Research Subjects: Miscellaneous

A Cursory View of Prussia from the Death of Frederick II to the Peace of Tilsit

LETTER XXI: Negotiations with Marshal Murat


DURING this momentary confusion, a large detachment of the enemy’s cavalry had entered the town, and, meeting no serious resistance, furiously bawled out—“En bas les armes!  rendez vous—ne bougez pas.” [Down with your arms—surrender—do not stir.] Those who had retired into the houses endeavoured to defend themselves, but, finding it in vain, they threw down their arms and flew.—The flying artillery, which had been annoying them, was also taken, and General Tchemner made prisoner:  the Prince himself with difficulty escaped.

After many such unpleasant scenes, which they were obliged in the town to submit to, as the troops were almost all on the other side, Colonel Massenbach at length returned.  His report, was, that he passed Murat at the head of about seven regiments, of excellent dragoons,  with twenty cannon, the Duke called to him, on passing.—“Votre General, veut il capituter”—“Non, Monseigneur, “answered the Colonel, “il n’acceptera jamais une condition si dure.”—“He bien donc, je le ferai sabrer,” [Will your General capitulate?—No, Sir, he will never accept such hard conditions.—Well then, I shall let him be cut to pieces.] was the harsh conclusion.  It was indeed both the Prince’s and Colonel Massenbach’s opinion that, though the enemy had not yet actually surrounded the whole army, as they pretended, still, with such a vigorous cavalry, it was in their power in a few hours to do so, and to keep them thus locked in till all their infantry should arrive.  The Prussian troops and horses had been thirty two hours on their march, and undergone excessive fatigues since the 10th.  No forage or food was to be procured on this side Stettin, which they could not, in their present situation, reach under two days, as it was full thirty miles distant.  What political advantage then could accrue to the nation by the sacrifice of this small remainder of the army, which amounted to only about nine thousand men?  Surely the unprejudiced mind will say none; and if such an adventurous struggle could be attempted, the greates dependence must be on the cavalry which was jaded beyond conception.  The hope therefore of reaching Stettin, in any serviceable situation, was a bubble, which must vanish as soon as formed.

During these considerations, General Belliard, as a second, arrived to offer the Prince his last choice of an honorable capitulation, or a harsh, but unavoidable alternative.  The Prince was on the point of confirming his first answer, when another French Officer appeared, with the message that Murat wished to have a personal interview with the Prince.

The Prince immediately mounted, and, accompanied by several Officers, rode to meet him.  After a long and apparently warm conversation which they had by themselves, the result was, “that Murat said he could, upon his honor, assure the Prince, that his retreat to any point was impossible—that measures besides were so effectually taken, that no succours whatever could reach him; that though the Prince might somewhat prolong this present situation, yet the ultimate decision must be infallibly to his ruin; that the

Emperor absolutely insisted on the total extirpation of the whole Prussian army; yet, in consideration of the particular personal respect he had for the Prince and the troops under his command, he was still ready, though for the last time, to grant him honorable conditions.”  The Prince demanded a free egress with drums beating; to which Murat observed, “that if he had immediately submitted to this first proposal, he should have had no objection to grant this, though somewhat unusual, request; but, as hostilities had already taken place, and he had seen the Prussian cavalry put to flight, he could not answer to the Emperor his master, granting such a distinguishing mark of indulgence.  All, therefore, which was in his power, consistent with his duty, was,—“that though it was customary in war, for the arms to be formally grounded and delivered to the conqueror, yet he would waive this ceremony, and permit the Prussian troops only to pile them together, and after they had marched away, the French troops should collect them.  That all officers, down to the surgeon, and serjeant major, should be immediately discharged on their parole, and receive their swords, horses, servants, and equipage of every denomination, of which a specification should be made; and in case any thing should be missing, it should be enquired after, and, if found restored.  Each regiment should retain it’s regimental cash and wagons, and the soldiers their knapsacks.  Out of respect to his Prussian Majesty, he would permit the guards to return, but without arms, to Potsdam, under the care of their officers, without any escort of French troops, upon condition that, until exchanged, they should not serve; but the soldiers of the other regiments must be sent to France as prisoners of war.  This,” he declared, “was his last proposal; and, in case of any further resistance, he was determined, in the strictest sense of the word, to make use of those rights of war which were allowed to the strongest.”  The Prince requested leave “first to consult with his general officers, and he would then wait upon him with the result.”  This was granted, and Murat returned to this troops.


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