Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 11
This was a blow which for a time completely prostrated the Prussian monarch. He sat for hours on a hollow tree perfectly overwhelmed, and giving no answer to any of his officers who came to him for orders, but continued mechanically drawing lines in the sand with his cane. Nothing but the necessity of saving the remnant of his army and retreating out of Bohemia could move him. It was only by extraordinary personal exertions and the most incessant watchfulness that he escaped. His brother, prince William, his heir presumptive, suffered great loss in the retreat, and was so fiercely upbraided for it by the exasperated king, that he threw up his commission, and died, a few months after, of chagrin. Never was a martial and ambitious monarch in so desperate a condition. The Russians had invaded Prussia with one hundred thousand men, the Swedes had entered Pomerania, the Austrians had another great army, under general Iladdick, in Lusatia, marching direct on Berlin, his capital; the French were advancing through Westphalia with eighty thousand men; another Austrian army under Nodasti appeared in another quarter, and, to complete his dismay, Cumberland, who should have kept the French in check, at this juncture failed altogether, and made his famous convention of Closter-Seven. Nothing but the most indomitable spirit and the highest military talent could have saved any man under such circumstances. But Frederick had disciplined both his generals and soldiers to despise reverses, and he relied on them keeping at bay the host of enemies with which he was surrounded till he had tried a last blow. He had with him but twenty-two thousand men, yet with these he determined to give battle to the French under the prince de Soubise, and, if he failed there, to perish, for which purpose he carried in his pocket a small bottle of strong poison, should he not fall by the chance of battle. As he marched he endeavoured to keep up his courage by composing doggerel and often very ribald French verses, for he was possessed of all the French spirit of the time - atheism and mockery of all that was spiritually pure and great.
On the field of Bosbach, near the plain of Lützen, where Gustavus Adolphus fell, after having relieved marshal Keith at Leipsic, Frederick gave battle to the united French and Austrians. The French numbered forty thousand men, the Austrians twenty thousand; yet, with his twenty thousand against sixty thousand, Frederick, on the 5th of November, took the field. His inferior numbers favoured the stratagem which he had planned. After fighting fiercely for awhile, his troops gave way, and appeared to commence a hasty retreat. This, however, was continued only till the French and Austrians were thrown off their guard, when the Prussians suddenly turned, and received the headlong squadrons with a murderous coolness and composure. The Austrians, confounded, fled at once; and Soubise, a general of the princely house of Rohan, who owed his appointment to Madame Pompadour, was totally incapable of coping with the Prussian veterans. He saw his troops flying in wild rout, and galloped off with them, leaving a vast number slain, seven thousand prisoners, and the greater part of his baggage, artillery, and standards in the hands of the enemy.
The battle of Rosbach raised the fame of Frederick wonderfully all over Europe; and whilst his martial glory was streaming over plain and mountain throughout Germany, the strange monarch was sitting in his tent on the field of victory, writing the most vile and ribald rhymes in French on the French defeat. He soon roused himself, however, for fresh efforts. Whilst he had been thus engaged on the Saale, the Austrians had again overrun Silesia, defeating the Prussians under the duke of Bevern, storming the great fortress of Schweidnitz, and making themselves masters of Breslau, the capital. Spite of his reduced numbers and the advancing winter, Frederick immediately directed his march towards Silesia, gathering reinforcements as he went, so that by the 5th of December, just one month from the battle of Rosbach, he encountered prince Charles of Lorraine and marshal Daun at Leuthen, a small village near Breslau, and with forty thousand men encountered and defeated nearly seventy thousand Austrians, killing and wounding twenty-seven thousand of them, taking above fifty standards, one hundred cannon, four thousand wagons, and much other spoil. This battle at once freed Silesia from the Austrians, who trooped over the mountains in all haste, and left the victorious king to close this unexampled campaign.
To add to the fame of Frederick, news arrived that marshal Lewald, with twenty thousand Prussians, had beaten the great horde of Russians at Jägerndorff, and driven them out of Prussia, with the single exception of Memel; that Lewald and Manteufel had swept the Swedes out of Pomerania, taking three thousand prisoners; and that prince Henry of Prussia, and prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, to whom Frederick, at the urgent request of England, had intrusted the command of the Hanoverian and Hessian troops which Cumberland had abandoned, had, with these very troops, driven the French from Lunemberg, Zell, and Hanover. These troops, it is true, were bound by the convention of Closter-Seven not to fight again during the war; but the generals pleaded that the cruelties and rapacity of the French in Hanover were such as set aside all compacts. Such was the condition into which they threw the French army, which had so easily chased away Cumberland, that the count of Clermont, sent by Louis to take the command of it from the duke of Richelieu, reported to his majesty that he found it divided into three corps: one above ground, but consisting of robbers and marauders; the second under ground; and the third in the hospitals.
The wonderful success of the Prussian king, and especially his rescue of Hanover, raised him to the very pinnacle of hero-worship in England. Voltaire, in France, exclaimed, "Even Gustavus Adolphus never did such great things as this Frederick! We must, indeed, pardon him his bad verses, his sarcasms, and his bitter malice. All the faults of the man disappear before the glory of the hero!" But in England, from the highest to the lowest, the enthusiasm for the king of Prussia exceeded all bounds. Pitt exclaimed, "America is to be conquered through Germany!" That meant, that whilst Frederick was thus beating and exhausting the French there, he would seize the opportunity to drive them out of our colonies, and their own too, in North America. The religious celebrated Frederick as the great "Protestant hero," very probably being quite ignorant of his utter ridicule of all religion; and publicans elevated his cocked hat and pigtail on ale-house signs, where they swing to this day.
Pitt, though he remained determined against our continuing to send soldiers to Germany, was so elated at the successes of Frederick that, on the meeting of parliament, on the 1st of December, he supported the vote of six hundred and seventy thousand pounds as a subsidy to Prussia, George having entered into a new convention with Frederick to defend his electorate. Pitt, on the same occasion, pronounced a glowing eulogium on Clive's proceedings in India. This great minister had, in fact, formed the most extensive designs for the colonial aggrandisement of England, and the repulse of France in those quarters. At his suggestion, lord Loudon had been sent to North America, and as he had failed to render any service, General Abercrombie had gone out to supersede him. Pitt already, however, had his eye on a young officer, Wolfe, whom he deemed the true hero for that service; whilst, on the opposite side of the globe, he was watching the proceedings of another young officer with immense pleasure - namely, Clive. These two remarkable men, under the fostering genius of Pitt, were destined to destroy the ascendancy of France in those regions, and to lay the foundations of British power on a scale of splendour beyond all previous conception.
Clive, a young company's clerk at Madras, had deserted his desk, taken a commission, and, as early as 1748, had distinguished himself by baffling the French commanders Duplex and Bussy, at Pondicherry. In 1751 he had taken Arcot from Chunda Sahib, the viceroy of the Carnatic, and, aided by the Mahrattas, defeated Rajah Sahib, the son of Chundah, in a splendid victory at Arnee.' In 1752 he raised the siege of Trichinopoly, where the nabob of Arcot was besieged by the French. In 1755, landing at Bombay from England, he, with admiral Watson, made an expedition to Geriah, the stronghold of the celebrated pirate Angria, demolished it, and seized the spoils, valued at one hundred and twenty thousand pounds. In 1757 he took Calcutta from the nabob Sujah-u-Dowlah, the ally of the French, who had captured it, and shut up the English prisoners in the memorable Black-hole, where, in one night, out of one hundred and forty-six persons, one hundred and twenty- three perished. He took also the city of Hooghly, utterly defeated Dowlah, and compelled him to cede the city and vicinity. He then drove the French from their fortress and factory of Chandernagore; marched forward on Moor- shedabad, defeated Sujah-u-Dowlah in a battle extraordinary for the rout of an immense army by a mere handful of men, at Plassy; deposed him, and seated on his throne Jaffier Ali Cawn. From this day dates our supremacy in India; and thus was laid the foundations of our vast empire there.
The close of this year, both in Ireland and Engbnd, was not without its discontents. Ireland had been for some time very quiet; but with the accession to the vieeroyalty by the duke of Bedford, attended as his secretary and manager by Rigby, a very profligate person, the quiet ceased. Under the administration of Bedford and his man, great violence of faction broke out, and Bedford incurred much odium by his helping his wife's sister, lady Betty Waldegrave, to the pension of eight hundred a-year, which had fallen in by the death of the queen-dowager of Prussia, the sister of George II., and the mother of Frederick the Great. In England, at the same time, Bedford's seat, Woburn Abbey, had a narrow escape from being burnt down by the enraged peasantry, who rose there, as well as in many other counties, against the aristocracy, whom they charged with being the authors of a new militia bill, which required ten pounds in lieu of a substitute, and yet only exempted those drawn for three years.
In spite of Pitt's magnanimous protestations against German subsidies, and that not another drop of English blood should be shed in the great German slaughterhouse, the year 1758 was opened by another subsidy to Prussia of six hundred and seventy thousand pounds, and, very soon after, it was resolved to send an auxiliary force to the Rhine. A large sum was voted for the maintenance of the Hanoverian and Hessian troops under the command of prince Ferdinand of Brunswick; and the money altogether voted for the expenses of the year was about ten millions sterling. So impossible did it seem to keep out of continental warfare, and so unanimous was parliament on the subject, that Horace Walpole said, "You might as soon expect 'No' from an old maid as from the house of commons." The only note of discord at home proceeded from an attempt of the commons to extend the beneficial operations of the habeas corpus act, which was rejected by the lords, who had shown themselves opposed to the original act in Charles II.'s time, and continued so till 1816, when such extensions as were proposed now, in 1758, were carried.
The fight of factions, which became strong on the appointment of the duke of Bedford, continued to rage, and led to riots and disorders. It was then the custom for the lord lieutenant to leave his post during his second year, and pocket the salary, without incurring its expenses. The lord lieutenant's secretary became the governor for the time; and, in the hands of men like Rigby, such a trust was pretty sure to lead to no trifling abuses. Strong opposition was raised, even amongst the chief officers, to induce the government to buy them off with a title and some other good thing; as Boyle, the speaker, was quieted by the earldom of Shannon, and a pension of two thousand pounds a year, in 1756. Besides these causes, the severe restrictions on the catholics, which were still maintained - as that of education being forbidden to their children, no papist being allowed to keep a school, and yet all catholics being forbidden to send their children for education abroad; a catholic widow not being allowed to be guardian to her owe children, and scores of such hardships - made the Iris! restless, and ready on all occasions to create disturbances.
As to warfare, besides paying for the campaigns o; Frederick of Prussia in Europe, and undertaking expeditions of our own, we were fighting in both the eastern and western worlds. Everywhere we were attacking the French settlements, and everywhere they were giving way before us. Pitt had abandoned the old aristocratic system of appointing aristocratic commanders, whether they were of any ability or not; his chief men, on whom he depended both in India and America, were men of the people; and as merit, and not mere rank, was recognised, a new spirit sprung up in our ranks, and our army became everywhere victorious. Clive continued to achieve wonders in India, and Wolfe was dispatched to cope with the French in America. Nor did we leave them at peace, even on the coast of Africa. It is singular that a quaker, one Thomas Cumming - though bound by his principles not to meddle in scenes or designs of war - pointed out how easy it would be to take the French settlements on the African coast, from cape Blanco to the river Gambia, especially fort Louis and the island of Goree, and he went out with the expedition himself. He declared that, if they followed his advice, they might take them without shedding a drop of blood. And, in truth, they did take fort Louis without any contest; but not so Goree, which cost them a brisk cannonade of several hours.
In America lord Amherst took the chief command, with Wolfe as his second; Abercrombie being dispatched to reduce the French forts on Lakes George and Champlain, and thus open the way into Canada. On the 2nd of June the British fleet, commanded by admiral Boscawen, and carrying lord Amherst and twelve thousand men, anchored before Louisburg, the capital of Cape Breton. The French had six thousand men, soldiers and marines, and five ships of the line were drawn up in the harbour. The landing was therefore effected with difficulty; but Wolfe, who led the way in person, showed such spirit and activity, and the admiral and general, unlike the usual conduct on such occasions, acted together with such unanimity and zeal, that the French were compelled, towards the end of July, to capitulate, and the soldiers of the garrison were sent to England, prisoners of war. The ships in the harbour were taken, together with a great quantity of stores and ammunition. The whole island of Cape Breton submitted to the conquerors, and the island of St. John was also reduced by colonel lord Rollo. St. John's was afterwards named Prince Edward's Island, in compliment to the royal family. Great was the rejoicing in London on the arrival of the news and trophies; and eleven pairs of colours taken were carried in procession, with trumpets and kettledrums sounding, from Kensington Palace to St. Paul's.
<<< Previous page <<<
>>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 <11> 12 13 14 15 16