Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung March 1849

Military Reports from Hungary

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 113;
Written: by Engels on March 19, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 250, March 20, 1849.

Cologne, March 19. At last a Bulletin again, the 28th. But we search this document, printed in the Wiener Zeitung of March 15, in vain for reports from the Theiss, the main theatre of war; in vain we ask where Jablonowsky, Götz and their associates have gone; it is precisely on the most important events that the official Bulletin maintains a silence which speaks very loudly. On the other hand, it reports the following mighty advances of the imperial troops:

1) From Transylvania.

“To put an end to the devastating action of the enemy, who threatens to reduce the Saxon districts to complete ruin by the most oppressive requisitioning of money and victuals, and also to gain the line of the Kokel and thence to advance further towards Maros-Vásárhely and to link up with the corps of Lieutenant-Field Marshal von Malkowsky, who has advanced to Bistritz, the Commanding General, Lieutenant-Field Marshal Puchner, ordered the van der Nilli brigade to advance to Stolzenburg on the 28th of last month, to Markt-Schelkeil on March 1, to Arbegin and Frauendorf on the 2nd, to which it was followed on the 3rd by the main corps consisting of the two brigades of Stutterheim and Kalliani. After the first brigades had fought a victorious vanguard skirmish on March 2, the next day — when all three brigades had come together — the enemy was gradually driven back from all three positions which the insurgents had occupied (before Kopisch, at the inn of Grossprobsdorf and at Mediasch), with a loss of 300 dead and wounded and 85 prisoners. The insurgents withdrew in Lrreat haste to Maros-Vásárhely, whither they were pursued by a cavalry division, [112] an infantry battalion and two guns under Lieutenant-Colonel Bussek after occupation of Mediasch. Since preparations are now being made for the occupation of Maros-Vásárhely communication with the Malkowsky corps and Colonel Urban as well as with the Bukovina will be restored.”

Even if all this were true it proves merely that the imperial forces, evidently reinforced by the Russians, have taken Mediasch, while Bem was prevented by his wound from taking command. Thereby the Imperial forces have gained a few miles of terrain. If the Bulletin boasts of the fact that preparations are being made for the occupation of Maros-Vásárhely and the to-be-expected restoration of communications with Malkowsky’s corps in the Bukovina, it must be taken into consideration that Puchner is in Mediasch and Malkowsky at most in Bistritz, and that between these two places there lie 20 to 25 miles of high mountain country, so the boast of preparing to establish communications will mean about as much as if the Italians were to claim that by giving notice to the Piedmontese armistice[113] they had made preparations for “establishing communication” with the Magyars.

Incidentally, that Bem is seriously ill and that the Szeklers (for good reasons) have imposed really substantial contributions on the Saxon philistines as reward for their black-and-yellow enthusiasm is proved by the following communication:

Hermannstadt” February 26. Bem, who is ill, drove to Maros-Vásárhely on the 23rd; his arm is in a very dangerous condition as a result of the amputation of a finger. — Schässburg has had to pay a contribution of 30,000 florins C.M.[114] and recently another 100,000 florins C.M. have been demanded from it and the administrative localities. — All the newspapers have mentioned the 195,000 men of the Romanian Landsturm; I can assure you that this figure exists merely on paper.”

2) The Bulletin reports about Komorn:

“According to reports of the siege command of Komorn the pontoon bridge between Acs and Cönyö is completed and the closer encirclement of Komorn is thereby accomplished. On the 11th of this month the garrison of the Waag bridgehead made a sortie against Hetény, which was, however, beaten back by the Veigl brigade.”

Duroc explained to Napoleon that Komorn was “impregnable”. Short of betrayal, therefore, the imperial forces will not get in, and the Magyars have already taken strong measures to protect themselves against treason.

3) From the Banat:

“After the entire left bank of the Maros from the Transylvanian border to the Theiss was cleared of the enemy in February by the operations of the imperial Austro-Serbian army corps and the troops under Lieutenant-Field Marshal Baron Rukavina, Commanding General in the Banat, and secured by a well-planned arrangement of our troops in combination with the two fortresses of Arad and Temesvar, it seemed no longer necessary for the Serb auxiliary corps to remain in the Banat and in the Bacska comitat, and General Todorovich was in a position to comply with the wish expressed earlier by the Princely Serb Government, by allowing this brave auxiliary corps to go home to its peaceful occupation. At the beginning of this month the auxiliary corps returned to Belgrade in two steamboats along the Theiss and Danube. On March 1 General Todorovich had his headquarters at Turkish Kanizsa on the Theiss, three hours from Szegedin and Theresiopel, in the direction of which the vanguard troops were moved forward on both banks of the Theiss into the immediate neighbourhood of these towns.”

Really! The Serb auxiliary corps was no longer necessary! And what, then, has become of the mighty expedition to Transylvania and Grosswardein, which the last Bulletin but two announced with so much pomp? After the left bank of the Maros has been cleared, the imperial troops suddenly confine themselves to the defensive, instead of marching on! But there are reasons for this, for which we must not, of course, ask the royal imperial bulletins. On the other hand, the organ of the Slavs, the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen is enlightening us on this point. This paper carries a letter from the Sava, of March 9:

“With every day dissensions increase among us, with every day our situation becomes more oppressive, and we are learning by experience that in this great struggle of the nations we have helped to stage the uncommonly instructive fable of the squeezed lemon. We have not yet recovered from the shock produced by the last order of Ban Jellachich introducing the German language; we have not yet forgotten the profound grief which stirred within us when we heard that all volunteer forces from the Serb principality might return home, and blow after blow new misfortunes are rained upon us. And now Prince Windischgrätz has issued an order to Patriarch Ikaiachich and General Todorovich to dissolve all national departments which have existed in the Voivodina since its conquest, and likewise to abolish all garrisons except the imperial garrisons; and to restore the old army commands and regiments to their former powers. This order of the Field Marshal caused much suspicion and dissatisfaction, and everyone was anxiously waiting for the reply of the Patriarch which, when it appeared, cheered the gloomy faces and gave room fond hope. It said: ‘So long as I am the administrator of these lands, I shall and will not admit this dissolution; this must not and cannot be. If you, however, insist on your order, I shall dissolve everything, but I cannot be held responsible for what the nation will say to that.’ No less satisfactory was the reply of General Todorovich. A most disagreeable impression has been made by the news of the dissolution of the Kremsier Imperial Diet and the Constitution which has been imposed”. [115]

And when the Bulletin reports on the siege of Peterwardein as follows:

“Master of Ordnance [116] Count Nugent himself is engaged in the negotiations about the surrender of the important fortress of Peterwardein, where among the majority of the troops and of the population such a strong inclination to return to has shown itself that this gives us great hope that we shall again see the colours decorate this important military point in a few days, as they do of Esseg”,

the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen replies with the following South-Slav Miserere.

From the Drava, March 9. Nugent has moved his headquarters from Dalja to Cerevic in Syrmien, but Dalja must remain occupied since it could serve as a base for a sudden raid. Incidentally, the fact that troop detachments are frequently ordered to two different places and then it turns out that these contradictory orders were given in most pressing circumstances, indicates to some extent how insufficient our armed forces are.

“At Theresiopel in the Bacska comitat the Magyar troops mentioned yesterday were opposed only by three battalions and they had to yield to too great a superior force.

“In the operations against Peterwardein we are advancing rapidly. Consignments of siege guns leave Esseg daily in this direction, so there is not a word of truth in the babble about the imminent surrender of the fortress. Everything rests on sanguine illusions, although what has not yet happened will beyond doubt (!) happen, perhaps (!!) soon (!!!). The Austrian Serbs, who are much disgusted at the recall of their brothers from the other side of the border, do not even approve of the imperial troops operating against Peterwardein, for they regard this fortress as their own property and claim that their own national troops should take it. In the light of Stratimirovich’s reservations, this reflects a certain mood which is now becoming articulate among the masses and the middle classes in the form of an admission that one wants to see whether Magyars, Swabians or Serbs will rule here. And here too we see that the particularise interests have the upper hand, and that there seems to be more concern for their attainment than for the preservation of the federal empire.”

It is quite evident that thunderclouds are gathering in the Serbian Voivodina for the foundering Austrian united monarchy, and that we were right to point out some time ago how little the camarilla can still rely on the Serbs. But the following lines show that this does not refer to the Serbs alone, but that all the Southern Slavs share the same discontent with the renewed Austrian perfidy:

“Some Agram papers of the 9th already publish the imposed Constitution and reports on the dissolution of the Imperial Diet. We searched these papers in vain for effusions of joy; on the contrary, the Slavenski jug of the 10th expresses unconcealed resentment, and the Südslavische Zeitung of the 9th contains a few lines deploring this event.”

The official Wiener Zeitung moreover contains the following from Agram:

“For several days mobile national guards have been arriving, having arbitrarily left their posts on the cordon, alleging that they have received neither pay nor bread for some weeks. Whether this is really so, and if it is so, whose fault it is, we do not know; but in any case we must regret the return of our guards, who, against all expectations, devoted themselves eagerly to the cordon service, since the distrust aroused in the guardsmen by any withholding of their pay can have incalculably bad consequences. [117] In any case it would be desirable for the worthy Banat Council to discover the reasons for this unauthorised return of the guards, make them public, and finally punish the guilty severely.”

All danger to the Magyars from the Slav south has consequently been eliminated, particularly since Knicanin, the most popular Serbian leader after Stratimirovich, has likewise returned to his fatherland, Turkish Serbia.

4) The Bulletin suddenly admits in the most naive way that, as the Magyar correspondence quite correctly reported, the Hungarian guerillas have again advanced to the Danube in the rear of the Austrians:

“The communication by water along the Danube has only been interrupted by bands of armed Landsturm brought together by hostile fanatics in the area of Kalocsa, Pataj and Solt, who wanted to stir up the right bank of the Danube at Paks and Földvar previously completely pacified. Suitable reinforcements which the garrison of Fünfkirchen has received from Slavonia, under Colonel Reiche, an expedition which three days ago went in 15 tugboats to the disturbed areas of both banks of the Danube on order from His Highness Field Marshal Prince Windischgrätz, and the operations of those troops of the army corps of Master of Ordnance Count Nugent which had been stationed at Szekszard and Mohacs and were commanded by Colonel Baron Lederer, will already have put a stop to these vain enterprises of dispersed enemy hordes and made the threatened areas permanently safe.”

“Will have made safe"! The royal imperial bulletins' habit of never reporting genuinely completed actions but only actions still to be accomplished, is becoming all too repetitive. If Welden does not give up this habit it will probably become impossible even for the Kölnische Zeitung to defend his bulletins.

In short: that the peasants have rebelled is a fact, and that the Austrians will pacify them is a futurity.

This is all the Bulletin reports. Fortunately, the silence of this official document does not prevent our receiving other news from the Theiss. A report asserts that Szolnok has again been evacuated by the Magyars. That this is a lie is proved by the silence of the Austrian Bulletin. On the contrary, the imperial troops are in a very difficult position there. The Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen wails from Pest on March 10:

“If only the hundredth part of the verbal bulletins of the Magyars is to be believed we shall have the Hungarians in Pest-Ofen on March 15 at the latest. For my part I still rely confidently on the victory of the imperial arms. According to a fairly reliable source the Austrian army was still in Abony yesterday; but according to the reports of the local malcontents the imperial troops have withdrawn far beyond Szegléd and the Hungarians took this place at the point of the bayonet. Today the decisive battle is to be fought. May the God of Victory be with the imperial flag. I do not see ghosts and I do not believe in premonitions, but my heart will beat more calmly when the 15th of March has gone happily by. On that date, according to my blind faith, the last spark of danger for Pest-Ofen will be extinguished. The Hungarians are said to be firmly determined to celebrate this day with a mighty deed of arms.”

So there is still danger for Budapest! The Vienna Lithographierte Correspondenz writes, moreover:

“On the other hand, the reports on the stubborn resistance with which the royal imperial army is meeting corroborate each other. The latter has been increased to 148,000 men, it is true; but only a third of this number is used in military operations. The courage and daring of the Hungarian hussars is reported to be excellent and in particular the Wallmoden cuirassier regiment has suffered heavily from them. The inhospitable nature of the region in which the royal imperial troops are now encamped also contributes to making the campaign more difficult.”

Maklar, according to authentic news the most remote village occupied by the imperial troops, was burnt down by them because there five wagons of ammunition have been played into the hands of the Magyars. The alleged culprits, five in number, were executed without ceremony. Such is the civilised conduct of the war by which the noble Windischgrätz seeks to ensure the victory which has hitherto eluded his colours. He also issued the following proclamation, the essential contents of which we indicated yesterday:

Pest. “Hereby the following is decreed:
"1) All requisitioning will from now on be borne by the nobility and citizens who have taken part in the rebellion in Hungary without claim to any compensation or indemnification.
"2) All cities and villages which join the rebellion or which allow themselves to be misled into joining the Landsturm under any pretext whatever also come into this category.
"3) The heads of any comitat, district, town and village, as well as all public officials and landowners who leave their posts or residences at the approach of the royal imperial troops and thereby not only make the provisioning of the army more difficult but also lead to the oppression of the poor and innocent classes of the population, will immediately have their entire property, movable or immovable, conscribed and sequestered, and the produce and cattle found will at once be used to provision the royal imperial troops. Individuals and officials causing any damage to the imperial treasury with evil intent, who make loyal subjects of His Majesty the object of persecution or, given the opportunity, fail to prevent this to the best of their ability, come into the same category.
"4) Whatever else may be required for the provisioning of the royal imperial troops will be collected from that section of the more prosperous noblemen and citizens which has proved inactive in the sacred and just cause of His Majesty our most gracious Emperor and King. These requisitions are, however, exacted against receipt and their claim to indemnification is reserved.
"5) The peasants are obliged, it is true, to deliver immediately and without opposition any objects of requisition which are demanded by the royal imperial troop commanders, but complete compensation is guaranteed them from the properties of the above-mentioned categories 1, 2 and 3.
"6) In particular all those who have suffered or will suffer damage at the hands of the rebels for showing firm loyalty to His Majesty have a claim to complete compensation.
"7) Should the compensation from the properties of the three mentioned categories guaranteed under paragraphs 5 and 6 be insufficient, the damages to those concerned will be conscientiously assessed by impartial commissions, and apportioned to the comitat or the whole land according to circumstances on fair principles.

Headquarters, Ofen, March 10, 1849.
Alfred, Prince zu Windischgrätz,
Royal Imperial Field Marshal.”

The fusillades are also beginning again. Thus the Breslauer Zeitung writes:

“According to reports of the 13th from Pest the Major of the perjured Zanini infantry regiment, who was taken prisoner at Kapoina, has been shot under martial law.

We hope Kossuth will not fail to take proper revenge for this foul murder.

These measures, combined with the stubborn silence of “Prince” Windischgrätz, prove more clearly than anything how brilliantly the all-mighty royal imperial army is faring on the Theiss and how soon “the war in Hungary will come to an end”.

Finally we have from the Carpathians the following brief note which only proves how little progress the imperial forces are making there and how much the inhabitants of the Zips dislike the Slovak so-called Landsturm, which consists of mere riff-raff. The mass of the Slovak people, as we have often said already, support the Magyars. The article reads:

Kaschau, March 3. Field Marshal Ramberg has issued a proclamation by virtue of which the population is ordered to regard the Slovak Landsturm with the same respect as the imperial troops. At the same time the leader of the Landsturm is authorised in accordance with the proclamation issued by Prince Windischgrätz on January 1 of this year to raze to the ground any place that dares to attack them. — Tomorrow Hurban, Stúr and other elected (!) trusted representatives (!) of the Slovak people are going to Olmütz to present to the Emperor the just wishes and grievances (!) of their people.”

Messrs. Stúr and Hurban are such good “trusted representatives” of the Slovaks that they have already been chased over the Jablunka Pass to Moravia several times by these selfsame Slovaks!

Lastly we draw attention to a proclamation of Windischgrätz of the 11th, in which he demonstrates how little the cause of the insurgents is a national cause since among 100 prisoners one meets at least 60 individuals of different nationality.

Quod erat demonstrandum! The Magyars have always had it cast in their teeth that their struggle was not fight for liberty but a national struggle! Indeed! Nobody is so clever as an Austrian Field Marshal! In the same proclamation the hard-pressed Windischgrätz calls for volunteer corps against the Magyars.

A fine opportunity for our colleagues, the gentlemen of the Kölnische Zeitung!