Frederick the Great - George Upton

This book focuses mainly on the event-filled Seven Years War, rather than the full life of Frederick the Great. Its focus on the period of greatest conflict and drama permits the most significant events of Frederick's life to be told in detail. It is an excellent companion book to Theresa Maria of Austria, which covers many of the same events from the Austrian, rather than the Prussian point of view.

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[Book Cover] from Frederick the Great by George Upton


[Title Page] from Frederick the Great by George Upton
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Translator's Preface

This little volume deals only with seven years in the life of Frederick the Great, but they were seven of the most memorable years in the history of Austria and Prussia—the period of the Seven Years' War, which confirmed to Frederick the possession of Silesia, and elevated Prussia to the first rank among European states.

Three times Frederick waged war for its possession: the first time, in 1740-42, with Saxony, Bavaria, and France for allies against Austria and Great Britain; the second time, in 1744-45, when Austria was aided by Saxony; and the third time, in 1756-63, when Prussia, aided by some of the small German states and British subsidies, fought Austria, France, Russia, Sweden, and Saxony. The Seven Years' War was one of the greatest and most destructive wars of the eighteenth century, both to victors and vanquished. Frederick and his allies met with but five defeats in this war,—Kollin, Hastenbeck, Grossjagerndorf, Hochkirch, and Kunersdorf,—the last a most crushing defeat; but they won ten great victories, Lobositz, Prague, Rossbach, Leuthen, Zorndorf, Minden, Liegnitz, Torgau, Burkersdorf, and Freiberg; and in eight of these Frederick commanded in person, and in every case with a much smaller force than that of his enemies.

Peace was finally made with Maria Theresa in 1763, and by a clear violation of ancient faith and treaty rights Silesia was taken from her. The various campaigns are described briefly and yet in such a manner that the interest of the narrative is kept up to the last, and the author, by the introduction of anecdotes, conversations, and fragments of letters, brings out very clearly the peculiar traits of the great king—his courage at one time, his despondent moods at others, his obstinacy and self-conceit, which more than once involved him in disaster, his humor and satire, his cruelty at times to his own troops, and again his fatherly relations to them.

It is also a thrilling period of history with which the author deals, and replete with national as well as individual interest. Of the close of this great and sanguinary war, Macaulay says,—and he was not an admirer of Frederick,—"The proud and revengeful spirit of the Empress-Queen at length gave way; and in February, 1763, the peace of Hubertsburg put an end to the conflict which had during seven years devastated Germany. The king ceded nothing. The whole Continent in arms had proved unable to tear Silesia from that iron grasp. The war was over. Frederick was safe. His glory was beyond the reach of envy. If he had not made conquests as vast as those of Alexander, of Caesar, and of Napoleon,—if he had not, on field of battle, enjoyed the constant success of Marlborough and Wellington,—he had yet given an example unrivalled in history, of what capacity and resolution can effect against the greatest superiority of power and the utmost spite of fortune."

G. P. U.

CHICAGO, 1905.

[Contents] from Frederick the Great by George Upton
[Illustrations] from Frederick the Great by George Upton


The following is a chronological statement of the principal events in the Seven Years' War:

1756    Frederick invades Saxony.
October 1, 1756    Frederick's first victory at Lobositz.
1757    Frederick invades Bohemia.
May 6, 1757    Frederick defeats the Austrians at Prague.
June 18, 1757    Frederick defeated by the Austrians at Kollin.
July 26, 1757    French victory at Hastenbeck.
August 30, 1757    Russian victory at Grossjagendorf.
November 5, 1757    Frederick's great victory at Rossbach.
December 5, 1757    Frederick defeats the Austrians at Leuthen.
August 25, 1758    Frederick defeats the Russians at Zorndorf.
October 14, 1758    Frederick defeated by Austrians at Hochkirch.
August 1, 1759    French defeated at Minden.
August 12, 1760    Frederick defeated at Kunersdorf.'?'
August 15, 1760    Frederick defeats the Austrians at Liegnitz.
November 3, 1760    Frederick's great victory at Torgau.
January 5, 1762    Death of Czarina Elizabeth and accession of Peter III.
March 5, 1762    Peter makes peace with Frederick.
July 17, 1762    Peter assassinated and succeeded by Catharine.
July 21, 1762    Frederick's victory at Burkersdorf.
October 29, 1762    Victory of Prince Henry at Freiburg. Last battle in the War.
February 10, 1763    Peace between France, England, and Prussia.
February 15, 1763    Peace of Hubertsburg and close of the war.