The Life and Adventures of Baron Trenck – Volume 1

This etext was scanned by David Price, email from the 1892 Cassell & Co. edition. Proofing was by Bridie, Rab Hughes and Roland Chapman. LIFE AND ADVENTURE OF BARON TRENCK – VOLUME 1 TRANSLATED BY THOMAS HOLCROFT INTRODUCTION. There were two cousins Von der Trenck, who were barons descended from an ancient house in
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This etext was scanned by David Price, email from the 1892 Cassell & Co. edition. Proofing was by Bridie, Rab Hughes and Roland Chapman.




There were two cousins Von der Trenck, who were barons descended from an ancient house in East Prussia, and were adventurous soldiers, to whom, as to the adventurous, there were adventures that lost nothing in the telling, for they were told by the authors’ most admiring friends–themselves. Franz, the elder, was born in 1711, the son of an Austrian general; and Frederick, whose adventures are here told, was the son of a Prussian major-general. Franz, at the age of seventeen, fought duels, and cut off the head of a man who refused to lend him money. He stood six feet three inches in his shoes, knocked down his commanding officer, was put under arrest, offered to pay for his release by bringing in three Turks’ heads within an hour, was released on that condition, and actually brought in four Turks’ heads. When afterwards cashiered, he settled on his estates in Croatia, and drilled a thousand of his tenantry to act as “Pandours” against the banditti. In 1740, he served with his Pandours under Maria Theresa, and behaved himself as one of the more brutal sort of banditti. He offered to capture Frederick of Prussia, and did capture his tent. Many more of his adventures are vaingloriously recounted by himself in the Memoires du Baron Franz de Trenck, published at Paris in 1787. This Trenck took poison when imprisoned at Gratz, and died in October, 1747, at the age of thirty-six.

His cousin Frederick is the Trenck who here tells a story of himself that abounds in lively illustration of the days of Frederick the Great. He professes that Frederick the King owed him a grudge, because Frederick the Trenck had, when eighteen years old, fascinated the Princess Amalie at a ball. But as Frederick the Greater was in correspondence with his cousin Franz at the time when that redoubtable personage was planning the seizure of Frederick the Great, there may have been better ground for the Trenck’s arrest than he allows us to imagine. Mr. Carlyle shows that Frederick von der Trenck had been three months in prison, and was still in prison, at the time of the battle of the Sohr, in which he professes to have been engaged. Frederick von der Trenck, after his release from imprisonment in 1763, married a burgomaster’s daughter, and went into business as a wine merchant. Then he became adventurous again. His adventures, published in German in 1786-7, and in his own French version in 1788, formed one of the most popular books of its time. Seven plays were founded on them, and ladies in Paris wore their bonnets a la Trenck. But the French finally guillotined the author, when within a year of threescore and ten, on the 26th of July, 1794. He had gone to Paris in 1792, and joined there in the strife of parties. At the guillotine he struggled with the executioner.




I was born at Konigsberg in Prussia, February 16, 1726, of one of the most ancient families of the country. My father, who was lord of Great Scharlach, Schakulack, and Meichen, and major-general of cavalry, died in 1740, after receiving eighteen wounds in the Prussian service. My mother was daughter of the president of the high court at Konigsberg. After my father’s death she married Count Lostange, lieutenant-colonel in the Kiow regiment of cuirassiers, with whom she went and resided at Breslau. I had two brothers and a sister; my youngest brother was taken by my mother into Silesia; the other was a cornet in this last-named regiment of Kiow; and my sister was married to the only son of the aged General Valdow.

My ancestors are famous in the Chronicles of the North, among the ancient Teutonic knights, who conquered Courland, Prussia, and Livonia.

By temperament I was choleric, and addicted to pleasure and dissipation; my tutors found this last defect most difficult to overcome; happily, they were aided by a love of knowledge inherent in me, an emulative spirit, and a thirst for fame, which disposition it was my father’s care to cherish. A too great consciousness of innate worth gave me a too great degree of pride, but the endeavours of my instructor to inspire humility were not all lost; and habitual reading, well-timed praise, and the pleasures flowing from science, made the labours of study at length my recreation.

My memory became remarkable; I am well read in the Scriptures, the classics, and ancient history; was acquainted with geography; could draw; learnt fencing, riding, and other necessary exercises.

My religion was Lutheran; but morality was taught me by my father, and by the worthy man to whose care he committed the forming of my heart, whose memory I shall ever hold in veneration. While a boy, I was enterprising in all the tricks of boys, and exercised my wit in crafty excuses; the warmth of my passions gave a satiric, biting cast to my writings, whence it has been imagined, by those who knew but little of me, I was a dangerous man; though, I am conscious, this was a false judgment.

A soldier himself, my father would have all his sons the same; thus, when we quarrelled, we terminated our disputes with wooden sabres, and, brandishing these, contested by blows for victory, while our father sat laughing, pleased at our valour and address. This practice, and the praises he bestowed, encouraged a disposition which ought to have been counteracted.

Accustomed to obtain the prize, and be the hero of scholastic contentions, I acquired the bad habit of disputation, and of imagining myself a sage when little more than a boy. I became stubborn in argument.; hasty to correct others, instead of patiently attentive: and, by presumption, continually liable to incite enmity. Gentle to my inferiors, but impatient of contradiction, and proud of resisting power, I may hence date, the origin of all my evils.

How might a man, imbued with the heroic principles of liberty, hope for advancement and happiness, under the despotic and iron Government of Frederic? I was taught neither to know nor to avoid, but to despise the whip of slavery. Had I learnt hypocrisy, craft, and meanness, I had long since become field-marshal, had been in possession of my Hungarian estates, and had not passed the best years of my life in the dungeons of Magdeburg. I was addicted to no vice: I laboured in the cause of science, honour, and virtue; kept no vicious company; was never in the whole of my life intoxicated; was no gamester, no consumer of time in idleness nor brutal pleasures; but devoted many hundred laborious nights to studies that might make me useful to my country; yet was I punished with a severity too cruel even for the most worthless, or most villanous.

I mean, in my narrative, to make candour and veracity my guides, and not to conceal my failings; I wish my work may remain a moral lesson to the world. Yet it is an innate satisfaction that I am conscious of never having acted with dishonour, even to the last act of this distressful tragedy.

I shall say little of the first years of my life, except that my father took especial care of my education, and sent me, at the age of thirteen, to the University of Konigsberg, where, under the tuition of Kowalewsky, my progress was rapid. There were fourteen other noblemen in the same house, and under the same master.

In the year following, 1740, I quarrelled with one young Wallenrodt, a fellow-student, much stronger than myself, and who, despising my weakness, thought proper to give me a blow. I demanded satisfaction. He came not to the appointed place, but treated my demand with contempt; and I, forgetting all further respect, procured a second, and attacked him in open day. We fought, and I had the fortune to wound him twice; the first time in the arm, the second in the hand.

This affair incited inquiry:- Doctor Kowalewsky, our tutor, laid complaints before the University, and I was condemned to three hours’ confinement; but my grandfather and guardian, President Derschau, was so pleased with my courage, that he took me from this house and placed me under Professor Christiani.

Here I first began to enjoy full liberty, and from this worthy man I learnt all I know of experimental philosophy and science. He loved me as his own son, and continued instructing me till midnight. Under his auspices, in 1742, I maintained, with great success, two public theses, although I was then but sixteen; an effort and an honour till then unknown.

Three days after my last public exordium, a contemptible fellow sought a quarrel with me, and obliged me to draw in my own defence, whom, on this occasion, I wounded in the groin.

This success inflated my valour, and from that time I began to assume the air and appearance of a Hector.

Scarcely had a fortnight elapsed before I had another with a lieutenant of the garrison, whom I had insulted, who received two wounds in the contest.

I ought to remark, that at this time, the University of Konigsberg was still highly privileged. To send a challenge was held honourable; and this was not only permitted, but would have been difficult to prevent, considering the great number of proud, hot- headed, and turbulent nobility from Livonia, Courland, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland, who came thither to study, and of whom there were more than five hundred. This brought the University into disrepute, and endeavours have been made to remedy the abuse. Men have acquired a greater extent of true knowledge, and have begun to perceive that a University ought to be a place of instruction, and not a field of battle; and that blood cannot be honourably shed, except in defence of life or country.

In November, 1742, the King sent his adjutant-general, Baron Lottum, who was related to my mother, to Konigsberg, with whom I dined at my grandfather’s. He conversed much with me, and, after putting various questions, purposely, to discover what my talents and inclinations were, he demanded, as if in joke, whether I had any inclination to go with him to Berlin, and serve my country, as my ancestors had ever done: adding that, in the army, I should find much better opportunities of sending challenges than at the University. Inflamed with the desire of distinguishing myself, I listened with rapture to the proposition, and in a few days we departed for Potzdam.

On the morrow after my arrival, I was presented to the King, as indeed I had before been in the year 1740, with the character of being, then, one of the most hopeful youths of the University. My reception was most flattering; the justness of my replies to the questions he asked, my height, figure, and confidence, pleased him; and I soon obtained permission to enter as a cadet in his body guards, with a promise of quick preferment.

The body guards formed, at this time, a model and school for the Prussian cavalry; they consisted of one single squadron of men selected from the whole army, and their uniform was the most splendid in all Europe. Two thousand rix-dollars were necessary to equip an officer: the cuirass was wholly plated with silver; and the horse, furniture, and accoutrements alone cost four hundred rix- dollars.

This squadron only contained six officers and a hundred and forty- four men; but there were always fifty or sixty supernumeraries, and as many horses, for the King incorporated all the most handsome men he found in the guards. The officers were the best taught of any the army contained; the King himself was their tutor, and he afterwards sent them to instruct the cavalry in the manoeuvres they had learnt. Their rise was rapid if they behaved well; but they were broken for the least fault, and punished by being sent to garrison regiments. It was likewise necessary they should be tolerably rich, as well as possess such talents as might be successfully employed, both at court and in the army.

There are no soldiers in the world who undergo so much as this body guard; and during the time I was in the service of Frederic, I often had not eight hours’ sleep in eight days. Exercise began at four in the morning, and experiments were made of all the alterations the King meant to introduce in his cavalry. Ditches of three, four, five, six feet, and still wider, were leaped, till that someone broke his neck; hedges, in like manner, were freed, and the horses ran careers, meeting each other full speed in a kind of lists of more than half a league in length. We had often, in these our exercises, several men and horses killed or wounded.

It happened more frequently than otherwise that the same experiments were repeated after dinner with fresh horses; and it was not uncommon, at Potzdam, to hear the alarm sounded twice in a night. The horses stood in the King’s stables; and whoever had not dressed, armed himself, saddled his horse, mounted, and appeared before the palace in eight minutes, was put under arrest for fourteen days.

Scarcely were the eyes closed before the trumpet again sounded, to accustom youth to vigilance. I lost, in one year, three horses, which had either broken their legs, in leaping ditches, or died of fatigue.

I cannot give a stronger picture of this service than by saying that the body guard lost more men and horses in one year’s peace than they did, during the following year, in two battles.

We had, at this time, three stations; our service, in the winter, was at Berlin, where we attended the opera, and all public festivals: in the spring we were exercised at Charlottenberg; and at Potzdam, or wherever the King went, during the summer. The six officers of the guard dined with the King, and, on gala days, with the Queen. It may be presumed there was not at that time on earth a better school to form an officer and a man of the world than was the court of Berlin.

I had scarcely been six weeks a cadet before the King took me aside, one day, after the parade, and having examined me near half an hour, on various subjects, commanded me to come and speak to him on the morrow.

His intention was to find whether the accounts that had been given him of my memory had not been exaggerated; and that he might be convinced, he first gave me the names of fifty soldiers to learn by rote, which I did in five minutes. He next repeated the subjects of two letters, which I immediately composed in French and Latin; the one I wrote, the other I dictated. He afterwards ordered me to trace, with promptitude, a landscape from nature, which I executed with equal success; and he then gave me a cornet’s commission in his body guards.

Each mark of bounty from the monarch increased an ardour already great, inspired me with gratitude, and the first of my wishes was to devote my whole life to the service of my King and country. He spoke to me as a Sovereign should speak, like a father, like one who knew well how to estimate the gifts bestowed on me by nature; and perceiving, or rather feeling, how much he might expect from me, became at once my instructor and my friend.

Thus did I remain a cadet only six weeks, and few Prussians can vaunt, under the reign of Frederic, of equal good fortune.

The King not only presented me with a commission, but equipped me splendidly for the service. Thus did I suddenly find myself a courtier, and an officer in the finest, bravest, and best disciplined corps in Europe. My good fortune seemed unlimited, when, in the month of August, 1743, the King selected me to go and instruct the Silesian cavalry in the new manoeuvres: an honour never before granted to a youth of eighteen.

I have already said we were garrisoned at Berlin during winter, where the officers’ table was at court: and, as my reputation had preceded me, no person whatever could be better received there, or live more pleasantly.

Frederic commanded me to visit the literati, whom he had invited to his court: Maupertuis, Jordan, La Mettrie, and Pollnitz, were all my acquaintance. My days were employed in the duties of an officer, and my nights in acquiring knowledge. Pollnitz was my guide, and the friend of my heart. My happiness was well worthy of being envied. In 1743, I was five feet eleven inches in height, and Nature had endowed me with every requisite to please. I lived, as I vainly imagined, without inciting enmity or malice, and my mind was wholly occupied by the desire of earning well-founded fame.

I had hitherto remained ignorant of love, and had been terrified from illicit commerce by beholding the dreadful objects of the hospital at Potzdam. During the winter of 1743, the nuptials of his Majesty’s sister were celebrated, who was married to the King of Sweden, where she is at present Queen Dowager, mother of the reigning Gustavus. I, as officer of my corps, had the honour to mount guard and escort her as far as Stettin. Here first did my heart feel a passion of which, in the course of my history, I shall have frequent occasion to speak. The object of my love was one whom I can only remember at present with reverence; and, as I write not romance, but facts, I shall here briefly say, ours were mutually the first-fruits of affection, and that to this hour I regret no misfortune, no misery, with which, from a stock so noble, my destiny was overshadowed.

Amid the tumult inseparable to occasions like these, on which it was my duty to maintain order, a thief had the address to steal my watch, and cut away part of the gold fringe which hung from the waistcoat of my uniform, and afterwards to escape unperceived. This accident brought on me the raillery of my comrades; and the lady alluded to thence took occasion to console me, by saying it should be her care that I should be no loser. Her words were accompanied by a look I could not misunderstand, and a few days after I thought myself the happiest of mortals. The name, however, of this high- born lady is a secret, which must descend with me to the grave; and, though my silence concerning this incident heaves a void in my life, and indeed throws obscurity over a part of it, which might else be clear, I would much rather incur this reproach than become ungrateful towards my best friend and benefactress. To her conversation, to her prudence, to the power by which she fixed my affections wholly on herself, am I indebted for the improvement and polishing of my bodily and mental qualities. She never despised, betrayed, or abandoned me, even in the deepest of my distress; and my children alone, on my death-bed, shall be taught the name of her to whom they owe the preservation of their father, and consequently their own existence.

I lived at this time perfectly happy at Berlin, and highly esteemed. The King took every opportunity to testify his approbation; my mistress supplied me with more money than I could expend; and I was presently the best equipped, and made the greatest figure, of any officer in the whole corps. The style in which I lived was remarked, for I had only received from my father’s heritage the estate of Great Scharlach; the rent of which was eight hundred dollars a year, which was far from sufficient to supply my then expenses. My amour, in the meantime, remained a secret from my best and most intimate friends. Twice was my absence from Potzdam and Charlottenberg discovered, and I was put under arrest; but the King seemed satisfied with the excuse I made, under the pretext of having been hunting, and smiled as he granted my pardon.

Never did the days of youth glide away with more apparent success and pleasure than during these my first years at Berlin. This good fortune was, alas, of short duration. Many are the incidents I might relate, but which I shall omit. My other adventures are sufficiently numerous, without mingling such as may any way seem foreign to the subject. In this gloomy history of my life, I wish to paint myself such as I am; and, by the recital of my sufferings, afford a memorable example to the world, and interest the heart of sensibility. I would also show how my fatal destiny has deprived my children of an immense fortune; and, though I want a hundred thousand men to enforce and ensure my rights, I will leave demonstration to my heirs that they are incontestable.


In the beginning of September, 1744, war again broke out between the Houses of Austria and Prussia. We marched with all speed towards Prague, traversing Saxony without opposition. I will not relate in this place what the great Frederic said to us, with evident emotion, when surrounded by all his officers, on the morning of our departure from Potzdam.

Should any one be desirous of writing the lives of him and his opponent, Maria Theresa, without flattery and without fear, let him apply to me, and I will relate anecdotes most surprising on this subject, unknown to all but myself, and which never must appear under my own name.

All monarchs going to war have reason on their side; and the churches of both parties resound with prayers, and appeals to Divine Justice, for the success of their arms. Frederic, on this occasion, had recourse to them with regret, of which I was a witness.

If I am not mistaken, the King’s army came before Prague on the 14th of September, and that of General Schwerin, which had passed through Silesia, arrived the next day on the other side of the Moldau. In this position we were obliged to wait some days for pontoons, without which we could not establish a communication between the two armies.

The height called Zischka, which overlooks the city, being guarded only by a few Croats, was instantly seized, without opposition, by some grenadiers, and the batteries, erected at the foot of that mountain, being ready on the fifth day, played with such success on the old town with bombs and red-hot balls that it was set on fire. The King made every effort to take the city before Prince Charles could bring his army from the Rhine to its relief.

General Harsh thought proper to capitulate, after a siege of twelve days, during which not more than five hundred men of the garrison, at the utmost, were killed and wounded, though eighteen thousand men were made prisoners.

Thus far we had met with no impediment. The Imperial army, however, under the command of Prince Charles of Lorraine, having quitted the banks of the Rhine, was advancing to save Bohemia.

During this campaign we saw the enemy only at a distance; but the Austrian light troops being thrice as numerous as ours, prevented us from all foraging. Winter was approaching, dearth and hunger made Frederic determine to retreat, without the least hope from the countries in our rear, which we had entirely laid waste as we had advanced. The severity of the season, in the month of November, rendered the soldiers excessively impatient of their hardships; and, accustomed to conquer, the Prussians were ashamed of and repined at retreat: the enemy’s light troops facilitated desertion, and we lost, in a few weeks, above thirty thousand men. The pandours of my kinsman, the Austrian Trenck, were incessantly at our heels, gave us frequent alarms, did us great injury, and, by their alertness, we never could make any impression upon them with our cannon. Trenck at length passed the Elbe, and went and burnt and destroyed our magazines at Pardubitz: it was therefore resolved wholly to evacuate Bohemia.

The King hoped to have brought Prince Charles to the battle between Benneschan and Kannupitz, but in vain: the Saxons, during the night, had entered a battery of three-and-twenty cannon on a mound which separated two ponds: this was the precise road by which the King meant to make the attack.

Thus were we obliged to abandon Bohemia. The dearth, both for man and horse, began to grow extreme. The weather was bad; the roads and ruts were deep; marches were continual, and alarms and attacks from the enemy’s light troops became incessant. The discontent all these inspired was universal, and this occasioned the great loss of the army.

Under such circumstances, had Prince Charles continued to harass us, by persuading us into Silesia, had he made a winter campaign, instead of remaining indolently at ease in Bohemia, we certainly should not have vanquished him, the year following, at Strigau; but he only followed at a distance, as far as the Bohemian frontiers. This gave Frederic time to recover, and the more effectually because the Austrians had the imprudence to permit the return of deserters.

This was a repetition of what had happened to Charles XII. when he suffered his Russian prisoners to return home, who afterwards so effectually punished his contempt of them at the battle of Pultawa.

Prague was obliged to be abandoned, with considerable loss; and Trenck seized on Tabor, Budweis, and Frauenberg, where he took prisoners the regiments of Walrabe Kreutz.

No one would have been better able to give a faithful history of this campaign than myself, had I room in this place, and had I at that time been more attentive to things of moment; since I not only performed the office of adjutant to the King, when he went to reconnoitre, or choose a place of encampment, but it was, moreover, my duty to provide forage for the headquarters. The King having only permitted me to take six volunteers from the body guard, to execute this latter duty, I was obliged to add to them horse chasseurs, and hussars, with whom I was continually in motion. I was peculiarly fortunate on two occasions, by happening to come after the enemy when they had left loaded waggons and forage bundles.

I seldom passed the night in my tent during this campaign, and my indefatigable activity obtained the favour and entire confidence of Frederic. Nothing so much contributed to inspire me with emulation as the public praises I received, and my enthusiasm wished to perform wonders. The campaign, however, but ill supplied me with opportunities to display my youthful ardour.

At length no one durst leave the camp, notwithstanding the extremity of the dearth, because of the innumerable clouds of pandours and hussars that hovered everywhere around.

No sooner were we arrived in Silesia, than the King’s body guard were sent to Berlin, there to remain in winter quarters.

I should not here have mentioned the Bohemian war, but that, while writing time history of my life, I ought not to omit accidents by which my future destiny was influenced.

One day, while at Bennaschen, I was commanded out, with a detachment of thirty hussars and twenty chasseurs, on a foraging party. I had posted my hussars in a convent, and gone myself, with the chasseurs, to a mansion-house, to seize the carts necessary for the conveyance of the hay and straw from a neighbouring farm. An Austrian lieutenant of hussars, concealed with thirty-six horsemen in a wood, having remarked the weakness of my escort, taking advantage of the moment when my people were all employed in loading the carts, first seized our sentinel, and then fell suddenly upon them, and took them all prisoners in the very farm-yard. At this moment I was seated at my ease, beside the lady of the mansion-house, and was a spectator of the whole transaction through the window.

I was ashamed of and in despair at my negligence. The kind lady wished to hide me when the firing was heard in the farm-yard. By good fortune, the hussars, whom I had stationed in the convent, had learnt from a peasant that there was an Austrian detachment in the wood: they had seen us at a distance enter the farmyard, hastily marched to our aid, and we had not been taken more than two minutes before they arrived. I cannot express the pleasure with which I put myself at their head. Some of the enemy’s party escaped through a back door, but we made two-and-twenty prisoners, with a lieutenant of the regiment of Kalnockichen. They had two men killed, and one wounded; and two also of my chasseurs were hewn down by the sabre, in the hay-loft, where they were at work.

We continued our forage with more caution after this accident: the horses we had taken served, in part, to draw the carts; and, after raising a contribution of one hundred and fifty ducats on the convent, which I distributed among the soldiers to engage them to silence, we returned to the army, from which we were distant about two leagues.

We heard firing as we marched, and the foragers on all sides were skirmishing with the enemy. A lieutenant and forty horse joined me; yet, with this reinforcement, I durst not return to the camp, because I learned we were in danger from more than eight hundred pandours and hussars, who were in the plain. I therefore determined to take a long, winding, but secret route, and had the good fortune to come safe to quarters with my prisoners and five-and-twenty loaded carts. The King was at dinner when I entered his tent. Having been absent all night, it was imagined I had been taken, that accident having happened the same day to many others.

The instant I entered, the King demanded if I returned singly. “No, please your Majesty,” answered I; “I have brought five-and-twenty loads of forage, and two-and-twenty prisoners, with their officer and horses.”

The King then commanded me to sit down, and turning himself towards the English ambassador, who was near him, said, laying his hand on my shoulder, “C’est un Matador de ma jeunesse.”

A reconnoitring party was, at the same moment, in waiting before his tent: he consequently asked me few questions, and to those he did ask, I replied trembling. In a few minutes he rose from the table, gave a glance at the prisoners, hung the Order of Merit round my neck, commanded me to go and take repose, and set off with his party.

It is easy to conceive the embarrassment of my situation; my unpardonable negligence deserved that I should have been broken, instead of which I was rewarded; an instance, this, of the great influence of chance on the affairs of the world. How many generals have gained victories by their very errors, which have been afterwards attributed to their genius! It is evident the sergeant of hussars, who retook me and my men by bringing up his party, was much better entitled than myself to the recompense I received. On many occasions have I since met with disgrace and punishment when I deserved reward. My inquietude lest the truth should be discovered, was extreme, especially recollecting how many people were in the secret: and my apprehensions were incessant.

As I did not want money, I gave the sergeants twenty ducats each, and the soldiers one, in order to insure their silence, which, being a favourite with them, they readily promised. I, however, was determined to declare the truth the very first opportunity, and this happened a few days after.

We were on our march, and I, as cornet, was at the head of my company, when the King, advancing, beckoned me to come to him, and bade me tell him exactly how the affair I had so lately been engaged in happened.

The question at first made me mistrust I was betrayed, but remarking the King had a mildness in his manner, I presently recovered myself, and related the exact truth. I saw the astonishment of his countenance, but I at the same time saw he was pleased with my sincerity. He spoke to me for half an hour, not as a King, but as a father, praised my candour, and ended with the following words, which, while life remains, I shall never forget: “Confide in the advice I give you; depend wholly upon me, and I will make you a man.” Whoever can feel, may imagine how infinitely my gratitude towards the King was increased, by this his great goodness; from that moment I had no other desire than to live and die for his service.

I soon perceived the confidence the King had in me after this explanation, of which I received very frequent marks, the following winter, at Berlin. He permitted me to be present at his conversations with the literati of his court, and my state was truly enviable.

I received this same winter more than five hundred ducats as presents. So much happiness could not but excite jealousy, and this began to be manifest on every side. I had too little disguise for a courtier, and my heart was much too open and frank.

Before I proceed, I will here relate an incident which happened during the last campaign, and which will, no doubt, be read in the history of Frederic.

On the rout while retreating through Bohemia, the King came to Kollin, with his horse-guards, the cavalry piquets of the head- quarters, and the second and third battalions of guards. We had only four field pieces, and our squadron was stationed in one of the suburbs. Our advance posts, towards evening, were driven back into the town, and the hussars entered pell-mell: the enemy’s light troops swarmed over the country, and my commanding officer sent me immediately to receive the King’s orders. After much search, I found him at the top of a steeple, with a telescope in his hand. Never did I see him so disturbed or undecided as on this occasion. Orders were immediately given that we should retreat through the city, into the opposite suburb, where we were to halt, but not unsaddle.

We had not been here long before a most heavy rain fell, and the night became exceedingly dark. My cousin Trenck made his approach about nine in the evening, with his pandour and janissary music, and set fire to several houses. They found we were in the suburb, and began to fire upon us from the city windows. The tumult became extreme: the city was too full for us to re-enter: the gate was shut, and they fired from above at us with our field-pieces. Trenck had let in the waters upon us, and we were up to the girths by midnight, and almost in despair. We lost seven men, and my horse was wounded in the neck.

The King, and all of us, had certainly been made prisoners had my cousin, as he has since told me, been able to continue the assault he had begun: but a cannon ball having wounded him in the foot, he was carried off, and the pandours retired. The corps of Nassau arrived next day to our aid; we quitted Kollin, and during the march the King said to me, “Your cousin had nearly played us a malicious prank last night, but the deserters say he is killed.” He then asked what our relationship was, and there our conversation ended.


It was about the middle of December when we came to Berlin, where I was received with open arms. I became less cautious than formerly, and, perhaps, more narrowly observed. A lieutenant of the foot guards, who was a public Ganymede, and against whom I had that natural antipathy and abhorrence I have for all such wretches, having indulged himself in some very impertinent jokes on the secret of my amour, I bestowed on him the epithet he deserved: we drew our swords, and he was wounded. On the Sunday following I presented myself to pay my respects to his Majesty on the parade, who said to me as he passed, “The storm and the thunder shall rend your heart; beware!” {1} He added nothing more.

Some little time after I was a few minutes too late on the parade; the King remarked it, and sent me, under arrest, to the foot-guard at Potzdam. When I had been here a fortnight, Colonel Wartensleben came, and advised me to petition for pardon. I was then too much a novice in the modes of the court to follow his counsel, nor did I even remark the person who gave it me was himself a most subtle courtier. I complained bitterly that I had so long been deprived of liberty, for a fault which was usually punished by three, or, at most, six days’ arrest. Here accordingly I remained.

Eight days after, the King being come to Potzdam, I was sent by General Bourke to Berlin, to carry some letters, but without having seen the King. On my return I presented myself to him on the parade; and as our squadron was garrisoned at Berlin, I asked, “Does it please your Majesty that I should go and join my corps?” “Whence came you?” answered he. “From Berlin.” “And where were you before you went to Berlin?” “Under arrest.” “Then under arrest you must remain!”

I did not recover my liberty till three days before our departure for Silesia, towards which we marched, with the utmost speed, in the beginning of May, to commence our second campaign.

Here I must recount an event which happened that winter, which became the source of all my misfortunes, and to which I must entreat my readers will pay the utmost attention; since this error, if innocence can be error, was the cause that the most faithful and the best of subjects became bewildered in scenes of wretchedness, and was the victim of misery, from his nineteenth to the sixtieth year of his age. I dare presume that this true narrative, supported by testimonies the most authentic, will fully vindicate my present honour and my future memory.

Francis, Baron of Trenck, was the son of my father’s brother, consequently my cousin german. I shall speak, hereafter, of the singular events of his life. Being a commander of pandours in the Austrian service, and grievously wounded at Bavaria, in the year 1743, he wrote to my mother, informing her he intended me, her eldest son, for his universal legatee. This letter, to which I returned no answer, was sent to me at Potzdam. I was so satisfied with my situation, and had such numerous reasons so to be, considering the kindness with which the King treated me, that I would not have exchanged my good fortune for all the treasures of the Great Mogul.

On the 12th of February, 1744, being at Berlin, I was in company with Captain Jaschinsky, commander of the body guard, the captain of which ranks as colonel in the army, together with Lieutenant Studnitz, and Cornet Wagnitz. The latter was my field comrade, and is at present commander-general of the cavalry of Hesse Cassel. The Austrian Trenck became the subject of conversation, and Jaschinsky asked if I were his kinsman. I answered, yes, and immediately mentioned his having made me his universal heir. “And what answer have you returned?” said Jaschinsky.–“None at all.”

The whole company then observed that, in a case like the present, I was much to blame not to answer; that the least I could do would be to thank him for his good wishes, and entreat a continuance of them. Jaschinsky further added, “Desire him to send you some of his fine Hungarian horses for your own use, and give me the letter; I will convey it to him, by means of Mr. Bossart, legation counsellor of the Saxon embassy; but on condition that you will give me one of the horses. This correspondence is a family, and not a state affair; I will make myself responsible for the consequences.”

I immediately took my commander’s advice, and began to write; and had those who suspected me thought proper to make the least inquiry into these circumstances, the four witnesses who read what I wrote could have attested my innocence, and rendered it indubitable. I gave my letter open to Jaschinsky, who sealed and sent it himself.

I must omit none of the incidents concerning this letter, it being the sole cause of all my sufferings. I shall therefore here relate an event which was the first occasion of the unjust suspicions entertained against me.

One of my grooms, with two led horses, was, among many others, taken by the pandours of Trenck. When I returned to the camp, I was to accompany the King on a reconnoitring party. My horse was too tired, and I had no other: I informed him of my embarrassment, and his Majesty immediately made me a present of a fine English courser.

Some days after, I was exceedingly astonished to see my groom return, with my two horses, and a pandour trumpeter, who brought me a letter, containing nearly the following words:-

“The Austrian Trenck is not at war with the Prussian Trenck, but, on the contrary, is happy to have recovered his horses from his hussars, and to return them to whom they first belonged,” &c.

I went the same day to pay my respects to the King, who, receiving me with great coldness, said, “Since your cousin has returned your own horses, you have no more need of mine.”

There were too many who envied me to suppose these words would escape repetition. The return of the horses seems infinitely to have increased that suspicion Frederic entertained against me, and therefore became one of the principal causes of my misfortunes: it is for this reason that I dwell upon this and suchlike small incidents, they being necessary for my own justification, and, were it possible, for that of the King. My innocence is, indeed, at present universally acknowledged by the court, the army, and the whole nation; who all mention the injustice I suffered with pity, and the fortitude with which it was endured with surprise.

We marched for Silesia, to enter on our second campaign: which, to the Prussians, was as bloody and murderous as it was glorious.

The King’s head-quarters were fixed at the convent of Kamentz, where we rested fourteen days, and the army remained in cantonments. Prince Charles, instead of following us into Bohemia, had the imprudence to occupy the plain of Strigau, and we already concluded his army was beaten. Whoever is well acquainted with tactics, and the Prussian manoeuvres, will easily judge, without the aid of calculation or witchcraft, whether a well or ill-disciplined army, in an open plain, ought to be victorious.

The army hastily left its cantonments, and in twenty-four hours was in order of battle; and on the 14th of June, eighteen thousand bodies lay stretched on the plain of Strigau. The allied armies of Austria and Saxony were totally defeated.

The body guard was on the right; and previous to the attack, the King said to our squadron, “Prove today, my children, that you are my body guard, and give no Saxon quarter.”

We made three attacks on the cavalry, and two on the infantry. Nothing could withstand a squadron like this, which for men, horses, courage, and experience, was assuredly the first in the world. Our corps alone took seven standards and five pairs of colours, and in less than an hour the affair was over.

I received a pistol shot in my right hand, my horse was desperately wounded, and I was obliged to change him on the third charge. The day after the battle all the officers were rewarded with the Order of Merit. For my own part, I remained four weeks among the wounded, at Schweidnitz, where there were sixteen thousand men under the torture of the army surgeons, many of whom had not their wounds dressed till the third day.

I was near three months before I recovered the use of my hand: I nevertheless rejoined my corps, continued to perform my duty, and as usual accompanied the King when he went to reconnoitre. For some time past he had placed confidence in me, and his kindness towards me continually increased, which raised my gratitude even to enthusiasm.

I also performed the service of adjutant during this campaign, a circumstantial account of which no person is better enabled to write than myself, I having been present at all that passed. I was the scholar of the greatest master the art of war ever knew, and who believed me worthy to receive his instructions; but the volume I am writing would be insufficient to contain all that personally relates to myself.

I must here mention an adventure that happened at this time, and which will show the art of the great Frederic in forming youth for his service, and devotedly attaching them to his person.

I was exceedingly fond of hunting, in which, notwithstanding it was severely forbidden, I indulged myself. I one day returned, laden with pheasants; but judge my astonishment and fears when I saw the army had decamped, and that it was with difficulty that I could overtake the rear-guard.

In this my distress, I applied to an officer of hussars, who instantly lent me his horse, by the aid of which I rejoined my corps, which always marched as the vanguard. Mounting my own horse, I tremblingly rode to the head of my division, which it was my duty to precede. The King, however, had remarked my absence, or rather had been reminded of it by my superior officer, who, for some time past, had become my enemy.

Just as the army halted to encamp, the King rode towards me, and made a signal for me to approach, and, seeing my fears in my countenance, said, “What, are you just returned from hunting?” “Yes, your Majesty. I hope–” Here interrupting me, he added, “Well, well, for this time, I shall take no further notice, remembering Potzdam; but, however, let me find you more attentive to your duty.”

So ended this affair, for which I deserved to have been broken. I must remind my readers that the King meant by the words remembering Potzdam, he remembered I had been punished too severely the winter before, and that my present pardon was intended as a compensation.

This was indeed to think and act greatly; this was indeed the true art of forming great men: an art much more effectual than that of ferocious generals, who threaten subalterns with imprisonment and chains on every slight occasion; and, while indulging all the rigours of military law, make no distinction of minds or of men. Frederic, on the contrary, sometimes pardoned the failings of genius, while mechanic souls he mechanically punished, according to the very letter of the laws of war.

I shall further remark, the King took no more notice of my late fault, except that sometimes, when I had the honour to dine with him, he would ridicule people who were too often at the chase, or who were so choleric that they took occasion to quarrel for the least trifle.

The campaign passed in different manoeuvres, marches, and countermarches. Our corps was the most fatigued, as being encamped round the King’s tent, the station of which was central, and as likewise having the care of the vanguard; we were therefore obliged to begin our march two hours sooner than the remainder of the army, that we might be in our place. We also accompanied the King whenever he went to reconnoitre, traced the lines of encampment, led the horse to water, inspected the head-quarters, and regulated the march and encampment, according to the King’s orders; the performance of all which robbed us of much rest, we being but six officers to execute so many different functions.

Still further, we often executed the office of couriers, to bear the royal commands to detachments. The King was particularly careful that the officers of his guards, whom he intended should become excellent in the art of tactics, should not be idle in his school. It was necessary to do much in order that much might be learnt. Labour, vigilance, activity, the love of glory and the love of his country, animated all his generals; into whom, it may be said, he infused his spirit.

In this school I gained instruction, and here already was I selected as one designed to instruct others; yet, in my fortieth year, a great general at Vienna told me, “My dear Trenck, our discipline would be too difficult for you to learn; for which, indeed, you are too far advanced in life.” Agreeable to this wise decision was I made an Austrian invalid, and an invalid have always remained; a judgment like this would have been laughed at, most certainly, at Berlin.

If I mistake not, the famous battle of Soor, or Sorau, was fought on the 14th day of September. The King had sent so many detachments into Saxony, Bohemia, and Silesia, that the main army did not consist of more than twenty-five thousand men. Neglecting advice, and obstinate in judging his enemy by numbers, and not according to the excellence of discipline, and other accidents, Prince Charles, blind to the real strength of the Prussian armies, had enclosed this small number of Pomeranian and Brandenburg regiments, with more than eighty-six thousand men, intending to take them all prisoners.

It will soon be seen from my narrative with what kind of secrecy his plan was laid and executed.

The King came into my tent about midnight; as he also did into that of all the officers, to awaken them; his orders were, “Secretly to saddle, leave the baggage in the rear, and that the men should stand ready to mount at the word of command.”

Lieutenant Studnitz and myself attended the King, who went in person, and gave directions through the whole army; meantime, break of day was expected with anxiety.

Opposite the defile through which the enemy was to march to the attack eight field-pieces were concealed behind a hill. The King must necessarily have been informed of the whole plan of the Austrian general, for he had called in the advanced posts from the heights, that he might lull him into security, and make him imagine we should be surprised in the midst of sleep.

Scarcely did break of day appear before the Austrian artillery, situated upon the heights, began to play upon our camp, and their cavalry to march through the defile to the attack.

As suddenly were we in battle array; for in less than ten minutes we ourselves began the attack, notwithstanding the smallness of our number, the whole army only containing five regiments of cavalry. We fell with such fury upon the enemy (who at this time were wholly employed in forming their men at the mouth of the defile, and that slowly, little expecting so sudden and violent a charge), that we drove them back into the defile, where they pressed upon each other in crowds; the King himself stood ready to unmask his eight field- pieces, and a dreadful and bloody slaughter ensued in this narrow place; from which the enemy had not the power to retreat. This single incident gained the battle, and deceived all time hopes of Prince Charles.

Nadasti, Trenck, and the light troops, sent to attack our rear, were employed in pillaging the camp. The ferocious Croats met no opposition, while this their error made our victory more secure. It deserves to be noticed that, when advice was brought to the King that the enemy had fallen upon and were plundering the camp, his answer was, “So much the better; they have found themselves employment, and will be no impediment to our main design.”

Our victory was complete, but all our baggage was lost; the headquarters, utterly undefended, were totally stripped; and Trenck had, for his part of the booty, the King’s tent and his service of plate.

I have mentioned this circumstance here, because that, in the year 1740, my cousin Trenck, having fallen into the power of his enemies, who had instituted a legal, process against him, was accused, by some villanous wretches, of having surprised the King in bed at the battle of Sorau, and of having afterwards released him for a bribe.

What was still worse, they hired a common woman, a native of Brunn, who pretended she was the daughter of Marshal Schwerin, to give in evidence that she herself was with the King when Trenck entered his tent, whom he immediately made prisoner, and as immediately released.

To this part of the prosecution I myself, an eye-witness, can answer: the thing was false and impossible. He was informed of the intended attack. I accompanied the watchful King from midnight till four in the morning, which time he employed in riding through the camp, and making the necessary preparations to receive the enemy; and the action began at five. Trenck could not take the King in bed, for the battle was almost gained when he and his pandours entered the camp and plundered the head-quarters.

As for the tale of Miss Schwerin, it is only fit to be told by schoolboys, or examined by the Inquisition, and was very unworthy of making part of a legal prosecution against an innocent man at Vienna.

This incident, however, is so remarkable that I shall give in this work a farther account of my kinsman, and what was called his criminal process, at reading which the world will be astonished. My own history is so connected with his that this is necessary, and the more so because there are many ignorant or wicked people at Vienna, who believe, or affirm, Trenck had actually taken the King of Prussia prisoner.

Never yet was there a traitor of the name of Trenck; and I hope to prove, in the clearest manner, the Austrian Trenck as faithfully served the Empress-Queen as the Prussian Trenck did Frederic, his King. Maria Theresa, speaking to me of him some time after his death, and the snares that had been laid for him, said, “Your kinsman has made a better end than will be the fate of his accusers and judges.”

Of this more hereafter: I approach that epoch when my misfortunes began, and when the sufferings of martyrdom attended me from youth onward till my hairs grew grey.


A few days after the battle of Sorau, the usual camp postman brought me a letter from my cousin Trenck, the colonel of pandours, antedated at Effek four months, of which the following is a copy:-

“Your letter, of the 12th of February, from Berlin, informs me you desire to have some Hungarian horses. On these you would come and attack me and my pandours. I saw with pleasure, during the last campaign, that the Prussian Trenck was a good soldier; and that I might give you some proofs of my attachment, I then returned the horses which my men had taken. If, however, you wish to have Hungarian horses, you must take mine in like manner from me in the field of battle: or, should you so think fit, come and join one who will receive you with open arms, like his friend and son, and who will procure you every advantage you can desire,” &c.

At first I was terrified at reading this letter, yet could not help smiling. Cornet Wagenitz, now general in chief of the Hesse Cassel forces, and Lieutenant Grotthausen, both now alive, and then present, were my camp comrades. I gave them the letter to read, and they laughed at its contents. It was determined to show it to our superior officer, Jaschinsky, on a promise of secrecy, and it was accordingly shown him within an hour after it was received.

The reader will be so kind as to recollect that, as I have before said, it was this Colonel Jaschinsky who on the 12th of February, the same year, at Berlin, prevailed on me to write to the Austrian Trenck, my cousin; that he received the letter open, and undertook to send it according to its address; also that, in this letter, I in jest had asked him to send me some Hungarian horses, and, should they come, had promised one to Jaschinsky. He read the letter with an air of some surprise; we laughed, and, it being whispered through the army that, in consequence of our late victory, detached corps would be sent into Hungary, Jaschinsky said, “We shall now go and take Hungarian horses for ourselves.” Here the conversation ended, and I, little suspecting future consequences, returned to my tent.

I must here remark the following observations:-

1st. I had not observed the date of the letter brought by the postman, which, as I have said, was antedated four months: this, however, the colonel did not fail to remark.

2ndly. The probability is that this was a net, spread for me by this false and wicked man. The return of my horses, during the preceding campaign, had been the subject of much conversation. It is possible he had the King’s orders to watch me; but more probably he only prevailed on me to write that he might entrap me by a fictitious answer. Certain it is, my cousin Trenck, at Vienna, affirmed to his death he never received any letter from me, consequently never could send any answer. I must therefore conclude this letter was forged.

Jaschinsky was at this time one of the King’s favourites; his spy over the army; a tale-bearer; an inventor of wicked lies and calumnies. Some years after the event of which I am now speaking, the King was obliged to break and banish him the country.

He was then also the paramour of the beauteous Madame Brossart, wife of the Saxon resident at Berlin, and there can be little doubt but that this false letter was, by her means, conveyed to some Saxon or Austrian post-office, and thence, according to its address, sent to me. He had daily opportunities of infusing suspicions into the King’s mind concerning me; and, unknown to me, of pursuing his diabolical plan.

I must likewise add he was four hundred ducats indebted to me. At that time I had always a plentiful supply of money. This booty became his own when I, unexamined, was arrested, and thrown into prison. In like manner he seized on the greatest part of my camp equipage.

Further, we had quarrelled during our first campaign, because he had beaten one of my servants; we even were proceeding to fight with pistols, had not Colonel Winterfield interfered, and amicably ended our quarrel. The Lithuanian is, by nature, obstinate and revengeful; and, from that day, I have reason to believe he sought my destruction.

God only knows what were the means he took to excite the King’s suspicious; for it is incredible that Frederic, considering his WELL-KNOWN PROFESSIONS of public justice, should treat me in the manner he did, without a hearing, without examination, and without a court-martial. This to me has ever remained a mystery, which the King alone was able to explain; he afterwards was convinced I was innocent: but my sufferings had been too cruel, and the miseries he had inflicted too horrible, for me ever to hope for compensation.

In an affair of this nature, which will soon he known to all Europe, as it long has been in Prussia, the weakest is always guilty. I have been made a terrible example to this our age, how true that maxim is in despotic States.

A man of my rank, having once unjustly suffered, and not having the power of making his sufferings known, must ever be highly rewarded or still more unjustly punished. My name and injuries will ever stain the annals of Frederic THE GREAT; even those who read this book will perhaps suppose that I, from political motives of hope or fear, have sometimes concealed truth by endeavouring to palliate his conduct.

It must ever remain incomprehensible that a monarch so clear- sighted, himself the daily witness of my demeanour, one well acquainted with mankind, and conscious I wanted neither money, honour, nor hope of future preferment; I say it is incomprehensible that he should really suppose me guilty. I take God to witness, and all those who knew me in prosperity and misfortune, I never harboured a thought of betraying my country. How was it possible to suspect me? I was neither madman nor idiot. In my eighteenth year I was a cornet of the body guard, adjutant to the King, and possessed his favour and confidence in the highest degree. His presents to me, in one year, amounted to fifteen hundred dollars. I kept seven horses, four men in livery; I was valued, distinguished, and beloved by the mistress of my soul. My relations held high offices, both civil and military; I was even fanatically devoted to my King and country, and had nothing to wish.

That I should become thus wretched, in consequence of this unfortunate letter, is equally wonderful: it came by the public post. Had there been any criminal correspondence, my kinsman certainly would not have chosen this mode of conveyance; since, it is well known, all such letters are opened; nor could I act more openly. My colonel read the letter I wrote; and also that which I received, immediately after it was brought.

The day after the receipt of this letter I was, as I have before said, unheard, unaccused, unjudged, conducted like a criminal from the army, by fifty hussars, and imprisoned in the fortress of Glatz. I was allowed to take three horses, and my servants, but my whole equipage was left behind, which I never saw more, and which became the booty of Jaschinsky. My commission was given to Cornet Schatzel, and I cashiered without knowing why. There were no legal inquiries made: all was done by the King’s command.

Unhappy people! where power is superior to law, and where the innocent and the virtuous meet punishment instead of reward. Unhappy land! where the omnipotent “SUCH IS OUR WILL” supersedes all legal sentence, and robs the subject of property, life, and honour.

I once more repeat I was brought to the citadel of Glatz; I was not, however, thrown into a dungeon, but imprisoned in a chamber of the officer of the guard; was allowed my servants to wait on me, and permitted to walk on the ramparts.

I did not want money, and there was only a detachment from the garrison regiment in the citadel of Glatz, the officers of which were all poor. I soon had both friends and freedom, and the rich prisoner every day kept open table.

He only who had known me in this the ardour of my youth, who had witnessed how high I aspired, and the fortune that attended me at Berlin, can imagine what my feelings were at finding myself thus suddenly cast from my high hopes.

I wrote submissively to the King, requesting to be tried by a court- martial, and not desiring any favour should I be found guilty. This haughty tone, in a youth, was displeasing, and I received no answer, which threw me into despair, and induced me to use every possible means to obtain my liberty.

My first care was to establish, by the intervention of an officer, a certain correspondence with the object of my heart. She answered, she was far from supposing I had ever entertained the least thought treacherous to my country; that she knew, too well, I was perfectly incapable, of dissimulation. She blamed the precipitate anger and unjust suspicions of the King; promised me speedy aid, and sent me a thousand ducats.

Had I, at this critical moment, possessed a prudent and intelligent friend, who could have calmed my impatience, nothing perhaps might have been more easy than to have obtained pardon from the King, by proving my innocence; or, it may be, than to have induced him to punish my enemies.

But the officers who then were at Glatz fed the flame of discontent. They supposed the money I so freely distributed came all from Hungary, furnished by the pandour chest; and advised me not to suffer my freedom to depend upon the will of the King, but to enjoy it in his despite.

It was not more easy to give this advice than to persuade a man to take it, who, till then, had never encountered anything but good fortune, and who consequently supported the reverse with impatience. I was not yet, however, determined; because I could not yet resolve to abandon my country, and especially Berlin.

Five months soon passed away in prison: peace was concluded; the King was returned to his capital; my commission in the guards was bestowed on another, when Lieutenant Piaschky, of the regiment of Fouquet, and Ensign Reitz, who often mounted guard over me, proposed that they and I should escape together. I yielded; our plan was fixed, and every preparatory step taken.

At that time there was another prisoner at Glatz, whose name was Manget, by birth a Swiss, and captain of cavalry in the Natzmerschen hussars; he had been broken, and condemned by a court-martial to ten years’ imprisonment, with an allowance of only four rix-dollars per month.

Having done this man kindness, I was resolved to rescue him from bondage, at the same time that I obtained freedom for myself. I communicated my design, and made the proposal, which was accepted by him, and measures were taken; yet were we betrayed by this vile man, who thus purchased pardon and liberty.

Piaschky, who had been informed that Reitz was arrested, saved himself by deserting. I denied the fact in presence of Manget, with whom I was confronted, and bribed the Auditor with a hundred ducats. By this means Reitz only suffered a year’s imprisonment, and the loss of his commission. I was afterwards closely confined in a chamber, for having endeavoured to corrupt the King’s officers, and was guarded with greater caution.

Here I will interrupt my narrative, for a moment, to relate an adventure which happened between me and this Captain Manget, three years after he had thus betrayed me–that is to say, in 1749, at Warsaw.

I there met him by chance, and it is not difficult to imagine what was the salutation he received. I caned him; he took this ill, and challenged me to fight with pistols. Captain Heucking, of the Polish guards, was my second. We both fired together; I shot him through the neck at the first shot, and he fell dead on the field.

He alone, of all my enemies, ever died by my own hand; and he well merited his end, for his cowardly treachery towards the two brave fellows of whom I have spoken; and still more so with respect to myself, who had been his benefactor. I own, I have never reproached myself for this duel, by which I sent a rascal out of the world.

I return to my tale. My destiny at Glatz was now become more untoward and severe. The King’s suspicions were increased, as likewise was his anger, by this my late attempt to escape.

Left to myself, I considered my situation in the worst point of view, and determined either on flight or death. The length and closeness of my confinement became insupportable to my impatient temper.

I had always had the garrison on my side, nor was it possible to prevent my making friends among them. They knew I had money, and, in a poor garrison regiment, the officers of which are all dissatisfied, having most of them been drafted from other corps, and sent thither as a punishment, there was nothing that might not be undertaken.

My scheme was as follows:- My window looked towards the city, and was ninety feet from the ground in the tower of the citadel, out of which I could not get, without having found a place of refuge in the city.

This an officer undertook to procure me, and prevailed on an honest soap-boiler to grant me a hiding place. I then notched my pen- knife, and sawed through three iron bars; but this mode was too tedious, it being necessary to file away eight bars from my window, before I could pass through; another officer therefore procured me a file, which I was obliged to use with caution, lest I should be overheard by the sentinels.

Having ended this labour, I cut my leather portmanteau into thongs, sewed them end to end, added the sheets of my bed, and descended safely from this astonishing height.

It rained, the night was dark, and all seemed fortunate, but I had to wade through moats full of mud, before I could enter the city, a circumstance I had never once considered. I sank up to the knees, and after long struggling, and incredible efforts to extricate myself, I was obliged to call the sentinel, and desire him to go and tell the governor, Trenck was stuck fast in the moat.

My misfortune was the greater on this occasion, because that General Fouquet was then governor of Glatz. He was one of the cruellest of men. He had been wounded by my father in a duel; and the Austrian Trenck had taken his baggage in 1744, and had also laid the country of Glatz under contribution. He was, therefore, an enemy to the very name of Trenck; nor did he lose any opportunity of giving proofs of his enmity, and especially on the present occasion, when he left me standing in the mire till noon, the sport of the soldiers. I was then drawn out, half dead, only again to be imprisoned, and shut up the whole day, without water to wash me. No one can imagine how I looked, exhausted and dirty, my long hair having fallen into the mud, with which, by my struggling, it was loaded.

I remained in this condition till the next day, when two fellow- prisoners were sent to assist and clean me.

My imprisonment now became more intolerable. I had still eighty louis-d’ors in my purse, which had not been taken from me at my removal into another dungeon, and these afterwards did me good service.

The passions soon all assailed me at once, and impetuous, boiling, youthful blood overpowered reason; hope disappeared; I thought myself the most unfortunate of men, and my King an irreconcileable judge, more wrathful and more fortified in suspicion by my own rashness. My nights were sleepless, my days miserable; my soul was tortured by the desire of fame; a consciousness of innocence was a continued stimulus inciting me to end my misfortunes. Youth, inexperienced in woe and disastrous fate, beholds every evil magnified, and desponds on every new disappointment, more especially after having failed in attempting freedom. Education had taught me to despise death, and these opinions had been confirmed by my friend La Mettrie, author of the famous work, “L’Homme Machine,” or “Man a Machine.”

I read much during my confinement at Glatz, where books were allowed me; time was therefore less tedious; but when the love of liberty awoke, when fame and affection called me to Berlin, and my baulked hopes painted the wretchedness of my situation; when I remembered that my loved country, judging by appearances, could not but pronounce me a traitor; then was I hourly impelled to rush on the naked bayonets of my guards, by whom, to me, the road of freedom was barred.

Big with such-like thoughts, eight days had not elapsed since my last fruitless attempt to escape, when an event happened which would appear incredible, were I, the principal actor in the scene, not alive to attest its truth, and might not all Glatz and the Prussian garrison be produced as eye and ear witnesses. This incident will prove that adventurous, and even rash, daring will render the most improbable undertakings possible, and that desperate attempts may often make a general more fortunate and famous than the wisest and best concerted plans.

Major Doo {2} came to visit me, accompanied by an officer of the guard, and an adjutant. After examining every corner of my chamber, he addressed me, taxing me with a second crime in endeavouring to obtain my liberty; adding this must certainly increase the anger of the King.

My blood boiled at the word crime; he talked of patience; I asked him how long the King had condemned me to imprisonment; he answered, a traitor to his country, who has correspondence with the enemy, cannot be condemned for a certain time, but must depend for grace and pardon on the King.

At that instant I snatched his sword from his side, on which my eyes had some time been fixed, sprang out of the door, tumbled the sentinel from the top to the bottom of the stairs, passed the men who happened to be drawn up before the prison door to relieve the guard, attacked them sword in hand, threw them suddenly into surprise by the manner in which I laid about me, wounded four of them, made way through the rest, sprang over the breastwork of the ramparts, and, with my sword drawn in my hand, immediately leaped this astonishing height without receiving the least injury. I leaped the second wall with equal safety and good fortune. None of their pieces were loaded; no one durst leap after me, and in order to pursue, they must go round through the town and gate of the citadel; so that I had the start full half an hour.

A sentinel, however, in a narrow passage, endeavoured to oppose my flight, but I parried his fixed bayonet, and wounded him in the face. A second sentinel, meantime, ran from the outworks, to seize me behind, and I, to avoid him, made a spring at the palisadoes; there I was unluckily caught by the foot, and received a bayonet wound in the upper lip; thus entangled, they beat me with the butt- end of their muskets, and dragged me back to prison, while I struggled and defended myself like a man grown desperate.

Certain it is, had I more carefully jumped the palisadoes, and despatched the sentinel who opposed me, I might have escaped, and gained the mountains. Thus might I have fled to Bohemia, after having, at noonday, broken from the fortress of Glatz, sprung past all its sentinels, over all its walls, and passed with impunity, in despite of the guard, who were under arms, ready to oppose me. I should not, having a sword, have feared any single opponent, and was able to contend with the swiftest runners.

That good fortune which had so far attended me forsook me at the palisadoes, where hope was at an end. The severities of imprisonment were increased; two sentinels and an under officer were locked in with me, and were themselves guarded by sentinels without; I was beaten and wounded by the butt-ends of their muskets, my right foot was sprained, I spat blood, and my wounds were not cured in less than a month.


I was now first informed that the King had only condemned me to a year’s imprisonment, in order to learn whether his suspicions were well founded. My mother had petitioned for me, and was answered, “Your son must remain a year imprisoned, as a punishment for his rash correspondence.”

Of this I was ignorant, and it was reported in Glatz that my imprisonment was for life. I had only three weeks longer to repine for the loss of liberty, when I made this rash attempt. What must the King think? Was he not obliged to act with this severity? How could prudence excuse my impatience, thus to risk a confiscation, when I was certain of receiving freedom, justification, and honour, in three weeks? But, such was my adverse fate, circumstances all tended to injure and persecute me, till at length I gave reason to suppose I was a traitor, notwithstanding the purity of my intentions.

Once more, then, was I in a dungeon, and no sooner was I there than I formed new projects of flight. I first gained the intimacy of my guards. I had money, and this, with the compassion I had inspired, might effect anything among discontented Prussian soldiers. Soon had I gained thirty-two men, who were ready to execute, on the first signal, whatever I should command. Two or three excepted, they were unacquainted with each other; they consequently could not all be betrayed at a time: had chosen the sub-officer Nicholai to head them.

The garrison consisted only of one hundred and twenty men from the garrison regiment, the rest being dispersed in the county of Glatz, and four officers, their commanders, three of whom were in my interest. Everything was prepared; swords and pistols were concealed in the oven which was in my prison. We intended to give liberty to all the prisoners, and retire with drums beating into Bohemia.

Unfortunately, an Austrian deserter, to whom Nicholai had imparted our design, went and discovered our conspiracy. The governor instantly sent his adjutant to the citadel, with orders that the officer on guard should arrest Nicholai, and, with his men, take possession of the casement.

Nicholai was on the guard, and the lieutenant was my friend, and being in the secret, gave the signal that all was discovered. Nicholai only knew all the conspirators, several of whom that day were on guard. He instantly formed his resolution, leaped into the casement, crying, “Comrades, to arms, we are betrayed!” All followed to the guard-house, where they seized on the cartridges, the officer having only eight men, and threatening to fire on whoever should offer resistance, came to deliver me from prison; but the iron door was too strong, and the time too short for that to be demolished. Nicholai, calling to me, bid me aid them, but in vain: and perceiving nothing more could be done for me, this brave man, heading nineteen others, marched to the gate of the citadel, where there was a sub-officer and ten soldiers, obliged these to accompany him, and thus arrived safely at Braunau, in Bohemia; for, before the news was spread through the city, and men were collected for the pursuit, they were nearly half-way on their journey.

Two years after I met with this extraordinary man at Ofenbourg, where hue was a writer: he entered immediately into my service, and became my friend, but died some months after of a burning fever, at my quarters in Hungary, at which I was deeply grieved, for his memory will be ever dear to me.

Now was I exposed to all the storms of ill-fortune: a prosecution was entered against me as a conspirator, who wanted to corrupt the officers and soldiers of the King. They commanded me to name the remaining conspirators; but to these questions I made no answer, except by steadfastly declaring I was an innocent prisoner, an officer unjustly broken; unjustly, because I had never been brought to trial; that consequently I was released from all my engagements; nor could it be thought extraordinary that I should avail myself of that law of nature which gives every man a right to defend his honour defamed, and seek by every possible means to regain his liberty: that such had been my sole purpose in every enterprise I had formed, and such should still continue to be, for I was determined to persist, till I should either be crowned with success, or lose my life in the attempt.

Things thus remained: every precaution was taken except that I was not put in irons; it being a law in Prussia that no gentleman or officer can be loaded with chains, unless he has first for some crime been delivered over to the executioner; and certainly this had not been my case.

The soldiers were withdrawn from my chamber; but the greatest ill was I had expended all my money, and my kind mistress, at Berlin, with whom I had always corresponded, and which my persecutors could not prevent, at last wrote –

“My tears flow with yours; the evil is without remedy–I dare no more–escape if you can. My fidelity will ever be the same, when it shall be possible for me to serve you.–Adieu, unhappy friend: you merit a better fate.”

This letter was a thunderbolt:- my comfort, however, still was that the officers were not suspected, and that it was their duty to visit my chamber several times a day, and examine what passed: from which circumstance I felt my hopes somewhat revive. Hence an adventure happened which is almost unexampled in tales of knight-errantry.

A lieutenant, whose name was Bach, a Dane by nation, mounted guard every fourth day, and was the terror of the whole garrison; for, being a perfect master of arms, he was incessantly involved in quarrels, and generally left his marks behind him. He had served in two regiments, neither of which would associate with him for this reason, and he had been sent to the garrison regiment at Glatz as punishment.

Bach one day, sitting beside me, related how, the evening before, he had wounded a lieutenant, of the name of Schell, in the arm. I replied, laughing, “Had I my liberty, I believe you would find some trouble in wounding me, for I have some skill in the sword.” The blood instantly flew in his face; we split off a kind of pair of foils from an old door, which had served me as a table, and at the first lunge I hit him on the breast.

His rage became ungovernable, and he left the prison. What was my astonishment when, a moment after, I saw him return with two soldiers’ swords, which he had concealed under his coat.–“Now, then, boaster, prove,” said he, giving me one of them, “what thou art able to do.” I endeavoured to pacify him, by representing the danger, but ineffectually. He attacked me with the utmost fury, and I wounded him in the arm.

Throwing his sword down, he fell upon my neck, kissed me, and wept. At length, after some convulsive emotions of pleasure, he said, “Friend, thou art my master; and thou must, thou shalt, by my aid, obtain thy liberty, as certainly as my name is Bach.” We bound up his arm as well as we could. He left me, and secretly went to a surgeon, to have it properly dressed, and at night returned.

He now remarked, that it was humanly impossible I should escape, unless the officer on guard should desert with me;–that he wished nothing more ardently than to sacrifice his life in my behalf, but that he could not resolve so far to forget his honour and duty to desert, himself, while on guard: he notwithstanding gave me his word of honour he would find me such a person in a few days; and that, in the meantime, he would prepare everything for my flight.

He returned the same evening, bringing with him Lieutenant Schell, and as he entered said, “Here is your man.” Schell embraced me, gave his word of honour, and thus was the affair settled, and as it proved, my liberty ascertained.

We soon began to deliberate on the means necessary to obtain our purpose. Schell was just come from garrison at Habelchwert to the citadel of Glatz, and in two days was to mount guard over me, till when our attempt was suspended. I have before said, I received no more supplies from my beloved mistress, and my purse at that time only contained some six pistoles. It was therefore resolved that Bach should go to Schweidnitz, and obtain money of a sure friend of mine in that city.

Here must I inform the reader that at this period the officers and I all understood each other, Captain Roder alone excepted, who was exact, rigid, and gave trouble on all occasions.

Major Quaadt was my kinsman, by my mother’s side, a good, friendly man, and ardently desirous I should escape, seeing my calamities were so much increased. The four lieutenants who successively mounted guard over me were Bach, Schroeder, Lunitz, and Schell. The first was the grand projector, and made all preparations; Schell was to desert with me; and Schroeder and Lunitz three days after were to follow.

No one ought to be surprised that officers of garrison regiments should be so ready to desert. They are, in general, either men of violent passions, quarrelsome, overwhelmed with debts, or unfit for service. They are usually sent to the garrison as a punishment, and are called the refuse of the army. Dissatisfied with their situation, their pay much reduced, and despised by the troops, such men, expecting advantage, may be brought to engage in the most desperate undertaking. None of them can hope for their discharge, and they live in the utmost poverty. They all hoped by my means to better their fortune, I always having had money enough; and, with money, nothing is more easy than to find friends, in places where each individual is desirous of escaping from slavery.

The talents of Schell were of a superior order; he spoke and wrote six languages, and was well acquainted with all the fine arts. He had served in the regiment of Fouquet, had been injured by his colonel, who was a Pomeranian; and Fouquet, who was no friend to well-informed officers, had sent him to a garrison regiment. He had twice demanded his dismissal, but the King sent him to this species of imprisonment; he then determined to avenge himself by deserting, and was ready to aid me in recovering my freedom, that he might, by that means, spite Fouquet.

I shall speak more hereafter of this extraordinary man, that I must not in this place interrupt my story. We determined everything should be prepared against the first time Schell mounted guard, and that our project should be executed on our next. Thus, as he mounted guard every four days, the eighth was to be that of our flight.

The governor meantime had been informed how familiar I was become with the officers, at which taking offence, he sent orders that my door should no more be opened, but that I should receive my food through a small window that had been made for the purpose. The care of the prison was committed to the major, and he was forbidden to eat with me, under pain of being broken.

His precautions were ineffectual; the officers procured a false key, and remained with me half the day and night.

Captain Damnitz was imprisoned in an apartment by the side of mine. This man had deserted from the Prussian service, with the money belonging to his company, to Austria, where he obtained a commission in his cousin’s regiment, who having prevailed on him to serve as a spy, during the campaign of 1744, he was taken in the Prussian territories, known, and condemned to be hanged.

Some Swedish volunteers, who were then in the army, interested themselves in his behalf, and his sentence was changed to perpetual imprisonment, with a sentence of infamy.

This wretch, who two years after, by the aid of his protectors, not only obtained his liberty but a lieutenant-colonel’s commission, was the secret spy of the major over the prisoners; and he remarked that, notwithstanding the express prohibition laid on the officers, they still passed the greater part of their time in my company.

The 24th of December came, and Schell mounted guard. He entered my prison immediately, where he continued a long time, and we made our arrangements for flight when he next should mount guard.

Lieutenant Schroeder that day dined with the governor, and heard orders given to the adjutant that Schell should be taken from the guard, and put under arrest.

Schroeder, who was in the secret, had no doubt but that we were betrayed, not knowing that the spy Damnitz had informed the governor that Schell was then in my chamber.

Schroeder, full of terror, came running to the citadel, and said to Schell, “Save thyself, friend; all is discovered, and thou wilt instantly be put under arrest.”

Schell might easily have provided for his own safety, by flying singly, Schroeder having prepared horses, on one of which he himself offered to accompany him into Bohemia. How did this worthy man, in a moment so dangerous, act toward his friend?

Running suddenly into my prison, he drew a corporal’s sabre from under his coat, and said, “Friend, we are betrayed; follow me, only do not suffer me to fall alive into the hands of my enemies.”

I would have spoken: but interrupting me, and taking me by the hand, he added, “Follow me; we have not a moment to lose.” I therefore slipped on my coat and boots, without having time to take the little money I had left; and, as we went out of the prison, Schell said to the sentinel, “I am taking the prisoner into the officer’s apartment; stand where you are.”

Into this room we really went, but passed out at the other door. The design of Schell was to go under the arsenal, which was not far off, to gain the covered way, leap the palisadoes, and afterwards escape after the best manner we might.

We had scarcely gone a hundred paces before we met the adjutant and Major Quaadt.

Schell started back, sprang upon the rampart, and leaped from the wall, which was there not very high. I followed, and alighted unhurt, except having grazed my shoulder. My poor friend was not so fortunate; having put out his ankle. He immediately drew his sword, presented it to me, and begged me to despatch him, and fly. He was a small, weak man: but, far from complying with his request, I took him in my arms, threw him over the palisadoes, afterwards got him on my back, and began to run, without very well knowing which way I went.


It may not be unnecessary to remark those fortunate circumstances that favoured our enterprise.

The sun had just set as we took to flight; the hoar frost fell. No one would run the risk that we had done, by making so dangerous a leap. We heard a terrible noise behind us. Everybody knew us; but before they could go round the citadel, and through the town, in order to pursue us, we had got a full half league.

The alarm guns were fired before we were a hundred paces distant; at which my friend was very much terrified, knowing that in such cases it was generally impossible to escape from Glatz, unless the fugitives had got the start full two hours before the alarm guns were heard; the passes being immediately all stopped by the peasants and hussars, who are exceedingly vigilant. No sooner is a prisoner missed than the gunner runs from the guard-house, and fires the cannon on the three sides of the fortress, which are kept loaded day and night for that purpose.

We were not five hundred paces from the walls, when all before us and behind us were in motion. It was daylight when we leaped, yet was our attempt as fortunate as it was wonderful: this I attributed to my presence of mind, and the reputation I had already acquired, which made it thought a service of danger for two or three men to attack me.

It was besides imagined we were well provided with arms for our defence; and it was little suspected that Schell had only his sword, and I an old corporal’s sabre.

Among the officers commanded to pursue us was Lieutenant Bart, my intimate friend. Captain Zerbst, of the regiment of Fouquet, who had always testified the kindness of a brother towards me, met us on the Bohemian frontiers, and called to me, “Make to time left, brother, and you will see some lone houses, which are on the Bohemian confines: the hussars have ridden straight forward.” He then passed on as if he had not seen us.

We had nothing to fear from the officers; for the intimacy between the Prussian officers was at that time so great, and the word of honour so sacred, that during my rigorous detention at Glatz I had been once six-and-thirty hours hunting at Neurode, at the seat of Baron Stillfriede; Lunitz had taken my place in the prison, which the major knew when he came to make his visit. Hence may be conjectured how great was the confidence in which the word of the unfortunate Trenck was held at Glatz, since they did not fear letting him leave his dungeon, and hunt on the very confines of Bohemia. This, too, shows the governor was deceived, in despite of his watchfulness and order, and that a man of honour, with money, and a good head and heart, will never want friends.

These my memoirs will be the picture of what the national character then was; and will prove that, with officers who lived like brothers, and held their words so sacred, the great Frederick well might vanquish his enemies.

Arbitrary power has now introduced the whip of slavery, and mechanic subordination has eradicated those noble and rational incitements to concord and honour. Instead of which, mistrust and slavish fear having arisen, the enthusiastic spirit of the Brandenburg warrior declines, and into this error have most of the other European States fallen.

Scarcely had I borne my friend three hundred paces before I set him down, and I looked round me, but darkness came on so fast that I could see neither town nor citadel; consequently, we ourselves could not be seen.

My presence of mind did not forsake me: death or freedom was my determination. “Where are we, Schell?” said I to my friend. “Where does Bohemia lie? on which side is the river Neiss?” The worthy man could make no answer: his mind was all confusion, and he despaired of our escape: he still, however, entreated I would not let him be taken alive, and affirmed my labour was all in vain.

After having promised, by all that was sacred, I would save him from an infamous death, if no other means were left, and thus raised his spirits, he looked round, and knew, by some trees, we were not far from the city gates. I asked him, “Where is the Neiss?” He pointed sideways–“All Glatz has seen us fly towards the Bohemian mountains; it is impossible we should avoid the hussars, the passes being all guarded, and we beset with enemies.” So saying, I took him on my shoulders, and carried him to the Neiss; here we distinctly heard the alarm sounded in the villages, and the peasants, who likewise were to form the line of desertion, were everywhere in motion, and spreading the alarm. As it may not be known to all my readers in what manner they proceed on these occasions in Prussia, I will here give a short account of it.

Officers are daily named on the parade whose duty it is to follow fugitives as soon as the alarm-guns are fired.

The peasants in the villages, likewise, are daily appointed to rim to the guard of certain posts. The officers immediately fly to these posts to see that the peasants do their duty, and prevent the prisoner’s escape. Thus does it seldom happen that a soldier can effect his escape unless he be, at the very least, an hour on the road before the alarm-guns are fired.

I now return to my story.

I came to the Neiss, which was a little frozen, entered it with my friend, and carried him as long as I could wade, and when I could not feel the bottom, which did not continue for more than a space of eighteen feet, he clung round me, and thus we got safely to the other shore.

My father taught all his sons to swim, for which I have often had to thank him; since by means of this art, which is easily learnt in childhood, I had on various occasions preserved my life, and was more bold in danger. Princes who wish to make their subjects soldiers, should have them educated so as to fear neither fire nor water. How great would be the advantage of being able to cross a river with whole battalions, when it is necessary to attack or retreat before the enemy, and when time will not permit to prepare bridges!

The reader will easily suppose swimming in the midst of December, and remaining afterwards eighteen hours in the open air, was a severe hardship. About seven o’clock the hoar-fog was succeeded by frost and moonlight. The carrying of my friend kept me warm, it is true, but I began to be tired, while he suffered everything that frost, the pain of a dislocated foot (which I in vain endeavoured to reset), and the danger of death from a thousand hands, could inflict.

We were somewhat more tranquil, however, having reached the opposite shore of the Neiss, since nobody would pursue us on the road to Silesia. I followed the course of the river for half an hour, and having once passed the first villages that formed the line of desertion, with which Schell was perfectly acquainted, we in a lucky moment found a fisherman’s boat moored to the shore; into this we leaped, crossed the river again, and soon gained the mountains.

Here being come, we sat ourselves down awhile on the snow; hope revived in our hearts, and we held council concerning how it was best to act. I cut a stick to assist Schell in hopping forward as well as he could when I was tired of carrying him; and thus we continued our route, the difficulties of which were increased by the mountain snows.

Thus passed the night; during which, up to the middle in snow, we made but little way. There were no paths to be traced in the mountains, and they were in many places impassable. Day at length appeared: we thought ourselves near the frontiers, which are twenty English miles from Glatz, when we suddenly, to our great terror, heard the city clock strike.

Overwhelmed, as we were, by hunger, cold, fatigue, and pain, it was impossible we should hold out through the day. After some consideration, and another half-hour’s labour, we came to a village at the foot of the mountain, on the side of which, about three hundred paces from us, we perceived two separate houses, which inspired us with a stratagem that was successful.

We lost our hats in leaping the ramparts; but Schell had preserved his scarf and gorget, which would give him authority among the peasants.

I then cut my finger, rubbed the blood over my face, my shirt, and my coat, and bound up my head, to give myself the appearance of a man dangerously wounded.

In this condition I carried Schell to the end of the wood not far from these houses; here he tied my hands behind my back, but so that I could easily disengage them in ease of need: and hobbled after me, by aid of his staff, calling for help.

Two old peasants appeared, and Schell commanded them to run to the village, and tell a magistrate to come immediately with a cart. “I have seized this knave,” added he, “who has killed my horse, and in the struggle I have put out my ankle; however, I have wounded and bound him; fly quickly, bring a cart, lest he should die before he is hanged.”

As for me, I suffered myself to be led, as if half-dead, into the house. A peasant was despatched to the village. An old woman and a pretty girl seemed to take great pity on me, and gave me some bread and milk: but how great was our astonishment when the aged peasant called Schell by his name, and told him he well knew we were deserters, having the night before been at a neighbouring alehouse where the officer in pursuit of us came, named and described us, and related the whole history of our flight. The peasant knew Schell, because his son served in his company, and had often spoken of him when he was quartered at Habelschwert.

Presence of mind and resolution were all that were now left. I instantly ran to the stable, while Schell detained the peasant in the chamber. He, however, was a worthy man, and directed him to the road toward Bohemia. We were still about some seven miles from Glatz, having lost ourselves among the mountains, where we had wandered many miles. The daughter followed me: I found three horses in the stable, but no bridles. I conjured her, in the most passionate manner, to assist me: she was affected, seemed half willing to follow me, and gave me two bridles. I led the horses to the door, called Schell, and helped him, with his lame leg, on horseback. The old peasant then began to weep, and beg I would not take his horses; but he luckily wanted courage, and perhaps the will to impede us; for with nothing more than a dung-fork, in our then feeble condition, he might have stopped us long enough to have called in assistance from the village.

And now behold us on horseback, without hats or saddles; Schell with his uniform scarf and gorget, and I in my red regimental coat. Still we were in danger of seeing all our hopes vanish, for my horse would not stir from the stable; however, at last, good horseman- like, I made him move: Schell led the way, and we had scarcely gone a hundred paces, before we perceived the peasants coming in crowds from the village.

As kind fortune would have it, the people were all at church, it being a festival: the peasants Schell had sent were obliged to call aid out of church. It was but nine in the morning; and had the peasants been at home, we had been lost past redemption.

We were obliged to take the road to Wunshelburg, and pass through the town where Schell had been quartered a month before, and in which he was known by everybody. Our dress, without hats or saddles, sufficiently proclaimed we were deserters: our horses, however, continued to go tolerably well, and we had the good luck to get through the town, although there was a garrison of one hundred and eighty infantry, and twelve horse, purposely to arrest deserters. Schell knew the road to Brummem, where we arrived at eleven o’clock, after having met, as I before mentioned, Captain Zerbst.

He who has been in the same situation only can imagine, though he never can describe, all the joy we felt. An innocent man, languishing in a dungeon, who by his own endeavours, has broken his chains, and regained his liberty, in despite of all the arbitrary power of princes, who vainly would oppose him, conceives in moments like these such an abhorrence of despotism, that I could not well comprehend how I ever could resolve to live under governments where wealth, content, honour, liberty, and life all depend upon a master’s will, and who, were his intentions the most pure, could not be able, singly, to do justice to a whole nation.

Never did I, during life, feel pleasure more exquisite than at this moment. My friend for me had risked a shameful death, and now, after having carried him at least twelve hours on my shoulders, I had saved both him and myself. We certainly should not have suffered any man to bring us, alive, back to Glatz. Yet this was but the first act of the tragedy of which I was doomed the hero, and the mournful incidents of which all arose out of, and depended on, each other.


Could I have read the book of fate, and have seen the forty years’ fearful afflictions that were to follow, I certainly should not have rejoiced at this my escape from Glatz. One year’s patience might have appeased the irritated monarch, and, taking a retrospect of all that has passed, I now find it would have been a fortunate circumstance, had the good and faithful Schell and I never met, since he also fell into a train of misfortunes, which I shall hereafter relate, and from which he could never extricate himself, but by death. The sufferings which I have since undergone will be read with astonishment.

It is my consolation that both the laws of honour and nature justify the action. I may serve as an example of the fortitude with which danger ought to be encountered, and show monarchs that in Germany, as well as in Rome, there are men who refuse to crouch beneath the yoke of despotism, and that philosophy and resolution are stronger than even those lords of slaves, with all their threats, whips, tortures, and instruments of death.

In Prussia, where my sufferings might have made me supposed the worst of traitors, is my innocence universally acknowledged; and instead of contempt, there have I gained the love of the whole nation, which is the best compensation for all the ills I have suffered, and for having persevered in the virtuous principles taught me in my youth, persecuted as I have been by envy and malicious power. I have not time further to moralise; the numerous incidents of my life would otherwise swell this volume to too great an extent.

Thus in freedom at Braunau, on the Bohemian frontiers, I sent the two horses, with the corporal’s sword, back to General Fouquet, at Glatz. The letter accompanying them was so pleasing to him that all the sentinels before my prison door, as well as the guard under arms, and all those we passed, were obliged to run the gauntlet, although the very day before he had himself declared my escape was now rendered impossible. He, however, was deceived; and thus do the mean revenge themselves on the miserable, and the tyrant on the innocent.

And now for the first time did I quit my country, and fly like Joseph from the pit into which his false brethren had cast him; and in this the present moment of joy for my escape, the loss even of friends and country appeared to me the excess of good fortune.

The estates which had been purchased by the blood of my forefathers were confiscated; and thus was a youth, of one of the noblest families in the land, whose heart was all zeal for the service of his King and country, and who was among those most capable to render them service, banished by his unjust and misled King, and treated like the worst of miscreants, malefactors, and traitors.

I wrote to the King, and sent him a true state of my case; sent indubitable proofs of my innocence, and supplicated justice, but received no answer.

In this the monarch may be justified, at least in my apprehension.