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Chapter XXII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5


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The Prussians, after having seen the whole Austrian army retreating discomfited from the blood-stained hills along the Bistritz, bivouacked that night (July 3) on the field of battle. On the next day they marched no farther than to the bank of the Elbe, and on the 5th they crossed the river, the Crown Prince with the Second Army at Pardubitz, Prince Frederick Charles and Herwarth at Przelautsch, thus preserving the relative positions in which the armies fought at Königgrätz - the Crown Prince holding the left wing, Prince Frederick Charles being in the centre, and Herwarth, with the Army of the Elbe, on the extreme right. The 6th July was a day of rest; next day the armies moved forward. Herwarth marching on Iglau, the First Army on Brünn, and the Crown Prince leading his army by roads midway between Brünn and Olmütz. Beyond a cavalry skirmish or two, no collision of any moment occurred till the Firs t Army had reached and occupied Brünn, the capital of Moravia.. This was on the 12th July. It was expected that the Austrians would make a stand here, but they did not do so. Meantime Prague, the ancient capital of Bohemia, which had stood many a siege in the olden time, and even in the last century, but the walls of which, in the absence of exterior forts, could make no resistance to rifled cannon, was occupied by a Prussian force on the 8th July. At Brünn the King of Prussia came to the front, and took up his quarters at the Rathhaus. On the 13th and 14th no forward movement was made, for M. Benedetti, the French Minister at Berlin, was at Brünn; and the presence of Iiis unpretending black coat among the laced uniforms of the royal suite signified that France was using all her influence to bring about peace. Benedetti was closeted with Count Bismarck for some hours on the morning of the 14th July, in an upper room of the Rath- haus of Brünn; and it was generally supposed that they were discussing the conditions of an armistice. They did not at that time come to an agreement; Benedetti departed for Vienna, and the Prussians moved forward from Brünn on the 15th July. On the same day a part of the Crown Prince's army, under General Malotki, which had been sent to cut the railway from Olmütz to Vienna at Prerau, encountered an Austrian force, with a heavy artillery train accompanying it, on the road between Olmütz and Tobitsehau. After a desultory action, in the course of which the eighteen guns composing the Austrian artillery train, being left for a time without an escort, were captured by the Prussian cavalry, the Austrians retreated eastward, and Prerau was occupied by the Crown Prince. Benedek, however, altering his line of march slightly, succeeded in bringing the remainder of his columns over the Carpathians into Hungary, and uniting them to the main army under the Archduke Albrecht, by way of Presburg. He had before sent about 40,000 men by rail direct to Vienna, but the line was cut at Lundenburg by the cavalry advance of the First Army, on the 15th July, and after that he could only expedite them by road in the ordinary way. Gathering together all the troops that could be had, the Archduke posted them along a line of some thirty miles in length, from Krems to Presburg, with the Danube in his rear and his centre resting on the fortifications of Florisdorf, close to Vienna.

Another battle lost - and with inferior numbers, inferior arms, and inferior strategy, the Austrians could not reasonably count on victory - must have laid Austria utterly prostrate at the feet of Prussia, and would probably have resulted, considering the difficult and exasperating constitutional questions at that time still unsettled between the Emperor's government and the subject kingdoms, in her dismemberment and political degradation. From this fate. Austria was saved, not by the moderation of Prussia, but by the firm and friendly mediation of France. The Prussians, both officers and soldiers, were eager, according' to the testimony of Captain Hozier, to march on to the- assault of Vienna; and the note of Count Usedom is sufficient evidence that the Prussian Government desired to carry on a guerre à fond, and humble their enemy to the last extremity. But France, having accepted Venetia as a pledge that she would discharge the office of mediator, discharged it effectually. That description of mediation, to which Lord Russell was so much attached, which proclaimed beforehand that it would employ no other agency but " persuasion," did not commend itself to the French mind. Benedetti returned to Vienna, as we have seen, after the failure of the first attempt at an armistice; but he was soon back again at the Prussian head-quarters, bringing the assent of the Austrian Emperor to some modification of the terms of the proposed armistice which went near to complying with the demands of Prussia. It is absurd to suppose that Count Bismarck would have paid any attention to the pleadings of Benedetti had he not well understood that France was mediating sword in hand. On this point the Count's own frank declaration, made in the Prussian Lower House in the December following the war - though its immediate reference is to the question of Schleswig - does not permit us to remain in doubt. He said: "In July last, France was enabled, by the general situation of Europe, to urge her views more forcibly than before. I need not depict the situation of this country at the time I am speaking of. You all know what I mean. Nobody could expect us to carry on two wars at the same time. Peace with Austria had not yet been concluded; were we to imperil the fruits of our glorious campaign by plunging headlong into hostilities with a new, a second enemy? France, then, being called on by Austria to mediate between the contending parties, as a matter of course, did not omit to urge some wishes of her own upon us." Everything seems to show that Austria owed to France, at this critical moment, her continued existence as a great Power.

But for the time the negotiations had failed; the First Army marched on from Brünn; the Second Army followed two or three marches behind; and Herwarth pressed on from Iglau to Znaym, and thence to Weikersdorff. Moltke had to form plans for the new development of the campaign on the banks of the Danube which appeared to be impending. Captain Hozier, who was with the Prussian army at the time, attached to the staff of Prince Frederick Charles, inserts here a graphic description of the great strategist, since then rendered far more illustrious by the military discomfiture of France, which we shall lay before our readers: -

" General von Moltke retired to his quarters, and was closeted with his maps, making new plans for the further progress of the campaign, and for the occupation of Vienna. This skilful strategist, who had been the chief director of the movements by which the three Prussian armies, starting from different points, were collected at the necessary hour on the field of Königgrätz, never, except at that battle, appeared in the front of the armies. Some distance in the rear, sitting calmly at his desk, he traced on the map the course of the troops, and, by means of the field telegraph, flashed his orders to the different generals in more immediate command with such skill and foresight that not a movement failed, and every combination was made at exactly the right moment. A quick, light-blue eye, a high forehead, and a well-set figure mark him an intellectual and energetic man; but, though quick in action, he is so prudent in discourse, and so guarded in his speech, that, from this quality, and his wide knowledge of European languages, he is known in the Prussian army as the man who is silent in seven tongues. Careful and laborious, he worked out with his own hand, and himself calculated, almost every detail of the operations in which he took Europe by surprise from the lightning rapidity of his strokes and the tremendous consequences of his dispositions, before which the Austrian army withered away almost before it was gathered together, and which have won for him from his countrymen the title of the first strategist in Europe."

On the 20th July, Herwarth's fore-posts were pushed on Stockerau, within fifteen miles of Vienna; and from the hills near Weikersdorff the Prussian soldiers caught sight of the glorious Dom-kirche, the Cathedral of St. Stephan, at Vienna. The magnificent valley of the Danube, then in the fulness of its rich summer beauty, seemed ready to fall a prize to the Prussian sword; already, at Blumenau near Presburg (July 22), a sharp action had been fought between the right wing of the Austrian army and the Franzecky division of the First Army, and that fair scene of peace and plenty might soon have been defaced by fire and bloodshed. But France all this time was pressing her mediation with significant tenacity, and Austria was saved.

On the 17th July, the King of Prussia arrived at Nikolsburg, a place about forty miles to the north of Vienna, close to the frontier line of Moravia and Lower Austria. He took up his quarters in the old castle belonging to Prince Dietrichstein, and slept in the same room in which Napoleon I. had passed the night of the 9fch December, 1805, after the battle of Austerlitz, and before his entry into Vienna. Benedetti was already at Nikolsburg, empowered by the Emperor of Austria to agree to an armistice of five days, nearly upon the conditions originally proposed by Prussia, viz., that Austria should withdraw all her troops, except those in garrisons, to the south of the Thaya; in other words, abandon all Moravia, except the fortress and entrenched camp of Olmütz, to the Prussians. The railway between Dresden and Prague, till now rendered unsafe through the proximity of the strong garrison of Theresienstadt, was to be used freely by Prussia during the armistice, for the purpose of victualling her armies. On these, besides several minor conditions which it is unnecessary to specify, an armistice was concluded at Nikolsburg, to take effect from noon on the 22nd July, and to last till noon on the 27th. It was well understood on both sides that this armistice was preparatory to negotiations for peace. These were conducted actively at Nikolsburg, Austria being represented by General Degenfeld and Count Carolyi; Prussia by General Moltke and Count Bismarck. Preliminaries of peace between the two Powers were signed on the 26th July. The terms agreed to were - That Austria should cease to be a member of the German Confederation; that she should pay a contribution of 40,000,000 thalers towards Prussia's expenses in the war; and that she should offer no opposition to the steps which Prussia might take with regard to Northern Germany. The principal measures thus sanctioned were - The annexation of Hanover, Hesse Cassel, Nassau, and the portion of Hesse Darmstadt which lies to the north of the Main; the concession to Prussia of the reversion of Brunswick on the death of the Duke then living, who was without issue; the entry of Saxony into the new North-German Confederation about to be formed; and the grant to Prussia of the supreme military and diplomatic leadership in that Confederation. The Prussian armies were to be withdrawn beyond the Thaya on the 2nd August, but were to occupy Bohemia and Moravia till the conclusion of the final treaty of peace, and to hold Austrian Silesia until the war indemnity was paid. It was with great difficulty that the Emperor Francis Joseph wrung from the King of Prussia his consent to the continued independence of Saxony. But the little kingdom and its monarch had stood so nobly by Austria during the war, that honour demanded of the Emperor that he should not permit them to be sacrificed, even though, by insisting, he risked the re-opening of hostilities. Prague was the place fixed upon at which the negotiations for the treaty of peace should be conducted.

After the peace preliminaries had been signed, the Austrian commanders seemed for the first time to rouse.

themselves from the supineness and stupefaction into which the rapid succession of their country's disasters had thrown them. Now for the first time a serious attack was made on the long line of the Prussian communications through Bohemia. Not having heard that peace had been agreed to, the garrison of Theresienstadt sallied from the fortress on the 28th July, destroyed the railway bridge over the Moldau at Kralup, north of Prague, broke the telegraph wires, and captured two Prussian officers, two officials, and fifty soldiers. An attack was made in similar ignorance during the armistice on a park of reserve artillery at Znaym, and did some damage. A little more of this kind of activity, while the Army of Silesia was winding in long snake-like columns, encumbered with its trains, through the mountain passes, would have been seasonably employed; now it came too late.

A grand review of the soldiers of the First Army was held by the King of Prussia (July 31) on the great plain called the Marchfeld, within fifteen miles of Vienna. Captain Hozier describes the scene with the vividness and enthusiasm which are natural in a military eye-witness. The King rode along the line, greeted by the cheers of the troops, and by the strains of the Prussian national hymn, struck up by all the bands in succession. Then came the marching past; after which the King called round him the commanding officers, and addressed a few! words to them. With this speech the history of the War I of 1866 may be considered to be closed; we shall there- I fore give it entire: -

" Gentlemen, - I cannot speak to all the soldiers under your command - they are too many; but to you, for all, I must express my thanks for the conduct and behaviour of this army during the campaign, which your exertions have brought to such a glorious conclusion. I shall not enter into the details of the gallant conduct of your troops at the battle of Königgrätz, where for hours you stood under the whole artillery fire of the Austrian army, and resisted successfully all the attempts of the enemy to crush you, and thus break the centre of our line of battle. I cannot speak as I should wish of Sichrow, München-grätz, Podoll, and Gitschin. I can but embrace my nephew, your commander, as the representative of you all. I can but tell you that I thank you, and that your King and your Fatherland feel that you have nobly done your duty. I am sure there is nothing I could say which could be more pleasing to Prussian soldiers."

On the next day the First Army broke up from its encampment on the Marchfeld, and proceeded by leisurely marches to Prague, where it remained till after the signature of the treaty. By the middle of September there was not a Prussian soldier left on Austrian ground.

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Pictures for Chapter XXII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

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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