Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have thus far not attempted to write to you of military events, which absorb the thoughts of every one in this empire.
The reason is obvious. Such daily accounts as reach us here from the seat of war are made public all over the world at the same time. Thus you receive through the official telegrams much later accounts than it would be possible for me to send by post.[Page 672]
Authentic intelligence is dealt out very sparingly and with great caution from the headquarters of the northern and southern army. As an illustration, let me give you verbatim what has just been officially published this morning:
“Koniggratz, July 3—10.30 p. m.
“The success of the battle delivered to-day between Koniggratz and Josefstadt was until 2 p. m. favorable to the Austrian arms; after this time the enemy began to out flank us and to force us back. Headquarters are supposed to be in Swiniarck, on the road to Hohenbruck.”
I fear that these meagre lines denote one of the most sanguinary battles of modern times, and a repulse of the imperial army from the whole line of the Elbe. Very possibly it has been the decisive action of the war. On the other hand, the battle may be renewed to-day, and the fortune of war may change.
It would be mere affectation, therefore, to write a despatch filled with conjectures concerning events of which you will have received certainties by telegraph before what I send can reach you. Of the past, I assume that the details of the battle of Oustozza are entirely familiar to you. This very decided repulse of the Italian army occasioned much elation here. The campaign in the north, however, has thus far caused extreme depression. The Prussians, besides long ago making themselves masters of the Elbe duchies, have occupied Hanover, Electoral Hesse, and Saxony; have entered Bohemia from Saxony and Silesia, gaining successfully, and after bloody and hotly-contested engagements, the whole line of the Iser and the frontier heights of Nacbod, Skalitz, Koniginhof, Trantenan, and effecting the junction of their two great armies, that of the Elbe and of Silesia, under Prince Frederic Carl and the Crown prince, respectively, in the heart of Bohemia.
Since July 1, the Austrian army has been concentrated, as I understand it, in a kind of isosceles triangle, Josefstadt, Pardubitz, Podiebrod, its base resting on the Elbe, defended by the two fortresses Josefstadt and Koniggratz, and with a railroad along two sides.
The interior of the triangle being thickly sown with brooks, meres, and swamps, seemed to make a very strong position. On the other hand, the way of the Prussians was quite open to Prague, and it was expected for twenty-four hours that they would occupy that city, which would have been abandoned without much resistance. Had they done so, the decisive fighting might have been deferred for some time longer, and it would, I suppose, have been necessary for the Austrians to have come out for the offensive. It appears, however, that the Prussians have preferred the more adventurous policy, and have, with their united strength, attacked the whole Austrian army of the north. The result, according to the meagre telegram just quoted, is that, after considerable success during the first half of the day, the Austrians have been forced back, and their headquarters removed to the east (left) bank of the Elbe.
I fear that there is a fearful tale of bloodshed soon to be told, and one’s heart aches at the misery which yesterday’s work has created. There is hardly a family in this capital some of whose members are not at the front, either in the! north or the south.
There was great depression felt here two days ago at the result of the preliminary engagements. The loss in wounded has been very large, and the Prussian needle-gun is admitted to be a most effective weapon, superior to anything in the Austrian army.
On the other hand, the Austrian artillery and cavalry are thought better than those of their antagonists.
The original plan of Marshal Benedek has been neutralized. His position in the north of Bohemia was intended to be a wedge, forcing the two Prussian armies asunder before they could enter Austrian territory. Despite his efforts, they have coalesced. I suspect that this mishap is rather due to political than to military maœuvring.[Page 673]
From the beginning of this year the object of Austria’s policy has been to secure the support of the Bund. This support could only be obtained by putting Prussia in the position of the peace-breaker, and thus bringing against her the vote of execution.
In this, Austria, as you are aware, was successful; but meanwhile Prussia has occupied Hanover and Saxony—most substantial advantages at the opening of the campaign. It was doubtless part of the plan of the Austrian com-mander-in-chief that the Bund army, making (on paper) some 150,000 men, should march from the west, through the Thuringian passes and Prussian plains towards Berlin, to the rear of Prince Frederic Carl’s army, while Benedek with the Austrian army confronted both Prussian armies before their junction; but unfortunately the Bund army, although “mobilized,” has hitherto abstained from moving, and the great and effective diversion upon Berlin has not been made; moreover, the Hanoverian army has been obliged to lay down its arms almost in sight of the army of the Bund.
After all, therefore, Austria, by its straightforward and honest policy towards the Bund, has thus far obtained the assistance of the Saxon army, and practically only the armed neutrality of Bavaria, Baden, and Wurtemberg. The other German powers have either seceded and made common cause with Prussia, or are for the time subjugated by her.
I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, DC.