Fortunately for Frederic the losses of the Russians had also been so terrible that they did not venture to pursue the foe. Early the next morning the Prussian king crossed the Oder; and the Russians, encumbered with the thousands of their own mutilated and dying troops, thought it not prudent to march upon Berlin. The war still raged furiously, the allies being inspirited by hope and Frederic by despair. At length the affairs of Prussia became quite hopeless, and the Prussian monarch was in a position from which no earthly energy or sagacity could extricate him. The Russians and Austrians, in resistless numbers, were spread over all his provinces excepting Saxony, where the great Frederic was entirely hemmed up.
The Prussian king was fully conscious of the desperation of his affairs, and, though one of the most stoical and stern of men, he experienced the acutest anguish. For hours he paced the floor of his tent, absorbed in thought, seldom exchanging a word with his generals, who stood silently by, having no word to utter of counsel or encouragement. Just then God mysteriously interposed and saved Prussia from dismemberment, and the name of her monarch from ignominy. The Empress of Russia had been for some time in failing health, and the year 1762 had but just dawned, when the enrapturing tidings were conveyed to the camp of the despairing Prussians that Elizabeth was dead. This event dispelled midnight gloom and caused the sun to shine brightly upon the Prussian fortunes.
The nephew of the empress, Peter III., who succeeded her on her throne, had long expressed his warm admiration of Frederic of Prussia, had visited his court at Berlin, where he was received with the most flattering attentions, and had enthroned the warlike Frederic in his heart as the model of a hero. He had even, during the war, secretly written letters to Frederic expressive of his admiration, and had communicated to him secrets of the Russian cabinet and their plans of operation. The elevation of Peter III. to the throne was the signal, not only for the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the Austrian alliance, but for the direct marching of those troops as allies into the camp of the Prussians. Thus sudden are the mutations of war; thus inexplicable are the combinations of destiny.
Elizabeth died in the fifty-second year of her age, after a reign of twenty years. She was during her whole reign mainly devoted to sensual pleasure, drinking intoxicating liquors immoderately, and surrendering herself to the most extraordinary licentiousness. Though ever refusing to recognize the claims of marriage, she was the mother of several children, and her favorites can not easily be enumerated. Her ministers managed the affairs of State for her, in obedience to her caprices. She seemed to have some chronic disease of the humane feelings which induced her to declare that not one of her subjects should during her reign be doomed to death, while at the same time, with the most gentle self complacency, she could order the tongues of thousands to be torn out by the roots, could cut off the nostrils with red hot pincers, could lop off ears, lips and noses, and could twist the arms of her victims behind them, by dislocating them at the shoulders. There were tens of thousands of prisoners thus horridly mutilated.