A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 180

Not Proofread. The contents of this page needs to be proofread. Currently, there are multiple typos / OCR errors that require attention.
CAMPAIGN IN EAST PRUSSIA


garrison. The rest were transferred by sea and by the coast railwaythroughElbingtot)anzigandtheLowerVistula. Along the river a large army was being concentrated for the reconquest ofEastPrussia. GeneralvonHindenburghadtakencommand of it. More by luck than by skill in selection, the circle of courtiers and intriguers gathered about the Emperor Wilhelm and constituting the directing minds of his great staff had hit on a good man for the command of their eastern armies. General von Hinderibiirg's name was not given among hundreds of German generals included in “ Wer IsPs*'—the German Who's Who. He was one of the laughing-stocks of the modern fashionablesoldierswhotookpartinthekaisermanoeuvres. All he was known for was his curious hobby for keeping the wild Masurian Lakes region in East Prussia in its original state of uncultivation. The only thing that moved him to leave his Hanoverian cafe and go to 6erlin, in the days before the war, was a politicia.ir's proposal for the drainage and ciilti\ation of theMasurianLakes. Hecalledondeputies,hecalledonparty leaders,hepleadedbeforecommittees andwhenallthesecllorts

of his proved vain he went to the emperor and beggeef that the scheme for reclaiming the lakes should be abandoned. The ruling German military school regarded the old man a nuisanceandafool,andassomewhatofacoward. Theyagret'd with the administrators who wanted to drain the lakes, and thus to open up to cultivation an immense region which liad been unproductive from the primeval age of the ivorld. Oi er the drained and populated ancient waste of marsh and whaler the German staff intended to march their armies across the Nierneu river and cut the railway communication between Warsaw and Petrograd. But, moved by the entreatii^ of the old warrior, Kaiser Wilhelm stopped the scheme for draining the Inkes, and in the ancient w^atery wilderness Hindenburg continued to spend his holidays every’ year. Nobody in authority remembered him, even w^heu the emperor and his staff were thrown into deep perturbation by General Rennenkampf's sudden raid into East Prussia. The commami of the new army of defence w ould have been entrusterl to another, untried, courtier*general who had succeeded in pleasing the emperor but for the patriotism of General von Ludendorff, an able man of the younger generation connected with the great staff. He is said to have urged the claim of his old master in

← 179   ·   180   ·   181 →
(page index)