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44 Prussian recruiters were sent in all directions to search with eagle eyes for candidates for the Potsdam Guard. Their pay was higher than that of any other troops, and they enjoyed unusual privileges. Their drill and discipline were as perfect as could by any possibility be achieved. The following stories are apparently well-authenticated, describing the means to which the king often resorted to obtain these men.
In the latter part of April, the weather being very fine, the king decided to leave Berlin and retire to his rural palace at Potsdam. It seems, however, that he was fully aware that his days were nearly ended, for upon leaving the city he said, Fare thee well, then, Berlin; I am going to die in Potsdam. The winter had been one of almost unprecedented severity, and the month of May was cold and wet. As the days wore on the kings health fluctuated, and he was continually struggling between life and death. The king, with all his great imperfections, was a thoughtful man. As he daily drew near the grave, the dread realities of the eternal world oppressed his mind. He sent for three clergymen of distinction, to converse with them respecting his preparation for the final judgment. It seems that they were very faithful with him, reminding him of his many acts of violence and tyranny, alluding particularly to his hanging Baron Schlubhut, at K?nigsberg, without even a trial. The king endeavored to defend himself, saying,
The position of Frederick became daily more embarrassing. His forces were continually decreasing. Re-enforcements were swelling the ranks of the Austrians. Elated in becoming the Imperial Army, they grew more bold and annoying, assailing the Prussian outposts and cutting off their supplies.
Peter III. was a drunken, brutal, half-crazed debauchee. Catharine was a beautiful, graceful, intellectual, and dissolute woman. They hated each other. They did not even pretend to be faithful to each other. Catharine formed a successful conspiracy, dethroned her husband, and was proclaimed by the army sole empress. After a series of the wildest scenes of intrigue, corruption, and crime, the imbecile Peter III., who had fled to the remote palace of Ropscha, was murdered, being first compelled to drink of poison, and then, while writhing in pain, he was strangled with a napkin. Whether Catharine were a party to this531 assassination is a question which can now probably never be decided. It is certain that she must have rejoiced over the event, and that she richly rewarded the murderers.Old Prince Leopold of Dessau, whom he had left in command of the army in Silesia, was one of the most extraordinary men of any age. He invented the iron ramrod, and also all modern military tactics. The soldiery of every civilized country still receives from this man, on the parade-fields and battle-fields, its word of command. Out of his rough head proceeded the essential of all that the innumerable drill-sergeants in various languages repeat and enforce.80
Recovering his voice, his anger took a new direction. "'Bergan Arling,' indeed!" he muttered,"I suppose he was ashamed of the 'Harry,' though he could put it at the end of his note,smooth-faced hypocrite that he is! Where is he?" he went on, lifting his voice. "Why don't he come out, and face me, like a man? Must I go in and drag him out, by the nape of the neck,the mean, sneaking, insulting puppy!"
Bergan smiled, and pointed upward. "From the Source of all succor, whatever be the channel."Well, the king replied, kindly, try it one day more. If we do not mend matters, you and I will both desert together.