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Chapter XXII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2


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The ancient city of Frankfort, rich with the associations and the historic memorials of a thousand years - which had witnessed the election of so many German emperors in the grand old days of the Reich, and whose republican freedom had survived the shocks of so many revolutions - now lay defenceless before a German conqueror, in whose eyes her glorious past was of little account in comparison with the vindictive pleasure that he felt in being able to avenge an insult offered to his pride. Some three months before, when the quarrel between the two Governments was becoming more and more bitter and dangerous, it was thought advisable that the contingents of Austrian and Prussian troops then in garrison at Frankfort should be withdrawn, lest in the prevailing political excitement the soldiers should come into hostile collision. The population of Frankfort, whether high or low, had always leaned towards the Austrian side. The Austrian statesmen, with their refined courtesy and dignified manners - the Austrian officers, with their ease and gaiety and social tact - suited the taste of the grand old imperial city far better than the rough abruptness and arrogant self-consciousness of the Prussians. Accordingly, when the Austrian troops took their departure, there was a general demonstration of affectionate regret and sympathy on the part of the Frankfort population. A great crowd accompanied them to the railway station; the men cheered, the ladies waved their handkerchiefs; mementoes were showered upon them, and tender farewells were exchanged. When the Prussians departed, some days later, it was amidst a blank and freezing silence, the contrast of which to the farewell given to the Austrians must certainly have been galling to Prussian pride.

And now the Prussians were entering the city as conquerors. About four o'clock on the afternoon of the 16th July, they marched into the place with all military precautions, a regiment of cuirassiers with drawn swords leading the way. The Frankfort battalion was drawn up to receive them, and went through the usual military formalities; but the Prussians took not the slightest notice of them. They posted two guns in the great square, and stacked their arms there and in the Zeil. Late at night they broke into groups, and went to the different houses, on which, without previous consultation with the municipality, they had been billeted, forcing their way in without ceremony wherever a recalcitrant householder was found. It was observed that especially large numbers of soldiers were billeted on the houses of those citizens who were known to be anti-Prussian in their politics. One of these, Herr Mumm, was required to lodge and feed 15 officers and 200 men! General Falkenstein took up his quarters in the town, having issued a proclamation announcing that, by orders of the King of Prussia, he had assumed the government of the imperial city, together with Nassau, and the parts of Bavaria that were in Prussian occupation. He at once imposed upon the citizens a war contribution of 7,000,000 gulden (about £600,000), besides 300 horses, and other contributions in kind. The Burgomaster Fellner and the Syndic Müller visited this modern Brennus, to endeavour to obtain some diminution of the impost; but they were only treated to a Prussian version of the classic declaration, " Vœ Victis" Falkenstein roughly told the burgomaster that he used the rights of conquest; and is said to have threatened that if his demands were not promptly complied with, the city should be given up to pillage.

A melancholy incident happened on the following day. Falkenstein sent for Herr Fischer, the proprietor of the Journal de Francfort, a French paper published in Frankfort, well known for its consistent advocacy of the Austrian cause, and at first made overtures to him the object of which was to induce him to change his politics; but when Herr Fischer replied that he did not think it would be consistent with his honour to do so, the Governor overwhelmed the unfortunate man with such a torrent of menace and invective, that in his agitation and excitement he was attacked by a fit of apoplexy, and expired almost immediately.

On the 19th July, General Falkenstein was recalled, having been appointed to the important government of Bohemia. The unhappy citizens of Frankfort augured favourably for a less oppressive rule from the character for moderation possessed by the new Governor-General Manteuffel. He, however, acting doubtless under orders from Berlin, immediately imposed an additional war contribution on the city of 25,000,000 gulden. Frankfort had suffered much from the French in the wars which followed the French Revolution; but this was a point of rapacity which not Custine, nor Hoche, nor Davoust, nor any of the French commanders most notorious for the severity of their exactions, had ever come near to. The Frankfort capitalists, in their despair, appeared as suppliants at the door of every European Cabinet, imploring the intervention of foreign states to moderate the rapacity of the Prussians. For a time every effort was vain. General von Röder was appointed commandant of the city under Manteuffel, and Councillor von Diest civil commissary; and the political independence of Frankfort was rudely suppressed by the dissolution of the legislative and executive bodies. The citizens were then informed that unless the new impost was promptly paid, the plan of compulsory billeting (Zwangseinquartierung) would be resorted to. The unfortunate Burgomaster Fellner, who, as the intermediary between the new government and the citizens, had done his utmost to induce the former to listen to reason, and the latter to submit with a good grace to the inevitable, was driven to despair by a new demand, requiring him to furnish the commandant with a list of the principal citizens of Frankfort who had borne any part in the fallen government, showing the amount of property belonging to each. The object of this was to enable Von Röder to direct with greater precision the military execution which was about to take place. Fellner could not bring himself thus to act the jackal to the Prussian lion, and, sooner than do so, put an end to his existence on the night of the 24th July. The execution took place, and as many as fifty soldiers were in many cases billeted on an individual householder. Dreadful and distressing scenes are said to have occurred in consequence in Frankfort households, which Colonel Rüstow, though he had heard the particulars of them, declines to relate, lest they should prove to be exaggerated. In the end, some impression was made on the King of Prussia by the representations of the plundered citizens and the indignant comments of the European press. The twenty-five millions do not appear to have been exacted, in consideration of the destruction of the independence of Frankfort and its annexation to Prussia.

A few members of the Diet had continued to reside at Frankfort after the outbreak of hostilities, their chief employment being to draw up and publish elaborate protests against the conduct of Prussia. The approach of the Prussians compelled these protesters to leave Frankfort. Gathering together the archives of the Bund, they repaired to Augsburg, and caused the black, red, and gold flag of the Confederation to be hoisted over the well-known hotel with the sign of the Drei Mohren (" Three Moors ").

At last, when it was too late for any useful purpose, Prince Alexander of Hesse effected a junction between the 8th Federal Corps and the Bavarians under Prince Charles. But the crushing disaster of Königgrätz had by this time taken all heartiness and hopefulness out of the operations of the friends of Austria. Nor was the Army of the Main the only Prussian force now advancing in Bavaria. The second reserve corps, numbering about 23,000 combatants, had been organised at Leipzig, and placed under the command of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg Schwerin. Advancing into the north-east corner of Bavaria, it literally met with no resistance for the greater part of its march in the course of which it penetrated into the heart of the kingdom. Manteuffel marched from Frankfort in pursuit of the 8th Corps on the 21st of July, defeated them in various unimportant actions on the line of the Tauber, and again in a more considerable combat at Gerscheim, and drove both them and the Bavarians behind the Main, at "Würzburg. On the 29th, a flag of truce was sent from the Bavarian he ad-quarters to General Manteuffel, announcing that an armistice had been concluded between the Kings of Bavaria and Prussia, and hostilities came to an end.

It is now time to return to Italy, and to relate the military operations which were undertaken on this portion of the field of war. The Prussian Government, though repeatedly urged by La Marmora to conclude a military convention with the Italian plenipotentiary at Berlin, General Govone, whereby a joint plan of operations would have been agreed upon, had always evaded the subject. It seems that the great soldiers and strategists of Prussia had too little faith in the solidity of the Italian army, and its capacity to carry on war on the grand scale, to permit of their discussing their strategical plans with Italian officers as on equal terms. La Marmora had also begged that a Prussian general, if not Moltke himself, might be sent to Florence, in order that a common understanding might be arrived at on the military question; but this request had not been complied with. But in the month of May a somewhat mysterious personage, named Signor Bernhardi, about whom it could not be ascertained whether he was sent by the Prussian Government, or came in the capacity of historiographer to the King of Prussia, was brought to La Marmora's office by Count Usedom, the Prussian minister at Florence. La Marmora found to his amazement that this Bernhardi expected him to enter into a serious discussion of the Italian plan of campaign. He spread out a large map on the table, pointed to Bohemia, and explained the manner in which it was intended at Berlin to combine several movements of Prussian troops so as to effect a concentration about Pardubitz. La Marmora paid no great attention to what he said, not choosing to discuss military questions with a civilian, however intelligent he might be. He treated, the subject with him " academically " - to use the Italian phrase - that is, purely as a matter of theory, without reference to actual intentions and circumstances. One question, however, he did put to Bernhardi, and that was, at what point it was desired at Berlin that the Prussian and Italian armies should meet, in case both should make a victorious advance into Austrian territory. Bernhardi replied, at Lintz. This was in accordance with a suggestion already made by Count Bismarck to Govone, when they were discussing military probabilities at Berlin. But, before the campaign actually commenced, the views of Prussia were communicated - fully enough, but through an unexpected channel - to the Italian General. On the 19th June, when La Marmora was at Cremona, having given marching orders to the different corps composing the Italian army, and having of course decided upon his plan of action, a note was brought to him from the Count Usedom. It was a missive, the wording of which needed and received great deliberation and care; for while, on the one hand, it was necessary to avoid as much as possible the appearance of dictating plans to an independent and high-spirited ally, it was, on the other hand, not in the Prussian character to leave in doubt, through indulgence in vague and complimentary language, the precise nature of the course which it was thought desirable for the Italians to adopt. It was a difficult piece of steering; and few who read the document without prejudice will deny that the Prussian diplomatist acquitted himself of his delicate task with consummate dexterity, and made his unpalatable communication as little offensive as the circumstances of the case permitted. He began by saying that the heavy sacrifices which the necessity of making war had imposed both on Prussia and Italy made it, in the opinion of Prussia, unavoidable that the confederates should carry on a "guerre à fond" and should push hostile operations to the utmost extremity, so as to place the enemy, if fortune favoured them, at their absolute mercy. Vienna, in short, should be the objective point which the armies of both Powers should place before their eyes. Prussia, for instance, should think nothing of the obstacles which nature or art might oppose to her advance from Lintz on the west to Cracow on the east; she should, if successful, push resolutely on to Vienna. " As to the analogous operations of the Italian forces, the course preferred would not be that of laying siege to the Quadrilateral, but rather of traversing or turning it, in order to bring the enemy's army to a pitched battle. There can be little doubt, especially when we consider the numerical proportions of the combatants, that the Italian army will in a short time find itself in possession of the whole of Venetia, with the exception of Venice, Verona, and Mantua, the garrisons of which, it is true, would have to be paralysed by strong corps of observation. The Italian generals will undoubtedly be the best judges of the operations here indicated; however, if she is to act in union with Prussia, it will be necessary that Italy should not stop short at the northern boundary of Venetia; she will have to force her way towards the Danube, and effect a meeting with Prussia in the very heart of the imperial monarchy - in a word, she will have to march on Vienna. To secure the durable possession of Venetia, she must first have struck a blow to the heart of the Austrian power." Italy, however, might think the march on Vienna too perilous, the distance to which her army would have to remove from its resources too great. But it should be remembered that every mile which the Italians advanced into Austria would bring them nearer to the Prussians; " besides, there existed an infallible agency by means of which the efficacious co-operation of the two armies on common ground might be ensured." "The Prussian Government has recently caused the Hungarian question to be carefully studied; it has acquired the conviction that this country, if supported equally by Italy and Prussia, will in turn serve them as a rallying link and a strategic appui. For example, let a strong expedition be directed to the eastern coast of the Adriatic, which would not in any way weaken the principal army, because it would be taken for the most part from the ranks of the volunteers, and placed under the orders of General Garibaldi. According to all the information which has reached the Prussian Government, such an expedition would meet with a most cordial reception among the Slavonians and Hungarians; it would cover the flank of the army advancing on Vienna, and would open to it the co-operation and all the resources of those vast countries."

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Pictures for Chapter XXII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2

Marshal von Wrangel
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Venice
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The Archduke Albrecht
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Peshiera
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Prague
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