, and now he did not hesitate to throw over his obligations to the French, and come to terms with the enemy at Klein-Schnellendorf on 9 October.
Neipperg sent off the first of his troops on the next day, which was an indication of how urgently the Austrians needed these men in the western theatre. In immediate terms the Klein-Schnellendorf treaty extended and legalised the Silesian conquest of Lower Silesia was ceded to the Prussians outright.
In addition Frederick was allowed to quarter his troops in Upper Silesia, and the fortress-town of Neisse was to be surrendered to him after he had subjected the place to a siege of a certain length. This last curious stipulation was deemed necessary to keep up the appearance of hostilities, and so conceal Frederick's perfidy from the French and Bavarians.
Neisse capitulated on 31 October, which was somewhat earlier than had been arranged. Leopold, had not been privy to the secrets of Klein-Schnellendorf, and he had prosecuted the siege with excessive energy. Leopold then proceeded westwards, and he clamped a blockade on the citadel of the town of Glatz, which was the capital of the border enclave of the same name. The southern borders of Silesia were now secure.
If Neisse gave the Prussians a fortress-depot within easy range of Moravia, then the County of Glatz offered them a fine passage into the corresponding westerly province of Bohemia. However, a much greater prize had been within Frederick's grasp: 'He was never to know again such an opportunity as he let slip in the autumn of , when he suffered Neipperg's troops - the only field army left to Austria - to withdraw perfectly intact, without battle or pursuit.
His fate was now sealed' Koser, , I, Engagements to an enemy sat still more lightly on Frederick's con- science than did his obligations to his friends. The king had left Berlin on 9 November, and he was looking forward to spending the first weeks of at his beloved Rheinsberg. Early in January, however, came news of the amazing recuperative power of the Austrians, who were pushing along the Danube against Bavaria, and were threaten- ing to recover their own province of Bohemia, which was swarming with the French, Bavarian and Saxon troops of the anti-Habsburg coalition.
Frederick accordingly decided to re-enter the war. Schwerin had already pushed the zone of the Prussian winter quarters deep into the almost undefended Austrian province of Mora- via, and Frederick hoped that by advancing a short way from this base in the direction of Vienna he could make an effective diversion on behalf of his associates, without running the risk of drawing the main Austrian army upon his head. He set out from Berlin on 18 January, and two days later in Dresden the Saxons agreed to place their powerful contingent of well-trained troops under his command.
Frederick was thereby able to win a disproportionate amount of control over the allied forces, and the Saxon prime minister, Count Briihl, received from Marshal de Saxe the single-line message: 'Now you have no more army! The flat and fertile countryside reminded Frederick's party of the familiar landscapes of Magdeburg, and the city of Olmiitz proved to be agreeably impress- ive. The massive stucco walls of the churches and colleges were interspersed with open spaces, which were embellished by fountains.
Renaissance facade of the episcopal palace, where Frederick and most of his suite were accommodated. The bishop, little Count Lichten- stein, was a cordial host, and 'a large part of the Moravian nobility had established themselves in that town, where the carnival was in full train, with all the attendant comedies, masked balls and assemb- lies' Stille, , 9. Frederick remained in Olmiitz only a week, from 28 Januaiy to 4 February.
News came during this period that the Austrians were continuing their advance up the Danube, and Frederick prepared to assemble his own force on the northern flank of the enemy com- munications through Lower Austria.
Altogether he had about 34, troops at his disposal, comprising 14, Prussians, more than 16, Saxons, and Lieutenant-General Polastron's contingent of 2, French. Taking care to give a wide berth to the fortress-town of Briinn, which was held by a frisky Austrian garrison, Frederick made his way south-west through some of the most picturesque country of Central Europe.
The narrow tracks led at first through foggy woods and gorges. There was, however, an interval of civilisation at Namiest, where the royal party crossed the Oslawa by means of a modern bridge, tastefully adorned with statues of saints. To the right a gentleman's castle hovered over the valley, reminding one of the king's friends of the frontispiece to the text of The Tempest Stille, , ; Stille mistakenly locates this castle at Budischau.
Finally in the second week of February the army assembled between Budi- schau, Gross-Bitesch and Gross-Meseritsch on an uneven tableland, set with stands of pines, outcrops of rock, and innumerable lakes and ponds. From here the force moved south across a continuous pine- covered ridge, and sb to the vast undulating plain which led to the Danube. Frederick arranged his troops in quarters along the river Thaya, whose deep and wide gorge wound below the dirty little town of Znaym, where the king had his headquarters from 20 February to 8 March.
However, all the motions were very feeble, when we consider the size of Frederick's army, and how close he was to the enemy capital. He did not know the whereabouts of the Austrian forces, and he was still unwilling to exert anything but the most indirect pressure on behalf of the French and Bavarians in Bohemia. In the course of March Frederick regrouped his forces a little further to the north, so as to maintain a more effective blockade of Briinn, and safeguard his communications with Silesia against the depredations of the Hungarian insurrection.
The little river Svratka separated this establishment from a large, arid hill which afforded views over the surrounding plain and in the direction of Briinn, just ten miles to the north. Frederick resided in Seelowitz from 13 March to 4 April. As was to be his habit, when he occupied spacious lodgings during a lull in the campaign, he took the opportunity to compose tactical directions for his army. There were three of these 'Seelowitz Instructions' - one each for heavy cavalry, the hussars and the infantry see p.
Frederick believed that it was quite possible that he would have to do battle with the Austrians at short notice, and with this in mind he selected a suitable site at Pohrlitz. In fact the encounter still lay two months ahead; meanwhile the Moravian half-campaign did nothing to advance Frederick's reputation as statesman, commander or prince. Frederick's demands on the Austrians were so extreme that he destroyed all English attempts at mediation. He no longer required Upper Silesia, which he regarded as barren, remote and hostile, but instead he insisted on the cession of the circles of Pardubitz and Koniggratz, which were blessed with the most favourable climate and some of the richest soils in Bohemia.
To the rear the region was readily accessible from the County of Glatz, while a couple of marches by the Prussians to their front would sever the Austrian communica- tions with Prague. Put in other terms, once Frederick was legally established in that part of the world, he would have made Bohemia untenable for the Austrians, and completed the virtual encirclement of the electorate of Saxony. Like the Herstal episode of , Frederick's demands in the spring of have received little atten- tiorf from the historians, but they tell us a great deal about the ambitions of our hero.
Meanwhile it became increasingly clear that one of the principal objectives of Frederick in holding his forces inactive in Moravia was to turn the province into a strategic desert. Seelowitz itself was plundered, and out in the country the peasants were forced to reveal the location of all their stores of grain, which were then destroyed or carried off. Frederick's harshness extended to his own allies.
Because we are bound to recognize that he brought to statecraft an energy, intelligence, strength of character, consistency of purpose, and capacity for self-denial almost without parallel in the history of politics. He was a master, perhaps the inventor, of modern state administration. The Prussia to which he succeeded in was a poor North German kingdom, its lands scattered between the Rhine and the Polish border. Industrially and commercially it was of no importance, agriculturally it was notably unproductive.
All that its earlier rulers had bequeathed of worth to Frederick was the army, which the royal revenues were inadequate to support. His father, who had terrorized Frederick, cackled on his deathbed that he expected to scream with laughter in his tomb at the mess his son would make of everything. When Frederick went to his tomb, in , he left behind him a kingdom that had increased in surface area by 50 percent, that had more than doubled in population, and that was feared from Paris to Vienna.
How had he done it? In short, the surpopulation of uniformed males in Potsdam or Berlin where even male prostitutes lived in abundance was due less to the personal whim of a homosexual and misogynist king than to the deliberate policy of a military dynasty. If one has no important fresh evidence to offer, the major justifications for yet another life of a familiar figure come down to two: literary style and new interpretation.
Apsrey offers neither. When it comes to interpretation, the book is as weak as it is in style. After minute descriptions of 14 full-blown battles, one is left perplexed, unable to see how Asprey arrives at or justifies his conclusions.
But where is the mystery?