Unfortunate Schweidnitz underwent four Sieges, four captures or recaptures, in this War;--upon all of which we must be quite summary, only the results of them important to us. For the curious in sieges, especiaIly for the scientifically curious, there is, by a Captain Tielcke, excellent account of all these Schweidnitz Sieges, and of others;--Artillery-Captain Tielcke, in the Saxon or Saxon-Russian service; whom perhaps we shall transiently fall in with, on a different field, in the course of this Year.
Fouquet, on the first movement towards Schweidnitz, had been detached from Landshut to sweep certain Croat Parties out of Glatz; Ziethen, with a similar view, into Troppau Country; both which errands were at once perfectly done. Daun lies behind the Bohemian Frontier (betimes in the field he too, "arrived at Konigsgratz, March 13th"); and is, with all diligence, perfecting his new levies; intrenching himself on all points, as man seldom did; "felling whole forests," they say, building abatis within abatis; --not doubting, especially on these Ziethen-Fouquet symptoms, but Friedrich's Campaign is to be an Invasion of Bohemia again. "Which he shall not do gratis!" hopes Daun; and, indeed, judges say the entrance would hardly have been possible on that side, had Friedrich tried it; which he did not.
Schweidnitz being done, and Daun deep in the Bohemian problem,-- Friedrich, in an unintelligible manner, breaks out from Grussau and the Landshut region (April 19th-25th), not straight southward, as Daun had been expecting, but straight southeastward through Neisse, Jagerndorf: all gone, or all but Ziethen and Fouquet gone, that way;--meaning who shall say what, when news of it comes to Daun? In two divisions, from 30 to 40,000 strong; through Jagerndorf, ever onward through Troppau, and not till THEN turning southward: indubitable march of that cunning Enemy; rapidly proceeding, his 40,000 and he, along those elevated upland countries, watershed of the Black Sea and the Baltic, bleakly illumined by the April sun; a march into the mists of the future tense, which do not yet clear themselves to Daun. Seeing the march turn southward at Troppau, a light breaks on Daun: "Ha! coming round upon Bohemia from the east, then?" That is Daun's opinion, for some time yet; and he immediately starts that way, to save a fine magazine he has at Leutomischl over there. Daun, from Skalitz near Konigsgratz where he is, has but some eighty miles to march, for the King's hundred and fifty; and arrives in those parts few days after the King; posts himself at Leutomischl, veiled in Pandours. Not for two weeks more does he ascertain it to have been a march upon the Olmutz Country, and the intricate forks of the Morawa River; with a view to besieging Olmutz, by this wily Enemy! Upon which Daun did strive to bestir himself thitherward, at last; and, though very slow and hesitative, his measures otherwise were unexceptionable, and turned out luckier than had been expected by some people.
Olmutz is an ancient pleasant little City, in the Plains of Mahren, romantic, indistinct to the English mind; with Domes, with Steeples eminent beyond its size,--population little above 10,000 souls;-- has its Prince-Archbishop and ecclesiastic outfittings, with whom Friedrich has lodged in his time. City which trades in leather, and Russian and Moldavian droves of oxen. Memorable to the Slavic populations for its grand Czech Library, which was carried away by the Swedes, happily into thick night; [To Stralsund (1645), "and has not since been heard of."] also for that poor little Wenzel of theirs (last heir of the Bohemian Czech royalties, whom no reader has the least memory of) being killed on the streets here;-- uncertain, to this day, by whom, though for whose benefit that dagger-stroke ended is certain enough; [Supra, vol. v. p. 118.]-- poor little Wenzel's dust lies under that highest Dome, of the old Cathedral yonder, if anybody thought of such a thing in hot practical times. Poor Lafayette, too, lodged here in prison, when the Austrians seized him. City trades in leather and live stock, we said; has much to do with artillery, much with ecclesiastry;--and Friedrich besieged it, for seven weeks, in the hot summer days of 1758, to no purpose. Friedrich has been in Olmiitz more than once before; his Schwerin once took it in a single day, and it was his for months, in the old Moravian-Foray time: but the place is changed now; become an arsenal or military storehouse of Austria; strongly fortified, and with a Captain in it, who distinguishes himself by valiant skill and activity on this occasion.
Friedrich's Olmutz Enterprise, the rather as it was unsuccessful, has not wanted critics. And certainly, according to the ordinary rules of cautious prudence, could these have been Friedrich's in his present situation, it was not to be called a prudent Enterprise. But had Friedrich's arrangements been punctually fulfilled, and Olmutz been got in fair time, as was possible or probable, the thing might have been done very well. Duke Ferdinand, in these early May days, is practically making preparations to follow the French across the Rhine; no fear of French Armies interfering with us this year. Dohna has the Swedes locked in Stralsund (capable of being starved, had not the thaw come); and in Hinter-Pommern he has General Platen, with a tolerable Detachment, watching Fermor and his Russians; Dohna, with Platen, may entertain the Russians for a little, when they get on way,--which we know will be at a slow pace, and late in the season. Prince Henri commands in Saxony, say with 30,000;--King's vicegerent and other self there, "Do YOUR wisest and promptest; hold no councils of war!" Prince Henri, altogether on the aggressive as yet, is waiting what Reichs Army there may be;--has already had Mayer and Free Corps careering about in Franken Country once and again, tearing up the incipiencies and preparations, with the usual emphasis; and is himself intending to follow thither, in a still more impressive manner. Friedrich's calculation is, Prince Henri will have his hands free for a good few weeks yet. Which proved true enough, so far as that went.
And now, supposing Olmutz ours, and Vienna itself open to our insults, does not, by rapid suction, every armed Austrian flow thitherward; Germany all drained of them: in which case, what is to hinder Prince Henri from stepping into Bohmen, by the Metal Mountains; capturing Prag; getting into junction with us here, and tumbling Austria at a rate that will astonish her! Her, and her miscellaneous tagraggery of Confederates, one and all. Konigsberg, Stralsund, Bamberg; Russians, Swedes, Reichsfolk,-- here, in Mahren, will be the crown of the game for all these. Prosper in Mahren, all these are lamed; one right stroke at the heart, the limbs become manageable quantities! This was Friedrich's program; and had not imperfections of execution, beyond what was looked for, and also a good deal of plain ill-luck, intervened, this bold stroke for Mahren might have turned out far otherwise than it did.
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.