There are several letters still remaining which Lieutenant Katte wrote to his friends during those hours of anguish in which he was awaiting his death. No one can read them without compassionate emotion, and without execrating the memory of that implacable tyrant who so unjustly demanded his execution. The young man wrote to the king a petition containing the following pathetic plea:
On the 22d of November the Austrians commenced their attack from five different points. It was a terrific conflict. Sixty thousand men stormed ramparts defended by twenty thousand as highly disciplined troops, and as desperate in valor, as ever stood upon a battle-field. The struggle commenced at three o’clock in the morning, and raged, over eight miles of country, until nine o’clock at night. Darkness and utter exhaustion terminated the conflict. The Austrians had lost, in killed and wounded, six thousand men, the Prussians eight thousand.All thoughts of the double marriage were for the moment relinquished. The Czar of Russia had a son and a daughter. It was proposed to marry Wilhelmina to the son and Fritz to the daughter, and thus to secure a Russian instead of an English alliance. Harassed by these difficulties, Frederick William grew increasingly morose, venting his spite upon his wife and children. Fritz seriously contemplated escaping from his father’s abuse by flight, and to take refuge with his uncle George in England, and thus to secure his marriage with Amelia. The portraits of the62 princess which he had seen proved her to be very beautiful. All reports pronounced her to be as lovely in character as in person. He was becoming passionately attached to her. Wilhelmina was his only confidante. Regard for her alone restrained him from attempting to escape. “He would have done so long ago,” writes Dubourgay, under date of August 11, 1729, “were it not for his sister, upon whom the whole weight of his father’s resentment would then fall. Happen what will, therefore, he is resolved to share with her all the hardships which the king, his father, may be pleased to put upon her.”
The king having breathed his last, Frederick, in tears, retired to a private room, there to reflect upon the sad receding past, and upon the opening future, with the vast responsibilities thus suddenly thrown upon him. He was now King of Prussia; and not only absolute master of himself, but absolute monarch over a realm containing two millions two hundred and forty thousand souls. He was restrained by no Parliament, no Constitution, no customs or laws superior to his own resolves. He could take advice of others, and call energetic men to his aid, but his will alone was sovereign.
“And would you regard with the same indifference,” M. D’Arget rejoined, “seeing us at the gates of Vienna?”Frederick was so busy cantoning his troops that he did not take possession of his head-quarters in Leipsic until the 8th of December. He occupied the Apel House, No. 16 Neumarkt Street, the same which he had occupied before the battle of Rossbach. The same mistress kept the house as before. Upon seeing the king, the good woman exclaimed, in astonishment, “How lean your majesty has grown!MOLLWITZ,
The region thus annexed to Prussia was in a deplorable state of destitution and wretchedness. Most of the towns were in ruins. War had so desolated the land that thousands of the people were living in the cellars of their demolished houses.Frederick returned to Berlin by a circuitous route, which occupied ten days. His uncle, King George II. of England, whom he exceedingly disliked, was then on a visit to his Hanoverian possessions. Frederick passed within a few miles of his Britannic majesty without deigning to call upon him. The slight caused much comment in the English papers. It was regarded as of national moment, for it implied that in the complicated policy which then agitated the courts of Europe the sympathies of Prussia would not be with England.
“Life’s labor done, securely laid In this, their last retreat: Unheeded o’er their silent dust The storms of life shall beat.”
Frederick caught eagerly at the suggestion, as the remark was reported to him by his brother. He drew up a new plan of partition, which he urged with all his powers of address upon both Russia and Austria. The conscience of Maria Theresa was strongly opposed to the deed. Catharine and Kaunitz were very greedy in their demands. Circumstances assumed such an aspect that it was very difficult for Maria Theresa to oppose the measure. At length, through the extraordinary efforts of Frederick, on the 5th of August, 1772, the following agreement was adopted:“Raising his eyes,” says Archenholtz, “he surveyed, with speechless emotion, the small remnant of his life-guard of foot, his favorite battalion. It was one thousand strong yesterday morning, hardly four hundred now. All the soldiers of this chosen battalion were personally known to him—their names, their age, their native place, their history. In one day death had mowed them down. They had fought like heroes, and it418 was for him they had died. His eyes were visibly wet. Down his face rolled silent tears.
Maria Theresa, greatly elated by her success in driving the Prussians out of Bohemia, resolved immediately, notwithstanding the severity of the season, to push her armies through the “Giant Mountains” for the reconquering of Silesia. She ordered her generals to press on with the utmost energy and overrun the whole country. At the same time she issued a manifesto, declaring that the treaty of Breslau was a treaty no longer; that the Silesians were absolved from all oaths of allegiance to the King of Prussia, and that they were to hold themselves in readiness to take the oath anew to the Queen of Hungary.详情
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