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Family Notices


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WE have now before us the details of the great battle fought a few days ago in Bohemia, and can appreciate the crushing nature of the defeat sus- tained by the Austrian forces. The whole strength of General Benedek had been employed in the position taken up near the fortress of Koniggratz, and for a time it appeared that he was about to make an effectual stand to resist the advance of the Prussians. For eight long hours the fight proceeded, nearly half a million of men being engaged in the struggle. Both sides displayed the most desperate valour, but superior skill and superior arms eventually decided the day in favour of the Prussians, and their victory over the enemy was so decided as almost to amount to a rout. The Austrian troops numbered, it appears, about 200,000 men, while the two divisions of the Prussians, led respectively by the Crown Prince and Prince Frederick Charles, were 250,000 strong. Weaker in this respect, the Austrians were evidently still further overmatched in the ability and energy of their generals. General Benedek, who had allowed the Prussians in the first instance to make their way into Bohemia through passes which might readily have been defended with every prospect of success, appears to have been equally supine and deficient in strategy in his command at the recent battle. He committed the most fatal and unaccountable of errors in the field, not only in allowing himself to be attacked in flank as well as in front, which he might not have been able to prevent, but in being entirely unprepared for BTlcYl a movement, and Dataware that it was intended until the fire of the enemy was close upon him. This ordinary plan of battle appears to have taken the Austrians completely by surprise. They had held their ground steadily for several hours against the troops of Prince Frederick Charles, and this commander bad actually prepared his cavalry to cover the retreat, which he saw might probably have to be made. But the flank movement led by the Crown Prince turned a partial defeat into a triumph, for the Austrian position was no longer tenable, and the Emperor's troops were hurriedly withdrawn suffering fearfully in their retreat. The great advantage which the Prussians have derived from the use of the needle-gun was partially neutralised in the battle of Koniggratz, or Sedowa, by the strength of the Austrian position and the effective play of their artillery. In the attack on the centre the Prussian loss was immense, as may be judged by one fact reported from the field. The 27th Prussian Regiment was sent to the capture of a wood in which the enemy was posted; it went to the attack with a force of 3,000 men and 90 officers; it came out with only 300 or 400 men and two officers untouched. The result of the battle is more than sufficient to compensate Prussia for its cost. It leaves Bohemia virtually in its possession, and inflicts not only a temporary disaster upon Austria, but gives a blow to its pretensions to ascendancy in Germany from which it is hardly likely to recover. Its immediate effect was seen in the humiliating confession of weakness involved in the cession of Venetia to France, and the plea for an armistice. At present this step has not had the desired result; it is even possible that it may lead to new complications. Prussia protests against the conclusion by Italy of a peaoe which would bring a new force of 150,000 men to the standards of Austria in the north. Italy itself is dissatisfied, and cannot help regarding the defeat of Custozza, and the handing over of the coveted territory to a Power which may afterward grant it as a boon, in the light of a disgrace to its arms. General Cialdini has crossed the Po in the neighbourhood of the Quadrilateral, but it is at pre- sent difficult to see with what precise object, for, after the cession, it is no longer Austrian but French territory that he has invaded, and public opinion in France resents the movement as an insult. We await the intelligence of the next few days with anxiety, as it will probably show whether the war is to have a speedy conclusion, or to be prolonged for an indefinite time and over a wider fie'd. There are lessons taught by the conflict in Germany of which it would be madness on the part of our own country to lose sight. Chief of these is the immense advantage which the Prussians have derived during their short but effective campaign from the use of the needle-gun. It is known to have been equal to an addition of three-fold to the numerical strength of their troops and the knowledge that they possess such a weapon gives to the army a moral force which is itself one of the surest elements of success. Our late Secretary for War closed his official career by giving orders for the immediate conversion of 30,000 Enfield rifles into breech-loaders, in addition to a large number already undergoing the alteration; and General Peel, who has publicly declared hi" ojinicn that the worst breech-loader is better than the best muzzle-loader, will not be less energetic in bringing about a speedy and entire change in the weapons of our troops. There has already been far too much delay, the danger of which is now made apparent. For ten or twelve years the principle of the Prussian invention has been known to the world, and wbile we have professedly been waiting for something still better and more perfect, little or nothing has been done to bring our arms up to that superior degree of efficiency which might have been secured at a comparatively small cost. If we have been and are happily at peace, it may not long remain so, when war-clouds are thickly around; and our new Administration will do well to remember the aphorism, that the best mode of securing peace is to be well prepared for war.









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