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On the whole, negotiations have yet done little. Britannic George, though Purseholder, what is his success here? As little is the Russian Bugbear persuasive on Friedrich himself. The Czarina of the Russias, a luxurious lady, of far more weight than insight, has just notified to him, with more emphasis than ever, That he shall not attack Saxony; that if he do, she with considerable vigor will attack him! That has always been a formidable puzzle for Friedrich: however, he reflects that the Russians never could draw sword, or be ready with their Army, in less than six months, probably not in twelve; and has answered, translating it into polite official terms: "Fee-faw-fum, your Czarish Majesty! Question is not now of attacking, but of being myself attacked!"--and so is now running his risks with the Czarina.
Still worse was the result he got from Louis XV. Lately, "for form's sake," as he tells us, "and not expecting anything," he had (November 15th) made a new appeal to France: "Ruin menacing your Most Christian Majesty's Ally, in this huge sudden crisis of invasive Austrian-Saxons; and for your Majesty's sake, may I not in some measure say?" To which Louis's Answer is also given. A very sickly, unpleasant Document; testifying to considerable pique against Friedrich;--Ranke says, it was a joint production, all the Ministers gradually contributing each his little pinch of irony to make it spicier, and Louis signing when it was enough;--very considerable pique against Friedrich; and something of the stupid sulkiness as of a fat bad boy, almost glad that the house is on fire, because it will burn his nimble younger brother, whom everybody calls so clever: "Sorry indeed, Sir my Brother, most sorry:--and so you have actually signed that HANOVER CONVENTION with our worst Enemy? France is far from having done so; France has done, and will do, great things. Our Royal heart grieves much at your situation; but is not alarmed; no, Your Majesty has such invention, vigor and ability, superior to any crisis, our clever younger Brother! And herewith we pray God to have you in his holy keeping." This is the purport of King Louis's Letter;--which Friedrich folds together again, looking up from perusal of it, we may fancy with what a glance of those eyes. [Louis's Original, in
He is getting instructed, this young King, as to alliances, grand combinations, French and other. His third Note to Villiers intimates, "It being evident that his Polish Majesty will have nothing from us but fighting, we must try to give it him of the best kind we have." ["Bautzen, 11th December, 1745" (UBI SUPRA).] Yes truly; it is the ULTIMATE persuasive, that. Here, in condensed form, are the essential details of the course it went, in this instance:-- General Grune, on the road to Berlin, hearing of the rout at Hennersdorf, halted instantly,--hastened back to Saxony, to join Rutowski there, and stand on the defensive. Not now in that Halle- Frontier region (Rutowski has quitted that, and all the intrenchments and marshy impregnabilities there); not on that Halle-Frontier, but hovering about in the interior, Rutowski and Grune are in junction; gravitating towards Dresden;--expecting Prince Karl's advent; who ought to emerge from the Saxon Switzerland in few days, were he sharp; and again enable us to make a formidable figure. Be speedy, Old Dessauer: you must settle the Grune-Rutowski account before that junction, not after it!
The Old Dessauer has been tolerably successful, and by no means thinks he has been losing time. November 29th, "at three in the morning," he stept over into Saxony with its impregnable camps; drove Rutowski's rear-guard, or remnant, out of the quagmires, canals and intrenchments, before daylight; drove it, that same evening, or before dawn of the morrow, out of Leipzig: has seized that Town,--lays heavy contribution on it, nearly 50,000 pounds (such our strait for finance), "and be sure you take only substantial men as sureties!" [Orlich, ii. 308.]--and will, and does after a two days' rest, advance with decent celerity inwards; though "One must first know exactly whither; one must have bread, and preparations and precautions; do all things solidly and in order," thinks the Old Dessauer. Friedrich well knows the whither; and that Dresden itself is, or may be made, the place for falling in with Rutowski. Friedrich is now himself ready to join, from the Bautzen region; the days and hours precious to him; and spurs the Old Dessauer with the sharpest remonstrances. "All solidly and in order, your Majesty!" answers the Old Dessauer: solid strong-boned old coach-horse, who has his own modes of trotting, having done many a heavy mile of it in his time; and whose skin, one hopes, is of the due thickness against undue spurring.
Old Dessauer wishes two things: bread to live upon; and a sure Bridge over the Elbe whereby Friedrich may join him. Old Dessauer makes for Torgau, far north, where is both an Elbe Bridge and a Magazine; which he takes; Torgau and pertinents now his. But it is far down the Elbe, far off from Bautzen and Friedrich: "A nearer Bridge and rendezvous, your Highness! Meissen [where they make the china, only fifty miles from me, and twenty from Dresden], let that be the Bridge, now that you have got victual. And speedy; for Heaven's sake, speedy!" Friedrich pushes out General Lehwald from Bautzen, with 4,000 men, towards Meissen Bridge; Lehwald does not himself meddle with the Bridge, only fires shot across upon the Saxon party, till the Old Dessauer, on the other bank, come up;-- and the Old Dessauer, impatience thinks, will never come. "Three days in Torgau, yes, Your Majesty: I had bread to bake, and the very ovens had to be built." A solid old roadster, with his own modes of trotting; needs thickness of skin. [Friedrich's Letters to Leopold, in Orlich, ii. 431, 435 (6th-10th December, 1745).]
At long last, on Sunday, 12th December, about two P.M., the Old Dessauer does appear; or General Gessler, his vanguard, does appear,--Gessler of the sixty-seven standards,--"always about an hour ahead." Gessler has summoned Meissen; has not got it, is haggling with it about terms, when, towards sunset of the short day, Old Dessauer himself arrives. Whereupon the Saxon Commandant quits the Bridge (not much breaking it); and glides off in the dark, clear out of Meissen, towards Dresden,--chased, but successfully defending himself. [See Plan, p. 10.] "Had he but stood out for two days!" say the Saxons,--"Prince Karl had then been up, and much might have been different." Well, Friedrich too would have been up, and it had most likely been the same on a larger scale. But the Saxon Commandant did not stand out; he glided off, safe; joined Rutowski and Grune, who are lying about Wilsdruf, six or seven miles on the hither side of Dresden, and eagerly waiting for Prince Karl. "Bridge and Town of Meissen are your Majesty's," reports the Old Dessauer that night: upon which Friedrich instantly rises, hastening thitherward. Lehwald comes across Meissen Bridge, effects the desired junction; and all Monday the Old Dessauer defiles through Meissen town and territory; continually advances towards Dresden, the Saxons harassing the flanks of him a little,--nay in one defile, being sharp strenuous fellows, they threw his rear into some confusion; cut off certain carts and prisoners, and the life of one brave General, Lieutenant- General Roel, who had charge there. "Spurring one's trot into a gallop! This comes of your fast marching, of your spurring beyond the rules of war!" thinks Old Leopold; and Friedrich, who knows otherwise, is very angry for a moment.
But indeed the crisis is pressing. Prince Karl is across the Metal Mountains, nearing Dresden from the east; Friedrich strikes into march for the same point by Meissen, so soon as the Bridge is his. Old Leopold is advancing thither from the westward,--steadily hour by hour; Dresden City the fateful goal. There,--in these middle days of December, 1745 (Highland Rebellion just whirling back from Derby again, "the London shops shut for one day"),--it is clear there will be a big and bloody game played before we are much older. Very sad indeed: but Count Bruhl is not persuadable otherwise. By slumbering and sluggarding, over their money-tills and flesh-pots; trying to take evil for good, and to say, "It will do," when it will not do, respectable Nations come at last to be governed by Bruhls; cannot help themselves;--and get their backs broken in consequence. Why not? Would you have a Nation live forever that is content to be governed by Bruhls? The gods are wiser!--It is now the 13th; Old Dessauer tramping forward, hour by hour, towards Dresden and some field of Fate.
On Tuesday, 14th, by break of day, Old Dessauer gets on march again; in four columns, in battle order; steady all day,--hard winter weather, ground crisp, and flecked with snow. The Pass at Neustadt, "his cavalry went into it at full gallop;" but found nobody there. That night he encamps at a place called Rohrsdorf; which may be eight miles west-by-north from Dresden, as the crow flies; and ten or more, if you follow the highway round by Wilsdruf on your right. The real direct Highway from Meissen to Dresden is on the other side of the Elbe, and keeps by the River-bank, a fine level road; but on this western side, where Leopold now is, the road is inland, and goes with a bend. Leopold, of course, keeps command of this road; his columns are on both sides of it, River on their left at some miles distance; and incessantly expect to find Rutowski, drawn out on favorable ground somewhere. The country is of fertile, but very broken character; intersected by many brooks, making obliquely towards the Elbe (obliquely, with a leaning Meissen-wards); country always mounting, till here about Rohrsdorf we seem to have almost reached the watershed, and the brooks make for the Elbe, leaning Dresden way. Good posts abound in such broken country, with its villages and brooks, with its thickets, hedges and patches of swamp. But Rutowski has not appeared anywhere, during this Tuesday.
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