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Reign of George III page 3


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We must now step back a little to observe the war on the continent from the opening of the present campaign. Frederick of Prussia lay encamped during the winter in Silesia, surrounded by difficulties and enemies. His resources of both money and men appeared well nigh exhausted. The end of autumn, 1760, brought him the news of the death of George II., and, from what he could learn of the disposition of his successor and his chief advisers, it was certain that peace would be attempted by England. This depressing intelligence was confirmed in December by the English parliament indeed voting again his usual subsidy, but reluctantly, and he found it paid with still more reluctance and delay. Whilst thus menaced with the total loss of the funds by which he carried on the war, he saw, as the spring approached, the Russians and Austrians advancing against him with more than double his own forces. He had not fifty thousand men, whilst Butterlin, the Russian general, commanded sixty thousand, and Laudohn, the Austrian, seventy thousand. Prince Henry was menaced in Saxony by marshal Daun, and another Russian army, in Pomerania, was marching to the siege of Colberg.

Under these circumstances, Frederick endeavoured to prevent the junction of the Russians under Butterlin and the Austrians under Laudohn. He boldly threw himself betwixt these two armies, and for a long time defeated their attempts at a junction. At length, on the 12th of August, his enemies accomplished their union near Striegau, in spite of him. There appeared now no other prospect but that they would completely surround him. But, with great address, Frederick threw himself into the fortified camp of Bunzelwitz, under the guns of Schweidnitz, where he had a strong garrison. This camp was defended by a chain of formidable works, four-and-twenty terrible batteries, with mines, deep ditches, and clievaux-de-frise. The allies attempted to blockade him there and starve him out; but he obtained corn from the depots in Schweidnitz, whilst the country round, being laid waste, the enemy themselves were assailed by famine. They were daily in expectation of abundance of provisions from Poland in five thousand wagons; but Frederick had dispatched a flying column, under general Platen, to intercept these, which he did effectually, besides destroying three of their largest magazines on the Polish frontiers. At this news the allies quitted their blockade of the Prussian king. Butterlin retired into Pomerania, and Laudohn to the neighbourhood of Freiburg. At the end of September Frederick quitted his strong camp, and marched towards Upper Silesia, but Laudohn instantly advanced into the vacated position. Instead of taking Laudohn in the rear, as he intended, Frederick now saw that general execute the boldest manoeuvre of the whole war. In the night of the 1st of October, which was extremely dark, he led his troops silently against the walls of Schweidnitz. General Zastrow that night was giving a ball to his officers. The usual precautions were relaxed, and Laudohn, rushing into the covered way, killed the sentinels, scaled the outworks, waded the fosse, and mounted the city walls before the alarm was given. The garrison, four thousand strong, rushed to the defence, and fought bravely; but they were overpowered, and, before daybreak, the Austrians were in full possession of this the great fortress of Silesia, which it had cost the Prussians months of blockade and hard fighting to subdue.

This was a stunning blow to Frederick, but he affected to bear it philosophically, whilst the gallant Laudohn was rather censured than applauded by his own court for his exploit. He had undertaken the daring enterprise without consulting the empress or the Aulic council, and the absurd etiquette of Austria was highly offended by it. It required the better sense of the emperor to prevent a formal censure being passed on the hero.

The capture of Schweidnitz enabled the Austrians to winter in Silesia, which they had never yet done during the war; and the Russians under Butterlin also found, to their great satisfaction, on arriving in Pomerania, that they could winter in Colberg. The Russian division under Romanzow had besieged Colberg both by land and Sea, and, spite of the attempts of the Prussians under Platen and Knobloch, sent by Frederick to relieve it, it had been compelled to surrender. Under these discouraging circumstances Frederick took up his winter quarters at Breslau. His affairs never wore a darker aspect. He was out-generaled and more discomfited this campaign than by a great battle. His enemies lay near in augmented strength of position, and his resources had ominously decreased. Voltaire, who, from a friend, was become a bitter enemy, exulted over him in writing to the duke de Choiseul, the minister of France, calculating on his fall.

The campaign against the French was opened in February by prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, by attacking the duke de Broglie, and driving him out of Cassel. In their retreat towards the Maine, the French were attacked by the united forces of the Hanoverian general, Sporken, and the Prussian general Syburg, near Langensalze, who took from them three thousand prisoners, and captured or destroyed all their magazines. Prince Ferdinand followed up this advantage by attacking them in Marburg, Göttingen, and Ziegenhain, and applied himself particularly to the siege of Cassel. But Broglie, now recovered from his surprise, first defeated the hereditary prince of Brunswick, Ferdinand's nephew, at Stangerode, and then repulsed Ferdinand himself from Cassel.

The destruction of the French magazines delayed their operations till midsummer, when Broglie advanced from Cassel, and the prince Soubise from the Rhine, to give Ferdinand battle. On the march they again fell in with Sporken, and this time defeated one of his posts, and took nineteen pieces of cannon and eight hundred prisoners. The allies awaited them in front of the river Lippe, and betwixt that river and the Aest, near the village of Kirch-Denkern. The French united in the forest of Teutoburg - sacred ground to the Germans, where their great hero, Hermann, annihilated the Roman legions of Varus, and where, if anywhere, Germans must fight well. Ferdinand was strongly encamped with the river in front, and the English, under the marquis of Granby and general Conway, forming the centre and right of his position.

On the evening of the 15th of July, De Broglie, aiming at engrossing the honours of the victory - for the allied troops were inferior to him in numbers - fell suddenly on Granby's wing, where he, however, met a brave reception, and though the English for some time had to bear the whole brunt of the assault, he was driven back by them with heavy slaughter. The next morning prince Soubise, highly indignant at Broglie's conduct, renewed the attack on Granby's division, and the battle became general, the whole force of Soubise and Broglie being engaged. The conflict continued five hours, when the French were routed on all points, having lost, according to the allies, five thousand men, whilst they themselves had only lost one thousand five hundred. Both prince Ferdinand and Granby distinguished themselves highly by their gallantry and management. On the other hand, the French commanders fell into violent quarrel, Soubise accusing Broglie of intentionally beginning the action without concert with him, and Broglie charging Soubise with backwardness.

Notwithstanding the repulse at Kirch-Denkern, the French soon outnumbered the allies; but, as the commanders could not agree, they separated their forces, and Ferdinand was compelled to do the same to watch them. Broglie crossed the Weser and marched for Hanover, and Ferdinand followed him; whilst the hereditary prince of Brunswick threw himself betwixt Soubise and Munster, which he menaced. The prince managed to save Munster by harassing Soubise, and destroying his magazines; and prince Ferdinand, seeing no other means of checking Broglie's advance into Hanover, directed his march into Hesse, where he destroyed the French magazines, and cut off Broglie's communication with the French forces in that quarter; a manoeuvre by which he compelled Broglie to halt on his march, and eventually return to Cassel, whilst Soubise retreated to the Lower Rhine. In one of the skirmishes, during these movements, Ferdinand's nephew,' prince Henry Albert of Brunswick, was killed. The complaints of the French commanders were mutually carried home in their dispatches. Broglie, who had not the same court interest as Soubise, though far more popular with both army and people, was recalled, and banished to his estates.

If the French had been by no means successful in Germany, they had been much less in other quarters of the globe. In the East Indies we had taken Pondicherry, their chief settlement, from them, and thus remained masters of the whole coast of Coromandel, and of the entire trade with India. In the West Indies, the French had been fortifying Dominica, contrary to treaty, and lord Rollo and Sir James Douglas were sent thither, and speedily reduced it. France, indeed, was now fast sinking in exhaustion; her fleet was destroyed, her trade ruined, her people impoverished and discontented.' All her colonies were gone, and at home there were serious differences betwixt the court and parliament, the church and the courts of law. Louis XV. was a man of no mark or ability, inclined to peace, and leaving all affairs to his ministers, and still more to his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Choiseul was a man of talent, but of immense vanity, and little persistent firmness. He had undertaken the administration with an idea that he could check England and humble Prussia. In these objects he had signally failed. The people complained that he had ruined France in the vain endeavour to assist its ancient enemy, Austria. Choiseul was now anxious for peace, but, too proud to make the proposal directly, he induced the courts of Russia and Austria to do it. It was suggested that a congress should be held at Augsburg for settling the peace of Europe. England and Prussia readily consented, and the English government immediately named as its plenipotentiaries the earl of Egremont, lord Stormont, ambassador at Warsaw, and Sir Joseph Yorke, ambassadol at the Hague. But the duke of Choiseul, anxious to have a clear understanding of the terms on which England and France were likely to treat, proposed a previous exchange of views, and dispatched for this purpose M. Bussy to London, whilst Mr. Pitt sent to Paris Mr. Hans Stanley, the grandson of Sir Hans Sloane. By the commencement of June these negotiators were each at his post. Bussy proved a captious, irritable person, and not well adapted for such a mission; but Stanley displayed a capacity for business, and put the cabinet at home into the most exact possession of the state of the French court, and the sentiments prevailing there. He informed Pitt that the king, alarmed at the attempt which had been made on his life by Damiens, was extremely timid and afraid of strange faces; that business was left to Choiseul, who was by no means a man of business, though frank and even jocose in his manner; that lie had great influence with the king, even against Madame Pompadour, and that there was disunion in the court, the Dauphin being regarded as favouring the Jesuits, and the Jesuits being charged with being the instigators of Damiens, since so famous as Robert-le-Diable, who stabbed the king in the midst of his guards in 1757.

Choiseul made, certainly, large offers for a peace. It was that each power should retain all such of its conquests as should be in its hands, subject to exchanges and equivalents, in Europe, on the 1st of May next; in America, the West Indies, and Africa, on the 1st of July; and in the East Indies on the 1st of September. This would include Canada, Cape Breton, Guadaloupe, Marigalante, Goree, Pondicherry, &c. Minorca and Göttingen he proposed to retain, as well as Amaboo and A era, on the African coast, some other places being considered as equivalents. But Pitt had declared that he would never make another peace of Utrecht. He considered that we had France down, and he determined to retain everything of value. He therefore replied that the proper period for the uti possidetis principle of treaty to take place was that on which the treaty was really signed, that it might so happen that it would not be signed at the dates named, and he did this in order to complete a scheme, which he had already nearly accomplished, that of seizing on Belleisle, an island on the coast of France, in the Bay of Biscay, eleven miles long and four wide, high and rocky, containing, however, fertile plains, salt-works, and about five thousand inhabitants, mostly fishermen.

The possession of this island, Pitt knew very well, could be of no further use to England than as a humiliation to France, and as a set-off for Minorca. He had sent an armament against it, in April, consisting of nine thousand men, under general Hodgson, and several men-of-war under commodore Keppel. A landing was attempted on the 8th of that month, but was unsuccessful, five hundred men being killed in the endeavour. Pitt, by no means discouraged, sent out fresh reinforcements, and orders to persevere. On the 25th a fresh attempt was made in Locmaria Bay, and, notwithstanding the almost inaccessible nature of the rocks, our men forced their way, and besieged the governor, chevalier de St. Croix, in the strong fortress of Palais. St. Croix made a most gallant defence, seized general Crawford and two of his aides-de-camp, in a sally, killed some hundreds of men, and held out till the town was taken by storm, and then retired into the citadel. As the French had no fleet, and therefore no means of sending him succour, he was eventually compelled to capitulate on the 7th of June, on condition that he and his troops should inarch out with all the honours of war, and be set safely on the French coast.

The news of this loss was speedily followed in Paris by that of the loss of Dominica in the West, and of Pondicherry in the East Indies, as well as by the defeat at Kirch-Denkern.

These reverses were calculated to make France more compliant; yet Pitt was astonished to find, instead of compliance, a great spirit of resistance. Choiseul would by no means admit that Belleisle was an equivalent for Minorca.

He demanded Guadaloupe and Belleisle too, simply in lieu of the French conquests in Germany. He now demurred to the surrender of Cape Breton, or in any case to forego the right of fishing along its coasts. He was not content with Amaboo or Acra; he demanded Senegal or Goree. He demurred also to destroy the fortifications of Dunkirk, raised in contempt of the treaty of Utrecht. All captures made at sea previous to the declaration of war must be restored; and in Germany, though he was willing to withdraw the French troops, it was only on condition that the troops commanded by prince Ferdinand should not reinforce the Prussian army.

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