The march thither (started from Neisse April 27th) was beautiful: Friedrich with vanguard and first division; Keith with rear-guard and second, always at a day's distance; split into proper columns, for convenience of road and quarter in the hungry countries; threading those silent mountain villages, and upper streamlets of Oder and Morawa: Ziethen waving intrusive Croateries far off; Fouquet, in thousands of wagons, shoving on from Neisse, "in four sections," with the due intervals, under the due escorts, the immensity of stores and siege-furniture, through Jagerndorf, through Troppau, and onwards; [Table of his routes and stages in TEMPELHOF, ii. 46.]--punctual everybody; besiegers and siege materials ready on their ground by the set day. Daun too had made speed to save his Magazine. Daun was at Leutomischl, May 5th,--a forty miles to west of the Morawa,--few days after Friedrich had arrived in those countries by the eastern or left bank, by Troppau, Gibau, Littau, Aschmeritz, Prossnitz; and a week before Friedrich had finished his reconnoitrings, campings, and taken position to his mind. Camps, four or more (shrank in the end to three), on both banks of the River; a matter of abstruse study; so that it was May 12th before Friedrich first took view of Olmutz itself, and could fairly begin his Problem,--Daun, with his best Tolpatcheries, still unable to guess what it was.
Of the Siege I propose to say little, though the accounts of it are ample, useful to the Artillerist and Engineer. If the reader can be made to conceive it as a blazing loud-sounding fact, on which, and on Friedrich in it, the eyes of all Europe were fixed for some weeks, it may rest now in impressive indistinctness to us. Keith is Captain of the Siege, whom all praise for his punctual firmness of progress; Balbi as before, is Engineer, against whom goes the criticism, Keith's first of all, that he "opened his first parallel 800 yards too far off,"--which much increased the labor, and the expenditure of useless gunpowder, shot having no effect at such a distance. There were various criticisms: some real, as this; some imaginary, as that Friedrich grudged gunpowder, the fact being that he had it not, except after carriage from Neisse, say a hundred and twenty miles off,--Troppau, his last Silesian Town, or safe place (his for the moment), is eighty miles;--and was obliged to waste none of it.
Friedrich is not thought to shine in the sieging line as he does in the fighting; which has some truth in it, though not very much. When Friedrich laid himself to engineering, I observe, he did it well: see Neisse, Graudenz, Magdeburg. His Balbi went wrong with the parallels, on this occasion; many things went wrong: but the truly grievous thing was his distance from Silesia and the supplies. A hundred and twenty miles of hill-carriage, eighty of them disputable, for every shot of ammunition and for every loaf of bread; this was hard to stand:--and perhaps no War-apparatus but a Prussian, with a Friedrich for sole chief-manager, could have stood it so long. Friedrich did stand it, in a wonderfully tolerable manner; and was continuing to stand it, and make fair progress; and it is not doubted he would have got Olmutz, had not there another fact come on him, which proved to be of unmanageable nature. The actual loss, namely, of one Convoy, after so many had come safe, and when, as appears, there was now only one wanted and no more!--Let us attend to this a little.
Had Daun, at Olmutz, been as a Duke of Cumberland relieving Tournay, rushing into fight at Fontenoy, like a Hanover White- Horse, neck clothed with thunder, and head destitute of knowledge, --how lucky had it been for Friedrich! But Daun knows his trade better. Daun, though superior in strength, sits on his Magazine, clear not to fight. By no art of manoeuvring, had Friedrich much tried it, or hoped it, this time, could Daun have been brought to give battle. As Fabins Cunctator he is here in his right place; taking impregnable positions, no man with better skill in that branch of business; pushing out parties on the Troppau road; and patiently waiting till this dangerous Enemy, with such endless shifts in him, come in sight perhaps of his last cartridge, or perhaps make some stumble on the way towards that consummation. Daun is aware of Friedrich's surprising qualities. Bos against Leo, Daun feels these procedures to be altogether feline (FELIS- LEONINE); such stealthy glidings about, deceptive motions, appearances; then such a rapidity of spring upon you, and with such a set of claws,--destructive to bovine or rhinoceros nature: in regard to all which, Bos, if he will prosper, surely cannot be too cautious. It was remarked of Daun, that he was scrupulously careful; never, in the most impregnable situations, neglecting the least precaution, but punctiliously fortifying himself to the last item, even to a ridiculous extent, say Retzow and the critics. It was the one resource of Daun: truly a solid stubborn patience is in the man; stubborn courage too, of bovine-rhinoceros type;-- stupid, if you will, but doing at all times honestly his best and his wisest without flurry; which character is often of surprising value in War; capable of much mischief, now and then, to quicker people. Rhinoceros Daun did play his Leo a bad prank more than once; and this of barring him out from Olmutz was one of them, perhaps the worst after Kolin.
Daun's management of this Olmutz business is by no means reckoned brilliant, even in the Fabius line; but, on the contrary, inert, dim-minded, inconclusive; and in reality, till almost the very last, he had been of little help to the besieged. For near three weeks (till May 23d) Daun sat at Leutomischl, immovable on his bread-basket there, forty or more miles from Olmutz; and did not see that a Siege was meant. May 27th-28th, Balbi opened his first parallel, in that mistaken way; four days before which, Daun does move inwards a march or so, to Zwittau, to Gewitsch (still thirty miles to west of Olmutz); still thinking of Bohemia, not of any siege; still hanging by the mountains and the bread-basket. And there,--about Gewitsch, siege or no siege, Daun sits down again; pretty much immovable, through the five weeks of bombardment; and,--except that Loudon and the Light Horse are very diligent to do a mischief, "attempting our convoys, more than once, to no purpose, and alarming some of our outposts almost every night, but every night beaten off,"--does, in a manner, nothing; sits quiet, behind his impenetrable veil of Pandours, and lets the bombardment take its course. Had not express Order come from Vienna on him, it is thought Daun would have sat till Olmutz was taken; and would then have gone back to Leutomischl and impregnable posts in the Hills. On express order, he-- But gather, first, these poor sparks in elucidation:--
"The 'destructive sallies' and the like, at Olmutz, were principally an affair of the gazetteers and the imagination: but it is certain, Olmutz this time was excellently well defended; the Commandant, a vigorous skilful man, prompt to seize advantages; and Garrison and Townsfolk zealously helping: so that Friedrich's progress was unusually slow. Friedrich's feelings, all this while, and Balbi's (who 'spent his first 1,220 shots entirely in vain,' beginning so far off), may be judged of,--the sound of him to Balbi sometimes stern enough! As when (June 9th) he personally visits Balbi's parallels (top of the Tafelberg yonder); and inquires, 'When do you calculate to get done, then?' West side of Olmutz and of the River (east side lies mostly under water), there is the bombarding; seventy-one heavy guns; Keith, in his expertest manner, doing all the captaincies: Keith has about 8,000 of foot and horse, busy and vigilant, with their faces to the east. In a ring of four camps, or principally three (Prossnitz, Littau, and Neustadt, which is across the River), all looking westward or northwestward, some, ten or twenty miles from Keith, Friedrich (head-quarters oftenest Prossnitz, the chief camp) stands facing Daun; who lies concentric to him, at the distance of another ten or twenty miles, in good part still thirty or forty miles from Olmutz, veiled mostly under a cloud of Pandours.
"Of Friedrich's impatiences we hear little, though they must have been great. Prince Henri is ready for Prag; many things are ready, were Olmutz but done! May 22d, Prince Henri had followed Mayer in person, with a stronger corps, to root out the Reichsfolk,--and is now in Bamberg City and Country. And is even in Baireuth itself, where was lately the Camp of the new Reichs General, Serene Highness of Zweibruck, and his nascent Reichs Army; who are off bodily to Bohemia, 'to Eger and the Circle of Saatz,' a week before. [
"On the last night of May, by beautiful management, military and other, Duke Ferdinand is across the Rhine; again chasing the French before him; who, as they are far more numerous, cannot surely but make some stand: so that a Battle there may be expected soon,--let us hope, a Victory; as indeed it beautifully proved to be, three weeks after. [Battle of Crefeld, 23d June.] On the other hand, Fermor and his Russians are astir; continually wending towards Brandenburg, in their voluminous manner, since June 16th, though at a slow rate. How desirable the Siege of Olmutz were done!"