come to so hasty a conclusion, for the attempt to join
Poor Dohna demits at once; and, I could conjecture, vanishes that very night; glad to be out of such a thing. Painfully has Dohna manoeuvred for weeks past; falling back daily; only anxious latterly that Soltikof, who daily tries it, do not get to westward of him on the Frankfurt road, and so end this sad shuffle. Soltikof as yet has not managed that ultimate fatality; Dohna, by shuffling back, does at least contrive to keep between Frankfurt and him;--will not try attacking him, much as Wobersnow urges it. Has agreed twice or oftener, on Wobersnow's urgency: "Yes, yes; we have a chance," Dohna would answer; "only let us rest till to-morrow, and be fresh!" by which time the opportunity was always gone again.
Wedell had arrived with a grenadier battalion and some horse for escort; had picked up 150 Russian prisoners by the way. Retzow has understood he came in with a kind of state; and seemed more or less inflated; conscious of representing the King's person, and being a Roman Dictator,--though it is a perilously difficult office too, and requires more than a Letter of Instructions to qualify you for it! This is not Leonidas Wedell, whom readers once knew; poor Leonidas is dead long since, fell in the Battle of Sohr, soon after the heroic feat of Ziethen's and his at Elbe-Teinitz (Defence of Elbe against an Army); this is Leonidas's elder Brother. Friedrich had observed his fiery ways on the day of Leuthen: "Hah, a new Winterfeld perhaps?" thought Friedrich, "All the Winterfeld I now have!"--which proved a fond hope. Wedell's Dictatorship began this Sunday towards sunset; and lasted--in practical fact, it lasted one day.
DICTATOR WEDELL FIGHTS HIS BATTLE (Monday, 23d July, 1759), WITHOUT SUCCESS.
Monday morning early, Wedell is on the heights, reconnoitring Soltikof; cannot see much of him, the ground being so woody; does see what he takes to be Soltikof's left wing; and judges that Soltikof will lie quiet for this day. Which was far from a right reading of Soltikof; the fact being that Soltikof, in long columns and divisions, beginning with his right wing, was all on march since daybreak; what Wedell took for Soltikof's "left wing" being Soltikof's rear-guard and baggage, waiting till the roads cleared. Wedell, having settled everything on the above footing, returns to Zullichau about 10 o'clock; and about 11, Soltikof, miles long, disengaged from the bushy hollows, makes his appearance on the open grounds of Palzig: he, sure enough (though Wedell can hardly believe it),--five or six miles to northeast yonder; tramping diligently along, making for Crossen and the Oder Bridge; --and is actually got ahead of us, at last!
This is what Wedell cannot suffer, cost what it may. Wedell's orders were, in such case, Attack the Russians. Wedell instantly took his measures; not unskilfully, say judges,-- though the result proved disappointing; and Wobersnow himself earnestly dissuaded: "Too questionable, I should doubt! Soltikof is 70,000, and has no end of Artillery; we are 26,000, and know not if we can bring a single gun to where Soltikof is!" [Tempelhof, iii. 132-134.]
Wedell's people have already, of their own accord, got to arms again; stand waiting his orders on this new emergency. No delay in Wedell or in them. "May not it be another Rossbach (if we are lucky)?" thinks Wedell: "Cannot we burst in on their flank, as they march yonder, those awkward fellows; and tumble them into heaps?" The differences were several-fold: First, that Friedrich and Seidlitz are not here. Many brave men we have, and skilful; but not a master and man like these Two. Secondly, that there is no Janus Hill to screen our intentions; but that the Russians have us in full view while we make ready. Thirdly, and still more important, that we do not know the ground, and what hidden inaccessibilities lie ahead. This last is judged to have been the killing circumstance. Between the Russians and us there is a paltry little Brook, or line of quagmire; scarcely noticeable here, but passable nowhere except at the Village-Mill of Kay, by one poor Bridge there. And then, farther inwards, as shelter of the Russians, there is another quaggy Brook, branch of the above, which is without bridge altogether. Hours will be required to get 26,000 people marched up there, not to speak of heavy guns at all.
The 26,000 march with their usual mathematical despatch: Manteuffel and the Vanguard strike in with their sharpest edge, foot and horse, direct on the Head of the Russian Column, Manteuffel leading on, so soon as his few battalions and squadrons are across. Head means BRAIN (or life) to this Russian Column; and these Manteuffel people go at it with extraordinary energy. The Russian Head gives way; infantry and cavalry:--their cavalry was driven quite to rear, and never came in sight again after this of Manteuffel. But the Russians have abundance of Reserves; also of room to manoeuvre in,--no lack of ground open, and ground defensible (Palzig Village and Churchyard, for example);--above all, they have abundance of heavy guns.
Well in recoil from Manteuffel and his furies, the beaten Russians succeed in forming "a long Line behind Palzig Village," with that Second, slighter or Branch Quagmire between them and us; they get the Village beset, and have the Churchyard of it lined with batteries,--say seventy guns. Manteuffel, unsupported, has to fall back;--unwillingly, and not chased or in disorder,--towards Kay- Mill again; where many are by this time across. Hulsen, with the Centre, attacks now, as the Vanguard had done; with a will, he too: Wobersnow, all manner of people attack; time after time, for about four hours coming: and it proves all in vain, on that Churchyard and new Line. Without cannon, we are repulsed, torn away by those Russian volcano-batteries; never enough of us at once!
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