A Cursory View of Prussia from the Death of Frederick II to the Peace of Tilsit
LETTER XII: Initial Prussian Deployments
UNFORTUNATELY for Prussia, the choice of the Duke of Brunswick, was not altogether satisfactory to the whole army, nor was there that cordiality between him and Prince Hohenlohe, who was the second in command, as might be wished; and, either from this personal pique, or from some other cause, he continually thwarted him by perplexing, or unintelligible orders. As these can be no ways interesting to us, I shall pass over every unnecessary detail, and hasten to the important period before us.
The various plans which had been presented to the Duke, had been all rejected, and it does not appear that, even so late as the beginning of October, any decisive mode of operations had been determined upon; for on the 6th, there was a council of war held at Erfurth, at which were present, the King, the Duke of Brunswick, Prince Hohenlohe, the Generals Möllendorff, Rüchel, Pfuhl, and Köckeritz; the General Adjutants, Massenbach, Scharrenhorst, Kleist, and Rauch; also Count Haugwitz and the Marquis Lucchesini. After much debate which had yet produced no results, Lucchesini got up and affirmed, that Bonapartè would not, this campaign, act offensively; because his present policy was not to attempt conquest by immediate force of arms; and, he therefore most certainly did not think of “concentrating his troops in Franconia before the following month.” This assertion produced many remarks; but as the King observed, “that Lucchesini must surely be better acquainted with Bonapartè, and his intentions, than any person present,”—every one was silent.—The old Duke, whose infirm state made him naturally shrink from every bodily exertion, most heartily acceded to this idea; and thus no plan whatever was adopted. The assurances of Lucchesini were soon put to the test; as not long after Prince Hohenlohe’s return to his head quarters at Jena, he received intelligence from General Tauenzien, who had been with the corps posted at Hoff, that the French had already on the 7th attacked, and driven back, his outposts; and as a strong body was advancing very hastily towards Lobenstein, he was obliged to quit his position and proceed towards Schleitz. Thus were hostilities commenced and Lucchesini was suspected of having intentionally misled both the King and the Duke.
The French continued to advance so rapidly, that Tauenzien was obliged still to retreat upon Auma, being the only passage yet free from the enemy; and even here his troops had scarcely left Schleitz, before several pistol shots were heard, and his rear was soon after attacked. The general ordered his corps to face about, and march back. On their approaching the suburbs, they met with so warm a reception, and were so much molested by the Tirailleurs from behind the mud walls, that they were obliged to retreat; and being pursued by a much superior force. Tauenzien determined to proceed on to Triplis, where they arrived after the loss of several men, officers, and part of their baggage.
The opening of the campaign was not very auspicious for Prussia, and what rendered it still more grievous, was the singular conduct of Prince Louis, whilst entrusted with the command of the van guard of Rudolstadt. He was ordered not to move from thence until the arrival of General Blücher, who was on the 10th. to be stationed at Hochdorff, with the van guard of the main body. The Prince was then to proceed to Posnick, there to take up a detachment of Schimmelpfenning’s corps, and, by joining the troops under General Tauenzien, to form, in the neighbourhood of Auma, the van guard of the left wing of Prince Hohenlohe’s army.—Such were the orders he had received.
I have already observed, that the ardent character of Prince Louis, for want of a proper channel, had taken an unhappy course, and the bottle became one of his favorite enjoyments. In this he appears to have indulged himself to such an excess, that his nerves began to suffer, and his mind of course became irritable.—When his thoughts turned upon himself, he felt with too much poignancy the shackles of subordination, and, to his particular friends, he occasionally lamented that want of confidence towards him, which so much limited his operations; particularly at a moment when perhaps the safety of the whole army depended on the vigilance and activity of this van guard, which was now in a manner left as a useless corps.
Similar ebullitions of his disappointed ambition together with the natural openness of his character, easily discovered the agitate state of his mind; and, for this reason, Prince Hohenlohe was very cautious of intrusting him with too much authority: the Prince was therefore so particular in his orders, that even on the very morning of this inconceivable attack, they were again enforced. Louis, however, whose whole ideas were to vanquish Bonapartè, paid no regard to orders, or to the remonstrances of those around him; but on hearing, early in the morning, that there was a skirmishing with his outposts, could not resist the temptation of trying a turn, and without being acquainted with the force of the enemy, at seven o’clock, ordered out his troops, and, with about six thousand men, marched towards Saalfeldt to the attack.
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