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The king of Prussia was among the most zealous and forward in the confederacy against her. He promised to secure Bohemia to the emperor, and Moravia to the elector of Saxony; and, finding no enemy in the field able to resist him, he returned to Berlin, and left Schwerin his general to prosecute the conquest.
The Prussians in the midst of winter took Olmutz, the capital of Moravia, and laid the whole country under contribution. The cold then hindered them from action, and they only blocked up the fortresses of Brinn and Spielberg.
In the spring, the king of Prussia came again into the field, and undertook the siege of Brinn; but upon the approach of prince Charles of Lorrain retired from before it, and quitted Moravia, leaving only a garrison in the capital.
The condition of the queen of Hungary was now changed. She was a few months before without money, without troops, encircled with enemies. The Bavarians had entered Austria, Vienna was threatened with a siege, and the queen left it to the fate of war, and retired into Hungary, where she was received with zeal and affection, not unmingled however with that neglect which must always be borne by greatness in distress. She bore the disrespect of her subjects with the same firmness as the outrages of her enemies; and at last persuaded the English not to despair of her preservation, by not despairing herself.
Voltaire in his late history has asserted, that a large sum was raised for her succour, by voluntary subscriptions of the English ladies. It is the great failing of a strong imagination to catch greedily at wonders. He was misinformed, and was perhaps unwilling to learn, by a second inquiry, atruth less splendid and amusing. A contribution was by news-writers, upon their own authority, fruitlessly, and, I think, illegally proposed. It ended in nothing. The parliament voted a supply, and five hundred thousand pounds were remitted to her.
It has been always the weakness of the Austrian family to spend in the magnificence of empire those revenues which should be kept for its defence. The court is splendid, but the treasury is empty; and, at the beginning of every war, advantages are gained against them, before their armies can be assembled and equipped.
The English money was to the Austrians as a shower to a field, where all the vegetative powers are kept unactive by a long continuance of drought. The armies, which had hitherto been hid in mountains and forests, started out of their retreats; and wherever the queen's standard was erected, nations scarcely known by their names swarmed immediately about it. An army, especially a defensive army, multiplies itself. The contagion of enterprise spreads from one heart to another. Zeal for a native or detestation of a foreign sovereign, hope of sudden greatness or riches, friendship or emulation between particular men, or, what are perhaps more general and powerful, desire of novelty and impatience of inactivity, fill a camp with adventurers, add rank to rank, and squadron to squadron.
The queen had still enemies on every part, but she now on every part had armies ready to oppose
them. Austria was immediately recovered; the plains of Bohemia were filled with her troops, though the fortresses were garrisoned by the French. The Bavarians were recalled to the defence of their own country, now wasted by the incursions of troops that were called Barbarians, greedy enough of plunder, and daring perhaps beyond the rules of war, but otherwise not more cruel than those whom they attacked. Prince Lobkowitz with one army observed the motions of Broglio, the French general in Bohemia ; and prince Charles with another put a stop to the advances of the king of Prussia.
It was now the turn of the Prussians to retire. They abandoned Olmutz, and left behind them part of their cannon and their magazines. And the king, finding that Broglio could not long oppose prince Lobkowitz, hastened into Bohemia to his assistance; and having received a reinforcement of twenty-three thousand men, and taken the castle of Glatz, which, being built upon a rock, scarcely accessible, would have defied all his
power, had the garrison been furnished with provisions, he purposed to join his allies, and prosecute his conquests.
Prince Charles, seeing Moravia thus evacuated by the Prussians, determined to garrison the towns which he had just recovered, and pursue the enemy, who, by the assistance of the French, would have been too powerful for prince Lobkowitz.
Success had now given confidence to the Austrians, and had proportionably abated the spirit of their enemies. The Saxons, who had co-operated with the king of Prussia in the conquest of Moravia, of which they expected the perpetual possession, seeing all hopes of sudden acquisition defeated, and the province left again to its former masters, grew weary of following a prince, whom they considered as no longer acting the part of their confederate; and when they approached the confines of Bohemia took a different road, and left the Prussians to their own fortune.
The king continued his march, and Charles his pursuit.
At Czaslaw the two armies came in sight of one another, and the Austrians resolved on a decisive day. On the 6th of May, about seven in the morning, the Austrians began the attack: their impetuosity was matched by the firmness of the Prussians. The animosity of the two armies was much inflamed: the Austrians were fighting for their country, and the Prussians were in a place where defeat must inevitably end in death or captivity. The fury of the battle continued four hours: the Prussian horse were at length broken, and the Austrians forced their
way to the camp, where the wild troops, who had fought with so much vigour and constancy, at the sight of plunder forgot their obedience, nor had any man the least thought but how to load himself with the richest spoils.
While the right wing of the Austrians was thus employed, the main body was left naked: the Prussiąns recovered from their confusion, and regained the day. Charles was at last forced to retire, and carried with him the standard of his enemies, the proofs of a victory, which, though so nearly gained, he had not been able to keep.
The victory however was dearly bought; the
Prussian army was much weakened, and the cavalry almost totally destroyed. Peace is easily made when it is necessary to both parties; and the king of Prussia had now reason to believe that the Austrians were not his only enemies. When he found Charles advancing, he sent to Broglio for assistance, and was answered that “he must have orders from Versailles.” Such a desertion of his most powerful ally disconcerted him, but the battle was unavoidable.
When the Prussians were returned to the camp, the king, hearing that an Austrian officer was brought in mortally wounded, had the condescension to visit him. The officer, struck with this act of humanity, said, after a short conversation, “I should die, sir, contentedly after this honour, if I might first show my gratitude to your majesty by informing you with what allies you are now united, allies that have no intention but to deceive you.” The king appearing to suspect this intelligence; “Sir," said the Austrian, “if you will permit me to send a messenger to Vienna, I believe the queen will not refuse to transmit an intercepted letter now in her hands, which will put my report beyond all doubt.”
The messenger was sent, and the letter transmitted, which contained the order sent to Broglio, who was, first, forbidden to mix his troops on any occasion with the Prussians. Secondly, he was ordered to act always at a distance from the king. Thirdly, to keep always a body of twenty thousand men to observe the Prussian army. Fourthly, to observe very closely the motions of the king, for important reasons. Fifthly, to hazard nothing;