All these movements and arrangements are effected above a mile from Mollwitz, no enemy yet visible. Once effected, we advance again with music sounding, sixty pieces of artillery well in front,-- steady, steady!--across the floor of snow which is soon beaten smooth enough, the stage, this day, of a great adventure. And now there is the Enemy's left wing, Romer and his Horse; their right wing wider away, and not yet, by a good space, within cannon-range of us. It is towards Two of the afternoon; Schulenburg now on his ground, laments that he will not reach to Hermsdorf;--but it may be dangerous now to attempt repairing that error? At Two of the clock, being now fairly within distance, we salute Romer and the Austrian left, with all our sixty cannon; and the sound of drums and clarinets is drowned in universal artillery thunder. Incessant, for they take (by order) to "swift-shooting," which is almost of the swiftness of musketry in our Prussian practice; and from sixty cannon, going at that rate, we may fancy some effect. The Austrian Horse of the left wing do not like it; all the less as the Austrians, rather short of artillery, have nothing yet to reply with.
No Cavalry can stand long there, getting shivered in that way; in such a noise, were there nothing more. "Are we to stand here like milestones, then, and be all shot without a stroke struck?" "Steady!" answers Romer. But nothing can keep them steady: "To be shot like dogs (WIE HUNDE)! For God's sake (URN GOTTES WILLEN), lead us forward, then, to have a stroke at them!"--in tones ever more plangent, plaintively indignant; growing ungovernable. And Romer can get no orders; Neipperg is on the extreme right, many things still to settle there; and here is the cannon-thunder going, and soon their very musketry will open. And--and there is Schulenburg, for one thing, stretching himself out eastwards (rightwards) to get hold of Hermsdorf; thinking this an opportunity for the manoeuvre. "Forward!" cries Romer; and his thirty Squadrons, like bottled whirlwind now at last let loose, dash upon Schulenburg's poor ten (five of them of Schulenburg's own regiment,--who are turned sideways too, trotting towards Hermsdorf, at the wrong moment,--and dash them into wild ruin. That must have been a charge! That was the beginning of hours of chaos, seemingly irretrievable, in that Prussian right wing.
For the Prussian Horse fly wildly; and it is in vain to rally. The King is among them; has come in hot haste, conjuring and commanding: poor Schulenburg addresses his own regiment, "Oh, shame, shame! shall it be told, then?" rallies his own regiment, and some others; charges fiercely in with them again; gets a sabre- slash across the face,--does not mind the sabre-slash, small bandaging will do;--gets a bullet through the head (or through the heart, it is not said which); [
The intolerable fire repels Romer, when he trenches on the Infantry: however, he captures nine of the Prussian sixty guns; has scattered their Horse to the winds; and charges again and again, hoping to break the Infantry too,--till a bullet kills him, the gallant Romer; and some other has to charge and try. It was thought, had Goldlein with his Austrian Infantry advanced to support Romer at this juncture, the Battle had been gained. Five times, before Romer fell and after, the Austrians charged here; tried the Second Line too; tried once to take Prince Leopold in rear there. But Prince Leopold faced round, gave intolerable fire; on one face as on the other, he, or the Prussian Infantry anywhere, is not to be broken. "Prince Friedrich", one of the Margraves of Schwedt, King's Cousin, whom we did not know before, fell in these wild rallyings and wrestlings; "by a cannon-ball, at the King's hand," not said otherwise where. He had come as Volunteer, few weeks ago, out of Holland, where he was a rising General: he has met his fate here,--and Margraf Karl, his Brother, who also gets wounded, will be a mournful man to-night.
The Prussian Horse, this right wing of it, is a ruined body; boiling in wild disorder, flooding rapidly away to rearward,-- which is the safest direction to retreat upon. They "sweep away the King's person with them," say some cautious people; others say, what is the fact, that Schwerin entreated, and as it were commanded, the King to go; the Battle being, to all appearance, irretrievable. Go he did, with small escort, and on a long ride,-- to Oppeln, a Prussian post, thirty-five miles rearward, where there is a Bridge over the Oder and a safe country beyond. So much is indubitable; and that he despatched an Aide-de-camp to gallop into Brandenburg, and tell the Old Dessauer, "Bestir yourself! Here all seems lost!"-- and vanished from the Field, doubtless in very desperate humor. Upon which the extraneous world has babbled a good deal, "Cowardice! Wanted courage: Haha!" in its usual foolish way; not worth answer from him or from us. Friedrich's demeanor, in that disaster of his right wing, was furious despair rather; and neither Schulenburg nor Margraf Friedrich, nor any of the captains, killed or left living, was supposed to have sinned by "cowardice" in a visible degree!--
Indisputable it is, though there is deep mystery upon it, the King vanishes from Mollwitz Field at this point for sixteen hours, into the regions of Myth, "into Fairyland," as would once have been said; but reappears unharmed in to-morrow's daylight: at which time, not sooner, readers shall hear what little is to be said of this obscure and much-disfigured small affair. For the present we hasten back to Mollwitz,--where the murderous thunder rages unabated all this while; the very noise of it alarming mankind for thirty miles round. At Breslau, which is thirty good miles off, horrible dull grumble was heard from the southern quarter ("still better, if you put a staff in the ground, and set your ear to it"); and from the steeple-tops, there was dim cloudland of powder-smoke discernible in the horizon there. "At Liegnitz," which is twice the distance, "the earth sensibly shook," [
"Had Goldlein but advanced with his Foot, in support of gallant Romer!" say the Austrian Books. But Goldlein did not advance; nor is it certain he would have found advantage in so doing: Goldlein, where he stands, has difficulty enough to hold his own. For the notable circumstance, miraculous to military men, still is, How the Prussian Foot (men who had never been in fire, but whom Friedrich Wilhelm had drilled for twenty years) stand their ground, in this distraction of the Horse. Not even the two outlying Grenadier Battalions will give way: those poor intercalated Grenadiers, when their Horse fled on the right and on the left, they stand there, like a fixed stone-dam in that wild whirlpool of ruin. They fix bayonets, "bring their two field-pieces to flank" (Winterfeld was Captain there), and, from small arms and big, deliver such a fire as was very unexpected. Nothing to be made of Winterfeld and them. They invincibly hurl back charge after charge; and, with dogged steadiness, manoeuvre themselves into the general Line again; or into contact with the three superfluous Battalions, arranged EN POTENCE, whom we heard of. Those three, ranked athwart in this right wing ("like a lid," between First Line and second), maintained themselves in like impregnable fashion,--Winterfeld commanding;--and proved unexpectedly, thinks Friedrich, the saving of the whole. For they also stood their ground immovable, like rocks; steadily spouting fire-torrents. Five successive charges storm upon them, fruitless: "Steady, MEINE KINDER; fix bayonets, handle ramrods! There is the Horse-deluge thundering in upon you; reserve your fire, till you see the whites of their eyes, and get the word; then give it them, and again give it them: see whether any man or any horse can stand it!"
Neipperg, soon after Romer fell, had ordered Goldlein forward: Goldlein with his Infantry did advance, gallantly enough; but to no purpose. Goldlein was soon shot dead; and his Infantry had to fall back again, ineffectual or worse. Iron ramrods against wooden; five shots to two: what is there but falling back? Neipperg sent fresh Horse from his right wing, with Berlichingen, a new famed General of Horse; Neipperg is furiously bent to improve his advantage, to break those Prussians, who are mere musketeers left bare, and thinks that will settle the account: but it could in no wise be done. The Austrian Horse, after their fifth trial, renounce charging; fairly refuse to charge any more; and withdraw dispirited out of ball-range, or in search of things not impracticable. The Hussar part of them did something of plunder to rearward;--and, besides poor Maupertuis's adventure (of which by and by), and an attempt on the Prussian baggage and knapsacks, which proved to be "too well guarded,"--"burnt the Church of Pampitz," as some small consolation. The Prussians had stript their knapsacks, and left them in Pampitz: the Austrians, it was noticed, stript theirs in the Field; built walls of them, and fired behind,the same, in a kneeling, more or less protected posture,--which did not avail them much.