Friday, February 27, 2009

The Parchwitz Address

King Frederick II delivers his famous Parchwitz Address to his officers on the eve of the great battle of Leuthen.

"The enemy hold the same entrenched camp at Breslau which my troops defended so honorably. I am marching to attack this position. I have no need to explain my conduct or why I am set on this measure. I fully recognize the dangers attached to this enterprise, but in my present situation I must conquer or die. If we go under, all is lost. Bear in mind, gentlemen, that we shall be fighting for our glory, the preservation of our homes, and for our wives and children. Those who think as I do can rest assured that, if they are killed, I will look after their families. If anybody prefers to take his leave, he can have it now, but he will cease to have any claim on my benevolence."

It is the evening of December 4, 1757 and King Frederick of Prussia has assembled his senior officers to outline his plans for the coming battle with the Austrians, outside of Breslau. Frederick's army had recently defeated the French and Reichsarmee at the battle of Rossbach, on November 5, 1757. Shortly thereafter, the other Prussian army defending the key city of Breslau in Silesia, under the command of the Duke of Bevern, was defeated by the Austrian army of Prince Charles of Lorraine and Marshal von Daun. If they could hold Breslau over the winter, it would give the Austrians a huge advantage in the coming campaign of 1758, possibly ending the war in Austria's favor.

But Frederick was determined to roll the dice in one last battle during the snowy December cold. So he force marched from Saxony to Silesia, picked up the remains of Bevern's army, and amalgamated the two forces for one last battle to control Silesia. Fortunately for the Prussians, the Austrians decided to advance from the defenses of Breslau and meet Frederick's army in the field. Tomorrow would decide the fate of Silesia.

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