About noon Friedrich's Vanguard (Kleist and Hussars), about 1 o'clock Friedrich himself, 7 or 8,000 Grenadiers, emerged from the Woods about Neiden. This Column, which consists of choice troops, is to be Front-line of the Attack. But there is yet no Second Column under Hulsen, still less any Third under Holstein, come in sight: and Ziethen's cannonade is but too audible. Friedrich halts; sends Adjutants to hurry on these Columns;--and rides out reconnoitring, questioning peasants; earnestly surveying Daun's ground and his own. Daun's now right wing well eastward about Zinna had been Friedrich's intended point of attack; but the ground, out there, proves broken by boggy brooks and remnant stagnancies of the Old Elbe: Friedrich finds he must return into the Wood again; and attack Daun's left. Daun's left is carefully drawn down EN POTENCE, or gallows-shape there; and has, within the Wood, carefully built by Prince Henri last year, an extensive Abatis, or complete western wall,--only the north part of which is perhaps now passable, the Austrians having in the cold time used a good deal of it as firewood lately. There, on the northwest corner of Daun, across that weak part of the Abatis, must Friedrich's attack lie. But Friedrich's Columns are still fatally behind,--Holstein, with all the Cavalry we have, so precious at present, is wandering by wrong paths; took the wrong turn at some point, and the Adjutant can hardly find him at all, with his precept of "Haste, Haste!"
We may figure Friedrich's humor under these ill omens. Ziethen's cannonade becomes louder and louder; which Friedrich naturally fancies to be death or life to him,--not to mean almost nothing, as it did. "MEIN GOTT, Ziethen is in action, and I have not my Infantry up!" [Tempelhof, iv. 303.] cried he. And at length decided to attack as he was: Grenadiers in front, the chosen of his Infantry; Ramin's Brigade for second line; and, except about 800 of Kleist, no Cavalry at all. His battalions march out from Neiden hand, through difficult brooks, Striebach and the like, by bridges of Austrian build, which the Austrians are obliged to quit in hurry. The Prussians are as yet perpendicular to Daun, but will wheel rightward, into the Domitsch Wood again; and then form,-- parallel to Daun's northwest shoulder; and to Prince Henri's Abatis, which will be their first obstacle in charging. Their obstacles in forming were many and intricate; ground so difficult, for artillery especially: seldom was seen such expertness, such willingness of mind. And seldom lay ahead of men such obstacles AFTER forming! Think only of one fact: Daun, on sight of their intention, has opened 400 pieces of Artillery on them, and these go raging and thundering into the hem of the Wood, and to whatever issues from it, now and for hours to come, at a rate of deafening uproar and of sheer deadliness, which no observer can find words for.
Archenholtz, a very young officer of fifteen, who came into it perhaps an hour hence, describes it as a thing surpassable only by Doomsday: clangorous rage of noise risen to the infinite; the boughs of the trees raining down on you, with horrid crash; the Forest, with its echoes, bellowing far and near, and reverberating in universal death-peal; comparable to the Trump of Doom. Friedrich himself, who is an old hand, said to those about him: "What an infernal fire (HOLLISCHES FEUER)! Did you ever hear such a cannonade before? I never." [Tempelhof, iv. 304; Archenholtz, ii. 164.] Friedrich is between the Two Lines of his Grenadiers, which is his place during the attack: the first Line of Grenadiers, behind Prince Henri's Abatis, is within 800 yards of Daun; Ramin's Brigade is to rear of the Second Line, as a Reserve. Horse they have none, except the 800 Kleist Hussars; who stand to the left, outside the Wood, fronted by Austrian Horse in hopeless multitude. Artillery they have, in effect, none: their Batteries, hardly to be got across these last woody difficulties of trees growing and trees felled, did rank outside the Wood, on their left; but could do absolutely nothing (gun-carriages and gunners, officers and men, being alike blown away); and when Tempelhof saw them afterwards, they never had been fired at all. The Grenadiers have their muskets, and their hearts and their right-hands.
With amazing intrepidity, they, being at length all ready in rank within 800 yards, rush into the throat of this Fire-volcano; in the way commanded,--which is the alone way: such a problem as human bravery seldom had. The Grenadiers plunge forward upon the throat of Daun; but it is into the throat of his iron engines and his tearing billows of cannon-shot that most of them go. Shorn down by the company, by the regiment, in those terrible 800 yards,--then and afterwards. Regiment STUTTERHEIM was nearly all killed and wounded, say the Books. You would fancy it was the fewest of them that ever got to the length of selling their lives to Daun, instead of giving them away to his 400 cannon. But it is not so. The Grenadiers, both Lines of them, still in quantity, did get into contact with Daun. And sold him their lives, hand to hand, at a rate beyond example in such circumstances;--Daun having to hurry up new force in streams upon them; resolute to purchase, though the price, for a long while, rose higher and higher.
At last the 6,000 Grenadiers, being now reduced to the tenth man, had to fall back. Upon which certain Austrian Battalions rushed dawn in chase, counting it Victory come: but were severely admonished of that mistake; and driven back by Ramin's people, who accompanied them into their ranks and again gave Daun a great deal of trouble before he could overpower them. This is Attack First, issuing in failure first: one of the stiffest bits of fighting ever known. Began about 2 in the afternoon; ended, I should guess, rather after 3. Daun, by this time, is in considerable disorder of line; though his 400 fire-throats continue belching ruin, and deafening the world, without abatement. Daun himself had got wounded in the foot or leg during this Attack, but had no time to mind it: a most busy, strong and resolute Daun; doing his very best. Friedrich, too, was wounded,--nobody will tell me in which of these attacks;--but I think not now, at least will not speak of it now. What his feelings were, as this Grenadier Attack went on,--a struggle so unequal, but not to be helped, from the delays that had risen,--nobody, himself least of all, records for us: only by this little symptom: Two Grandsons of the Old Dessauer's are Adjutants of his Majesty, and well loved by him; one of them now at his hand, the other heading his regiment in this charge of Grenadiers. Word comes to Friedrich that this latter one is shot dead. On which Friedrich, turning to the Brother, and not hiding his emotion, as was usual in such moments, said: "All goes ill to-day; my friends are quitting me. I have just heard that your Brother is killed (TOUT VA MAL AUJOURD'HUI; MES AMIS ME QUITTENT. ON VIENT DE M'ANNONCER LA MORT DE VOTRE FRERE)!" [Preuss, ii. 226.] Words which the Anhalt kindred, and the Prussian military public, treasured up with a reverence strange to us. Of Anhalt perhaps some word by and by, at a fitter season.
Shortly after 3, as I reckon the time, Hulsen's Column did arrive: choice troops these too, the Pomeranian MANTEUFFEL, one regiment of them;--young Archenholtz of FORCADE (first Battalion here, second and third are with Ziethen, making vain noise) was in this Column; came, with the others, winding to the Wood's edge, in such circuits, poor young soul; rain pouring, if that had been worth notice; cannon-balls plunging, boughs crashing, such a TODES- POSAUNE, or Doomsday-Thunder, broken loose:--they did emerge steadily, nevertheless, he says, "like sea-billows or flow of tide, under the smoky hurricane." Pretty men are here too, Manteuffel Pommerners; no hearts stouter. With these, and the indignant Remnants which waited for them, a new assault upon Daun is set about. And bursts out, on that same northwest corner of him; say about half-past 3. The rain is now done, "blown away by the tremendous artillery," thinks Archenholtz, if that were any matter.
The Attack, supported by a few more Horse (though Column Three still fatally lingers), and, I should hope, by some practicable weight of Field-batteries, is spurred by a grimmer kind of indignation, and is of fiercer spirit than ever. Think how Manteuffel of Foot will blaze out; and what is the humor of those once overwhelmed Remnants, now getting air again! Daun's line is actually broken in this point, his artillery surmounted and become useless; Daun's potence and north front are reeling backwards, Prussians in possession of their ground. "The field to be ours!" thinks Friedrich, for some time. If indeed Ziethen had been seriously busy on the southern side of things, instead of vaguely cannonading in that manner! But resolute Daun, with promptitude, calls in his Reserve from Grosswig, calls in whatsoever of disposable force he can gather; Daun rallies, rushes again on the Prussians in overpowering number; and, in spite of their most desperate resistance, drives them back, ever back; and recovers his ground.
A very desperate bout, this Second one; probably the toughest of the Battle: but the result again is Daun's; the Prussians palpably obliged to draw back. Friedrich himself got wounded here;--poor young Archenholtz too, ONLY wounded, not killed, as so many were:-- Friedrich's wound was a contusion on the breast; came of some spent bit of case-shot, deadened farther by a famed pelisse he wore,-- "which saved my life," he said afterwards to Henri. The King himself little regarded it (mentioning it only to Brother Henri, on inquiry and solicitation), during the few weeks it still hung about him. The Books intimate that it struck him to the earth, void of consciousness for some time, to the terror of those about him; and that he started up, disregarding it altogether in this press of business, and almost as if ashamed of himself, which imposed silence on people's tongues. In military circles there is still, on this latter point, an Anecdote; which I cannot confirm or deny, but will give for the sake of Berenhorst and his famed Book on the ART OF WAR. Berenhorst--a natural son of the Old Dessauer's, and evidently enough a chip of the old block, only gone into the articulate-speaking or intellectual form--was, for the present, an Adjutant or Aide-de-camp of Friedrich's; and at this juncture was seen bending over the swooned Friedrich, perhaps with an over- pathos or elaborate something in his expression of countenance: when Friedrich reopened his indignant eyes: "WAS MACHT ER HIER?" cried Friedrich: "ER SAMMLE FUYARDS! What have you to do here? Go and gather runaways" (be of some real use, can't you)!--which unkind cut struck deep into Berenhorst, they say; and could never after be eradicated from his gloomy heart. It is certain he became Prince Henri's Adjutant soon after, and that in his KRIEGSKUNST, amidst the clearest orthodox admiration, he manifests, by little touches up and down, a feeling of very fell and pallid quality against the King; and belongs, in a peculiarly virulent though taciturn way, to the Opposition Party. H1s Book, next to English Lloyd's (or perhaps superior, for Berenhorst is of much the more cultivated intellect, highly condensed too, though so discursive and far-read, were it not for the vice of perverse diabolic temper), seemed, to a humble outsider like myself, greatly the strongest-headed, most penetrating and humanly illuminative I had had to study on that subject. Who the weakest-headed was (perhaps JOMINI, among the widely circulating kind?), I will not attempt to decide, so great is the crush in that bad direction. To return.