"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!"
On express from Vienna, Daun did bestir himself; cautiously got on foot again; detached, across the River, an expert Hussar General ("Be busy all ye Loudons, St. Ignons, Ziskowitzes, doubly now!"),-- expert Hussar General, one item of whose force is 1,100 chosen grenadiers;--and himself cautiously stept southward and eastward, nearer the Siege Lines. The Hussar General's meaning seemed to be some mischief on our Camp of Neustadt and the outposts there; but in reality it was to throw his 1,100 into Olmutz (useful to the Commandant); which--by ingenious manoeuvring, and guidance from the peasants "through bushy woods aud by-paths" on that east side of the River--the expert Hussar General, though Ziethen was sent over to handle him, did perfectly manage, and would not quit for Ziethen till he saw it finished. Which done, Daun keeps stepping still farther southward, nearer the Siege Lines; and, at Prossnitz, morning of June 22d, Friedrich, with his own eyes, sees Daun taking post on the opposite heights; says to somebody near him, "VOILA LES AUTRICHIENS, ILS APPRENNENT A MARCHER, There are the Austrians; they are learning to march, though!"--getting on their feet, like infants in a certain stage ("MARCHER" having that meaning too, though I know not that the King intended it);--they have learned a great many things, since your Majesty first met them. Friedrich took Daun to be, now at last, meaning Battle for Olmutz, and made some slight arrangements accordingly; but that is not Daun's intention at all; as Friedrich will find to his cost, in few days. That very day, Daun has vanished again, still in the southerly direction, again under veil of Pandours.
Meanwhile, in spite of all things, the Siege makes progress; "June 22d, Balbi's sap had got to their glacis, and was pushing forward there,"--June 22d, day when Daun made momentary appearance, and the reinforcement stole in:--within a fortnight more, Balbi promises the thing shall be done. But supplies are indispensable: one other convoy from Troppau, and let it be a big one, "between 3 and 4,000 wagons," meal, money, iron, powder; Friedrich hopes this one, if he can get it home, will suffice. Colonel Mosel is to bring this Convoy; a resolute expert Officer, with perhaps 7,000 foot and horse: surely sufficient escort: but, as Daun is astir, and his Loudons, Ziskowitzes and light people are gliding about, Friedrich orders Ziethen to meet this important Convoy, with some thousands of new force, and take charge of bringing it in. Mosel was to leave Troppau June 26th; Ziethen pushes out to meet him from the Olmutz end, on the second day after; and, one hopes, all is now safe on that head.
The driving of 3,000 four-horse wagons, under escort, ninety miles of road, is such an enterprise as cannot readily be conceived by sedentary pacific readers;--much more the attack of such! Military science, constraining chaos into the cosmic state, has nowhere such a problem. There are twelve thousand horses, for one thing, to be shod, geared, kept roadworthy and regular; say six thousand country wagoners, thick-soled peasants: then, hanging to the skirts of these, in miscellaneous crazy vehicles and weak teams, equine and asinine, are one or two thousand sutler people, male and female, not of select quality, though on them, too, we keep a sharp eye. The series covers many miles, as many as twenty English miles (says Tempelhof), unless in favorable points you compress them into five, going four wagons abreast for defence's sake. Defence, or escort, goes in three bulks or brigades; vanguard, middle, rear-guard, with sparse pickets intervening;-- wider than five miles, you cannot get the parts to support one another. An enemy breaking in upon you, at some difficult point of road, woody hollow or the like, and opening cannon, musketry and hussar exercise on such an object, must make a confused transaction of it! Some commanders, for the road has hitherto been mainly pacific, divide their train into parts, say four parts; moving with their partial escorts, with an interval of one day between each two: this has its obvious advantages, but depends, of course, on the road being little infested, so that your partial escort will suffice to repel attacks. Toiling forward, at their diligent slow rate, I find these trains from Troppau take about six days (from Neisse to Olmutz they take eleven, but the first five are peaceable [Tempelhof, ii. 48.]);--can't be hurried beyond that pace, if you would save your laggards, your irregulars, and prevent what we may call RAGGERY in your rearward parts; the skirts of your procession get torn by the bushes if you go faster. This time Colonel Mosel will have to mend his pace, however, and to go in the lump withal; the case being critical, as Mosel knows, and MORE than he yet knows.
Daun, who has friends everywhere, and no lack of spies in this country, generally hears of the convoys. He has heard, in particular, of this important one, in good time. Hitherto Daun had not attempted much upon convoys, nor anything with success: King's posted corps and other precautions are of such a kind, not even Loudon, when he tried his best, could do any good; and common wandering hussar parties are as likely to get a mischief as to do one, on such service. Cautious Daun had been busy enough keeping his own Camp safe, and flinging a word of news or encouragement, at the most a trifle of reinforcement, into Olmutz. when possible. But now it becomes evident there must be one of two things: this convoy seized, or else a battle risked;--and that in defect of both these, the inevitable third thing is, Olmutz will straightway go.
Major-General Loudon, the best partisan soldier extant, and ripening for better things, has usually a force of perhaps 10,000 under him, four regiments of them regular grenadiers; and has been active on the convoys, though hitherto unsuccessful. Let an active Loudon, with increased force, try this, their vitally important convoy, from the west side of the River; an active Ziskowitz co-operating on the east side, where the road itself is; and do their uttermost! That is Daun's plan,--now in course of execution. Daun, instead of meaning battle, that day when Friedrich saw him, was cautiously stealing past, intending to cross the River farther down; and himself support the operation. Daun has crossed accordingly, and has doubled up northward again to the fit point; Ziskowitz is in the fit point, in the due force, on this east side too. Loudon, on the west side, goes by Muglitz, Hof; making a long deep bend far to westward and hillward of all the Prussian posted corps and precautions, and altogether hidden from them; Loudon aims to be in Troppau neighborhood, "Guntersdorf, near Bautsch," by the proper day, and pay Mosel an unexpected visit in the passage there.
Colonel Mosel, marshalling his endless Trains with every excellent precaution, and the cleverest dispositions (say the Books), against the known and the unknown, had got upon the road, and creaked forward, many-wheeled, out of Troppau, Monday, 26th June. [Tempelhof, ii. 89-94.] The roads, worn by the much travelling and wet weather, were utterly bad; the pace was perhaps quicker than usual; the much-jolting Train got greatly into a jumble:--Mosel, to bring up the laggards, made the morrow a rest-day; did get about two-thirds of his laggards marshalled again; ordered the others to return, as impossible. They say, had it not been for this rest-day, which seemed of no consequence, Loudon would not have been at Guntersdorf in time, nor have attempted as he did at Guntersdorf and afterwards. At break of day (Wednesday, 28th), Mosel is again on the road; heavily jumbling forward from his quarters in Bautsch. Few miles on, towards Guntersdorf, he discovers Loudon posted ahead in the defiles. What a sight for Mosel, in his character of Wagoner up with the dawn! But Mosel managed the defiles and Loudon this time; halted his train, dashed up into the woody heights and difficult grounds; stormed Loudon's cannon from him, smote Loudon in a valiant tempestuous manner; and sent him travelling again for the present.
Loudon, I conjecture, would have struggled farther, had not he known that there would be a better chance again not very many miles ahead. London has studied this Convoy; knows of Ziethen coming to it with so many; of Ziskowitz coming to him, Loudon, with so many; that Ziethen cannot send for more (roads being all beset by our industry yesterday), that Ziskowitz can, should it be needful;--and that at Domstadtl there is a defile, or confused woody hollow, of unequalled quality! Mosel jumbles on all day with his Train, none molesting; at night gets to his appointed quarters, Village of Neudorfl; [The L, or EL, is a diminutive in these Names: (NEUDORFL) "New-ThorpLET," (DOMSTADTL) "Cathedral-TownLET," and the like.] and there finds Ziethen: a glad meeting, we may fancy, but an anxious one, with Domstadtl ahead on the morrow. Loudon concerts with Ziskowitz this day; calls in all reinforcements possible, and takes his measures. Thursday morning, Ziethen finds the Train in such a state, hardly half of it come up, he has to spend the whole day, Mosel and he, in rearranging it: Friday morning, June 30th, they get under way again;--Friday, the catastrophe is waiting them.