More to our immediate purpose is this other thing: That the Austrians have been in Council of War; and, on deliberation, have decided to come out of their defences; to quit their strong Camp, which lies so eligibly, ahead of Breslau and arear of Lissa and of Schweidnitz Water yonder; to cross Schweidnitz Water, leave Lissa behind them; and meet this offensively aggressive Friedrich in pitched fight. Several had voted, No, why stir?--Daun especially, and others with emphasis. "No need of fighting at all," said Daun: "we can defend Schweidnitz Water; ruin him before he ever get across." "Defend? Be assaulted by an Army like his?" urges Lucchesi, the other Chief General: "It is totally unworthy of us! We have gained the game; all the honors ours; let us have done with it. Give him battle, since he fortunately wishes it; we finish him, and gloriously finish the War too!" So argued Lucchesi, with vivacity, persistency,--to his own ill luck, but evidently with approval from Prince Karl. Everybody sees, this is the way to Prince Karl's favor at present. "Have not I reconquered Silesia?" thinks Prince Karl to himself; and beams applause on the high course, not the low prudent one. [Kutzen, pp. 45-48.] In a word, the Austrians decide on stepping out to meet Friedrich in open battle: it was the first time they ever did so; and it was likewise the last.
Sunday, December 4th, at four in the morning, Friedrich has marched from Parchwitz, straight towards the Austrian Camp; [Muller, p. 26.] he hears, one can fancy with what pleasure, that the Austrians are advancing towards him, and will not need to be forced in their strong position. His march is in four columns, Friedrich in the vanguard; quarters to be Neumarkt, a little Town about fourteen miles off. Within some miles of Neumarkt, early in the afternoon, he learns that there are a thousand Croats in the place, the Austrian Bakery at work there, and engineer people marking out an Austrian Camp. "On the Height beyond Neumarkt, that will be?" thinks Friedrich; for he knows this ground, having often done reviews here; to Breslau all the way on both hands, not a rood of it but is familiar to him. Which was a singular advantage, say the critics; and a point the Austrian Council of War should have taken more thought of.
Friedrich, before entering Neumarkt, sends a regiment to ride quietly round it on both sides, and to seize that Height he knows of. Height once seized, or ready for seizing, he bursts the barrier of Neumarkt; dashes in upon the thousand Croats; flings out the Croats in extreme hurry, musketry and sabre acting on them; they find their Height beset, their retreat cut off, and that they must vanish. Of the 1,000 Croats, "569 were taken prisoners, and 120 slain," in this unexpected sweeping out of Neumarkt. Better still, in Neumarkt is found the Austrian Bakery, set up and in full work;--delivers you 80,000 bread-rations hot-and-hot, which little expected to go such a road. On the Height, the Austrian stakes and engineer-tools were found sticking in the ground; so hasty had the flight been.
How Prince Karl came to expose his Bakery, his staff of life so far ahead of him? Prince Karl, it is clear, was a little puffed up with high thoughts at this time. The capture of Schweidnitz, the late "Malplaquet" (poorish Anti-Bevern Malplaquet), capture of Breslau, and the low and lost condition of Friedrich's Silesian affairs, had more or less turned everybody's head,--everybody's except Feldmarschall Daun's alone:--and witty mess-tables, we already said, were in the daily habit of mocking at Friedrich's march towards them with aggressive views, and called his insignificant little Army the "Potsdam Guard-Parade." [Cogniazzo, ii. 417-422.] That was the common triumphant humor; naturally shared in by Prince Karl; the ready way to flatter him being to sing in that tune. Nobody otherwise can explain, and nobody in any wise can justify, Prince Karl's ignorance of Friedrich's advance, his almost voluntary losing of his staff-of-life in that manner.
MAP TO GO HERE--FACING PAGE 48, BOOK 18 continuation----
Prince Karl's soldiers have each (in the cold form) three days, provision in their haversacks: they have come across the Weistritz River (more commonly called Schweidnitz Water), which was also the height of contemptuous imprudence; and lie encamped, this night,-- in long line, not ill-chosen (once the River IS behind),-- perpendicular to Friedrich's march, some ten miles ahead of him. Since crossing, they had learned with surprise, How their Bakery and Croats had been snapt up; that Friedrich was not at a distance, but near;--and that arrangements could not be made too soon! Their position intersects the Great Road at right angles, as we hint; and has villages, swamps, woody knolls; especially, on each wing, good defences. Their right wing leans on Nypern and its impassable peat-bogs, a Village two or three miles north from the Great Road; their centre is close behind another Village called Leuthen, about as far south from it: length of their bivouac is about five miles; which will become six or so, had Nadasti once taken post, who is to form the left wing, and go down as far as Sagschutz, southward of Leuthen. Seven battalions are in this Village of Leuthen, eight in Nypern, all the Villages secured; woods, scraggy abatis, redoubts, not forgotten: their cannon are numerous, though of light calibre. Friedrich has at least 71 heavy pieces; and 10 of them are formidably heavy,--brought from the walls of Glogau, with terrible labor to Ziethen; but with excellent effect, on this occasion and henceforth. They got the name of "Boomers, Bellowers (DIE BRUMMER)," those Ten. Friedrich was in great straits about artillery; and Retzow Senior recommended this hauling up of the Ten Bellowers, which became celebrated in the years coming. And now we are on the Battle-ground, and must look into the Battle itself, if we can.
From Neumarkt, on Monday, long before day, the Prussians, all but a small party left there to guard the Bakery and Army Properties, are out again; in four columns; towards what may lie ahead. Friedrich, as usual in such cases, for obvious reasons, rides with the vanguard. To Borne, the first Village on the Highway, is some seven or eight miles. The air is damp, the dim incipiences of dawn struggling among haze; a little way on this side Borne, we come on ranks of cavalry drawn across the Highway, stretching right and left into the dim void: Austrian Army this, then? Push up to it; see what it is, at least.
It proves to be poor General Nostitz, with his three Saxon regiments of dragoons, famous since Kolin-day, and a couple of Hussar regiments, standing here as outpost;--who ought to have been more alert; but they could not see through the dark, and so, instead of catching, are caught. The Prussians fall upon them, front and flank, tumble them into immediate wreck; drive the whole outpost at full gallop home, through Borne, upon Nypern and the right wing,--without news except of this symbolical sort. Saxon regiments are quite ruined, "540 of them prisoners" (poor Nostitz himself not prisoner, but wounded to death [Died in Breslau, the twelfth day after (Seyfarth, ii. 362).]); and the ground clear in this quarter.