The Pass of Domstadtl, lapped in the dim Moravian distance, is not known to me or to my readers; nor indeed could the human pen or intellect, aided by ocular inspection or whatever helps, give the least image of what now took place there, rendering Domstadtl a memorable locality ever since. Understand that Ziethen and Mosel, with their waste slow deluge of wagons, come jumbling in, with anxiety, with precautions,--precautions doubled, now that the woody intricacies about Domstadtl rise in sight. "Pooh, it is as we thought: there go Austrian cannon-salvos, horse-charges, volleying musketries, as our first wagons enter the Pass;--and there will be a job!" Indecipherable to mankind far off, or even near. Of which only this feature and that can be laid hold of, as discernible, by the most industrious man. Escort, in three main bodies, vanguard, middle, rear-guard, marches on each side; infantry on the left, cavalry on the right, as the ground is leveller there. Length of the Train in statute miles, as it jumbles along at this point, is not given; but we know it was many miles; that horses and wagoners were in panic hardly restrainable; and we dimly descry, here especially, human drill-sergeantcy doing the impossible to keep chaos plugged down. The poor wagoner, cannon playing ahead, whirls homeward with his vehicle, if your eye quit him,--still better, and handier, cuts his traces, mounts in a good moment, and is off at heavy-footed gallop, leaving his wagon. Seldom had human drill- sergeantcy such a problem.
The Prussian Vanguard, one Krockow its commander, repulsed that first Austrian attack; swept the Bass clear for some minutes; got their section of the carriages, or some part of it, 250 in all, hurried through; then halted on the safe side, to wait what Ziethen would do with the remainder. Ziethen does his best and bravest, as everybody does; keeps his wagon-chaos plugged down; ranks it in square mass, as a wagon fortress (WAGENBURG); ranks himself and everybody, his cannon, his platoon musketry, to the best advantage round it; furiously shoots out in all manner of ways, against the furious Loudon on this flank, and the furious Ziskowitz on that; takes hills, loses them; repels and is repelled (wagon-chaos ever harder to keep plugged); finally perceives himself to be beaten; that the wagon-chaos has got unplugged (fancy it!)--and that he, Ziethen, must retreat; back foremost if possible. He did retreat, fighting all the way to Troppau; and the Convoy is a ruin and a prey.
Krockow, with the 250, has got under way again; hearing the powder- wagons start into the air (fired by the enemy), and hearing the cannon and musketry take a northerly course, and die away in that ominous direction. These 250 were all the carriages that came in:-- happily, by Ziethen's prudence, the money, a large sum, had been lodged in the vanmost of these. The rest of the Convoy, ball, powder, bread, was of little value to Loudon, but beyond value to Friedrich at this moment; and it has gone to annihilation and the belly of Chaos and the Croats. Among the tragic wrecks of this Convoy there is one that still goes to our heart. A longish, almost straight row of young Prussian recruits stretched among the slain, what are these? These were 700 recruits coming up from their cantons to the Wars; hardly yet six months in training: see how they have fought to the death, poor lads, and have honorably, on the sudden, got manumitted from the toils of life. Seven hundred of them stood to arms, this morning; some sixty-five will get back to Troppau; that is the invoice account. They lie there, with their blond young cheeks and light hair; beautiful in death;--could not have done better, though the sacred poet has said nothing of them hitherto,--nor need, till times mend with us and him. Adieu, my noble young Brothers; so brave, so modest, no Spartan nor no Roman more; may the silence be blessed to you!
Contrary to some current notions, it is comfortably evident that there was a considerable fire of loyalty in the Prussians towards their King, during this War; loyalty kept well under cover, not wasting itself in harangues or noisy froth; but coming out, among all ranks of men, in practical attempts to be of help in this high struggle, which was their own as well as his. The STANDE, landed Gentry, of Pommern and other places, we heard of their poor little Navy of twelve gunboats, which were all taken by the Swedes. Militia Regiments too, which did good service at Colberg, as may transiently appear by and by:--in the gentry or upper classes, a respectable zeal for their King. Then, among the peasantry or lower class--Here are Seven Hundred who stood well where he planted them. And their Mothers-- Be Spartan also, ye Mothers! In peaceable times, Tempelhof tells us the Prussian Mother is usually proud of having her son in this King's service: a country wife will say to you: "I have three of them, all in the regiment," Billerbeck, Itzenplitz, or whatever be the Canton regiment; "the eldest is ten inches [stands five feet ten], the second is eleven, the third eight, for indeed he is yet young."
Daun, on the day of this Domstadtl business, and by way of masking it, feeling how vital it was, made various extensive movements, across the River by several Bridges; then hither, thither, on the farther side of Olmutz, mazing up and down: Friedrich observing him, till he should ripen to something definite, followed his bombarding the while; perhaps having hopes of wager of battle ensuing. Of the disaster at Domstadtl Friedrich could know nothing, Loudon having closed the roads. Daun by no means ripens into battle: news of the disaster reached Friedrich next day (Saturday, July 1st),--who "immediately assembled his Generals, and spoke a few inspiring words to them," such as we may fancy. Friedrich perceives that Olmutz is over; that his Third Campaign, third lunge upon the Enemy's heart, has prospered worse, thus far, than either of the others; that he must straightway end this of Olmutz, without any success whatever, and try the remaining methods and resources. No word of complaint, they say, is heard from Friedrich in such cases; face always hopeful, tone cheery. A man in Friedrich's position needs a good deal of Stoicism, Greek or other.
That Saturday night the Prussian bombardment is quite uncommonly furious, long continuing; no night yet like it:--the Prussians are shooting off their superfluous ammunition this night; do not quite end till Sunday is in. On Sunday itself, packings, preparations, all completed; and, "Keith, with above 4,000 wagons, safe on the road since 2 A.M."--the Prussians softly vanish in long smooth streams, with music playing, unmolested by Daun; and leaving nothing, it is boasted, but five or three mortars, which kept playing to the last, and one cannon, to which something had happened.
Of the retreat there could be much said, instructive to military men who were studious; extremely fine retreat, say all judges;--of which my readers crave only the outlines, the results. Daun, it was thought, should have ruined Friedrich in this retreat; but he did nothing of harm to him. In fact, for a week he could not comprehend the phenomenon at all, and did not stir from his place,--which was on the other, or wrong, side of the River. Daun had never doubted but the retreat would be to Silesia; and he had made his detachments, and laid himself out for doing something upon it, in that direction: but, lo, what roads are these, what motions whitherward? In about a week it becomes manifest that the retreat, which goes on various roads, sometimes three at once, has converged on Leutomischl; straight for Bohemia instead of Silesia; and that Daun is fallen seven days behind it; incapable now to do anything. Not even the Magazine at Leutomischl could be got away, nor could even the whole of it be burnt.
Keith and the baggage once safe in Leutomischl (July 8th), all goes in deliberate long column; Friedrich ahead to open the passages. July 14th, after five more marches, Friedrioh bursts up Konigsgratz; scattering any opposition there is; and sits down there, in a position considered, he knows well how inexpugnable; to live on the Country, and survey events. The 4,000 baggage-wagons came in about entire. Fouquet had the first division of them, and a secondary charge of the whole; an extremely strict, almost pedantic man, and of very fiery temper: "HE, D'OU VENEZ-VOUS?" asked he sharply of Retzow senior, who had broken through his order, one day, to avert great mischief: "How come you here, MON GENERAL?" "By the Highway, your Excellency!" answered Retzow in a grave stiff tone. [Retzow, i. 302.]