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Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 12

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The events on land were very different. Abercrombie, like general Braddock, advanced with all the careless presumption of a second-rate general. He had with him six thousand regular troops and ten thousand provincial militia, a force capable in good hands of accomplishing much greater things than he had in commission. The grand object was to reduce Fort Ticonderoga, built on a neck of land betwixt lakes George and Champlain. At the landing, lord Howe, one of the best officers, was killed, but they drove back the French, and advanced on the fort, which was of great strength, defended by a garrison of four thousand men, commanded by the marquis de Montcalm, the commander- in-chief of the Canadians, himself. Montcalm had raised a breastwork eight feet high, and made in front of it a barricade of felled trees with their branches outwards. Abercrombie, with a foolish confidence, advanced right upon this barricade, without waiting for the coming up of his artillery, which was detained by the badness of the roads. With a reckless disregard of the lives of his men, he commanded them to attempt to storm these defences, and after fighting with the usual courage of Englishmen for several hours, and two thousand of them being slaughtered, it was found that their efforts were useless, and they were ordered to retire. Abercrombie himself, it was said, never was nearer the scene of this unnecessary carnage than the Saw-Mills, two miles off, and when he heard of the repulse and carnage, instead of doing what he ought to have done at first, attack the fort with his cannon, he made a hasty retreat, embarked his troops, and sailed away in such trepidation that he left a number of entrenching tools, and whole boatloads of provisions. Brigadier Forbes, who had been sent against Fort Duquesne, an attempt so disastrous to both Washington and Braddock, executed his task with the utmost promptitude and success. Forbes took possession of it on the 25th of November, and, in compliment to the great minister under whose auspices they fought, named it Fort Pitt, since grown from a solitary fort into Pittsburg, the populous Birmingham of the United States.

In Europe, Pitt was still bent on those attacks on the coast of France, which long experience had shown were of little use as means of successful war, but highly objectionable, as fraught with excessive inhumanity to the innocent people of the seaboard. This, his second expedition, was aimed at St. Malo. A fleet of eighteen ships of the line, thirteen frigates, with sloops, fire-ships, and bomb-ketches, was put under the command of lord Howe; but as Sir Edward Hawke, his senior, struck his flag, and refused to serve as second, lord Anson, to get rid of the difficulty, put himself nominally at the head of the squadron. The command of the troops was given to the duke of Marlborough, a brave man, but destitute of the military genius of his father, and lord George Sackville and lord Granby under him. There were fourteen thousand troops of the line and six thousand marines. With these went a number of aristocratic volunteers, amongst them lord Downe, Sir John Armitage, and Sir John Lowther, the possessor of fourteen thousand pounds a-year. On the 5th of June the transports anchored in Cancalle Bay, and the next day the troops were landed and led against St. Malo, This town, built on one of a cluster of granite rocks which rise out of the sea on that iron-bound coast, they found too strongly fortified to storm, but they burnt a hundred and thirty privateers and a great quantity of small craft in the harbour, and then returned to their ships. They then sailed for Havre, but were prevented by the wind from doing the same damage, and so continued their voyage to Granville and Cherbourg, whence they were driven by a storm; and thereupon coasting a considerable way further, but to no purpose, the fleet returned to Portsmouth, the main result being a heavy expense. Fox and the opposition in the commons called it breaking windows with guineas; and the old king, who had expressed his dislike of this sort of warfare, said we should brag of having burnt the French ships, and the French of having driven us away.

But Pitt was not yet cured of his infatuation, which he dignified with the name of making a diversion for the troops in Germany. The very next month he dispatched a smaller fleet and force to destroy the port of Cherbourg, which the French had constructed under cardinal Fleury, and, as they stated by an inscription, "for all eternity." This time the command was given to general Bligh, one of that class of worn-out old men that we, in our time, send to the Crimea and similar difficult places. Marlborough was gone to command our troops in Germany, accompanied by lord George Sackville, who had not escaped a charge of cowardice at St. Malo, and now said he was "tired of buccaneering." Howe was admiral, and on board with him went prince Edward, afterwards duke of York. On the 8th of August the troops were landed at Cherbourg, which was deserted by the garrison, and they destroyed the forts and harbour, demolished a hundred and seventy pieces of iron cannon, and carried off twenty-two fine brass ones. The soldiers, however, disgraced themselves, as usual on these predatory excursions, by drunkenness and outrages on the inhabitants. After re-embarking and returning to Portsmouth, Bligh was ordered to pay another visit to St. Malo, but still found it too strong for him; yet he landed his men in the bay of St. Lunaire, about two leagues westward of St. Malo; and the weather immediately driving Howe to sea, the army was marched over land to St. Cast, some leagues off. The soldiers were allowed to rove about and plunder, till Bligh heard that the duke of Aiguillon was advancing against them at the head of a strong force. Bligh then, but in no hurry, marched for the port of St. Cast, followed by Aiguillon, who waited till he had embarked all but one thousand five hundred men, when he fell upon them, and slaughtered a thousand of them in a hollow way amongst the rocks leading down to the shore. General Drury, attempting to swim to the ships, was shot, as well as Sir John Armitage, and other of the aristocratic volunteers. D'Aiguillon himself, mounted on a mill, watched the massacre of the English, who were surrounded by swarms of the enraged peasantry, butchering some, and carrying off others as prisoners. Such was the indignation against Bligh that he was compelled to resign. The fault was rather in those who sent such an old man out, and nothing but the great successes in India, in Nova Scotia and on the American lakes, on the coast of Africa and in the West Indies, where we took the islands of Guadaloupe, Deseada, and Marigalante, could have borne Pitt above the indignation caused by these every way ill-conceived and mischievous expeditions.

In Germany, prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, after driving the French out of Hanover, had followed them across the Rhine this spring, and on the 23rd of June defeated them at Crefeld, with a slaughter of six thousand men. He then took Düsseldorff; but the French court recalling the incapable Clermont, and sending marshal De Contades with fresh forces against him, and prince Soubise defeating the Hessians, he was obliged to fall back into Westphalia, where he was joined by the duke of Marlborough and lord George Sackville with the English auxiliaries, but too late to effect anything further. Shortly after the duke of Marlborough died suddenly, under strong suspicions of having been poisoned.

Frederick of Prussia, meantime, had been beset by Austrians, Russians, and French, and had never been able to retire to winter quarters. He had continued to blockade Schweidnitz amid frost and snow, and having reduced it, at the very first symptoms of spring he suddenly burst into Moravia, and invested Olmütz, its capital. There he had to contend with the able and cautious marshal Daun, the Fabius of Austria, and general Laudohn, nearly as efficient. Laudohn managed to seize three thousand wagons, bringing from Silesia supplies for Frederick; and, whilst the king was in this state of destitution for food even for his army, a hundred thousand Russians, under general Fermor, were marching steadily on Berlin. They had taken Königsberg, laid waste the whole country beyond the Vistula, and then pushed on for the Oder. They had arrived before Custrin, only a few marches from Berlin, having tracked their way with all the barbarities of their ancestors the Scythians, when Frederick, leaving his brother, prince Henry, to keep Daun and Laudohn in check before Olmütz, marched against them. A terrible battle took place on the plain of Zorndorff, near Custrin, in which neither Prussians nor Russians gave quarter, and which lasted from nine in the morning till seven at night. Twenty thousand Russians were left killed or wounded on the field, and eleven thousand Prussians. The Russians retired with reluctance, and did not wholly evacuate the Prussian territory till the end of October. But Frederick himself, long before that time, had been compelled to hurry back to the support of his brother Henry, whom Daun had driven back into Saxony. He fixed his camp at Hochkirchen, near Bautzen, and close to the Bohemian lines. His position there was so exposed, that marshal Keith warned him of his danger, saying, "If the Austrians leave us alone here, they will deserve to be hanged;" to which Frederick replied only with one of his jests - "I hope they are more afraid of us than of the gallows." But a few mornings after, before daybreak, Daun and Laudohn burst into his camp by a combined movement, and threw the whole into confusion before the troops could muster. When Frederick awoke at the uproar and rushed from his tent, all around was one fearful scene of slaughter and flight. One of the first to fall, in endeavouring to rally his forces, was the brave Scotchman, marshal Keith, who had warned him in vain. The loss of Keith was more than the loss of some thousands of ordinary men. But the loss and slaughter were great enough besides. Nine thousand men were butchered, a hundred cannon and twenty-eight standards were taken. The news of this defeat of the generally victorious Prussians threw the court of Vienna into ecstasies, for they thought that Frederick was ruined; and so he might have been had Daun been as alert to follow him up as he had been successful in surprising him. But Daun was naturally slow; a very few days sufficed for Frederick to collect fresh forces around him, and he suddenly darted away into Silesia, saying, with a sarcastic smile, "Daun did not know how to play his cards." There he raised the siege of Neisse, which was invested by another division of the Austrian army; then, falling back on Dresden, threatened by Daun, he drove him back, and, marching to Breslau, fixed there his winter quarters.

Parliament met on the 23rd of November, when thanks were voted for Boscawen and Amherst; and Pitt, justly- elated by the success of his policy in America and the Indies, as well as by the recent exploits of our ally, the king of Prussia, was more loud in demanding the vigorous continuance of martial measures than he had been in denouncing them. He defied any man to object to his plans; he exclaimed, in the midst of an extraordinary speech advocating these subsidies and German wars, which he had risen into popularity by opposing, "Is there an Austrian amongst you? let him stand forth and reveal himself!" He and Newcastle had now become reconciled, and not a voice except that of a Mr. Vyner was raised in dissent. The Prussian subsidy of six hundred and seventy thousand pounds was, as usual, voted; ninety-five thousand British troops and seven thousand foreigners were sanctioned, and twelve millions of money to pay for them, which in the course of the year was exceeded by half a million, making the total expenditure of 1759 no less than twelve million five hundred and three thousand, five hundred and sixty- four pounds - a sum hitherto unexampled.

Amongst the minor events of the year were the deaths of the king's eldest daughter, the princess Anne, dowager princess of Orange; and of lady Elizabeth, second daughter of the prince of Wales. Three days before the commencement of the year had also died the king's third daughter, Caroline, who had been for many years a great invalid, from which cause, probably, she was much distinguished for her kindness to the suffering, on whom she spent her whole income, particularly on those in the gaols, who were ignorant of who was their benefactress till after her death.

During this year, too, Dr. Shebbeare was set in the pillory for violent libels on the government; and Dr. Florence Hensey, an indigent physician, was condemned to death as a traitor, by acting as a spy for the French, but was pardoned on condition that he quitted England for ever.

The year 1759 was ushered in with demands for new taxes for the support of our armaments in all quarters of the world. Duties were laid on sugar and on dry goods. Yet, much as we were spending, England showed no signs of exhaustion, whilst France was reduced to the most miserable condition. The indolent Louis XV. had at once embarked in the most ambitious wars, whilst he left both France and her armies to be governed and appointed by his mistress, Madame Pampadour, who sold places and appointed generals and admirals at her pleasure. The consequence was, that defeat followed upon defeat, disgrace upon disgrace. All public spirit was extinguished by favour and money stopping the way of merit, and the country was reduced to actual bankruptcy. Three times the government had been compelled to suspend the payment of orders on the treasury, and of the interest due on capital invested in the funds. The king, the princes of the blood, and the principal nobles, were obliged to send their plate to be melted down at the Mint for coin. An English wag inserted Louis XV. in a list of bankrupts in a newspaper, as "Louis le Petit, of the city of Paris, peacebreaker, dealer, and chapman." On the contrary, Pitt, by his own spirit, and by selecting brave and able men, had infused such ardour into our service, that our officers no longer seemed the same men. Still, France, stung by the reverses and insults which we had heaped on her, but especially by our ravages of her coast, contemplated a retaliatory descent on ours. Gun-boats were accumulated at Havre and other ports, and fleets were kept ready at Toulon and Brest, as well as a squadron at Dunkirk, under admiral Thurot, a brave seaman. The king sent a message to the commons, demanding the calling out of the militia, and the twenty-four thousand French prisoners which had been left in great destitution by their own government in our hands, were marched into the interior of the country. In July admiral Rodney anchored in the roads of Havre, bombarded the town, set it on fire in several places, and destroyed many of the gunboats. In August the Toulon fleet, commanded by admiral Clue, on its way to operate against our coast, was pursued by Boscawen, who was recently returned from America, overtaken off Lagos, in Algarve, where Clue was mortally wounded, and his ship - reckoned the finest in the French navy - and three others taken, whilst a fifth was run aground and burnt. At the same time an English squadron blockaded Thurot, in Dunkirk, and another, under Hawke, blockaded Brest.

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