28 JULY 1866, Page 13


THE march of the Prussian armies from the Elbe to the Danube is not the least remarkable of their exploits in this campaign ; for it has been conducted with that steadiness, fore- thought, and boldness which have marked all their proceedings from the outset of the war. They have now halted within sight of Vienna and Presburg, and whatever may be the feelings of the statesmen in the King's camp, to the soldiers it must be a painful disappointment that the politicians have struck in and balked them of the object of their painful toils.

After his rout on the Bistritz, the broken host of General Benedek hastened to the entrenched camp of Olmutz, in Moravia. There he may have hoped that time would be allowed him to reorganize his army, obtain reinforcements from Vienna, and devise a defensive plan. But if he did so hope, he was doomed to see his hopes frustrated. Nor was this surprising. For his enemies were far more numerous than he ; they had estab- lished a complete moral and physical superiority over him, and it was not likely that they would linger on the Elbe and let the fruits of victory slip from their grasp. That victory had given them possession of the valley of the Elbe between Koniggratz and Theriesenstadt, and their first step, after crossing the river, was to secure Prague. The object of this was to obtain command of the railway which from Pardubitz runs to Prague, and thence by a branch line to Turnau, and so on to Saxony. The need for a railway was great, since without it the army would not be able to move with that rapidity essential to great success. Halting on the Elbe near Pardubitz, the Prussian Generals had to determine their future course. They had to con- sider not only the enemy at Olmutz, but the fortresses in their rear ; for the Austrian garrisons in Kiiniggratz and Josephstadt stood fast, and not only blocked up the short line of communica- tion by Jaromirz to Turnau, but threatened the longer line. Therefore a division had to be left to watch these fortresses and secure Pardubitz, the vital point in the Prussian line of railway communication. The rear having been made secure, the question was how to deal with the adverse army in Olmutz, the sole obstacle between the Prussians and Vienna. That question was soon decided. The Prussian army might have been directed on Olmutz, in the hope of surrounding and capturing the troops there. A wiser and more effective course was resolved on. A glance at the map will show that Olmutz lies off to the eastward of the direct route to Vienna by Briinn. The railway which connects it with Vienna sweeps through Eastern Moravia

whereas the railway from Bkihm Trubau to Vienna goes straight south through Briinn. Now, if the Prussians could reach Briinn they would be nearer to Vienna than the Austrians in Olmutz, and a couple of marches would carry them on to the very line which connected the army with the capital. It was therefore determined to direct the bulk of the army on the Austrian line of communications, and to prevent the Austrians from attempting to assail the Prussian line by interposing the left wing, under the Crown Prince, between Olmutz and the main body. The object of the comprehensive movement determined on was to compel Benedek to retreat, and to harass his retreat or to force him to capitulate.

In order to accomplish this, the Prussian army on the 6th of July started forward in three main columns, each column break- ing up into smaller streams, and the whole covering a front of nearly fifty miles. The left column, under the Crown Prince, followed the railway from Pardubitz to Olmutz, as far as Bohm Trubau, where it turned in a southerly direction towards Mihrish Trubau and Tyrnau, that is, in the direction of Olmutz, its right marching by Hohenmauth and Leutomischl upon Zwittau. With this column the King began his journey towards Vienna, but he subsequently quitted it for the central body. This, starting from Przelautsch on the Elbe, went by Hermanmestetz and Chrast upon Richenburg, and thence to Neustadt. The marches of the main columns were kept tolerably equal by the use of the field telegraph, so that each commander was aware every day of the position occupied by the troops on his right or left, and also of the kind of resistance, if any, encountered on the road. The right column, under Von Bittenfeld, appears to have crossed the Elbe at Teinetz, and to have pushed along by Czaslau upon Iglau and Znaim. Of this column, however, we have no precise accounts, and only know that it performed the task allotted to it, and debouched on the Danube simultaneously with the other corps. But the course of Prince Charles is exactly known. In six marches, not without some sharp cavalry fights, he reached Briinn, thatis, his troops passed over upwards of a hundred miles in six days, and yet arrived at the capital of Moravia stout and fresh and in admirable order. In the cavalry actions the Austrians behaved with their wonted valour, but the weight of the Prussians told against them in the charge and the fight hand-to-hand. In one case the Prussian advanced guard showed that the breech-loading carbine may enable a small number of steady horsemen to keep in check much larger forces. There were no infantry combats. The troops pressed continuously on, well covered by skirmishers and well served by patrols. The people of the country showed no sort of animosity to the invaders, and it is claimed for the latter that they were exceedingly well behaved. Indeed, judging from the descriptions we have of them, we are forced to the conclusion that this Prussian army is one of the most powerful armies, morally and physically, that ever took the field. The troops have shown that they can march as well as fight, and march and fight on occasion with scant fare. In the main, however, they have been amply supplied, and the accounts of the transport and commis- sariat which reach us from private as well as public sources prove that few, if any, armies were ever so well served. Nor was this an easy matter. The troops of Prince Charles and Von Bittenfeld were not aided by the railways, the latter not at all the former not until they entered Briinn, for their routes lay along the country roads, and they had to depend upon their own waggons for all supplies not to be gathered up in the country.

When Prince Charles reached Briinn on the 12th he halted, partly to rest his troops, but also to give the Crown Prince, whom, being on the shorter line, he had outmarched, time to bring up his troops. At this time, when the centre was in Briinn, the left was near Prodlitz, on the high road from Briinn to Olmutz, while the right was between Iglau and Budwitz. It was during this halt of the centre that the Austrians sent in a flag of truce to obtain an armistice, expressly to prevent the Prussians from reach- ing Lundenburg and mastering the line of the Thaya, which gave them an entrance into Lower Austria. This diplo- matic move having failed, the troops resumed their march, Prince Charles reaching Medritz on the 15th and Pawlowitz on the 16th, and the Crown Prince on the former day having fallen upon and defeated at Tobitschau the Austrian brigades covering Prerau, the point where the line from Ratibor by Oder- burg runs into the Olmutz-Vienna line. This victory gave Prerau to the Crown Prince two days afterwards, and with it a railway line of communication to Silesia; only it is fair to assume that the Austrians had destroyed at least parts of it. Before the Crown Prince made a lodgment at Prerau, the left column of the centre army had on the 16th struck the Olmutz-Vienna line at Gilding, and on the 17th Lundenburg was reached by Prince Charles, who fixed his head-quarters at Feldsberg, south of the Thaya. Thus nearly at the same moment the left and centre got upon the neck of the northern lines from Vienna, and seized the great roads on each bank of the March. For Prince Charles, learning that Benedek had crossed the Carpathians into Hungary, intent on reaching Presburg, pushed a column over the March from Goding upon Holitsch, and sent it along the high road to Presburg, with the view of forcing Benedek to make a detour on Komorrt down the valley of the Waag. As the troops in Olmutz were diminished, the Crown Prince was able to reinforce the central column, a proceeding all the more necessary as the Prus- sians approached Vienna. Three days' marching brought the bulk of the Prussian army within fifteen miles of Vienna. Prince Charles had advanced by Hohenau upon Genserndorf, where the line to Presburg breaks away from the Olmutz line ; General von Bittenfeld had, on approaching the Danube, moved on to the Nikolsburg road, and the left columns were close to Presburg. On the 22nd these columns encountered the Austrians, and were, according to their account, driving them out of Presburg, when the news that a suspension of hostilities had been agreed to stopped the conflict. This was a piece of great luck for the Austrians, as it saved Presburg. Tbe Prussian line of occupation, we are left to suppose, runs from Slampfen, on the left, across the northern fringe of the Marchfeld to Wolkerstadt, on the right. This position was not altogether without its perils. The front indeed covered all the lines to the rear, and threatened the lines of the enemy, but the left flank appears to be danger- ously exposed to an attack from Hungary. Moreover, we are not to forget, although they may count for little, that the Prussians have left no fewer than six fortresses in their rear, Olmutz, on the flank of their great line of retreat, Josephstadt and Koniggritz, barring the shortest railway road to Saxony and Silesia ; There- sienstadt and Konigstein, laterally blocking up the Elbe and Elbe railway below Prague ; and finally, Cracow, which, though distant from the scene of actual operations, must not be

left out of consideration. On the other hand, the morale of the Prussian army is so transcendently high, its numbers and physical weight so overpowering, that a military position apparently very hazardous is not so in reality. The Prussians have before them an army partly composed of beaten troops and partly of victors on another field, but behind that army there is no fierce and dogged nation, ready to die for its independence. The earthworks and the cannon of Florisdorf and the Bisamberg are no doubt formidable, but they need not be attacked when they can be turned, and no earthworks or cannon are so formidable as a nation in deadly earnest. This there is not at Vienna or else- where. There is a shaken army, a bewildered government, a dis- contented people, and if the war were renewed to-morrow the Prussians would resume the offensive, and solve the big problem of crossing the Danube, as they solved the problem of crossing the mountains of Saxony and Silesia.