Adams Papers

From John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 27 August 1800

No: 14.

Glatz. 27. August. 1800. Wednesday.

When I closed my last letter to you yesterday morning at 2 o’clock, in Wünschelberg, from the appearance of the weather I had very little expectation of seeing the sun at the summit of the Heuschauer. About three however I sat out accompanied by my guide, with his lanthern in his hand, for it was still dark as midnight. For two hours & a half I went constantly ascending, excepting one, or two spots of plain land, upon each of which a small cluster of houses is situated, one called Leyersdorf, & the other Carlsberg. These plains are cultivated, & at this moment are covered with a harvest of rye, oats, & flax, which come to maturity very late at such an elevation, & have a very indifferent appearance. Carlsberg is at the summit of the mountain, & at the foot of the rocks, which properly bear the name of the Heuscheuer—These, I suppose to be about three hundred feet high, most of them rise perpendicularly from the top of the mountain, & between many of them are crevices from one to two feet wide, which extend from the top to the bottom. These rocks would be inaccessible, but for flights of wooden stairs, which are placed in several of the steepest places for the assistance of the curious traveller. By this help I was enabled to attain the summit of the highest rock, which is railed round by way of security. Otherwise very few persons would venture to stand upon it, as it is not more than six, or eight feet square, & it almost always blows there like a storm. Such I found to be the case, in my haste to reach the summit before sunrise, I had left my guide so far behind me that he did not come up for more than a quarter of an hour after I had got to the spot, & as he had got my great coat in his hand, I was obliged to creep under the side of a rock untill he came, for a shelter from the violence of the tempest. The sun had risen perfectly clear about a quarter of an hour before, & gilded with his radiance all the mountain tops around. The prospect to which my eye could extend was wider even than that I had seen from the giant’s head, because the atmosphere was much clearer—This range of rocks extends about eight, or ten english miles, & begins & ends so abruptly that it looks as if it were a crown upon the head of the mountain, upon which it stands, & which is otherwise not higher than those that run from both ends of the Heuscheuer. At a small distance its appearance is something like this [drawing] The highest pinnacle from the form of the rock is called the grandfather’s chair. The latitude of the spot 50d. 28m. 25s. & the four cardinal points, are cut in the rock, & likewise the dates when the late and present kings of Prussia had visited the place. A large marble medallion is also laid into the side of one of the rocks with an inscription purporting that the late king was there, & some poor adulatory verses in his honor. From the highest point of these rocks to the level of the sea is about 3000 feet.

Upon my return to Wünschelberg, the burgomeister of the town paid me a complimentary visit with many offers of civility, which I was obliged to decline, being in haste to come back to Glatz—By lengthening a little my way, I had an opportunity to visit the church at Almendorf, & the seat of Count Magné, at Eckersdorf. The church has formerly been celebrated as a place of pilgrimage for possessing a miraculous image of the virgin Mary—On the festivals dedicated to her, processions of six, eight & ten thousand people have been very frequent here, coming from every part of Silesia, & of Bohemia—They are still very numerous, though like most other relicks of the catholic religion, rapidly upon the decline. The history of the church is shortly this. In the year 1218, a peasant by the name of Jann, being stone blind, happened to pass before a hollow lime tree & was instantly restored to sight by the irradiation proceeding from it, which upon inspection he found issued from a small image of the holy virgin, in the hollow of the tree—Of this fact there can be no doubt; for it is represented in a picture that hangs immediately over the spot, where the lime tree stood. A chapel was soon after built over the place for the preservation of this wonder working image, & about the beginning of the last century the chapel was enlarged to an elegant & magnificent church. The miraculous image is still kept in a glass frame over the great alter—Many a hundred thousand of poor blind people have in the course of six centuries repaired to it for health; but of its efficacy to heal their diseases there is no testimony here. They have probably all returned at least as blind as they came. In order to increase the solemnity & duration of the processions, within the church itself, & all around the village of Almendorf, are little chapels containing scultur’d representations of the life & sufferings of Christ, at each of which the processions stop to kneel, & pray & kiss the holy relics, still exposed at each of these stations. The most remarkable of these relics is a wisp of straw upon which the infant Jesus lay, in the stable, immediately after his birth—It is under a large iron plate, with a small square hole in the centre, through which a half an inch length of the holy straw may be seen. The iron plate is almost worn & rusted away with the kisses of the pious blind people, who believe in its authenticity. I was attended by one of the clerical persons, who officiate at the church, but he was so ashamed of his relics, that I perceived it gave him pain, when I read the inscriptions round them purporting what they are, & ceased indulging my curiosity in this respect. He repeated several times that the authenticity of the rilics was extremely questionable and in particular declared his own conviction that a wisp of straw could not be kept in preservation from the time of Christ’ birth untill the present. Mass is performed in this church every morning, & was begun, while I was there. The organ is small & the organist not very skillful. The singing was likewise indifferent. Opposite the church within the village, there are a number of small shops for the sale of beads and tapers, & other articles of necessary use in processions.

Count Magné, is one of those very welthy noblemen, fifteen, or twenty of whom possess almost all the province of Silesia—He has several seats in different parts of the country, & last week received and entertained the queen at one of them in a village called Ullersdorf, between Glatz & Landeck. His usual residence is at Eckersdorf, where he has an handsome seat, & garden with hot houses, containing many of the fruits & plants of distant & warmer climates. But it is chiefly remarkable for his cattle & sheep, to the breeding & management of which the Count has paid special attention. He mingles the breeds of sheep by importing rams from Spain, & from Padua. He sells about 20.000 dollars worth of wool annually, at a price about 50 per cent higher than the common wool of the country—That is, at 20 Prussian groshen a pound. Some of his sheep he has sold at thirty dollars a piece, & they all go at double the ordinary prices. During the winter season he keeps the sheep constantly under shelter in barns, the doors of which are left open on all sides. In summer they are turned into the fields only in the day time. The Count himself is now absent, & I was shewn about the grounds & garden by a french Abbé, the preceptor of his two sons, who were at home.

Breslau. 30 August. Saturday.

On our return to Glatz from my excursion to the Heusheuer, I delivered a letter to the governor of the place, a lieutenant general de Favrat, a native of Savoy, who entered into the service of Frederic the Second in the year 1758, immediately after the battle of Hochkirck, and at the time when Frederic’s affairs appeared to be in the most desperate situation. The general, who was even then no novice in war, for he had been present at the battle of Fontenoi in 1745, is now about 70, with all the liveliness & pleasantry of twenty–five—From the moment when I delivered the letter, untill that of our leaving Glatz, every instant of our time was employed by the obliging attentions of this gentleman; & untill our arrival here, I have not had not so much as a spare hour to finish this letter.

Wednesday morning the 27th: we went just out of the walls of Glatz to see the entry of the two regiments, & one battalion of grenadiers, who compose the garrison of the place, & who had been to the review at Neyss. After this, the governor accompanied us to the fortress, situated upon a steep hill on one side of the town. It has always been one of the strongest places in the country, but was taken by the Austrians in the year 1760, owing to the cowardice of the commandant. At the peace in 1763, it was restored to Prussia, & since that time several millions of dollars have been expended upon it, to make the fortifications still more inaccessible. They shewed us the place, in which Trenck was first confined, & from which he made his escape. Within the last three years, a place has been made near the top to lodge about eight <thousand> hundredmen, and of such thickness & solidity that the troops within would be altogether safe, if the place were bombarded. At the summit there is a wath tower, from which we had a delightful prospect on all sides. The whole country of Glatz was within our view, bounded by a circle of mountains, which seperate it from Bohemia, & upper and lower Silesia. It resembles an immense kettle, & is so called by the people of the country. Upon the watch tower is a statue of St: John of Nepomuk, the patron of Bohemia, which Frederic the Second ordered to be placed there, with the face turned towards that country; a circumstance, which gave infinite satisfaction to the catholic common people here, & contributed much to reconcile them to the domination of the arch heretic. A large circular table is likewise kept on the top of the tower, with the names of all the villages in the county, placed exactly in which they stand from the place, the purpose of which is, to know, in case of fire, immediately where to hasten with assistance.

After dining with the governor & his family, we took our final leave of Glatz, & came the <next> same evening through Wartha to Frankenstein. The next morning, Thursday the 28th: we went a German mile & a half, to see the fortress of Silberberg, the strength of which they compare here to that of Königstein. It was built at an immense expence by Frederic the Second, & together with the places of Schweidnitz & Glatz must prove a strong barrier against invasion from the side of Bohemia. The commandant, who had been notified by Genl: Favrat of our intention to visit the place, treated us with great politeness, & shewed us as much of the fortress as the weather, which this day for the first time since we have been upon this <tower> tour, was very unfavorable, would admit. The works extend the length of three english miles, upon a number of neighbouring hills. The prospect from the highest point is more extensive & equally beautiful with that from the fortress of Glatz. The commandant shewed us likewise a model in wood of the whole fortress, which is usually kept in trunks, in separate pieces; but was put together a few days ago for the inspection of the king, on his visit here. The commandant told us he scarcely ever allowed any body to see it; except the ladies, because he was sure they would never betraw such secrets. I told him, what I suppose he had already perceived, that they might as safely be entrusted to me as to a lady; but as the view of the model gave me a much more clear and precise idea of the whole fortress, than that of the works themselves, I could easily conceive, why he should be unwilling to show it to persons better versed in the science of fortification, than myself. We dined with him at the house, which in time of peace he occupies in the town of Silberberg. This is a small city of 130 houses, & 900 inhabitants, on the side of the hill upon which the principal fortification stands. It has its name from a silver-mine, which was formerly worked there, but which has long since been exhausted. After dinner we returned to Frankenstein & proceeded thence, four german miles further to a little village called Jordan’s mühle.

Yesterday morning, Friday the 29th: at 3 o’clock, I went alone, on horseback, one german mile, to the town of Zobten, where I took a guide & went up the Zobtenberg, a mountain, from which the view is the more extensive, because it stands almost alone in the middle of that immense plain, which I mentioned to you in my letter from Schweidnitz—The weather was again less favorable to me, than I could have wished, & would not indulge me with that prospect of the rising Sun, for which I had ascended the mountain at so early an hour—I was therefore obliged to content myself with the view of a widely extensive cultivated country, interspersed with numerous towns & villages, among which I could distinguish the greatest part of the places, which during the last five weeks I have visited with so much pleasure. The Zoltenberg is however the lowest of the several mountains we have ascended upon our tour & the most easily climbed. It is possible to go to the summit even with a carrage. There is a chapel on the top of this mountain, dedicated to the holy virgin, & near it the almost imperceptible ruins of a castle built by Count Peter the Dane, a name much celebrated in the Silesian & Polish histories. He lived in the twelft century. I returned to Jordan’s mühle, at about ten in the morning, & immediately after we continued our route towards this capital of Silesia. We came 5 German miles over an excellent road, & arrived here at 3 in the afternoon.


MHi: Adams Family Papers, Letterbooks.

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