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Frederick at the watch-fire before the battle of Liegnitz

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To the astonishment of all, Daun decided upon a battle, hoping thus to ensure the destruction of the Prussian army. The decisive blow was to be struck August 15, and to make it all the more decisive he arranged for an attack at daybreak and a repetition of the slaughter at Hochkirch. This time, however, Frederick was fortunate enough to hear of the plan and he made a counterplan at once. The Prussian army left its camp in absolute silence during the night and occupied the neighboring heights; and to make the Austrians believe it was resting quietly in its old position, peasants were employed to keep the campfires burning brightly.

Noiselessly Frederick arranged his army in fighting order. Silently the regiments stood in `rank` and listened for the signal to attack. There was something weird in the spectacle. The infantry stood with weapons ready for attack, and bright sabres flashed in the stout fists of the troopers ready at any instant to strike. Far down in the east day was dawning, and the silent host in the gray dusk looked like a troop of spectres.

To enjoy a moment’s rest, Generals Seydlitz and Zieten threw themselves down by a campfire and slept; but Frederick, sitting upon a drumhead, considered the plans of the coming battle. At last he too was overcome by fatigue, and lying by the side of his generals was soon asleep. Suddenly a major rushed up and loudly asked, “Where is the King?”

The latter, somewhat startled, arose at once and answered, “What is the matter?”

“The enemy is not four hundred yards away,” was his reply.

Frederick at the watch-fire before the battle of Liegnitz

Officers and men were at once on the alert. Two minutes sufficed to form the regiments in order. Words of command were heard on all sides. The cavalry made ready for the onset. The thunder of artillery resounded over hill and valley, and in less than ten minutes the battle was raging. Frederick’s invincible spirit worked wonders. General Laudon had not expected such a reception and was utterly astonished to find a powerful force confronting him when he expected to surprise the Prussians in their camp. But in this emergency everything depended upon energy and courage. He made a brave assault, but the Prussians made a braver resistance. They fought like lions, and if it had been lighter the enemy would have been mercilessly slaughtered. When the sun rose it illuminated the field covered with bodies and broken weapons. The four hours’ sanguinary conflict was decided. The Prussians won a complete victory, and the Austrians lost ten thousand men, beside twenty-three standards and eighty-two cannon. Thus ended the battle of Liegnitz, August 15, 1760.

Frederick the Great and the Seven Years War
Author : Ferdinand Schrader
Translator: George P. Upton
Published: 1905
Available from gutenberg.org