"On the 15th December, 1742, Prag Gates are all shut: Enter if you like; but no outgate. Monseigneur le Marechal intends to have a grand foraging to-morrow, on the southwestern side of Prag. Lobkowitz heard of it, in spite of the shut gates; for all Prag is against Belleisle, and does spy-work for Lobkowitz. 'Let him forage,' thought Lobkowitz; 'he will not grow rich by what he gathers;' and sat still, leaving his pontoons high and dry. So that Belleisle, on the afternoon of December 16th,--between 12 and 14,000 men, near 4,000 of them cavalry, with cannon, with provision-wagons, baggage-wagons, goods and chattels in mass,--has issued through the two Southwestern Gates; and finds himself fairly out of Prag. On the Pilsen road; about nightfall of the short winter day: earth all snow and 'VERGLAS,' iron glazed; huge olive- colored curtains of the Dusk going down upon the Mountains ahead of him; shutting in a scene wholly grim for Belleisle. Brigadier Chevert, a distinguished and determined man, with some 4,000 sick, convalescent and half able, is left in Prag to man the works; the Marechal has taken hostages, twenty Notabilities of Prag; and neglected no precaution. He means towards Eger; has, at least, got one march ahead; and will do what is in him, he and every soul of those 14,000. The officers have given their horses for the baggage-wagons, made every sacrifice; the word Homewards kindles a strange fire in all hearts; and the troops, say my French authorities, are unsurpassable. The Marechal himself, victim of rheumatisms, cannot ride at all; but has his light sledge always harnessed; and, at a moment's notice, is present everywhere. Sleep, during these ten days and nights, he has little.
"Eger is 100 miles off, by the shortest Highway: there are two bad Highways, one by Pilsen southerly, one by Karlsbad northerly,--with their bridges all broken, infested by Hussars:--we strike into a middle combination of country roads, intricate parish lanes; and march zigzag across these frozen wildernesses: we must dodge these Festititz Hussar swarms; and cross the rivers near their springs. Forward! Perhaps some readers, for the high Belleisle's sake, will look out these localities subjoined in the Note, and reduced to spelling. [Tachlowitz, Lischon (near Rakonitz); Jechnitz (as if you were for the Pilsen road; then turn as if for the Karlsbad one); Steben (not discoverable, but a DESPATCH from it,--
"Festititz tries us twice,--very anxious to get Belleisle's Army- chest, or money; we give him torrents of sharp shot instead. Festititz, these two chief times, we pepper rapidly into the Hills again; he is reduced to hang prancing on our flanks and rear. Men bivouac over fires of turf, amid snow, amid frost; tear down, how greedily, any wood-work for fire. Leave a trumpet to beg quarter for the frozen and speechless;--which is little respected: they are lugged in carts, stript by the savageries, and cruelly used. There were first extensive plains, then boggy passes, intricate mouutains; bog and rock; snow and VERGLAS.--On the 26th, after indescribable endeavors, we got into Eger;--some 1,300 (about one in ten) left frozen in the wilderness; and half the Army falling ill at Eger, of swollen limbs, sore-throats, and other fataler diseases, fatal then, or soon after. Chevert, at Prag, refused summons from Prince Lobkowitz: 'No, MON PRINCE; not by any means! We will die, every man of us, first; and we will burn Prag withal!'--So that Lobkowitz had to consent to everything; and escort Chevert to Eger, with bag and baggage, Lobkowitz furnishing the wagons.
"Comparable to the Retreat of Xenophon! cry many. Every Retreat is compared to that. A valiant feat, after all exaggerations. A thing well done, say military men;--'nothing to object, except that the troops were so ruined;'--and the most unmilitary may see, it is the work of a high and gallant kind of man. One of the coldest expeditions ever known. There have been three expeditions or retreats of this kind which were very cold: that of those Swedes in the Great Elector's time (not to mention that of Karl XII.'s Army out of Norway, after poor Karl XII. got shot); that of Napoleon from Moscow; this of Belleisle, which is the only one brilliantly conducted, and not ending in rout and annihilation.
"The troops rest in Eger for a week or two; then homeward through the Ober-Pfalz:--'go all across the Rhine at Speyer' (5th February next); the Bohemian Section of the Oriflamme making exit in this manner. Not quite the eighth man of them left; five-eighths are dead: and there are about 12,000 prisoners, gone to Hungary,--who ran mostly to the Turks, such treatment had they, and were not heard of again." [
The Army of the Oriflamme gets home in this sad manner; Germany not cut in Four at all. "Implacable Austrian badgers," as we call them, "gloomily indignant bears," how have they served this fine French hunting-pack; and from hunted are become hunters, very dangerous to contemplate! At Frankfurt, Belleisle, for his own part, pauses; cannot, in this entirely down-broken state of body, serve his Majesty farther in the military business; will do some needful diplomatics with the Kaiser, and retire home to government of Metz, till his worn-out health recover itself a little.
A GLANCE AT VIENNA, AND THEN AT BERLIN.
Prince Karl had been busy upon Braunau (the BAVARIAN Braunau, not the BOHEMIAN or another, Seckendorf's chief post on the Inn); had furiously bombarded Braunau, with red-hot balls, for some days; [2d-10th December (Espagnac, i. 171).] intent to explode the Seckendorf-Broglio projects before winter quite came. Seckendorf, in a fine frenzy, calls to Broglio, "Help!" and again calls; both Kaiser and he, CRESCENDO to a high pitch, before Broglio will come. "Relieve Braunau? Well;--but no fighting farther, mark you!" answers Broglio. To the disgust of Kaiser and Seckendorf; who were eager for a combined movement, and hearty attack on Prince Karl, with perhaps capture of Passau itself. At sight of Broglio and Seckendorf combined, Prince Karl did at once withdraw from Braunau; but as to attacking him,--"NON; MILLE FOIS, NON!" answered Broglio disdainfully bellowing. First grand quarrel of Broglio and Seckendorf; by no means their last. Prince Karl put his men in winter-quarters, in those Passau regions; postponing the explosion of the Broglio-Seckendorf projects, till Spring; and returned to Vienna for the Winter gayeties and businesses there. How the high Maria Theresa is contented, I do not hear;--readers may take this Note, which is authentic, though vague, and straggling over wide spaces of time still future.