Here, if ever, Marshal Daun seems to have hesitated unwisely. The abam Prussians were flushed with success; but such a victory was not gained without fatigue. Daun suspended his blow, and never recovered the opportunity: he lost it by waiting to ensure it. Never trusting to chance, while additional strength was in view, he detached a strong corps to meet the Russians and press them to advance. Great as the reinforcement was, it did not counterbalance the panic with which they were struck by Laudohn’s defeat. They repassed the Oder with precipitation, and left the King at liberty to join Prince Henry. Marshal Daun, who was more lessened by his competitor’s defeat than he could have been by any triumph of Laudohn, descended from the lofty hopes he had so reasonably entertained, and blockaded Schweidnitz. But the honour of forming a single siege was soon ravished from him by Frederick, who, having surprised and vanquished a corps under General Beck, obliged the Marshal to raise the blockade and retreat precipitately to the mountains.
Still dangers crowded on the King as fast as he dispersed them. While he was defending Silesia, the Russians, seeing Brandenburg open, turned their invasion towards that province. Count Czernichew led on a considerable body; Daun sent them 15,000 Austrians, and the Imperial Army in Saxony was ordered to meet them at the gates of Berlin. Count Halsen had upheld the sinking fortune of the King in Saxony: he was now commanded to make an effort for saving Berlin; but when he had assembled all possible force, it amounted but to 15,000 men. With such scanty means, he could only be witness to the reduction of the capital, which immediately capitulated. The Allied Army laid the town under heavy contribution; but the Russians, who had not distinguished themselves in that war by lenity, blushed to see themselves surpassed by the excesses of the Austrians; so much did animosity surpass barbarism. Even the Swedes had hoped to come in for share of the plunder of Berlin, and were stretching thither.
The King, whose fortune sunk wherever he was not in person to sustain it, marched to relieve his capital. The plunderers did not await him, but, after wasting the country, retired; the Imperialists, to profit of the King’s absence, and to seize Saxony, which lay at their mercy; the Russians, to form the siege of Colberg, which, however, they abandoned, and retreated. Laudohn had no better success before Cosel: and before the end of the campaign, the Swedes, too, were driven back by the alertness of General Werner.
Still Marshal Daun’s Army remained entire, and superior to the King’s. He had followed and watched every motion of that Prince, and both passed the Elbe on the same day. The two Armies encamped near Torgau; the Marshal with every advantage of position. The King’s situation was tremendous. The enemy was not to be forced from a post so judiciously chosen. Winter advanced; and Frederic had nothing but a ruined country to receive him, if defeated. The King saw the gulph that surrounded him. He saw the fruitlessness of disguising their danger to his Army. He determined to fight, and told his troops that he was resolved to conquer or die. Under the awfulness of despair, they attacked the enemy. The onset and the reception became the renown of such Armies and such Commanders. Fury animated the Prussians; intrepidity sustained the Austrians. The King’s valour was correspondent to his declaration. The Marshal showed that his fire had been restrained by wisdom alone—not by want of heroism. The event was long in suspense, and fluctuated alternately, each side being often repulsed, and returning to the charge with fresh alacrity. The Prussians at last threw the enemy into disorder; and the Marshal himself receiving a dangerous wound in the thigh, and being borne from the field, Count O’Donnel, who succeeded to the command, found it vain to dispute the field any longer. It was nine at night in the month of November; the battle had lasted from two in the afternoon. A retreat was sounded, and made in good order by the Austrians.
Dearly did the Prussians buy their victory; but in such a crisis what was too dear a price for Frederic to pay? His loss was computed at 13,000 men. The Austrians had not suffered less; in prisoners abundantly. Four Generals, 216 officers, and 8000 private men taken, with possession of the field, were decisive in favour of the Prussians. The recovery of all Saxony, but Dresden, made the victory indisputable.
Prince Ferdinand’s campaign was not alike resplendent in action or variety. His army had been reinforced, but was still inferior to the French commanded by Marshal Broglio. A separate corps was under the orders of Count St. Germain, an officer of reputation, but between whom and Broglio an enmity subsisted, which made it thought unadvisable to let them act together. That they should even act in concert was little to be expected—nor did they. Prince Ferdinand reaped security from their dissensions rather than laurels. Their animosities ran so high, that Broglio ordering St. Germain to join his force with the Grand Army, contrary to the compact which the latter had made of commanding a distinct body, St. Germain, who was also an older officer, threw up his commission, and quitted the service of his country.
The Hereditary Prince, ever alert, had attacked a post, been beaten, and been wounded. He soon compensated for that disgrace by surprising another detachment, in which he made the General who commanded it, and 3000 men, prisoners. That success was followed by a more considerable action at Warbourg, in which the French were again worsted by Prince Ferdinand and his heroic nephew: yet so little advantage was reaped by that achievement, that the French soon overran Hesse, seized Göttingen and Munden, and were at the eve of possessing Hanover.
The Hereditary Prince continued his eccentric enterprises with advantage. His ardour was well seconded by the bravery of the English troops: yet those flying rencounters rather kept off than forwarded any decisive blow. Prince Ferdinand made other detachments with like prosperity; and gained at least the glory of diverting Broglio, with very superior force, from accomplishing any point of importance. A more unaccountable expedition, on which Prince Ferdinand suddenly dispatched his nephew, at the head of a considerable force, towards the frontiers of Holland, occasioned much solicitude in England, as the main Army, already unequal to that of France, was thus rendered much weaker. King George felt it with anxiety; and though not productive of the disasters apprehended, it was far, whatever were the object of its destination, from turning to account. Cleves, indeed, fell into our hands, and the siege of Wesel was undertaken; but the French not thinking fit to leave the Hereditary Prince undisturbed in his progress, sent Monsieur de Castries, with a powerful detachment, to interrupt the siege. The Prince, whose characteristic was quickness, did not wait to be compelled to raise the siege. He attempted to surprise the enemy, but was repulsed with loss, and received another wound.
In that action fell Lord Downe, a gallant young man, adorned with every amiable quality. Intrepid, generous, and good-natured, he had abandoned the enjoyment of an ample fortune for the pursuit of arms, to which he had an ungovernable impulse. He had parts to have distinguished him in a safer scene; and a peculiarity of humour that ornamented even his virtues. He received three wounds, and languished some weeks in torment, which he supported with indifference to everything but the impatience of returning to his profession—but his wounds were mortal. The Prince rejoined the Army, which soon after went into winter-quarters.
While the theatre of war was thus open to men so formed to shine on it, another hero, who had been excluded from the scene, was in a melancholy condition. The Duke of Cumberland in the summer had a stroke of palsy. He soon recovered both his speech and limbs; but the grossness of his constitution, and other disorders, made his friends apprehend he would not long survive it. Himself treated it with indifference, and with the same philosophy with which his high spirit had supported misfortunes to him more sensible.
The martial temper of the age called forth a champion of dissimilar complexion. There was in Ireland an Earl of Clanrickard, who, even in this country, where singular characters are not uncommon, had been reckoned more than ordinarily extravagant. The Duke of Bedford had refused to let him raise a regiment. To prove his valour, he challenged the Lord-Lieutenant, who contemning so improper an adversary, the Earl printed in the public papers a letter to the Duke, reproaching him with rejecting the challenge, and reflecting both on his Grace and his secretary, whose bones he threatened to break. Such an insult on the chief governor of a kingdom was atrocious. The Privy Council of England ordered the Attorney-General to commence a prosecution against the Earl. Mr. Rigby, whose spirit was more questionless than the Earl’s, returned a challenge for himself; but the Earl thought it safest to confine his prowess to the master, and forbore coming to England. Three years afterwards, when Rigby went to Ireland to qualify for a place, the Privy Council of that kingdom obliged Lord Clanrickard to give security for his good behaviour; and the matter was compromised.
These were the last events in the long and memorable reign of George the Second—a reign that had produced as great statesmen, orators, and heroes as dignify the annals of whatever country. His thirteen first years were stamped with every blessing of peace, but unanimity—if disagreement is an evil to a free country, to which jealousy is perhaps essential. A Rebellion and two wars called forth all our resources: the disgrace that attended the Councils and prosecution of the first war served but to illustrate the abilities of the nation, which, reviving from its ignominy and calamities, carried the glory of our arms and measures to a height unknown in our story. The Prince himself was neither accessary to the one or the other. His greatest merit was bearing either fortune with calmness. Triumphant as Elizabeth and Anne, he neither presumed on the zeal of his subjects like the first, nor was so like the last as to concur in or behold an ignominious peace, that tarnished such conspicuous victories, and squandered such irrecoverable advantages. Full of years and glory, he died without a pang, and without a reverse. He left his family firmly established on a long-disputed Throne, and was taken away in the moment that approaching extinction of sight and hearing made loss of life the only blessing that remained desirable.
On the 25th of October he rose as usual at six, and drank his chocolate; for all his actions were invariably methodic. A quarter after seven he went into a little closet. His German valet de chambre in waiting, heard a noise, and running in, found the King dead on the floor. In falling, he had cut his face against the corner of a bureau. He was laid on a bed and blooded, but not a drop followed: the ventricle of his heart had burst. Princess Amelie was called, and told the King wanted her. She went immediately, and thought him in a fit. Being deaf herself, she saw nothing in the chamber that indicated his being d