"On Contades himself he can pretend to do nothing,--except hoodwink him, entice him out, and try to get a chance on him. But for his own subsistence and otherwise, he is very lively;--snatches, by a sudden stroke, Bremen City: 'Yes truly, Bremen is a Reichstadt; nor shall YOU snatch it, as you did Frankfurt; but I will, instead; and my English proviant-ships shall have a sure haven henceforth!' Snatches Bremen by one sudden stroke; RE-snatches Osnabruck by another ('our magazine considerably INCREASED since you have had it, many thanks!'); does lose Munster, to his sorrow; but nevertheless sticks by his ground here;--nay detaches his swift-cutting Nephew, the Hereditary Prince, who is growing famous for such things, to cut out Contades's strong post to southward (Gohfeld, ten miles up the Weser), which guards his meal-wagons, after their long journey from the south. That is Contades's one weak point, in this posture of things: his meal is at Cassel, seventy miles off. Broglio and he see clearly, 'Till we can get a new magazine much nearer Hanover, or at lowest, can clear out these people from infesting us here, there is no moving northward!' To both Contades and Broglio that is an evident thing: the corollary to which is, They must fight Ferdinand; must watch lynx-like till a chance turn up of beating him in fight. That is their outlook; and Ferdinand knows it is,--and manoeuvres accordingly. Military men admire much, not his movements only, but his clear insight into Contades's and Broglio's temper of mind, and by what methods they were to be handled, they and his own affairs together, and brought whither he wanted them. [In MAUVILLON (ii. 41-44) minute account of all that.]
"This attempt on Gohfeld was a serious mischief to Contades, if it succeeded. But the detaching of the Prince of Brunswick on it, and weakening one's too weak Army, 'What a rashness, what an oversight!' thinks Contades (as Ferdinand wished him to do): 'Is our skilful enemy, in this extreme embarrassment, losing head, then? Look at his left wing yonder [General Wangenheim, sitting behind batteries, in his Village of Todtenhausen, looking into Minden from the north]:--Wangenheim's left leans on the Weser, yes; but Wangenheim's right, observe, has no support within three miles of it: tear Wangenheim out, Ferdinand's flank is bare!' These things seemed to Contades the very chance he had been waiting for; and brought him triumphantly out of his rabbit-hole, into the Heath of Minden, as Ferdinand hoped they would do.
"And so, TUESDAY EVENING, JULY 31st, things being now all ripe, upwards of 50,000 French are industriously in motion. Contades has nineteen bridges ready on the Bastau Brook, in front of him; TATTOO this night, in Contades's Camp, is to mean GENERAL MARCH, 'March, all of you, across these nineteen Bridges, to your stations on the Plain or Heath of Minden yonder,--and be punctual, like the clock!' Broglio crosses Weser by the town Bridge, ranks himself opposite Todtenhausen; and through the livelong night there is, on the part of the 50,000 French, a very great marching and deploying. Contades and Broglio together are 51,400 foot and horse. Ferdinand's entire force will be near 46,000; but on the day of Battle he is only 36,000,--having detached the Hereditary Prince on Gohfeld, in what view we know.--The BATTLE OF MINDEN, called also of TONHAUSEN (meaning TODTENhausen), which hereupon fell out, has still its fame in the world; and, I perceive, is well worth study by the soldier mind: though nothing but the rough outline of it is possible here.
"Ferdinand's posts extend from the Weser river and Todtenhausen round by Stemmern, Holzhausen, to Hartum and the Bog of Bastau (the chief part of him towards Bastau),--in various Villages, and woody patches and favorable spots; all looking in upon Minden, from a distance of five or seven miles; forming a kind of arc, with Minden for centre. He will march up in eight Columns; of course, with wide intervals between them,--wide, but continually narrowing as he advances; which will indeed be ruinous gaps, if Ferdinand wait to be attacked; but which will coalesce close enough, if he be speedy upon Contades. For Contades's line is also of arc-like or almost semicircular form, behind it Minden as centre; Minden, which is at the intersection of Weser and the Brook; his right flank is on Weser, Broglio VERSUS Wangenheim the extreme right; his left, with infantry and artillery, rests on that black Brook of Bastau with its nineteen Bridges. As the ground on both wings is rough, not so fit for Cavalry, Contades puts his Cavalry wholly in the centre: they are the flower of the French Army, about 10,000 horse in all; firm open ground ahead of them there, with strong batteries, masses of infantry to support on each flank; batteries to ply with cross- fire any assailant that may come on. Broglio, we said, is right wing; strong in artillery and infantry. Broglio is to root out Waugenheim: after which,--or even before which, if Wangenheim is kept busy and we are nimble,--what becomes of Ferdinand's left flank, with a gap of three miles between Wangenheim and him, and 10,000 chosen horse to take advantage of it! Had the French been of Prussian dexterity and nimbleness in marching, it is very possible something might have come of this latter circumstance: but Ferdinand knows they are not; and intends to take good care of his flank.
"Contades and his people were of willing mind; but had no skill in 'marchiug up:' and, once got across the Bastau by their nineteen Bridges, they wasted many hours:--'Too far, am I? not far enough? Too close? not close enough?'--and broiled about, in much hurry and confusion, all night. Fight was to have begun at 5 in the morning. Broglio was in his place, silently looking into Wangenheim, by five o'clock; but unfortunately did nothing upon Wangenheim ('Not ready you, I see!'), except cannonade a little;--and indeed all through did nothing ('Still not ready you others!'); which surely was questionable conduct, though not reckoned so at Versailles, when the case came to be argued there. As to the Contades people, across those nineteen Bridges, they had a baffling confused night; and were by no means correctly on their ground at sunrise, nor at 7 o'clock, nor at 8; and were still mending themselves when the shock came, and time was done.
"The morning is very misty; but Ferdinand has himself been out examining since the earliest daybreak: his orders last night were, 'Cavalry be saddled at 1 in the morning,'--having a guess that there would be work, as he now finds there will. From 5 A.M. Ferdinand is issuing from his Camp, flowing down eastward, beautifully concentric, closing on Contades; horse NOT in centre, but English Infantry in centre (Six Battalions, or Six REGIMENTS by English reckoning); right opposite those 10,000 Horse of Contades's, the sight of whom seems to be very animating to them. The English CavaIry stand on the right wing, at the Village of Hartum: Lord George Sackville had not been very punctual in saddling at 1 o'clock; but he is there, ranked on the ground, at 8, --in what humor nobody knows; sulky and flabby, I should rather guess. English Tourists, idle otherwise, may take a look at Hartum on the south side, as the spot where a very ugly thing occurred that day.
"Soon after 8 the Fight begins: attack, by certain Hessians, on Hahlen and its batteries; attempt to drive the French out of Hahlen, as the first thing,--which does not succeed at once (indeed took three attacks in all); and perhaps looks rather tedious to those Six English Battalions. Ferdinand's order to them was, 'You shall march up to attack, you Six, on sound of drum;' but, it seems, they read it, 'BY sound of drum;' 'Beating our own drums; yes, of course!'--and, being weary of this Hahlen work, or fancying they had no concern with it, strode on, double-quick, without waiting for Hahlen at all! To the horror of their Hanoverian comrades, who nevertheless determined to follow as second line. 'The Contades cross-fire of artillery, battery of 30 guns on one flank, of 36 on the other, does its best upon this forward-minded Infantry, but they seem to heed it little; walk right forward; and, to the astonishment of those French Horse and of all the world, entirely break and ruin the charge made on them, and tramp forward in chase of the same. The 10,000 Horse feel astonished, insulted; and rush out again, furiously charging; the English halt and serry themselves: 'No fire till they are within forty paces;' and then such pouring torrents of it as no horse or man can endure. Rally after rally there is, on the part of those 10,000; mass after mass of them indignantly plunges on,--again, ever again, about six charges in all;--but do not break the English lines: one of them (regiment Mestrede-Camp, raised to a paroxysm) does once get through, across the first line, but is blown back in dreadful circumstances by the second. After which they give it up, as a thing that cannot be done. And rush rearward, hither, thither, the whole seventy-five squadrons of them; and 'between their two wings of infantry are seen boiling in complete disorder.'
"This has lasted about an hour: this is essentially the soul of the Fight,--though there wanted not other activities, to right of it and to left, on both sides; artilleries going at a mighty rate on both wings; and counter-artilleries (superlative practice 'by Captain Phillips' on OUR right wing); Broglio cannonading Wangenheim very loudly, but with little harm done or suffered, on their right wing. Wangenheim is watchful of that gap between Ferdinand and him, till it close itself sufficiently. Their right- wing Infantry did once make some attempt there; but the Prussian Horse--(always a small body of Prussians serve in this Allied Army)--shot out, and in a brilliant manner swept them home again.
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