Research Subjects: Miscellaneous

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

LETTER XXVI: The Surrender of the Fortress of Glogau


FROM the preceding little digression, I return to the field; and, as the sieges of the Silesian fortresses do not require any ample detail, I shall first dispatch them, and then attend Bonapartè in his farther progress through Prussia.

As soon as the Silesians were informed of the catastrophe of the 14th of October, and the subsequent disasters, they began to be alarmed for their own safety.  As Glogau was expected to be first attacked, orders were sent to put it immediately into a proper state of defence.  This fortress requires at least five thousand men, and the garrison then consisted of only three battalions of Polish-Prussian troops.  The outworks were without guns, and there was a want of even common cannoneers.  The inhabitants, however, were well disposed, and had a sufficient stock of provisions.  General Reinhardt, in whom the King had great confidence, was Governor, and ordered to maintain the fortress to the last extremity.  As the enemy did not appear till the 7th of November, he had time to prepare for it’s defence, and a vigorous resistance was expected.  On the 8th the garrison was summoned to surrender; and, though a refusal was then returned, yet, on the 12th, the Governor called a council of war, in which he set forth, in a very tedious harangue,—the great misfortune it was for him so responsible a charge as to defend, to the extremity, a fortress, which was even yet in want of the proper means of defence; for the truth of which, he appealed to the principal engineers then present, who confirmed this account, with many farther sagacious remarks of their own, and Glogau was following the fate of Magdeburg, when Major Pudlitz arose—“Gentlemen,” said he, “I can rely upon my battalion; they are brave fellows; and, in the present state of the fortress, I should deem myself a scoundrel to vote for it’s surrender, as some of you already seem disposed to do.”  He gained his point, for the rest voted with him.

On the 15th, General Lefevre appeared with a trumpet.  He was introduced to the Governor, and demanded, in the name of Prince Jerome, the surrender of the fortress.  The Governor requested this in writing.  The General immediately complied, and grounded his pretensions on the trenches being soon ready to open; now be obtained, and concluded, by a great eulogium on the bravery, &c. &c. of the garrison.  The Governor promised a written answer, and the General returned.  Another council was again convened; and as Pudlitz had, in the mean time, sufficiently informed himself of the real state of the fortress, and was perfectly convinced that the report of the engineers was not true, he now declared, with still more energy than before, that with the means of defence he knew they possessed, and considering the known weak force opposed at present against them; and, finally, observing, that the possession of Glogau would forthwith enable the enemy to lay siege, with more effect, to Breslau, he must take the liberty boldly to assert that man to be a rascal, destitute of all honor, who, under such circumstances, could even think of a surrender.

The assembled cowards were obliged to respect the dictates of such rough, but honest, patriotism; and Pudlitz was appointed himself to carry the refusal.

As Jerome did not doubt that a favorable answer would be returned, the Major was received in the camp with particular civility.  The Prince spoke with him alone, lamented the unnatural hostility between Prussia and France, and wished to see it ended.  Pudlitz excused himself from entering on the subject on account of his ignorance of politics; yet he must suppose, he said, “his own King to be in the right.”  Jerome then  expatiated on the advantageous surrender of Magdeburg, Stettin, and Custrin; on which the Major remained silent.  The Prince now read the Governor’s letter, and immediately dismissed the Major, saying, coldly, “so then, there is nothing to be done.”  On the 10th, another trumpeter was sent, with a menacing message; at which the Governor was alarmed, but outvoted, and still obliged to maintain his defence.  On the 19th, about twenty prisoners were brought in, with knapsacks well filled with valuable plunder from the neighbourhood.  The Governor, to curry favor with the enemy, ordered it all to be restored, and sent the prisoners back.  To his own brave soldiers, as a reward for their courage and attention, and also as compensation for their loss, he generously gave each a sixpence.  This exasperated the whole garrison against him, and also discovered his private opinion to the enemy.  Indeed, towards the end of the month, there was an anxiety and depression very visible amongst all the principal officers.  On the first of December, the enemy began in the night to bombard, from two mortars, without much effect; but, on the 3d, the Governor called a council, and opened it by exclaiming, with horror in his countenance, “I must capitulate!  I must capitulate!  All is lost!  The King has run away to Russia!  There is not a single Russian or Prussian on this side of the Vistula!  Warsaw and all the country is in the possession of the enemy!  There is nowhere any hope of relief!  There is nothing left but to capitulate!”  Pudlitz seemed rather to doubt what he said; at which the Governor was offended, and blustered out, “that Jerome had assured him that it was so, and therefore it must be true.”  It was at length proposed to request a truce of a few days, and to send an officer to inquire farther into the reality of these reports.  The Governor made no reply, and nothing was then resolved on; but he again soon called another private conference, in which the Major was omitted, and the capitulation was immediately determined.  Thus was another fortress sacrificed to the pusillanimity of it’s commander; and it is such dastardly conduct which has brought the country into so wretched a situation.  His Excellency the Lieutenant-General and Governor Von Reinhardt left the place amidst the hootings of his own garrison and the populace; whilst, to honor Pudlitz, both parties showed their respect and affection.

After the surrender of Glogau, though by no means a fortress of the first rank, all the others soon followed; and, excepting two or three, in a still more shameful manner.  Bribery has been generally assigned as the chief incitement to such treacherous conduct; and bribery, in truth, but of a very singular nature, it apparently was; for the secret cause, which I have heard alleged, was, that, as the Governors and Commanders had not, for many years, regulated their accounts with the government, they though this a good opportunity of drawing a balance; otherwise, as the Silesians had expressed much energy and patriotism, had they been properly led on, Jerome would not have found his conquests so easy; but, as the higher ranks soon bowed to the rising sun, an early general submission was the consequence. 



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