It is 6 o'clock. Damp dusk has thickened down into utter darkness, on these terms:--when, lo, cannonade and musketade from the south, audible in the Lestwitz-Hulsen quarters: seriously loud; red glow of conflagration visible withal,--some unfortunate Village going up ("Village of Siptitz, think you?"); and need of Hulsen at his fastest! Hulsen, with some readiest Foot Regiments, circling round, makes thitherward; Lestwitz in the van. Let us precede him thither, and explain a little what it was.
Ziethen, who had stood all day making idle noises,--of what a fatal quality we know, if Ziethen did not,--waiting for the King's appearance, must have been considerably displeased with himself at nightfall, when the King's fire gradually died out farther and farther north, giving rise to the saddest surmises. Ziethen's Generals, Saldern and the Leuthen Mollendorf, are full of gloomy impatience, urgent on him to try something. "Push westward, nearer the King? Some stroke at the enemy on their south or southwestern side, where we have not molested them all day? No getting across the Rohrgraben on them, says your Excellenz? Siptitz Village, and their Battery there, is on our side of the Rohrgraben:--UM GOTTES WILLEN, something, Herr General!" Ziethen does finally assent: draws leftward, westward; unbuckles Saldern's people upon Siptitz; who go like sharp hounds from the slip; fasten on Siptitz and the Austrians there, with a will; wrench these out, force them to abandon their Battery, and to set Siptitz on fire, while they run out of it. Comfortable bit of success, so far,--were not Siptitz burning, so that we cannot get through. "Through, no: and were we through, is not there the Rohrgraben?" thinks Ziethen, not seeing his way.
How lucky that, at this moment, Mollendorf comes in, with a discovery to westward; discovery of our old friend "the Butter- Street,"--it is nothing more,--where Ziethen should have marched this morning: there would he have found a solid road across the Rohrgraben, free passage by a bridge between two bits of ponds, at the SCHAFEREI (Sheep-Farm) of Siptitz yonder. "There still," reports Mollendorf, "the solid road is; unbeset hitherto, except by me Mollendorf!" Thitherward all do now hasten, Austrians, Prussians: but the Prussians are beforehand; Mollendorf is master of the Pass, deploying himself on the other side of it, and Ziethen and everybody hastening through to support him there, and the Austrians making fierce fight in vain. The sound of which has reached Hulsen, and set Lestwitz and him in motion thither.
For the thing is vital, if we knew it. Close ahead of Mollendorf, when he is through this Pass, close on Mollendorf's left, as he wheels round on the attacking Austrians, is the southwest corner of Siptitz Height. Southwest corner, highest point of it; summit and key of all that Battle area; rules it all, if you get cannon thither. It hangs steepish on the southern side, over the Rohrgraben, where this Mollendorf-Austrian fight begins; but it is beautifully accessible, if you bear round to the west side,--a fine saddle-shaped bit of clear ground there, in shape like the outside or seat of a saddle; Domitsch Wood the crupper part; summit of this Height the pommel, only nothing like so steep:--it is here (on tho southern saddle-flap, so to speak), gradually mounting westward to the crupper-and-pommel part, that the agony now is.
And here, in utter darkness, illuminated only by the musketry and cannon blazes, there ensued two hours of stiff wrestling in its kind: not the fiercest spasm of all, but the final which decided all. Lestwitz, Hulsen, come sweeping on, led by the sound and the fire; "beating the Prussian march, they," sharply on all their drums,--Prussian march, rat-tat-tan, sharply through the gloom of Chaos in that manner; and join themselves, with no mistake made, to Mollendorf's, to Ziethen's left and the saddle-flap there, and fall on. The night is pitch-dark, says Archenholtz; you cannot see your hand before you. Old Hulsen's bridle-horses were all shot away, when he heard this alarm, far off: no horse left; and he is old, and has his own bruises. He seated himself on a cannon; and so rides, and arrives; right welcome the sight of him, doubt not! And the fight rages still for an hour or more.
To an observant Mollendorf, watching about all day, the importance and all-importance of Siptitz Summit, if it can be got, is probably known; to Daun it is alarmingly well known, when he hears of it. Daun is zealously urgent on Lacy, on O'Donnell; who do try what they can; send reinforcements, and the like; but nothing that proves useful. O'Donnell is not the man for such a crisis: Lacy, too, it is remarked, has always been more expert in ducking out of Friedrich's way than in fighting anybody. [Archenholtz's sour remark.] In fine, such is the total darkness, the difficulty, the uncertainty, most or all of the reinforcements sent halted short, in the belly of the Night, uncertain where; and their poor friends got altogether beaten and driven away.
MAP FACING PAGE 527, BOOK XX--------
About 9 at night, all the Austrians are rolling off, eastward, eastward. Prussians goading them forward what they could (firing not quite done till 10); and that all-important pommel of the saddle is indisputably won. The Austrians settled themselves, in a kind of half-moon shape, close on the suburbs of Torgau; the Prussians in a parallel half-moon posture, some furlongs behind them. The Austrians sat but a short time; not a moment longer than was indispensable. Daun perceives that the key of his ground is gone from him; that he will have to send a second Courier to Vienna. And, above all things, that he must forthwith get across the Elbe and away. Lucky for him that he has Three Bridges (or Four, including the Town Bridge), and that his Baggage is already all across and standing on wheels. With excellent despatch and order Daun winds himself across,--all of him that is still coherent; and indeed, in the distant parts of the Battle-field, wandering Austrian parties were admonished hitherward by the River's voice in the great darkness,--and Daun's loss in prisoners, though great, was less than could have been expected: 8,000 in all.