The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz
Volume One (1829-1852)
IN Mainz I learned from a member of the democratic club that Kinkel had already passed through on his way to the Palatinate. Mr. Zitz, one of the democratic leaders of Mainz, who had organized a corps of volunteers in the neighborhood, and was to be found at the little city of Kircheimbolander, would probably be able to tell me more.0 I therefore set out on foot to that place, carrying my baggage in a knapsack on my back. I found Mr. Zitz,0a a tall, stately man, surrounded by his apparently well-armed and disciplined free corps. (Mr. Zitz, a few years later, was well known in New York as a member of the law firm of Zitz & Kapp.) The camp looked orderly and well-managed.0aa The artillery consisted of three or four little cannon, such as were commonly used to make a noise at popular frolics.0b Mr. Zitz told me that Kinkel had gone to Kaiserslautern,1 the revolutionary capital of the Palatinate, to offer his services to the provisional government. I marched on, and found Kinkel and Anneke both in the best of humor. They welcomed me heartily, quartered me in a tavern,2 and told me that soon they might give me something to do.
The next morning I rose bright and early.2a With especial curiosity I observed how people under a revolutionary condition look. I found that the guests in the tavern breakfasted as calmly as ever. I was told that the son of mine host would celebrate his wedding in a few days, and that great preparations were going on for the festivity.2ao There was, indeed, a good deal of bustle on the streets — here persons who seemed to be following their daily vocation in the accustomed way; there troops of young men in their ordinary dress with muskets on their shoulders, who evidently belonged to the “Volkswehr” — volunteer guard — in process of formation; between them, soldiers in the Bavarian uniform who had passed over to the people; and even policemen, in their official uniform with swords at their sides, and engaged in their regular functions as guardians of safety and order. At this I was not a little surprised,2b but I learned that these policemen had taken the oath of allegiance to the national constitution, that they served the provisional government, and were generally very good fellows. On the whole I found that although the leaders of the revolutionary movement2ba had their busy hours of care and trouble, the population was in a condition of merry contentment, enjoying the charm of the moment without bothering much with thoughts of what the coming day would bring. There was a sort of general Sunday afternoon atmosphere, a real picnic humor — very amiable, but not at all corresponding with the conception which I had formed of the seriousness of a revolutionary situation. I soon learned to understand that this good humor sprung from the generally sunny disposition of the people of the Palatinate.
The Bavarian Palatinate is a country richly blessed by nature; the beauty of the landscape and the wealth of its resources are well apt to nourish in its inhabitants a natural disposition to enjoy life merrily. The Pfaelzers had been known from immemorial times for their light-heartedness.2c They were an intelligent and2ca excitable folk, good-natured and enthusiastic, self-confident, and perhaps also a little given to contentiousness. There were very few poor2cb among them, at that time at least, except in one small district. It was, therefore, by no means want or distress that made the Pfaelzers discontented and revolutionary. The Vienna Congress,2d after the Napoleonic wars, had assigned the Palatinate to the king of Bavaria, but as that province was not contiguous to the rest of the kingdom, it had not the feeling of really belonging to it. A Bavarian patriotism would never grow in the Palatinate. When the Bavarian government sent “Old-Bavarian” officers into the Palatinate to help govern its people, the attitude toward one another became still more unfriendly, as the hungry “Old-Bavarians,” it was said, were sent to the rich Palatinate to grow fat. Their relations were much like those that existed between the Prussian province on the Rhine and old Prussia. The Pfaelzers were therefore in almost constant opposition to Old-Bavaria, and this opposition would have been sufficient to drive them into the ranks of the liberals had not liberal ways of thinking and feeling been natural to this2da vivacious and enlightened population. That this liberalism bore a decided German national character was a matter of course. In fact, one of the most famous national demonstrations at the beginning of the thirties, the celebrated “Hambacher Fest,”2db had taken place in the Palatinate, and among the leaders of the national movement there were always Pfaelzers in the foremost ranks.
When the king of Bavaria refused to recognize the national constitution made by the Frankfurt Parliament, the general indignation in the Palatinate2dc broke out in furious flame. It was a natural sentiment with the Pfaelzers that if the king of Bavaria would not be German, the Palatinate must cease to be Bavarian. On the 2d of May an immense mass-meeting was held at Kaiserslautern in which all the liberal clubs of the Palatinate were represented. This meeting elected a “Committee for the Defense of the Country,” which, according to the resolutions adopted, was to take the government of the province into its hands and to organize an armed force. This action accorded with the universal will of the population of the Palatinate, with the exception, perhaps, of a very few civil and military officers.2e
The terrible confusion which the refusal of the king of Prussia to accept the imperial crown under the national constitution had brought upon all Germany came now to light in an almost grotesque manner.2f As already mentioned, the national parliament had, on the 4th of May, summoned “the governments, the legislative bodies, the communes of the several German states, the whole German people, to see to it that the constitution of the German Empire be generally recognized and practically introduced.”2fa Inasmuch as the king of Bavaria would not recognize the national constitution, the Pfaelzers felt themselves justified in rising against the Bavarian government, for they only obeyed the national parliament, which they regarded as the highest national authority in Germany. The “Committee for the Defense of the Country,” therefore, quite logically applied to the national parliament through their representatives in that body, and to the national central power, for recognition, protection, and support.2fb The national central power, at the head of which stood2fc the Austrian Archduke Johann, thereupon sent an imperial commissioner, Dr. Eisenstuck,2fca to the Palatinate with the instruction “to take in the name of the imperial power all measures necessary for the2fd restoration of the laws in that country,” and especially to see to it that some of the resolutions adopted by the “Committee for the Defense of the Country” be rescinded. The imperial commissioner, after due investigation, declared those resolutions to be invalid, but he recognized the “Committee for the Defense of the Country” and for the execution of the national constitution as fully competent to organize an armed power and to swear in the members thereof to obey the national constitution, and in case of necessity to defend that constitution by independent action against all attacks by force. With this, of course, Archduke Johann, who had sent him, was not pleased.2fe
That prince had originally become distasteful to the Austrian court by marrying a young woman who did not belong to the nobility, and by uttering now and then a liberal sentiment. This had put him in the odor of liberalism with the great public, and to this circumstance he owed his election to the office of regent of the empire in 1848. It was not unnatural at all that this election created in him the desire2ff to obtain for himself the imperial crown. When the king of Prussia was elected emperor the archduke was greatly disappointed, and he showed his displeasure at once by offering to the national parliament his resignation as regent of the empire. He permitted himself, however, to be persuaded to withdraw that resignation for the time being, and he did this all the more willingly as he received from the Austrian court the suggestion2fg that he should not abandon so important an office while it existed, because through it he might do very important service to the dynastic interest of Austria. That dynastic interest of Austria was, at the time, to prevent by every means the elevation of the king of Prussia to the dignity of German emperor; and also not to permit any constitution of the German empire which did not comprise the whole of Austria, including its Hungarian and Slavic populations,2g and in which Austria did not occupy the leading place. The national constitution, which was actually adopted by the Frankfurt parliament, making Prussia the leading power, was therefore to the Austrian court an abomination.2ga The liberalism of the Archduke Johann may originally have been ever so genuine — certain it is that2gb he had the monarchical interest in general, and the Austrian interest in particular, more at heart than the national constitution and German unity.
Now the following2h situation of things presented itself; the German national parliament had created an executive authority in the form of the “Provisional Central Power,” with the Archduke Johann as regent, in order to enforce respect to its orders and its laws. The most important2ha of the utterances of its will consisted in the2hb national constitution and the election of the king of Prussia as German emperor. The king of Prussia, that is, the emperor-elect, refusing2i to recognize the national constitution as rightfully existing, and declined to accept his election. The national parliament thereupon summoned not only all German governments, but also all legislative bodies and the communes of the German states, etc., in fact, the whole2j people, to enforce the national constitution. The people of the Palatinate did exactly what the national parliament had ordered the German people to do. The Pfaelzers had risen for the national constitution, against the king of Bavaria, who refused to recognize that constitution. The imperial commissioner, sent by the regent of the empire into the Palatinate, found himself obliged, by the logic of circumstances as well as by his loyalty to the national parliament, to confirm the “Committee for the Defense of the Country” in the Palatinate, and to recognize it as lawfully empowered to resist all forcible attacks upon the national constitution. And what then did the imperial regent who had been appointed for the purpose of enforcing the will of the national parliament, and especially to secure the recognition and introduction of the national constitution, do? He recalled the imperial commissioner at once, and then went to work to suppress by force of arms the popular movement which had been set on foot in compliance with the summons of the national parliament for the defense and introduction of the national constitution. And for this act of suppression mainly Prussian troops were selected — troops of the same king who in March, 1848, had solemnly promised to put himself at the head of the national movement and to merge Prussia in Germany; who then had been elected German emperor; and who now was to strike down those who insisted that he should become German emperor.
It has been said in defense of this monstrous proceeding that the popular uprising for the national constitution in the Palatinate and2ja in Baden was mixed up with strong republican tendencies; that is, with the desire to subvert the existing political order of things. This is true to a certain extent,2k but it is also true that if the German princes had loyally done that which in March, 1848, they had given the German people the fullest right to expect that they would do, and if the king of Prussia and his brother-kings had accepted the national constitution, they would have neutralized, disintegrated, and rendered powerless2m all republican movements in Germany. The German people at large would have been satisfied. They would undoubtedly have consented even to some changes in the monarchical sense in the national constitution. And it is no less true that the manner in which the kings, after so many beautiful promises and pledges, sought to disappoint the hopes of the German people for national unity, was only too certain to destroy all faith in their national sentiment,2ma and to create the opinion that only by means of republicanism a united German nation could be formed. The attitude of the king of Prussia, as well as the kings of Bavaria, Hanover, and Saxony, placed before the German people the clear alternative either to abandon, at least for the time being, all endeavors for German unity and political freedom,2n or to strive for the realization of these objects by means which are termed by governments revolutionary. The pitiable history of Germany during the next ten years has strikingly demonstrated that those who looked at the situation in the year 1849 in the light of this alternative were entirely right.
Let us now return to the Palatinate and the recall of the imperial commissioner.2na At first attempts were made to check the revolutionary movement in the Palatinate with small bodies of troops; but this failed, and as also in the meanwhile by the uprising of the people and the defection of the army in Baden the situation of things had become much more serious, the Prussian government began to mobilize some army corps and to prepare for a regular campaign. It was2nb these preparations which had caused the various revolts in the Prussian provinces on the Rhine and in Westphalia. The Palatinate was now, for a little while, left to itself, and the good-natured and sanguine people saw in this temporary quiet a sign that the king of Prussia and his royal associates after all disliked openly to proceed against them with arms in their hands, because other populations in Germany might be as enthusiastic for the cause of German unity and liberty as the people in the Palatinate and Baden. They preferred to believe that the uprising would end as merrily as it had begun; and this explains the fact that the popular lightheartedness in the midst of revolutionary events, which I have designated as a picnic humor, lasted a considerable time.2o The cooler heads indeed did not indulge in such delusions; they foresaw that this would be a decisive struggle against an anti-national and anti-liberal reaction, in which the princes and court parties would put into the field their large and well organized power, if necessary even to the last reserves, and that against this power the resources of the Palatinate and of Baden looked pitiably inadequate.2oa In the Palatinate a small number of Bavarian soldiers had come out for the popular cause — that is to say, they had left their colors and taken the oath of allegiance to the national constitution and to the provisional government.2p Aside from these regular soldiers, the provisional government had at its disposition the civic guard of some of the cities, which, however, could be used only for local service, and were indifferently armed.2pa Then they had the little corps under Zitz — some six or seven hundred men — and a small2q corps under Blenker, and finally the military bodies which were still to be organized on a large scale, but which so far were insignificant as a fighting force. It would probably not have been difficult to raise in the Palatinate an army corps of twenty to twenty-five thousand men2r had the provisional government had firearms at its disposal. Multitudes of volunteers offered themselves, but as no guns could be put into their hands and they could only be armed with2s spears, many of them went home again. An attempt to import muskets from Belgium failed, because they were intercepted by Prussian customs officers on their way through Prussian territory.2t An expedition led by Blenker to surprise the fortress of Landau,2u situated in the Palatinate, which contained considerable stores of arms and military equipments, also failed. Thus the want of arms remained one of the most pressing cares.
The provisional government consisted of highly honorable, well-meaning, and brave men, who should not be blamed for not having mastered a situation which would have tested the resources of a great organizing genius. Nor did they succeed in finding military men equal to the gigantic task.2ua The chief command of such military organization as they had they gave first to a former leader of the civic guard in Vienna, Fenner von Fenneberg,2ub a man who had developed into a
professional revolutionist, and who spent his time mainly in blaming others for not doing what had to be done.2v He was soon obliged to give up his post, and the command then passed temporarily into the hands of a military commission composed2va of former Prussian officers, Techow, Beust,2vaa Schimmelpfenni
ng, and Anneke. These were well-trained men, but better fitted to take command of bodies of troops2vb already organized and equipped than to create an army in a country the population of which was little accustomed to discipline and ready obedience, and to whom Prussian officers with their systematic ways and abrupt methods were not very sympathetic. Still this commission accomplished all that could have been expected of it. Meanwhile the provisional government had engaged for a considerable sum of money the services of an old Polish general by the name of Sznayde, of whom it was rumored that he was really not a Pole, but a German by the name of Schneider.2w Men who had served as officers in the great Polish revolutionary wars appeared at that time with a sort of a halo of revolutionary heroism around their heads. The popular legend attributed to them not only extraordinary bravery, but also all possible military talent, and exceptional familiarity with the secrets of the military art. It was as if at the rallying places of the Polish refugees, especially in Paris and Switzerland, a stock of generals was kept in store, to be occasionally disposed of for revolutionary enterprises in any part of the world. Among these Polish officers there were undoubtedly men of very respectable ability, such as Dembinsky, Bem,2wa Mieroslawski, and others; but also much worthless and time-worn material. How the provisional government of the Palatinate hit upon General Sznayde I do not know. It was said that in the Polish-Russian war of 1830-1831 he had been a very brave cavalry officer, but in the year 1849 it would
have been difficult to find a general less fit for the command of the volunteer bodies in the Palatinate. He was a very fat and ponderous old gentleman who looked as if he preferred to wield fork and knife rather than the sword, and to whom a good night's rest would be much more welcome than the tumult of battle. Neither could he say the little he had to say in intelligible German.2x His performance as an organizer of the popular army consisted mainly in hindering the military commission that was to aid him.2xa The consequence was that while the provisional government issued an abundance of appeals and orders, most of them remained unobserved. After a labor of six weeks the Palatinate had not more than seven to eight thousand men, most of whom were very badly armed, and all of whom were indifferently disciplined.
In the neighboring2xb grand duchy of Baden things looked much more favorable; the whole infantry and artillery, as well as the largest part of the cavalry of the state, had come over to the popular side and presented a well-equipped army corps of about fifteen thousand men. Moreover, the fortress of Rastatt had fallen into the hands of the insurrectionists, with all its stores of arms, ammunition and equipments. Newly formed organizations could therefore much more easily be provided with all the necessaries, and thus an army of some forty or fifty thousand men might have been organized in a comparatively short time.2y To be sure, the officers had mostly remained true to the grand duke, and thus separated themselves from their commands, but their places had been filled with promoted corporals and sergeants, and among these were able men in sufficient numbers to maintain among the troops tolerable discipline. Thus the revolution appeared in Baden in more or less stately armament.
But the political leaders in the Palatinate and Baden ought to have recognized from the start that the utmost exertion of their strength2ya could not possibly be sufficient to resist the united power of the German princes, or even that of Prussia alone. There was no hope of success unless the popular uprising spread beyond its present boundaries into the rest of Germany.2yb To this end all the available forces that could be mustered should without delay have been thrown across the frontiers in order to draw into the revolutionary movement the population of the neighboring states; in the first place those of Würtemberg and Hessen.2z A young officer of Baden, Franz Sigel,2za who had been promoted to major by the provisional government, recognized this clearly enough, and he counseled an advance into Würtemberg. The provisional government permitted him to lead an expedition into the grand duchy of Hessen with a small force, but after an unfortunate engagement he was ordered back.2aa The provisional governments of Baden and of the Palatinate could not screw up their courage to an offensive2ab venture across their boundaries; they did not see that their defeat was inevitable if they waited in a defensive attitude for the attacks of the hostile forces. They continued to cling to the desperate hope that the Prussian government after all at the last moment would recoil from an active assault upon the defenders of the national constitution; or, if not, that the Prussian “Landwehr” would refuse to fight against2aba their brothers who had risen for a common cause. Whatever the Landwehr might have done if the revolutionary army, with bold resolution and victorious courage, had come to meet them on their own ground, and had so appealed to their sympathies, it could hardly be expected of them that they would sacrifice themselves for a cause which was only timidly defended by its champions. But however clear this should have been at the time to the leaders in Baden and the Palatinate, the provisional governments insisted upon remaining within the boundaries of their own little countries and thus to await the attack.
On the day after my arrival in Kaiserslautern I would have enlisted as a private soldier in one of the volunteer battalions then being organized, had not Anneke not advised me not to be in too much of a hurry, but to permit him to find a fit position for me.2ac He had been made chief of artillery in the Palatinate, and said he could employ me on his staff. Two days afterwards he brought me an appointment as lieutenant, signed by the provisional government, and made me his aide-de-camp. Kinkel found employment as one of the secretaries of the provisional government. The artillery of the Palatinate consisted, at that time, of only the four little guns of the corps commanded by Zitz, of half a dozen2aca small cannon, of which it was said they might be of much use in mountain warfare, and of a battery of six pounders obtained from the provisional government of Baden. The field of activity of the artillery chief and of his staff was therefore a2acb limited one; and I was not displeased when I was told that until the beginning of active hostilities I might also be employed in political affairs.
I was now and then sent to popular meetings which were held to warm the patriotic zeal of the masses; and once I2acc received an order2acd to effect the arrest of a priest who used his influence in his parish — a large village of about three thousand inhabitants — to keep the young men from enlisting in the military organizations then forming. This was regarded as a sort of high treason against the new order of things; and the priest being looked upon as a desperate person who might possibly offer resistance, a little body of fifty men was to accompany me in order to aid me in the execution of my orders. This armed force did, indeed, not look very formidable; the lieutenant who commanded it was in civilian dress, except that he wore a plume on his hat and a tri-colored sash,2ace and a sword. Among the men there was only one military uniform, that of a member of the national guard of Strasburg, whence he had come to enjoy with us the revolutionary frolic in the Palatinate. The rest of the men were in their daily garb.2ad There were only about a dozen muskets among them, mostly2ada with old flint locks. The rest of the armament consisted of spears and scythes fastened straight on poles. As a commissioner of the provisional government, I was distinguished by a tri-colored sash and a sword; I also carried a pistol in my belt, but without cartridges. Thus equipped we marched across the country to the village in which the treasonable priest carried on his mischievous activity. Within sight of the village we halted, and there being nobody among my men who was acquainted with the whereabouts, I sent three of them, without arms, ahead to reconnoiter the location of the parsonage. Two of them should remain there after having discovered it, and the third was to return to serve the expedition as a guide.2ae
When I marched into the village at the head of my armament I found the streets a picture of profound peace. It was a beautiful2aea summer afternoon; the male inhabitants, agriculturists, were working in the fields; only a few old people and little children were to be seen at the doors of the houses or at the windows, looking at the strange procession with stolid astonishment. I must confess that I appeared to myself for the moment somewhat comical, but my official duty left me no choice. The parsonage was promptly surrounded by part of my force, so that my2aeb culprit should not slip away through a back door; the main body was drawn up in front of the house on the street. I knocked at the door and found myself soon in a plain but very comfortably furnished room with the priest before me. He was a young man, perhaps thirty-five years old; a robust figure and a well-formed head, with lively penetrating eyes. I tried to assume a severe martial attitude, and acquainted him at once, in short words, with my charge, put my hand upon his shoulder, as2af was customary in making an arrest, and called him my prisoner. To my astonishment he broke out in a merry laugh, which seemed quite genuine.
“You want to arrest me,” he exclaimed; “that is nice. You are evidently a university student. I have been the same, and understand this sort of thing; the whole story is only a joke. Drink a bottle of wine with me.” Thereupon he opened the door of the room and called to a servant to bring wine.
I did not like to be at once discovered as a university student, and resented that my mien of official authority should not impress him.2afa So I said in as severe a tone as possible, “Reverend sir,2ag this is not a joke. You have hindered in your parish the organization of the army; such treasonable conduct cannot be permitted by the provisional government. In the name of that provisional government I have arrested you. You must follow me; do not hesitate to obey. Your house is surrounded by soldiers; do not oblige me to use force!”
“Force! We will see about that!” he exclaimed, and in his eyes there gleamed something like anger and defiance, but he controlled himself, and continued in a serious but quiet tone: “There cannot be so much hurry about this that you may not listen to a word from me. Here is the girl with the wine, and if I must follow you, permit me at least to drink a glass with you, to your health. It is true I have warned my poor peasant boys not to enter the army and to expose themselves to be shot2ah for nothing. You yourself do not think that this insane revolt can succeed; in a few days the Prussians will chase your provisional government across the Rhine. Wherefore then this nonsense which may cost many people their lives?” With this he pulled the cork out of the bottle and filled two glasses. I had no time to consider whether, thirsty as I was, I should drink with my prisoner, when I heard the bell on the church steeple near by give a violent signal of alarm. This could be nothing else than a tocsin; it seemed that the peasants had somehow or other been informed of the danger threatening their priest, and as if this church bell summoned them to his protection. The priest seemed to understand the situation clearly; a sly smile flew across his face.
“How many men have you outside?” he asked.
“Enough,” I answered.
I opened the window and saw crowds of peasants hurrying on from all sides2aha with flails and pitch-forks and bludgeons. My men were still standing in line on the street; some of them seemed2ahb to look around with anxiety at the villagers rushing upon the scene. I ordered the lieutenant to post my men with their backs against the house and to let nobody in; in case of an attack, he should defend the door to the utmost of his ability.2ahc I directed him to give the same orders to the men who watched the back door of the parsonage. The multitudes in front of the house grew larger and larger. Threatening exclamations were heard; evidently the situation was becoming complicated. Whether the handful of my volunteers could resist that big crowd of fanatic peasants appeared very questionable.
The priest still smiled. “My parishioners will defend me with their lives. It looks to me as if your armed force were in their power.”
Then a happy thought shot across my mind.
“In any case, you, Herr Pastor, are in my power,” I answered, drawing my pistol from my belt and cocking it. The priest would have continued to smile if he had known that the pistol was not loaded. He evidently thought it was a dangerous weapon, and his smile disappeared suddenly.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“I want you,” I said with a show of coolness which, however, I did not really feel; “I want you to step at once to this window and to2ahd admonish your peasants to return to their homes without delay. You will add that you have affairs with the provisional government in the interest of your parishioners; that you will go to the city in the company of your friend here — that means me — to transact that business, and that these armed volunteers have come to protect you on the way against all danger and annoyance. While you make this speech to your peasants I stand with this pistol behind you. Do your business well, my friend; the provisional government will remember it.” The priest looked at me for a moment with an expression of surprise, and smiled again, but it was an embarrassed smile; the pistol in my hand evidently did not please him. Then he rose, stepped to the window and was received by the peasants with loud exclamations. He commanded silence, and said exactly what I had prescribed to him. He did his business finely. The peasants obeyed without hesitation, and quiet reigned again2ahe in the streets. The priest and I then emptied our bottle of wine with all comfort. At dusk we left the house by the back door and wandered together toward the city like two old friends in merry conversation, my armed escort a hundred paces behind us. On the way I toyed with my pistol, throwing it into the air and catching it again with my hand.
“Take care,” said the priest, “the pistol might go off.”
“Impossible, Herr Pastor,” I answered; “it is not loaded.”
“What!” he exclaimed, “not loaded?”2ai
We looked at one another and broke out into loud laughter.
I reported to the provisional government how the priest had helped me and my people out of a very precarious situation, and he was very kindly treated and allowed to return home forthwith. The provisional government had indeed much more important things to think of.
The attack which the merry Pfaelzers — at least many of them — had so long deemed improbable now really came. On the 12th of June a body of Prussian troops crossed the frontier. If the curses which those otherwise so good-natured people hurled against those Prussians had all been cannon balls, the Prussian troops could hardly have stood up against them; but the real fighting force at the disposal of the provisional government was so insignificant and so ill-equipped and undisciplined2aia that an effective defense of the country was not possible. It was therefore necessary to avoid an encounter with the Prussians, and so it happened that the first military operation in which I participated consisted in a retreat. A few days before this my chief, Lieutenant Colonel Anneke, had instructed me to be ready to march at any moment, which I did not find difficult, because my baggage was extremely scant. I was given a horse, a fine bay, and as I had never learned to ride, my commander sent me to a riding school, where the master ordered me to mount the animal, explaining to me in a few words what I was to do with my legs and my hands to guide my mount; whereupon he struck him with a smart cut of his whip, and I had to keep my seat as well as I could on my prancing steed.2aib After this had gone on for an hour or so the master dismissed me, saying: “The next lesson you will get on the march.”2aj He was right; the constant exercise in active service gave me a pretty firm seat.
The sudden necessity of retreating considerably increased the general confusion.2ak There was no end of orders and revocations of orders2am until we finally got started. I think it was in the night from the 13th to the 14th of June. With our artillery we had, indeed, no great difficulty, inasmuch as2ama it consisted of very few pieces. At two o'clock in the night we mounted our horses and were off.2amb A night march is almost always a miserable affair, especially a night march in retreat. Yet I must confess that the dull rumble of the wheels on the road, the rustle of the marching columns, the low snorting of the horses, and the rattling of the sabers and scabbards in the darkness, affected me as something especially romantic. In the appreciation of this I found sympathetic response with the wife of my chief, Mathilda Franciska Anneke, a young woman of noble character, beauty, vivacity, and fiery patriotism, who accompanied her husband on this march.2an I remember well our common pleasure, when in that night we passed by a tavern on the roadside, where some of the men, bearded fellows with black hats covered with plumes, and fantastically ornamented blouses, their rifles hung over their shoulders, in the feeble flicker of a lamp crowded around the woman of the hostelry, who poured wine for them. The picture might have been a scene of Schiller's “Robbers.”3 The majority of our men not being uniformed,4 every soldier dressed more or less according to his fancy, and this gave tempting scope to individual taste. Many of the men evidently endeavored to look very wild and terrible,5 which they would have done had their faces not been so strikingly good-natured.
About sunrise after this first night's march we found ourselves in a deep gorge between precipitous ledges, near a place called Frankenstein,6 where we took a defensive position across the road to Neustadt. A cold morning brings, under such circumstances, a feeling of truly unromantic sober-mindedness with it, and I then learned that a hot cup of coffee, ever so thin, and a piece of dry bread,6a belong to the great benefactions of life. The Prussians, however, did not press us, and we remained6b undisturbed in our bivouac near Frankenstein during the entire day. On the 15th and 16th of June the troops of the Palatinate were drawn together near Neustadt-an-der-Hardt.7
In this rich country the population of the villages manifested their friendly sentiments toward us by putting large pails filled with wine7a in the doors of their houses, so that the passing troops might refresh themselves. There I saw for the first time the leader of a considerable corps, Colonel Blenker,8 who twelve years later, during the Civil War in the United States, attracted much attention as a brigade commander. He was an excellent horseman, and as he appeared splendidly accoutered at the head of his staff, he presented a stately and imposing figure.8a The spectacle of several well-armed battalions revived, to some extent, the courage of our troops, which had been somewhat dampened by the retreat, and here and there arose the cry that now the confounded Prussians might come on; but the retreat was continued and the Palatinate abandoned without the striking of a blow. About the 19th of June, 1849, some seven or eight thousand strong, we crossed the Rhine into Baden territory and marched toward Karlsruhe, the capital of the grand duchy.8aa
Our entry into that neat little city created among the inhabitants a sensation which was by no means flattering to the troops of the Palatinate. The Karlsruhe burghers, who had been accustomed to the trim appearance of the grand duke's soldiers, did not seem to relish8ab the picturesque and romantic appearance of our Palatinate fighters for liberty, but were rather inclined to close their doors and shutters as though feeling the necessity of protecting themselves against the inroad of a band of robbers. At any rate, the faces of many of the people who stood on the streets watching our entering columns bore the unmistakable expression of anxious expectancy.8b We consoled ourselves with the thought, and gave that thought very vigorous utterance, that the population of this little capital consisted mainly of courtiers high and low, and of government officials, and that at the bottom of their hearts they hated the revolution and wished the grand duke to return, although many of them had, since his flight, talked like republicans.8ba The wish of the people of Karlsruhe to get rid of their neighbors from the Palatinate, was so great that our troops were not even given sufficient opportunity to prove to those timid souls what honest and peace-loving beings were concealed under those wild beards, those red plumes, and those belts stocked full of daggers and dirks. On the same day a camp was assigned to us outside of the city, and on the 20th of June we marched northward to the aid of the revolutionary army of Baden, which in the meantime had got into a critical situation.
The army of Baden had defended the northern frontier of the grand duchy against General Peuker,8bb commander of a corps formed of regular Würtemberg and Hessen troops.8c Just at the time when the hostilities broke out, the Badish army also received its Pole, General Mieroslawski,8ca as commander-in-chief. He was still a young man, and had shown much ability as well as bravery in the last Polish uprising, but he possessed no knowledge of local conditions, and was ignorant of the German language. However, he was vastly preferable to old Sznayde. On the 20th of June the Prussian corps passed the Rhine from the Palatinate near Philipsburg, and so got into the rear of the Badish army. With a rapid movement Mieroslawski turned against these Prussians, checked them by a bold attack near Waghaeusel, and then executed a clever flank march by which he passed between the Prussian troops and those of General Peuker, and opened communication with the corps of the Palatinate and the reserves which approached from the south of Baden.8d The engagement at Waghaeusel was by no means discreditable to the Badish troops. We could hear the roar of the guns as we marched northward8da by way of Bruchsal, and soon rumors began to circulate among us of a great victory won by our people over the Prussians. But then later news came that Mieroslawski was retreating along the Würtemberg frontier and that we had to cover his flank. This did not much disturb our belief that the battle of Waghaeusel had really been a victory, the fruits of which, however, as was said, were lost through the treachery of the colonel of the dragoons, who was ordered to pursue the beaten enemy. On the 23d of June we advanced to Ubstadt and there we received the report that the next morning we would have to meet the Prussian vanguard.8e The orders which I received from my chief kept me busy on horseback until night, and it was late when I reached my quarters in the tavern at Ubstadt. My chief had already gone to rest. Upon all sides I heard the snoring of sleepers. Only the daughter of our host, a buxom young maiden8f of resolute expression of face, seemed to be at work. I asked her for a bed and something to eat, and both requests were granted by her with a robust outbreak of her feelings against the “accursed Prussians,” who had nothing to do in the Badish land, and whom we should send home on the morrow with a sound thrashing. Now I expected within myself the solemn “emotions on the eve of battle” of which here and there I had read. But no emotions came; I fell asleep as soon as I had stretched myself out.
Neither did those emotions come the next morning, “on the morning of the battle.” It almost appeared to me as if overmuch had been imagined about such emotions. In later life I have gathered the experience that indeed they will occur, but only on exceptional occasions. Ordinarily the thoughts of the soldier on the morning before the battle turn to things of a very practical nature, among which breakfast occupies an important place.8fa So it happened to me on that morning at Ubstadt. At an early hour we were in the saddle, and soon we saw at a little distance in our front some cavalrymen who8g approached at a moderate pace. This signified that the Prussians had deployed one or more squadrons of uhlans9 as skirmishers who would be followed by infantry and artillery to make an attack. The uhlans disappeared after having fired a few shots from their carbines,9a and then began a lively rattle of infantry fire. Soon cannon were posted on both sides and the balls flew to and fro with their peculiar rushing sound, without, however, doing much damage. At first my attention was occupied entirely by orders which I had to transmit or to execute, but after our artillery had been placed, and we sat quietly on our horses in the immediate neighborhood of the battery, I had leisure to become conscious of my thoughts and feelings. Then I experienced another disappointment. For the first time I was “under fire.” I cannot say that I was entirely calm; my nerves were in an unaccustomed stir: but that stir was not fear, nor was it the heroic joy of battle, of which I had read so much, for I was obliged to stand still. As the Prussian guns directed their fire upon our artillery position, their balls flew one after another immediately over our heads. At first I felt a strong inclination when I heard the noise right above me, to duck; but it occurred to me that this was unbecoming an officer, and then I remained straight upright in my saddle. I also forced myself not to quiver when a musket bullet whizzed close by my ear. The wounded men who were carried past excited my warm sympathy; but the thought that the same might happen to me the next moment did not occur to me at all.9aa When my chief afterwards sent me again with orders hither and thither, all the reflections ceased and I thought of nothing but the things I had to do, and of the course of the action as I could observe it. In short, I felt little or nothing of those stormy, irrepressible agitations which I had imagined to be inseparable from a battle, but the experience convinced me that under similar circumstances I should always be likely to retain my presence of mind.9ab
The engagement at Ubstadt was a comparatively small affair, with no purpose on our side but to retard the advance of the enemy until the Badish army could have reformed in our rear, and then slowly to fall back upon its position. At Ubstadt this instruction was carried out in a comparatively orderly manner. That such things cannot be done as perfectly with hastily organized and indifferently disciplined volunteers as with well-schooled regular troops is a matter of course. The next day we had a more considerable9b engagement with the Prussian vanguard near Bruchsal, which again ended in a retreat on our part. As frequently happens in popular uprisings, excited people are apt to ascribe the failure of their enterprise to the treachery of this or that leader; and on this occasion the cry was raised against poor General Sznayde. On the retreat he was suddenly surrounded9c by a band of mutineers and dragged from his horse. He then disappeared from the scene of action, and the troops of the Palatinate were put under the immediate orders of the Badish commander.
On the line of the Murg10 River, the left wing leaning on the fortress of Rastatt, the united corps of the revolutionists of Baden and of the Palatinate fought their last defensive fight on the 28th, 29th and 30th of June, 1849, in part very gallantly, although without success. On the evening10a of June 30 Lieutenant Colonel Anneke sent me with an instruction concerning artillery ammunition into the fortress of Rastatt, where I was to wait for him in a certain11 fortification from which we could observe a large part of the battlefield. There he would call for me,11a he said. I discharged my order and then went to the place indicated by my chief, tied my horse to a gun carriage and sat down on the rampart, where after having watched the fight outside for a little while I fell asleep from sheer fatigue in spite of the roaring of the cannon.11aa When I awoke the sun was about to set. I inquired among the artillerymen standing around for Colonel Anneke, but nobody had seen him. I became restless and mounted my horse to look for my chief outside of the town. When I arrived at the gate the officer on duty informed me that I could not get out; that our army was pressed back toward the south, and that the fortress was completely surrounded by the Prussians. I galloped to the11ab headquarters of the commander of the fortress and received there the confirmation of what I had heard. The prospect of remaining in the city with Prussians all around, and this not in obedience to orders, but by mere accident, struck me as exceedingly undesirable.11aa I could not resign myself to it, and inquired again and again whether there was no way out, until at last an officer standing near the gate said: “I feel just as you do. I do not belong here and have tried all possible points where I thought I might slip through, but all in vain. We have to submit and remain.” Of Anneke I found no trace. He had either left the city or perhaps had not been in it [at] all.
Having given up all hope of escape, I reported myself to the Governor of the fortress, Colonel Tiedemann.12 He was a tall, slender man, with fine, regular features, and a bold, resolute expression of face. As the son of a privy counselor, a far-famed professor of medicine in Heidelberg, he had received a good education. In early youth his inclination led him into the army, and he followed to Athens the Bavarian Prince Otto, who became the first king of Greece.12a The revolution in Baden found him at home, and the provisional government entrusted to him the command of the fortress of Rastatt. He received me kindly, listened to my report, and attached me to his staff.12b As to my duties, I was to report to him the next morning. I received quarters in the house of a confectioner by the name of Nusser.12c My host and his wife,12d very kind and well-mannered people, welcomed me heartily and put at my disposal a pleasant room and a seat at their table. Also my servant, Adam, a young soldier from the Palatinate, who fortunately had followed me into the fortress, found shelter in the house.
All this looked cheerful enough. But when my host and Adam had left me alone and I could, in the silence of my chamber, think over the new situation, my heart became heavy. That our cause, unless a miracle happened, was lost, I could no longer conceal from myself; and what kind of a miracle it might be, my hopeful imagination12e failed to guess. Could it be the passing over of the Prussian Landwehr to the revolutionary army? That would12f have been possible at the beginning of the campaign, if at all. Now, after a series of defeats that possibility had disappeared.12g Could it be a great victory of our troops in the highlands of Baden?12h Not to be thought of, as the retreat of our forces from the Murg River must have weakened them more by the inevitable demoralization than they could have been strengthened by reinforcements from other parts of the country.12i Could it be a great victory of the Hungarians in the East? But the Hungarians were far away and the Russians were marching upon them. Could it be a new uprising of the people in Germany? But the revolutionary impulse was evidently exhausted. Here we were shut up in a fortress surrounded by the Prussians. A stubborn defense of the fortress could serve our cause, only in so much as it might prove that a popular army could also possess courage and maintain its military honor. But under all circumstances the fortress could resist only a very limited time. And then? Capitulation. And then? We would fall into the hands of the Prussians. The supreme commander of the Prussian troops in Baden was “The Prince of Prussia,” in whom, at that time, nobody would have recognized the afterwards so popular12j Kaiser Wilhelm I. At that period the prince was regarded as the worst enemy of all movements for freedom. The generally credited rumor that it was he who on the 18th of March, 1848, in Berlin, had given the order to fire upon the people had earned for him, with the people, the title of the “Grapeshot Prince.”13 The excitement of the masses against him during those days of March was in fact so violent that the king thought it best to send him away to England for some time, and this journey was carried out in a manner which looked very much like flight. That in the year 1849 when the imperial crown was offered to his brother, Frederick William IV., he belonged to those who advised a favorable consideration of that offer, and that if he instead of his brother had been king of Prussia, the crisis might have taken a turn much more propitious to the realization of German unity, was at that time not yet known; nor would it have found much belief, for the prince of Prussia was then generally thought to be an honest and inflexible absolutist, who candidly and firmly believed that kings were ordained by God and had to render account only to God; that the people must have nothing to do with the business of the government; that resistance to the kingly power was equivalent to a direct offense against God Himself, and that it was an important duty of those in power to impose upon such a crime the heaviest possible penalty. So in the minds of the people the prince appeared as a fanatical soldier to whom the Prussian army was a very idol; who saw in it the “sword of God,” the bulwark of the order of the universe; in whose eyes the Prussian subject that fought against the Prussian army committed an unpardonable crime not less accursed than patricide itself, and from whom such a criminal could expect no grace. We natives of Prussia, therefore, if we fell into the hands of that prince, had the best possible prospects of being condemned to death by a drumhead court-martial and of being shot.13a With these dismal thoughts I went to bed. Nevertheless I slept soundly and awoke long after sunrise.
The duties assigned to me by the governor were not onerous. I had to spend certain hours on the highest gallery of the tower of the castle, armed with a telescope, to observe the enemy and to make report of what I might see. Then I had, periodically, to visit certain bastions and gates, and to inspect certain watches, and in addition to do such other things as the governor might see proper to entrust to me.13aa To fit me for that duty I donned the uniform of a regular infantry lieutenant of the Badish army, which transformed me13b into a respectable-looking officer and gave me a sort of military consciousness which until then I had not possessed.
Colonel Tiedemann succeeded in maintaining among the garrison — which was composed partly of regular Badish soldiers and partly of volunteers — pretty good discipline. Only once, as far as I can remember, I witnessed a serious breach of order. Some soldiers thought they had detected a spy, and soon a furious crowd rushed after the poor fellow, who tried to save himself by flight, but who succumbed after a few steps to the saber thrusts and stones hurled at him. It was all the work of a moment. The officers who accidentally were near, among them myself, succeeded, after a while, in quieting the soldier mob, but we were unable to save the victim. We had also other13c excitements.
One morning, shortly after break of day, I was awakened by a violent explosion on the street immediately under my window. As I jumped out of bed the thought struck me that the Prussians might, during the night, have penetrated into the city, and that there was now a street fight going on. A second explosion, immediately above the house, and the rattling noise of heavy objects falling upon the roof, taught me that the fortress was being bombarded, and that a shell had knocked down the chimney of my house. One explosion came after another, and the guns of our fortress boomed in response. I hurried as quickly as possible to headquarter in the castle and there I beheld a heartrending spectacle. The court of the castle was crowded with citizens, among them many women and children who had fled out of their houses and instinctively sought in the vicinity of the commander, protection against the threatening catastrophe. Most of the grown-up people, and even some of the children, carried beds or boxes and all other house belongings on their heads or under their arms. As often as a shell rushed over the castle yard or exploded in the vicinity, the poor people, overcome by terror, threw down all they were carrying and ran toward shelter, screaming and wringing their hands. Then a moment of silence would intervene and they picked up their goods and chattels from the ground; but as soon as another shell came along the same scene repeated itself. We staff officers had our hands full in trying to quiet the people, and as far as possible to place them in safety in the bomb-proof casemates of the fortress. Meantime the church-bells began to peal and a multitude — women with their children, and not a few men — ran across the market-place to the church, where, with loud lamentations, they prayed God to save them.
The bombardment, however, was not very serious. It lasted only a few hours, and did very little damage. A few fires caused by it were speedily extinguished. The Prussians probably intended only to let us know that the surrender of the fortress must not be too long delayed, if we would avoid greater discomfort. Thus we were bombarded only with field pieces and a few mortars. The heavy siege guns were to be brought on if it should be necessary to compel surrender by extreme means. The governor13d preferred, however, for the time being, to continue defense, and the next day a sortie was undertaken to drive away the battery that had annoyed us. The officer who commanded that sortie afterwards reported that the mortars had been taken and spiked by our men.
Beyond this nothing of great importance happened. With the higher officers of the garrison I came into contact as a member of the staff, but as I was still a very young man our intercourse was not intimate. The principal figures that I remember were Colonel Biedenfeld, a stiff old soldier who had been an officer in the regular army of Baden; Colonel Böhning, a white-haired, venerable-looking free corps commander; Major Heilig, the chief of artillery, about six and a half feet in height, a kindly and very popular officer; Lieutenant Colonel Otto von Corvin,14 a strikingly handsome young soldier, who had been a lieutenant in the Prussian army, and who, if I remember rightly, like myself, had remained in the fortress accidentally; and Major Mahler,14a a former lieutenant in the regular army of Baden, a young, gay infantry officer who,14aa many years afterwards, fought for the Union under my command as a Colonel of the Seventy-fifth Pennsylvania, and who was killed at Gettysburg.
The duty which most interested me was that of the lookout, from the height of the castle tower. From there I had a magnificent view — toward the east the mountains in which Baden-Baden is nestled; toward the north the smiling Rhine valley with its rich fields and vineyards, its shady forests and the church steeples of many villages hidden among the fruit trees; toward the south14aaa the Black Forest; to the west Alsatia on the opposite side of the Rhine, with far-away blue mountain lines. How beautiful was all this! How benevolent Nature in her rich, lavish goodness! And over there,14ab in these apparently peaceful surroundings, lay “The Enemy,” who had us firmly in his grasp. There I saw the outposts regularly relieved, and the patrols of horsemen busily moving to and fro, keeping a sharp eye upon us so that not a soul of us should escape them. There I saw the batteries of the enemy ready to hurl destruction and death at us. There I saw their camps teeming with14b human beings, many of whom, aye, perhaps a large majority, thought as we thought and desired what we desired — possibly among them children of neighbors in my native village — and yet, all prepared at the command of their superiors, to fire the deadly bullet into our breasts. And over all this there streamed down in those summer days the beautiful sunlight of heaven, so warm and so peaceably radiant, as if there were nothing but harmony and happiness in the world. All this so cruelly unnatural, and yet so cruelly14c true!
A strange life that was in the besieged fortress. With the exception of one sortie, there being no further fighting excitement, we soldiers did our routine service day after day with mechanical precision, and the burghers pursued what occupation there still remained to them,14d all in a state of strained expectation, waiting for the fate that could not be averted. The world outside lay far, far away from us in unmeasurable distance. There we sat within our ramparts, excluded from all humanity, as if we did not belong to it. Not a sound of it penetrated to us except a distant rolling of the drum or the trumpet signals of the enemy besieging us. From time to time mysterious rumors arose, of which nobody knew whence they came. Our troops, it was once said, had won a great victory in the upper country and driven the Prussians before them. Then a fresh revolution had broken out in France, and all Germany was in new commotion. Then the Hungarians had disastrously defeated the united Austrians and Russians, and were ready to send their victorious legions to the aid of the German revolutionists. Once the higher officers of the garrison rushed up to me on the observation tower because somebody had actually heard, in the direction of the upper country, a long continuing thunder of cannon, constantly approaching; and now they had come to see the clouds of dust raised by the columns advancing to our relief. But the imagined thunder of artillery was inaudible to us; all remained still, and we sank back into our dull hopelessness. Sometimes we tried to amuse ourselves with frolics in the wine houses — for the town was still well provided with wine. Then there was occasionally an effort at gayety, but it was little more than an effort, for everybody knew that behind his chair stood the dark specter of the inevitable catastrophe.
Suddenly one day — it was in the third week of the siege — a Prussian officer,14e under a flag of truce, came into the fortress with a summons to surrender, bringing the news that the revolutionary army had14f crossed the Swiss frontier, and had therefore ceased to exist; that not a single armed insurgent remained on German soil, and that the Prussian commander would consent to permit any man whom the garrison of Rastatt would entrust with such a mission, to convince himself of these facts with his own eyes, and to this end they would give him safe conduct wherever he might wish to go. This caused tremendous excitement. At once the governor called a general council of war, which, if I remember rightly, consisted of all officers of the garrison from captain upward. The council met promptly in the great hall of the castle. After a stormy discussion it was resolved that the offer of the Prussian commander should be accepted, and Lieutenant Colonel Corvin received the commission to explore the condition of things outside; and in case he found it to be as the Prussian flag of truce had represented, to negotiate for a capitulation on conditions as favorable as could be obtained.
The hall in the castle in which that council of war was held, had been, during the siege, always accessible to me, and one of the big lounges, upholstered with yellow silk damask, had been my accustomed resting place when I returned14g from my observations on the castle tower, or from my rounds through the fortress. I had selected this sofa because from it I had an especially good view of a fresco on the ceiling which had a peculiar charm for me. It was an allegorical group, in which probably some ancestor of the grand ducal family of Baden14h was portrayed in the shape of Jupiter, or Mars, or Apollo. The subject of the picture did not attract me. But I found therein the face of some goddess which reminded me vividly of Betty, and when I looked up from my sofa the eyes of Betty looked kindly down upon me. No wonder, therefore, that I loved to rest upon this spot and that I indulged myself in all sorts of waking dreams, forgetting my dismal situation, until my eyes closed in sleep.
On the second morning after Corvin's departure, in the gray dawn I lay down upon the sofa14i for a short rest. Soon I was awakened by the noise of heavy steps, rattling sabers and a confusion of voices. From what I saw and heard I concluded that Corvin had returned from his mission and that the great council of war was reassembling. The governor entered, demanded silence and asked Corvin, who stood at his side, to make his report orally to the whole assembly. Corvin then told us that, accompanied by a Prussian officer, he had traveled down14j to the Swiss frontier and had convinced himself on the spot that no revolutionary force14k was left in Baden, the revolutionary army having crossed into Switzerland, surrendered its arms, and dissolved. He had also satisfied himself from the newspapers, that in the rest of Germany there was not the slightest vestige of a revolutionary movement. Everywhere submission and quiet. The Hungarians, too, had suffered decisive defeats in consequence of the Russian intervention and would undoubtedly soon succumb. In short, the garrison of Rastatt was entirely forsaken, and could not hope for any relief; and finally, Corvin added, he had been informed at Prussian headquarters that the commander of the besieging army would insist upon a surrender of the fortress at discretion, without conditions of any kind.
Deep silence followed this speech. Every one of the hearers felt that Corvin had told the truth. Finally, somebody — I do not remember who — asked to be allowed to put some questions. Then there was a confusion of voices in which some hotheads talked of “dying to the last man”; whereupon the governor gave the floor to a former Prussian soldier, who had become an officer in the forces of the Palatinate. This officer said that he was as ready as anyone to sacrifice to our cause his last drop of blood, and that those of us who were Prussians, when they fell into the hands of the besieging army, would14m have to die in any case. Nevertheless he advised the immediate surrender of the fortress. If we did not surrender to-day, we would be obliged to do it to-morrow. We ought not to expose the citizens of the town, with their wives and children, to famine, or to another bombardment, and all in vain. It was time to make an end, whatever might happen to us personally. A murmur swept through the hall approving this advice, and then it was resolved that Corvin should try once more to secure, at the Prussian headquarters, for the officers and men of our garrison as favorable conditions as possible. But if after a reasonable effort he saw the impossibility of obtaining such conditions, he should agree with the Prussian headquarters upon the necessary arrangements for a surrender at discretion. When we left the hall most of us undoubtedly felt that nothing else could be hoped for.
That afternoon I mounted once more my tower of observation upon which I had spent so many watchful and dreamy hours.14n The magnificent landscape lay before me in the beautiful sunshine. It appeared to me even more beautiful than ever. I felt as if I must take a last leave of it.
“We Prussians will probably have to die in any case.” These words echoed in my ear, and I was convinced of their truth. To these Prussians I14na belonged. I remember vividly the thoughts which then on that tower of observation went through my head.14nb One recollection forced itself again and again upon my mind, how a few years before my father had, with me, visited Professor Pütz in Cologne;14nc how the professor had put his hand upon my shoulder and smilingly said to my father, “A hopeful boy”; and how proudly then my father had nodded his head and looked at me. “Of that hopeful boy there is now an end,” I said to myself. Many of the bold dreams of a great and fruitful activity which I had formerly cherished recurred to me, and it seemed hard, very hard, to depart from the world before I had been permitted to render it any14nd worthy service. A sensation of profound sorrow came over me, not on account of myself alone, but also on account of my parents who had expected so much of me, to whom I was to be the support of old age, and who now saw all their hopes shattered and destroyed forever. Finally, nothing remained to me but the determination if I was so to end, to look my fate in the eyes with courage and dignity.
I remained on the gallery of the observation tower until the sun was down.14o Then I descended and reported myself to the governor, [to see] whether he still had orders for the night. “Tonight,” he said, “every one of my officers ought to be on the ramparts. I apprehend that the men know that we shall surrender to-morrow, and will leave their posts. That should not be.” I was glad to have something to do that would occupy my thoughts. In the fortifications and in the town there was now a great deal of noise and confusion. Many of the men regarded it as superfluous to take further care of the service; it would be all over anyhow the next day. There was also much hubbub in the wine houses, when14oa the soldiers would have their last cup together. But the admonitions addressed by the officers to the men who were running about or drinking did not find any vicious resistance. The number of those who still continued to do their duty was sufficient to14ob maintain tolerable order.
Toward daybreak I stretched myself once more on my accustomed sofa, and after several hours of profound sleep woke up with the thought, “To-day you will be taken by the Prussians, to be14p shot dead.” Then I went to headquarters, where I learned that Corvin had not succeeded in negotiating any conditions, and that the surrender at discretion was a certain thing.14pa At twelve o'clock noon the troops were to march through the gates to lay down their arms between two lines of14q Prussians outside on the glacis of the fortress. The orders had already been issued. I went to my quarters14r to write a last letter to my parents. I thanked them for all the love and care they had devoted to me, and asked them to forgive me if I had disappointed their hopes.14s I told them that following my honest convictions I had taken up arms for a cause that I believed to be right, for the liberty and unity of the German people, and if it should be my lot to die for that cause, it would be an honorable death of which they would never have reason to be ashamed. This letter I put into the hands of good Mr. Nusser, my host, who, with tears in his eyes, promised to put it into the mail as soon as communications14sa should be opened again. In the meanwhile the hour of noon approached. Already I heard the signals calling the troops on the ramparts and in the barracks to the rally, and I prepared myself to go up to headquarters. Then a new idea suddenly flashed through my head. I remembered that only a few days previously my attention had been attracted to a subterranean sewer for the waters of the street gutters which, near the Steinmauerner14sb gate, led from the interior of the city, under the fortifications, into an open field outside. This sewer was probably a part of an uncompleted drainage system. The entrance to it in the interior of the city was situated in a trench near a garden hedge. Outside it emptied into a ditch overgrown with shrubbery, which bordered a corn field. When these circumstances had first come to my knowledge, it had occurred to me that if the opening as well as the exit of that sewer were not well watched, spies might easily pass through it from the outside into the town. I had reported the matter to the governor, but immediately afterwards came the negotiations with the enemy, the mission of Corvin, and the excitement about the impending capitulation, which drove the affair of the sewer out of my mind.
Now at the last moment before the surrender the remembrance came back to me like a ray of light. Would it not be possible for me to escape through that sewer? Would it not, if I thus gained the open in this way, be possible in some manner to reach the Rhine, there to procure a boat and to cross the river to the French side? My resolution was promptly taken — I would at least try.14t
I called my servant, who had prepared my belongings for the surrender. “Adam,” I said, “you are a Palatinate man, a volunteer. I believe if you surrender to the Prussians you will soon be sent home. I am a Prussian, and us Prussians they will probably shoot dead. I will therefore try to escape, and I know a way. Let us therefore say good-bye.”
“No, Herr Lieutenant,” Adam exclaimed, “I shall not leave you. Where you go, I go.” The eyes of the good boy sparkled with pleasure.14u
“But,” said I, “you have nothing to gain, and we shall probably have to incur great dangers.”
“Danger or no danger,” replied Adam, with decision, “I remain with you.”
At this moment I saw an artillery officer of the name of Neustädter,14ua whom I knew well, pass by my window. He, like myself, was born in Rhenish Prussia, and had formerly served in the Prussian artillery.
“Where are you going, Neustädter?” I called to him through the window.
“To join my battery,” he answered. “We are to surrender in half an hour.”
“The Prussians will shoot you dead,” I replied; “go with me and let us try to escape.” He stopped, came into the house and listened to my plan, which I explained to him in a few words.
“Good,” he said; “I will go with you.”
There was now no time to be lost. Adam was sent out to purchase a loaf of bread, two bottles of wine and some sausages. Then we put our pistols under our clothes, and rolled up our cloaks. In mine, a large dark cape lined with scarlet,14v received recently from our stores, I wrapped up a short carbine which I possessed. The bottles and the eatables which Adam had bought were packed up as well as we knew how. In the meantime the garrison began to march in close columns across the market-place. We followed the last column a short distance, and then turning into a side lane soon reached the inner mouth of our sewer. Without hesitation we slipped into it. It was between one and two o'clock in the afternoon of the 23d of July.
The sewer was a tube of brick masonry, sufficiently high and wide for us to move through it with bent knees and curved backs, half walking, half crawling.14w The water running through the sewer covered our feet and ankles. As we penetrated into the interior we found, here and there,14x narrow manholes covered on top with iron gratings, through which air and, during the day, some light came down. At such places we rested a moment and stretched ourselves out so as to get our spines into shape again. According to our calculation we should have reached about the middle of the sewer, when I happened to14xa strike my foot against a piece of board lying in the water, which was just long enough to be squeezed between the walls of the sewer so that it served us as a sort of bench to sit upon. Upon this bench, which made our condition a little more comfortable, we huddled together for a longer rest.
Until then the constant movement to which we had been compelled had hardly permitted us to survey our situation. Now, sitting on the bench, we had leisure enough to collect our thoughts and to hold council as to what was further to be done. During the siege I had had frequent opportunity to observe the immediate surroundings of the fortress, and I therefore pretty well knew the ground on which the sewer emptied outside. I proposed to my companions that we should remain on the bench until about midnight, then leave the sewer and seek cover in a field planted with corn which was in the neighborhood. From there we could, if the sky was tolerably clear, overlook a little part of the road to Steinmauern, a village distant about an hour's walk from Rastatt, on the bank of the Rhine, and assure ourselves whether we might leave the protection of the cornfield without danger. And so, seeking cover from time to time in order to reconnoiter the road ahead of us, we might hope before daybreak to reach Steinmauern and there to find a boat that might carry us to the French side of the river. This plan was approved by my companions.
While we were thus engaged in taking counsel, we heard above us a dull, rumbling noise as from the wheels of vehicles and the heavy tread of great masses of men, from which we concluded that the Prussians were now entering the fortress and occupying the gates and the ramparts. We also heard the striking of a church clock which gave the hour, our bench being near one of the manholes, so that the sounds of the upper world reached us without much difficulty.14xb About nine o'clock in the evening it began to rain so heavily that we could clearly hear the splashing of the water as it poured down. At first it seemed to us that the bad weather would be favorable to our plan of escape. But before long the matter appeared14xc in a different light. We felt that the water was rising in our sewer, and soon it began to shoot through it with great vehemence like a mountain stream. After a while it flooded the bench upon which we were sitting and reached up to our chests. We also perceived living creatures which suddenly, with great activity, rushed and crawled around us. They were undoubtedly rats.14xd “We have to get out,” I said to my companions, “or we shall be drowned.” We left our bench and pushed forward. I had hardly advanced a few steps when in the darkness I ran my head against a hard object. I touched it with my hands and discovered that the obstacle was an iron railing. At once the thought came to me that this railing had been put there for the purpose of cutting off, in time of siege, communication through the sewer between the interior of the town and the outside. This thought, which I communicated at once to my companions, brought us almost to despair. But when I grasped the railing with both hands, as a prisoner may sometimes shake the iron rods of his dungeon window, I noticed that it could be moved a little, and a further examination proved that it did not reach quite down to the bottom, but left a free space of about two feet. It was probably so arranged that it could be pulled up or let down, so that the sewer might be opened for purposes of cleaning and then shut again. Fortunately, nobody had, during the siege, known anything of this railing, and thus the possibility of escape still remained open to us.
Now, in order to slip through the low aperture under it we were obliged to crawl with our whole bodies through the water; but that circumstance, although disagreeable,14xe did not disturb us. We pushed vigorously on, and when we believed ourselves to be near the outward opening of the sewer, we stopped a minute to gather strength and presence of mind for the dangerous moment of our issuing forth from our concealment.
Then a terrible sound struck our ears. Close ahead of us, distant only a few paces, we heard a voice call, “Who goes there?” and at once another voice answered, “Good friend.”14xf We stood still as if struck by lightning. In a short time we heard the same calls repeat themselves at a somewhat greater distance, and again and again.14xg It was clear that we were close to the opening of the sewer, that outside there was a dense chain of Prussian guard posts, and that just then a patrol or round had been passing along that chain. Softly I ventured a step or two further on. Really, there was the mouth of the sewer overgrown with brush so thick that14xh I stood in darkness almost as dense as was that in the interior of the canal. But when I raised myself up a little I could distinctly perceive the dark figures of a Prussian double sentinel immediately before me, as well as some camp fires at a short distance. Had we been able to get into the open without being noticed, which seemed almost impossible, still the road to Steinmauern was evidently closed to us.
Softly as we had come we crawled back into our sewer and sought safety there, at least for the moment. Fortunately the rain had ceased. The water was, indeed, still high, but it did not rise any more. “Back to our bench,” I whispered to my companions. We crawled again under the railing and found our bit of plank. There we sat close together. Our next council of war had a certain solemnity about it.14xi There were few words, but a good deal of14xj thinking. It was clear, we could not venture into the open. To remain a longer time in the sewer was not to be thought of, because there was the danger that if it rained again we might be drowned. There was therefore nothing to be done but to go back into the town. But how could we go back into the town without falling into the hands of the Prussians? After we had exchanged these thoughts in a whisper, a long pause followed. At last I interrupted the silence, saying, “Let us eat and drink a little; good counsel may come then.” Adam unpacked our provisions, and as we had eaten nothing since breakfast time of the preceding day — midnight was now long past — hunger and thirst were keen.14xk Our bread was, indeed, quite wet, but it tasted good; also the sausages. We remembered, in time, that we must not consume our whole store, for we did not know when and where we should get the next meal. Moreover, we were more troubled by thirst than by hunger, as is always the case under such circumstances.14y For nearly twelve hours our feet had been in the water, and were therefore as cold as ice. This14ya had driven the blood to our heads. Adam now opened one of the two bottles which he had bought for us, and we discovered that they contained rum instead of wine. Although rum had always been repugnant to me, still I drank like my companions, in eager draughts, and my brain remained entirely clear in spite of it.14yaa
After we had finished our meal Adam took the floor. “I have a widowed14yb cousin in the town," he said. “Her house is not far from the entrance to the sewer. To reach it we have only to go through a kitchen garden or two. We might hide ourselves there in the barn until we find something better.”
This proposition had our approval, and we resolved to make the attempt. At the same moment something occurred to me that was depressing in the extreme. I remembered that during the siege our garrison had a sentinel close to the entrance of the sewer. If this post was occupied by the Prussians too, then we sat in the sewer between two Prussian guards.14yba I communicated my apprehension to my companions. But what was to be done? Possibly the Prussians had not occupied that post. Perhaps we might slip by. In any case, nothing else remained to us than to make the attempt.
When we left our bench to begin our retreat, we heard the church clock outside strike three. I went ahead and soon reached the last manhole. I availed myself of the opportunity to stretch myself out a little, when something happened that at the first moment appeared very unfortunate. I had used my short carbine in moving through the canal in a bent position, as a sort of crutch. When I lifted myself up the carbine fell from my arm into the water and caused a loud splash. “Hello!” cried a voice just above me. “Hello! There is something in this hole; come here.” At the same moment a bayonet descended like a probe through the grating which covered the manhole. I heard it strike against the iron rods in time to duck myself and thus avoid being touched by it. “Now out quickly!” I whispered to my companions, “or we are lost.” With a few hasty paces we reached the end of the sewer. Without looking around we jumped over a hedge into the nearest kitchen garden, and gained, with a rapid run, a second hedge, which we cleared in the same way. Then we halted, breathless under cover of some shrubs, to listen whether anybody was following us. We heard nothing. It is probable that the falling of my carbine into the water attracted the attention of the guard post in the immediate vicinity, and diverted it from the mouth of the sewer. Thus our escape may have been facilitated by the accident, which at first seemed so unfortunate.
When Adam looked around from our halting place he found that we were close by the house of his cousin. We leaped another14ybb hedge which separated us from the kitchen garden belonging to that house, but there we were greeted by the loud barking of a dog. To pacify the animal we sacrificed the last remnant of our sausages. Finding the door of the barn open, we entered it, stretched ourselves out on a pile of hay, and soon fell into a profound sleep.
But this rest was not to last long. I awoke suddenly and heard the church clock strike six.14yc Adam had already risen and said he would now go into the house to ask his cousin what she could do for us. After a few minutes he returned and the cousin with him. I still see her before me — a woman of about thirty years, with a pale face and wide-open, anxious eyes. “For God's sake,” she said, “what are you doing here? You cannot remain. This morning some Prussian cavalrymen will be quartered here, and they will surely look in the barn for14yca litter for their horses. Then they will find you and we shall all be lost.”
“But be reasonable, cousin,” said14yd Adam; “where can we go now? You certainly will not deliver us up.”
But the poor woman was beside herself with fear. “If you do not go,” she replied, with decision, “I must tell the soldiers that you are here. You cannot expect me to sacrifice myself and my children for you.”
There was more talk, but all in vain. We had no choice; we must leave the barn. But where to go? The woman showed us through the open door a ditch covered with high and thick shrubbery on the other side of the little14ye yard, in which we might hide ourselves. Our situation became desperate. There we stood, all three in the military uniform of Baden, easily recognizable as the soldiers of the revolutionary army. Now we were to have no other refuge but some shrubbery covering a ditch in the midst of a town teeming with hostile troops! Of course, we hesitated to leave the barn, although it was a dangerous resting place for us, but at any rate it offered us a roof over our heads, and perhaps it might be possible to find in it some hiding corner. We still hoped that Adam's cousin would yield to our prayers. She went to the house, as she had to expect every moment the arrival of the cavalrymen. After about half an hour she came back and said the cavalrymen were there and were just sitting at their breakfast. Now was the moment for us to pass through the yard without being seen by them. She insisted on this with such determination that we had to submit. Then we ran across the yard to the ditch, which on the opposite side was separated from the street by a tall board fence. It again rained hard, and in the immediate vicinity nobody seemed to be stirring. Thus we could, with some assurance, explore our new refuge. We found that at the end of the ditch14yf cord wood was heaped up14yfa in the form of a hollow square, open on the side toward us. We could slip through the brush14yfb into the square and were in that close space pretty well protected from the eyes of the passerby. There we sat down on blocks of wood.
But what was to become of us now? The discomfort of our miserable situation, as well as our sitting there14yfc wet to the skin, we might easily have borne had we had the slightest prospect of escape. My faithful Adam, otherwise so good-natured, was much wrought up over the conduct of his cousin.14yfd Neustädter regarded our situation as hopeless, and asked whether it was not better to put an end to our distress by a voluntary surrender to the soldiers in the house. I must confess that my14yg sanguine temperament, too, was severely tested. Still I gathered up courage, and we then resolved to trust to luck.14yh So we sat there hour after hour waiting for something to turn up, with the heavy rain mercilessly streaming down on us, pictures of misery.14yi About noon we heard steps in the garden near our place of concealment. Cautiously I looked out from the open side of our cord wood square, and perceived coming from the house a man with a saw in his hand. According to his looks and the tool he carried I concluded he must be a laborer, and as the laboring men throughout were in favor of the revolutionary cause, I did not hesitate to confide myself to him.14yia I threw a little chip of wood at the man, which hit him on the arm, and as he stood still I attracted his attention by a low cough. He saw me and came to us. With as few words as possible I explained to him our situation, and begged him to find us a place of safety, and also to procure for us something to eat, as our last morsel was gone. My confidence was not misplaced. He promised to do what was possible. Then he left, but returned in half an hour, and showed us near by a large open shed. At the end of that shed14yj there was a little closed compartment in which the laborers probably deposited their tools, and on top of this, under the roof of the shed, a small loft enclosed in boards. “I will break loose one of these boards,” said our man. “You can then climb over the cord wood and slip under the roof of the loft and lie down there. I will soon come back and bring you something to eat.”
We followed his advice, and succeeded in slipping into the little loft without being observed. The space we occupied was just large enough to permit us to lie side by side on our backs. We lay in a white dust, inches thick, which was, in view of the wet condition of our clothing, extremely disagreeable.14yk But at least we felt secure for the time being. It was about one o'clock of the afternoon when we crawled into our new asylum. We waited quietly for our friend to bring us the necessary food, and would then consult with him about a plan of escape. But we heard the church clock strike two, three, and four, and our man did not return. Shortly after four o'clock a lively noise arose in the shed below. From the talk and the shouting and the rumbling we heard we concluded that a troop of cavalrymen must have arrived, and that they were now occupied in putting the shed in order for their horses. The horses came soon, and on all sides soldiers swarmed around us. Through the chinks of the wooden wall of our loft we could easily see them. Our situation became extremely critical.14yka If it had occurred to one of those soldiers to investigate the compartment and to look into the loft, it would have been all over with us. Any kind of noise, a cough or a sneeze, would have betrayed us. We took the utmost pains to breathe softly, and longed for the night. The night came and we were still undiscovered, but the man14ym on whose assistance we had counted had not yet shown himself.
We began to be very hungry and thirsty, and had neither a bit of bread nor a drop of water. What was left of our rum had been lost on the hasty run from the sewer to the14yma house. Now we lay still like corpses. Gradually it became more quiet in the shed; soon we heard heavy snoring,14yn and from time to time somebody moving around, probably to look after the horses. We were afraid to sleep ourselves, although very much exhausted. But at last we came to a whispered agreement alternately to sleep and to lie awake, and to shake the temporary sleeper if he breathed heavily. So the night passed over and morning came, but not the friend whom we so longingly expected.14yo Noon, afternoon, evening, the whole second day, passed, but of our friend no sign. There we lay, still and stiff, surrounded by hostile soldiers, and the prospect of succor growing less every moment. Thirst began to torture us. Fortunately the next night it rained again. Above my head there was a broken tile in the roof, and through the hole, although it was small, some of the rain trickled down. I caught it in the hollow of my hand, and so enjoyed a refreshing draught. My companions followed my example. Again morning came, and our hope for the return of our friend sank lower and lower. The church clock struck one hour after another, and no aid. My limbs began to ache from the rigid stiffness of our position, and yet we hardly dared to move. Three days and two nights we had been without nourishment, and an unwonted feeling of weakness set in. So the third night arrived. All hope of the coming of our friend was gone. We recognized the necessity of making a new attempt at escape before our strength had entirely vanished. We thought and thought, without saying a word, except, perhaps,14yp “He will not come any more.”
At last I had an idea. When, during the third night, we heard the soldiers below snoring vigorously, I whispered to my neighbor, Neustädter, holding my mouth close to his ear. “Did you not, as we clambered over the cord wood, notice a little house about fifty paces from here?”
“Yes,” said Neustädter.
“There must be a poor man living there,” I continued, “probably a laborer. One of us must go to him and see whether he cannot help us. I should be glad to go myself, but I would have to clamber over you [Neustädter lay nearest to the opening in the board wall], and that might make a noise. You are, anyhow, the lightest14yq of us. Will you try?”
I had a little money, for immediately before the capitulation we had received our soldiers'14yr pay.
“Take my purse,” I whispered, “and give to the man who lives in the little house ten florins, or as much as he asks. Tell him to bring us some bread and wine, or14ys water, and to inform himself as soon as possible whether or not the Prussian guard posts are still standing outside of the fortress. If those posts have been drawn in, we can try to-morrow night again to get through the sewer. Now go and bring us a piece of bread if you can.”
“Good,” said Neustädter.14yt
In a minute, lightly and softly like a cat, he had slipped14yu through the hole in the board wall. My heart beat fast while he was gone. A false step, an accidental noise, would betray him. But in less than half an hour he came back just as lightly and softly as before, and lay down by my side.14yua
“It is all right,”14yv he whispered; “here is a piece of bread, all he had in the house, and also an apple that in passing by I picked from a tree, but I am afraid it is still green.”
The bread and the apple were soon divided among us, and devoured with avidity; and then Neustädter reported with his mouth to my ear, that he found in the little house a man and his wife. The man, to whom he had given the ten gulden, had14yw promised to bring us some food, and also the desired information about the condition of things outside of the fortress.
This refreshed our spirits, and, much14yx relieved, we slept alternately until high morning. Now we expected with every moment our rescuer, but one hour after another passed and he did not come. Were we again to be disappointed? At last, about noon, we heard somebody in the compartment immediately below us noisily moving things from one place to another; then a low cough. The next moment a head appeared in the opening of our board wall, and a man climbed up to us. It was our new friend. He brought a basket apparently filled with tools, but out of the depth of which he took two bottles of wine, a couple of sausages and a large loaf of bread.
“This is something for hunger and thirst,” our friend whispered. “I have been also all around the city. The Prussian guard posts are no longer outside. I shall be glad to help you; only tell me what I am to do.”
I now asked him to go to Steinmauern and look for a boat which in the coming night might take us across the Rhine. Then, about midnight, to be in the cornfield near the Steinmauern gate, outside of the fortress, and wait for us. He would hear the signal of a whistle; this he should answer, and then join us in order to take us to the boat. He should ask his wife to have something for us to eat at about eleven o'clock of the night.
I gave him a little more money, and he promised to do all I had asked, and disappeared again as he had come. Now we held a royal feast, during which our good humor made it very difficult for us to preserve the necessary silence. All the longer appeared to us the ensuing hours that were so full of hope and at the same time of anxiety. About two o'clock we heard the rattling of musketry at a distance.
“What is that?” whispered Neustädter. “There, they are killing somebody.”
So it seemed to me. We took it as an indication of the lot that would be ours if we were captured. In fact, however, as we learned subsequently, the executions began only a few days later. What we had heard was probably some shots fired in cleaning guns.14yy
Toward three o'clock a great ado began in the shed below. The cavalrymen were evidently preparing for departure; but they had hardly gone when another troop took possession of the premises. We concluded from the conversations overheard that it was a troop of Hussars.14yz Toward evening a large crowd of people seemed to gather below, and we distinguished among them also women's voices. Then the trumpeters14z began to play waltzes and the merry company to dance. This was by no means disagreeable to us, for we expected that after such a frolic, which could scarcely pass off without some drink, our Hussars would sleep all the better. But14za before nine o'clock the crowd dispersed, and all would have been quiet had not one of the Hussars held back on the spot a Rastatt maiden. The couple stood or sat immediately under our hiding place, and we could understand every word they exchanged. The conversation was of a very sentimental character. He assured her that she was charming; that she had inflamed his heart when she first looked at him,14zb and that he loved her tenderly.14zc She answered he should not trouble her with his bad jests. But he may have observed that she really did not want to be left untroubled, and so he continued to vary the theme in all sorts of bold and flowery figures of speech. At last she seemed to be really inclined to believe all he told her. We should certainly have laughed had we dared. But when this otherwise interesting conversation would not come to an end, I began to be a little anxious lest it last until midnight, and so this Hussar love might interfere seriously with our plans. I felt, therefore, very much relieved when finally, after ten o'clock, the wooing vows died away in the distance.14zd
Now we counted the minutes as the decisive moment approached. When it struck eleven Neustädter slipped out of the opening in the plank wall, stepped upon the pile of wood, and jumped lightly to the ground. I followed him. My legs had become very stiff in consequence of my lying for days and nights14zda immovable on my back, and as I put my foot upon the wood several sticks fell down with a great noise. A moment later I heard not far away the tread of a patrol. I only had time to whisper back to my faithful Adam that he should remain until the patrol should have passed, and then follow me. I succeeded in reaching the little house before the patrol turned the corner of the lane. Neustädter was already there, and Adam came a few minutes later.14ze
“The patrol passed quietly by,” said he, “and they snored so loud in the shed that any other noise would hardly have been heard.”
The wife of our friend in the little house had prepared a precious repast of beef broth, with rice, for us. After this and a dish of boiled meat and roast potatoes had refreshed our strength, we set out through the garden for the sewer. The moon was shining brightly, and we kept cautiously in the shadows of the hedges.14zf But when we arrived at the ditch close by the mouth of the sewer a new fright awaited us. A sentinel was pacing to and fro just beyond the sewer, hardly thirty feet14zg away from it. We halted and stooped under the hedge. There was but one thing to do. As the man turned his back upon us and walked to the other side, one of us was to slip cautiously into the sewer. The two others had to do the same. In a few minutes we were reassembled in the darkness of our refuge.14zh We crawled ahead and found our old bench again, where we rested a while. Then pursuing our way we found the railing in its old place, dipped under it, and soon perceived a gleam of light through a mass of dark leaves, which suggested that the opening was immediately before us. We stood still once more to make our pistols ready for action. Whether after having been so wet, they would have gone off is very questionable. After all we had suffered, we were now determined to do our utmost.14zi But the field was clear, the chain of guards had disappeared. The cornfield lay immediately before us. A low whistle on our part was promptly answered, and our man joined us a moment later.14zj
He reported that the road was free. We marched vigorously on and in less than an hour we reached the village of Steinmauern. Our friend conducted us to the bank of the Rhine and showed us a boat in which a man lay fast asleep. He was quickly roused, and our friend announced to him that we were the men he was to take across the Rhine. “That will cost five florins,” growled14zk the boatman, who, upon my question as to what countryman he was, told me he came from Coblenz. I gave him the reward asked for, and offered also some more money to our kind friend. “You have given me already enough,” he said; “what you still have you will be very much in need of. My name is Augustin Loeffler. Perhaps we may meet again in this world. God protect you.”
Then we shook hands most cordially and parted.14zka We fugitives stepped into the boat, and our friend wandered back to Rastatt. Many years later, when I was Secretary of the Interior in the government of the United States, I received one day a letter from Augustin Loeffler. It was dated at a little place in Canada. He wrote me that he had left Germany a short time after the revolutionary period, and was doing very well in his new home. He had read in the newspapers that I was one of the three young men who in that July night, 1849, had been conducted by him from Rastatt to the Rhine. In answer I expressed my joy at the receipt of his letter, and requested him to write again, but I have heard nothing from him since.
In an unexpectedly short time the boatman put us ashore in a dense growth of willows.14zkb It was between two and three o'clock in the morning, and as the surroundings seemed to be rather uninviting,14zm we resolved to sit down upon old stumps of trees and there to await the light of day. At daybreak we arose to look for the nearest Alsatian village; but soon we discovered that we were on an island. A little house which stood in the middle of the island seemed to be the abode of a frontier guard of the grand duchy of Baden.14zma So it looked as if we were still in the enemy's country, and as if the boatman from Coblenz had deceived us.14zn The shutters and the doors of the little house were14zna closed. We listened, but heard no sounds inside. A rapid run over the island convinced us that, excepting us three, there was no human being on it. We went to the water's edge opposite Alsatia, and in the rising sunlight saw on the other side two men whom we soon recognized to be French customs officers. We called out to them across the water that we were fugitives and14znb desired to be taken over. One of the men14zo came over to us in a little skiff and took us across to Alsatian soil. We gave up our arms to him and assured him and his comrade, amid great laughter14zp, that we had brought with us from Rastatt nothing else subject to tariff duty. When I felt myself now really in freedom and security, my first impulse was, after a silence of four days,14zpa to shout as loudly as I could. My companions had the same feeling, and so we burst forth to our hearts' content, watched with great astonishment by the French officers, who may have taken us for madmen. We had landed near a little village called Münchhausen. The officers told us that in the town of Selz, near by, there were many German fugitives, and to Selz therefore we went. On the way we gazed at one another in the clear sunlight, and discovered that we looked like savages.14zpb For days and nights we had waded or squatted14zpc in wet clothes in water, mud and dust. Our hair was matted and our faces were streaked with dirt.14zq A near rivulet furnished us the indescribable luxury of a washing, and thus restored to human shape, we soon reached the inn at Selz.
The refugees there from Baden, none of whom had been in Rastatt, welcomed us heartily, and asked us at once for the story of our adventures.14zr But our first wish was for a hot bath, a breakfast, and a bed. All this we obtained. I slept twenty-four hours with slight interruptions. Then I acquainted the company of refugees in the inn with the circumstances of our escape from Rastatt. From them I learned also for the first time that Kinkel had been captured by the Prussians in a fight near the fortress, before the beginning of the siege. When we left the Palatinate and he could no longer make himself useful in the offices of the provisional government, he had joined a battalion of volunteers and shouldered his musket as a private soldier.14zs Thus he would14zt share the lot of the revolutionary army. In the fight on the line of the Murg River he was wounded in the head14zta and fell into the hands of the attacking Prussians. He was then incarcerated in one of the casemates at Rastatt, together with the captured garrison, in order to have him tried by court-martial, which would, no doubt, order him to be shot.14ztb This news threw a black veil over my joy at my own recovered freedom.
On the day after our arrival in Selz a police officer appeared at the inn, by the authority of the mayor, to learn our names, and also whether we expected to remain, or, if not, where we intended to go. “We want to go to Strasburg,” I answered haphazard. The mayor gave us thereupon a sort of passport, with the instruction that we should report ourselves at once in Strasburg to the prefect. The depressing seriousness came over me that I was now really a homeless man, a fugitive, and under police surveillance. After having written to my parents and described to them my escape, we started for Strasburg without further delay. The real goal, however, of my journey was Switzerland, where, as I learned, Anneke14zu and many others of my friends might be found.
If I had remained only a few days longer in Selz I should have seen my father in the same inn in which I had slept my first night in freedom.14zua The mischance14zv happened in this wise: The letter I had written to my parents on the day of the surrender at Rastatt, in the expectation that I would be taken prisoner together with the rest of the garrison, struck them like a clap of thunder, and at once my father set out to look for his son.14zw Arrived in Rastatt, he reported himself at the office of the Prussian commander,14zwa to learn something about my fate. The commander received him kindly, but on inquiry could not give him any further information than that my name was not on the list of the captives. This surprised my father very much, and he requested permission to visit the casemates in which the prisoners were kept.14zwb This permission he received, and an officer accompanied him on this anxious search. From casemate to casemate they went three days long, and of one man after another they inquired about me, but all in vain. Many of those they saw knew me, but nobody knew what had become of me. Nobody had seen me on the occasion of the surrender. My father found Kinkel among the crowd. “What,” Kinkel cried, “is Carl here, too? Alas, I believed him to be secure in Switzerland!”
In speechless grief the two men pressed each other's hand.
When my father had thus many days looked for me in vain, a ray of hope dawned upon him that after all I might have escaped.14zwc From citizens in Rastatt he learned that there were several refugees from Baden on the other side of the Rhine in Selz. Possibly one of these might be able to give him tidings about me. A few hours later my father appeared at the inn in Selz,14zx and there he inscribed his name. Then he learned the whole story of my flight, and how only a few days before I had been in Selz and was now gone to Strasburg, with the intention of traveling further, nobody knew where, probably to Switzerland. My father burst into tears of joy, and exclaimed again and again, “That boy! That boy! Now I must quickly go home to tell his mother.” As he could hardly hope still to find me in Strasburg, and expected to hear from me before long, he returned without delay to Bonn. One of the refugees from Baden, who had seen my father in the inn at Selz, and who had given him the happy news about me, told me all this a month later in Switzerland, and he could hardly master his emotion when he described to me my father's joy.