"Torgau is a fine solid old Town; Prussian military now abundant in it. In ancient Heathen times, I suppose, it meant the GAU, or District, of THOR; Capital of that Gau,--part of which, now under Christian or quasi-Christian circumstances, you have just been traversing, with Elbe on your right hand. Innocent rural aspects of Humanity, Boor's life, Gentry's life, all the way, not in any holiday equipment; on the contrary, somewhat unkempt and scraggy, but all the more honest and inoffensive. There is sky, earth, air, and freedom for your own reflections: a really agreeable kind of Gau; pleasant, though in part ugly. Large tracts of it are pine- wood, with pleasant Villages and fine arable expanses interspersed. Schilda and many Villages you leave to right and left. Old-fashioned Villages, with their village industries visible around; laboring each in its kind,--not too fast; probably with extinct tobacco-pipe hanging over its chin (KALT-RAUCHEND, 'smoking COLD,' as they phrase it).
"Schilda has an absurd celebrity among the Germans: it is the Gotham of Teutschland; a fountain of old broad-grins and homely and hearty rustic banter; welling up from the serious extinct Ages to our own day; 'SCHILTburger' (Inhabitant of SCHILDA) meaning still, among all the Teutsch populations, a man of calmly obstinate whims and delusions, of notions altogether contrary to fact, and agreeable to himself only; resolutely pushing his way through life on those terms: amid horse-laughter, naturally, and general wagging of beards from surrounding mankind. Extinct mirth, not to be growled at or despised, in Ages running to the shallow, which have lost their mirth, and become all one snigger of mock-mirth. For it is observable, the more solemn is your background of DARK, the brighter is the play of all human genialities and coruscations on it,--of genial mirth especially, in the hour for mirth. Who the DOCTOR BORDEL of Schilda was, I do not know: but they have had their Bordel, as Gotham had;--probably various Bordels; industrious to pick up those Spiritual fruits of the earth. For the records are still abundant and current; fully more alive than those of Gotham here are.--And yonder, then, is actually Schilda of the absurd fame. A small, cheerful-looking human Village, in its Island among the Woods; you see it lying to the right:--a clean brick- slate congeries, with faint smoke-canopy hanging over it, indicating frugal dinner-kettles on the simmer;--and you remember kindly those good old grinnings, over good SCHILTBURGER, good WISE MEN OF GOTHAM, and their learned Chroniclers, and unlearned Peasant Producers, who have contributed a wrinkle of human Fun to the earnest face of Life.
"After Schilda, and before, you traverse long tracts of Pine Forest, all under forest management; with long straight stretches of sandy road (one of which is your own), straight like red tape- strings, intersecting the wide solitudes: dangerous to your topographies,--for the finger-posts are not always there, and human advice you can get none. Nothing but the stripe of blue sky overhead, and the brown one of tape (or sand) under your feet: the trees poor and mean for most part, but so innumerable, and all so silent, watching you all like mute witnesses, mutely whispering together; no voice but their combined whisper or big forest SOUGH audible to you in the world:--on the whole, your solitary ride there proves, unexpectedly, a singular deliverance from the mad railway, and its iron bedlamisms and shrieking discords and precipitances; and is soothing, and pensively welcome, though sad enough, and in outward features ugly enough. No wild boars are now in these woods, no chance of a wolf:"--what concerns us more is, that Friedrich's columns, on the 3d of November, had to march up through these long lanes, or tape-stripes of the Torgau Forest; and that one important column, one or more, took the wrong turn at some point, and was dangerously wanting at the expected moment!--
"Torgau itself stands near Elbe; on the shoulder, eastern or Elbe- ward shoulder, of a big mass of Knoll, or broad Height, called of Siptitz, the main Eminence of the Gau. Shoulder, I called it, of this Height of Siptitz; but more properly it is on a continuation, or lower ulterior height dipping into Elbe itself, that Torgau stands. Siptitz Height, nearly a mile from Elbe, drops down into a straggle of ponds; after which, on a second or final rise, comes Torgau dipping into Elbe. Not a shoulder strictly, but rather a CHEEK, with NECK intervening;--neck GOITRY for that matter, or quaggy with ponds! The old Town stands high enough, but is enlaced on the western and southern side by a set of lakes and quagmires, some of which are still extensive and undrained. The course of the waters hereabouts; and of Elbe itself, has had its intricacies: close to northwest, Torgau is bordered, in a straggling way, by what they call OLD ELBE; which is not now a fluent entity, but a stagnant congeries of dirty waters and morasses. The Hill of Siptitz abuts in that aqueous or quaggy manner; its forefeet being, as it were, at or in Elbe River, and its sides, to the South and to the North for some distance each way, considerably enveloped in ponds and boggy difficulties.
"Plenty of water all about, but I suppose mostly of bad quality; at least Torgau has declined drinking it, and been at the trouble to lay a pipe, or ROHRGRABEN, several miles long, to bring its culinary water from the western neighborhoods of Siptitz Height. Along the southern side of Siptitz Height goes leisurely an uncomfortable kind of Brook, called the 'ROHRGRABEN (Pipe-Ditch);' the meaning of which unexpected name you find to be, That there is a SERVICE-PIPE laid cunningly at the bottom of this Brook; lifting the Brook at its pure upper springs, and sending it along, in secret tubular quasi-bottled condition; leaving the fouler drippings from the neighborhood to make what 'brook' they still can, over its head, and keep it out of harm's way till Torgau get it. This is called the ROHRGRABEN, this which comes running through Siptitz Village, all along by the southern base of Siptitz Hill; to the idle eye, a dirtyish Brook, ending in certain notable Ponds eastward: but to the eye of the inquiring mind, which has pierced deeper, a Tube of rational Water, running into the throats of Torgau, while the so-called Brook disembogues at discretion into the ENTEFANG (Duck-trap), and what Ponds or reedy Puddles there are,"--of which, in poor Wunsch's fine bit of fighting, last Year, we heard mention. Let readers keep mind of them.
The Hill Siptitz, with this ROHRGRABEN at the southern basis of it, makes a very main figure in the Battle now imminent. Siptitz Height is, in fact, Daun's Camp; where he stands intrenched to the utmost, repeatedly changing his position, the better to sustain Friedrich's expected attacks. It is a blunt broad-backed Elevation, mostly in vineyard, perhaps on the average 200 feet above the general level, and of five or six square miles in area: length, east to west, from Grosswig neighborhood to the environs of Torgau, may be about three miles; breadth, south to north, from the Siptitz to the Zinna neighborhoods, above half that distance. The Height is steepish on the southern side, all along to the southwest angle (which was Daun's left flank in the great Action coming), but swells up with easier ascent on the west, earth and other sides. Let the reader try for some conception of its environment and it, as the floor or arena of a great transaction this day.
Daun stands fronting southward along these Siptitz Heights, looking towards Schilda and his dangerous neighbor; heights, woods, ponds and inaccessibilities environing his Position and him. One of the strongest positions imaginable; which, under Prince Henri, proved inexpugnable enough to some of us. A position not to be attacked on that southern front, nor on either of its flanks:--where can it be attacked? Impregnable, under Prince Henri in far inferior force: how will you take it from Daun in decidedly superior? A position not to be attacked at all, most military men would say;--though One military man, in his extreme necessity, must and will find a way into it.
One fault, the unique military man, intensely pondering, discovers that it has: it is too small for Daun; not area enough for manoeuvring 65,000 men in it; who will get into confusion if properly dealt with. A most comfortable light-flash, the EUREKA of this terrible problem. "We will attack it on rear and on front simultaneously; that is the way to handle it!" Yes; simultaneously, though that is difficult, say military judges; perhaps to Prussians it may be possible. It is the opinion of military judges who have studied the matter, that Friedrich's plan, could it have been perfectly executed, might have got not only victory from Daun, but was capable to fling his big Army and him pell-mell upon the Elbe Bridge, that is to say, in such circumstances, into Elbe River, and swallow him bodily at a frightful rate! That fate was spared poor Daun.