In fifteen minutes more (I guess it now to be ten o'clock), the Russian Minotaur, this end of it, on to the Gallows Ground, is one wild mass. Seldom was there seen such a charge; issuiug in such deluges of wreck, of chaotic flight, or chaotic refusal to fly. The Seidlitz cavalry went sabring till, for very fatigue, they gave it up, and could no more. The Russian horse fled to Kutzdorf,-- Fermor with them, who saw no more of this Fight, and did not get back till dark;--had not the Bridges been burnt, and no crossing of the Mutzel possible, Fermor never would have come back, and here had been the end of Zorndorf. Luckier if it had! But there is no crossing of the Mutzel, there is only drowning in the quagmires there:--death any way; what can be done but die?
The Russian infantry stand to be sabred, in the above manner, as if they had been dead oxen. More remote from Seidlitz, they break open the sutlers' brandy-casks, and in few minutes get roaring drunk. Their officers, desperate, split the brandy-casks; soldiers flap down to drink it from the puddles; furiously remonstrate with their officers, and "kill a good many of them" (VIELE, says Tielcke), especially the foreign sort. "A frightful blood-bath," by all the Accounts: blood-bath, brandy-bath, and chief Nucleus of Chaos then extant aboveground. Fermor is swept away: this chaos, the very Prussians drawing back from it, wearied with massacring, lasts till about one o'clock. Up to the Gallows-ground the Minotaur is mere wreck and delirium: but beyond the Gallows-ground, the other half forms a new front to itself; becomes a new Minotaur, though in reduced shape. This is Part First of the Battle of Zorndorf; Friedrich--on the edge of great disaster at one moment, but miraculously saved--has still the other half to do (unlucky that he left no Bridges on the Mutzel), and must again change his program.
Half of the Minotaur is gone to shreds in this manner; but the attack upon it, too, is spent: what is to be done with the other half of the monster, which is again alive; which still stands, and polypus-like has arranged a new life for itself, a new front against the Galgengrund yonder? Friedrich brings his right wing into action. Rapidly arranges right wing, centre, all of the left that is disposable, with batteries, with cavalry; for an attack on the opposite or southeastern end of his monster. If your monster, polypus-like, come alive again in the tail-part, you must fell that other head of him. Batteries, well in advance, begin work upon the new head of the monster, which was once his tail; fresh troops, long lines of them, pushing forward to begin platoon-volleying:-- time now, I should guess, about half-past two. Our infantry has not yet got within musket-range,--when torrents of Russian Horse, Foot too following, plunge out; wide-flowing, stormfully swift; and dash against the coming attack. Dash against it; stagger it; actually tumble it back, in the centre part; take one of the batteries, and a whole battalion prisoners. Here again is a moment! Friedrich, they say, rushed personally into this vortex; rallied these broken battalions, again rallied and led them up; but it was to no purpose: they could not be made to stand, these centre battalions; --"some sudden panic in them, a thing unaccountable," says Tempelhof; "they are Dohna's people, who fought perfectly at Jagersdorf, and often elsewhere" (they were all in such a finely burnished state the other day; but have not biting talent, like the grass-devils): enough, they fairly scour away, certain disgraceful battalions, and are not got ranked again till below Wilkersdorf, above a mile off; though the grass-devils, on both hands of them, stand grimly steady, left in this ominous manner.
What would have become of the affair one knows not, if it had not been that Seidlitz once more made his appearance. On Friedrich's order, or on his own, I do not know; but sure it is, Seidlitz, with sixty-one squadrons, arriving from some distance, breaks in like a DEUS EX MACHINA, swift as the storm-wind, upon this Russian Horse- torrent; drives it again before him like a mere torrent of chaff, back, ever back, to the shore of Acheron and the Stygian quagmires (of the Mutzel, namely); so that it did not return again; and the Prussian infantry had free field for their platoon exercise. Their rage against the Russians was extreme; and that of the Russians corresponded. Three of these grass-devil battalions, who stood nearest to Dohna's runaways, were natives of this same burnt- out Zorndorf Country; we may fancy the Platt-Teutsch hearts of them, and the sacred lightning, with a moisture to it, that was in their eyes. Platt-Teutsch platooning, bayonet-charging,--on such terms no Russian or mortal Quadrilateral can stand it. The Russian Minotaur goes all to shreds a second time; but will not run. "No quarter!"--"Well, then, none!"
"Shortly after four o'clock," say my Accounts, "the firing," regular firing, "altogether ceased; ammunition nearly spent, on both sides; Prussians snatching cartridge-boxes of Russian dead;" and then began a tug of deadly massacring and wrestling man to man, "with bayonets, with butts of muskets, with hands, even with teeth [in some Russian instances], such as was never seen before." The Russians, beaten to fragments, would not run: whither run? Behind is Mutzel and the bog of Acheron;--on Mutzel is no bridge left; "the shore of Mutzel is thick with men and horses, who have tried to cross, and lie there swallowed in the ooze"--"like a pavement," says Tielcke. The Russians,--never was such VIS INERTIAE as theirs now. They stood like sacks of clay, like oxen already dead; not even if you shot a bullet through them, would they fall at once, says Archenholtz, but seem to be deliberate about it.
Complete disorder reigned on both sides; except that the Prussians could always form again when bidden, the Russians not. This lasted till nightfall,--Russians getting themselves shoved away on these horrid terms, and obstinate to take no other. Towards dark, there appeared, on a distant knoll, something like a ranked body of them again,--some 2,000 foot and half as many horse; whom Themicoud (superlative Swiss Cossack, usually written Demikof or Demikow) had picked up, and persuaded from the shore of Acheron, back to this knoll of vantage, and some cannon with them. Friedrich orders these to be dispersed again: General Forcade, with two battalions, taking the front of them, shall attack there; you, General Rauter, bring up those Dohna fellows again, and take them in flank. Forcade pushes on, Rauter too,--but at the first taste of cannon- shot, these poor Dohna-people (such their now flurried, disgraced state of mind) take to flight again, worse than before; rush quite through Wilkersdorf this time, into the woods, and can hardly be got together at all. Scandalous to think of. No wonder Friedrich "looked always askance on those regiments that had been beaten at Gross Jagersdorf, and to the end of his life gave them proofs of it:" [Retzow;--and still more emphatically,
Of poor General Rauter, Tempelhof and the others, that can help it, are politely silent; only Saxon Tielcke tells us, that Friedrich dismissed him, "Go, you, to some other trade!"--which, on Prussian evidence too, expressed in veiled terms, I find to be the fact:
Forcade, left to himself, kept cannonading Themicoud; Themicoud responding, would not go; stood on his knoll of vantage, but gathered no strength: "Let him stand," said Friedrich, after some time; and Themicoud melted in the shades of night, gradually towards the hither shore of Acheron,--that is, of Acheron-Mutzel, none now attempting to PAVE it farther, but simmering about at their sad leisure there. Feldmarschall Fermor is now got to his people again, or his people to him; reunited in place and luck: such a chaos as Fermor never saw before or after. No regiment or battalion now is; mere simmering monads, this fine Army; officers doing their utmost to cobble it into something of rank, without regard to regiments or qualities. Darkness seldom sank on such a scene.