Articles by Marx & Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung

From the Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 76;
Written: Written by Engels on March 15, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 246, March 16, 1849

Today's Breslauer Zeitung carries two Magyar reports, of March 6 and 7, which this time are for once written in a somewhat confused manner.[68] One gets from them a sense of the immense impression which the sudden hasty retreat of the Austrians made in Pest, and the thousand rumours it produced in which facts are mixed up with exaggerations.

At Mezö-Kövesd, one mile beyond Maklar and two beyond Kapolna, a great battle is said to have taken place on March 3, in which Dembiriski totally defeated the imperial troops by the masterly use of the terrain and skilful tactical manoeuvres. Their losses are given as 7,000 men and 60 cannon.

It is quite certain that the Hungarians have by no means retreated across the Theiss, as was trumpeted abroad by Austrian papers, but that on this side of the Theiss something must have happened that looks like a defeat of the imperial troops (even if the above particulars should prove exaggerated). Windischgrátz does not retreat without good reason.

That the imperial troops were also defeated at Szolnok and that their army corps which was drawn up there has been taken prisoner, as we surmised, is confirmed by the Magyar report of March 6:

"Yesterday morning at 7 a.m. the imperial army received another decisive blow. For the 5,000-strong Grammont brigade in Szolnok on the Theiss was surrounded by a Hungarian army which had crossed the Theiss at Czibakhaza, and was taken prisoner along with Lieutenant-Field Marshal Grammont after a terrible carnage. General Ottinger of the cavalry there received a fatal wound from which he died yesterday in Ofen."

Moreover, the Hungarians did not stop there. According to the Magyar report they advanced to Szegled and there on the 5th, in bloody fighting, defeated the imperial troops (probably those three supporting battalions which were brought from Pest by Zeisberg). They have also re-occupied Kecskemét, a very important town between the Theiss and the Danube. In consequence of these defeats Jellachich is said to have followed Prince Windischgrätz and also to have left Pest. It is said that the fortifications around Pest are being demolished by the imperial troops themselves; so they do not want to defend Pest itself but merely to dominate it by the cannons from Ofen. The fortress of Ofen is being amply provisioned, but even from here guns of large calibre are being removed, which suggests that a very prolonged defence is not contemplated.

Thus far the reports of the Magyar correspondent which sound probable. The following appears less probable:

Görgey is said to be advancing towards Raab with an army corps and to be about to cut off the retreat of the imperial troops—whether this advance is occurring north or south of the Danube is not stated.

The Magyars are said to have crossed the Danube below Pest and to have occupied Stuhlweissenburg (in the rear of Pest) to cut off the retreat by way of the Fleischhackerstrasse.

What truth there is in these two rumours cannot be determined. But at any rate they seem exaggerated.

The Magyar correspondent reports further from the Hungarian camp:

"Travellers from Debreczin relate that on a motion by Kossuth the Hungarian National Assembly has decreed that a Landsturm is to be raised to support the regular army. Most of the deputies have been instructed to organise the Landsturm in their capacity of government commissioners. This extraordinary measure appears to have been taken following the news of the Russian intervention in Transylvania. The same travellers also relate that Minister of Police Ladislaus Madardasz has resigned from the Provisional Government in Debreczin."[70]

From Vienna it is further reported on the 9th:

"The news I gave in my communication of yesterday about the battle at Szolnok is confirmed. The Hungarians have gained a brilliant victory, and they very nearly seized the headquarters. Prince Windischgrätz himself is seriously wounded in one arm. Nothing at all is yet known of the Zeisberg brigade but it is said to have been completely wiped out. The Karger brigade was driven into the Theiss and only a few escaped. General Karger himself owes his escape exclusively to the devotion of three dragoons, who together with him fought their way through. In short, the defeat of the Austrians was general, and even the enemy acknowledges that the leaders of the Hungarian army have demonstrated extraordinary strategic genius. In addition to the names recently given to you, generals Duchatel (probably meaning Duhamel), a Frenchman, Guyon (an Englishman), and Prince Czartoryski (son of Adam Czartoryski) deserve to be commended; they stood courageously by the side of General Dembinski, who was in supreme command."

Kossuth has appointed the Serbian leader Stratimirovich Ban of Croatia and voivode of Serbia, a choice which has found general approval since both Serbs and Croats hold this handsome and brave young man in high esteem.

"Postscript. 3 p.m. A traveller coming from Pest, who left the city on the 9th (?), reports that at the time of his departure the city was full of excitement; in Ofen extensive defence measures were being taken and both cities were teaming with a multitude of soldiers; the Magyars, on the other hand, were hourly expecting their compatriots to march in and in many places the national enthusiasm gave vent to fiery exclamations, in spite of the great number of soldiers who, however, had other things to attend to."

Others write also from Vienna:

"The tactics of Prince Windischgrätz towards the fiery Magyars and Poles are the object of much disapproval by the army itself, which appears to be demoralised by them. The many generals commanding the Hungarians are receiving more and more reinforcements, and there is no prospect of an early end without treachery on one side or notable reinforcements on the other."

Windischgrätz has, moreover, declared that unless he receives reinforcements of 50,000 men he cannot cope with the Magyars!!

Let the Kölnische Zeitung now say what "stage" the Hungarian war has entered with these new Magyar victories and with this statement of Windischgrätz.