A General Sketch of the European War eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 184 pages of information about A General Sketch of the European War.
or was to show for at least the next six months.  The matter is of more importance, to our judgment of the war, in its quality than in its scale.  In the very same week at Tannenberg nearly as many Russians had been eliminated from the Russian forces as Austrians were here eliminated from the Austrian forces.  But the point is that, whereas in the Battle of Tannenberg envelopment, with its consequent slaughter of men who cannot escape and its wholesale captures, left the rest of the Russian army with its moral intact, the Austrian losses were the product of a partial dissolution, and affected the whole of their southern army.  First and last one-third of it had fallen as prisoners into Russian hands, apart from the enormous number of killed and removed wounded.  It could only just be said that that army remained in being upon Monday, the 7th September, with which date this section of my work ends.  The other Austrian army to the north, its flank thus uncovered, was compelled to fall back rapidly, though the forces in front of it were small; and the Austro-Hungarian service never fully recovered from this great blow.

TANNENBERG.

The province of East Prussia is of a character peculiar in the German Empire and in Europe.

That character must be grasped if the reader is to understand what fortunes attended the war in this region; for it is a district which in its history, in its political value, and in its geographical arrangements has very powerfully affected the whole of the campaign.

Historically this district is the cradle of that mixed race whose strict, narrow, highly defined, but quite uncreative policy has now piqued, now alarmed, civilized Europe for almost two hundred years.

[Illustration:  Sketch 72.]

The Prussian, or rather the Prussian aristocracy, which, by achieving the leadership of Germany, has flung so heavy a mass at Europe, originated in the rough admixture of certain West German and Christian knights with the vague pagan population of the Eastern Baltic plain, which, until almost the close of the Middle Ages, was still a field for missionary effort and for crusade.  It was the business of the Teutonic knights to tame this march of Christendom.  They accomplished their work almost out of sight of the governing empire, the Papacy, and Christendom in general, with what infamies history records.  The district thus occupied was not within the belt of that high Polish culture which is one of the glories of Europe.  Nations may not inexactly be divided into those who seek and those who avoid the sea.  The Poles are of the latter type.  This belt, therefore, of Borussia (whence our word Prussia is derived)—­roughly from the Vistula up on to the Bight of Libau—­was held by the Teutonic knights in a sort of savage independence.  The Christian faith, which it had been their pretext and at first their motive to spread, took little root;

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