Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung March 1849

From the Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 158;
Written: by Engels about March 29, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 259, March 30, 1849.

The Kölnische Zeitung will surely have to retreat across the Theiss again with its “three columns”; the campaign is taking an increasingly unhappy turn for the imperial forces.

But let us leave the Kölnische Zeitung to its justified sorrow, and instead turn immediately to Transylvania.

Hermannstadt has been taken by Bem. There is no doubt: the newspaper of the Vienna Stock Exchange barons, the martial-law Lloyd, publishes the news from two separate sources. If it were not true, its publication would under martial law result in the editors being sentenced to several months “trench-digging in light chains”.

Bem has calmly allowed the worthy Puchner, whom the equally worthy Ost-Deutsche Post had yesterday already advancing into the vicinity of Grosswardein, to march against the Szeklers in the Carpathian Mountains, confronting Puchner with only about half his corps to support the Szekler Landsturm. Bem himself, as the Lloyd reports, marched quickly on Hermannstadt with 12,000 men, attacked the Russians and drove them out. The Lloyd asserts that only 3,000 Russians were there, but that is hardly likely, for more than double that number were there; unless the remainder marched with Puchner against the Szeklers, which is indeed possible.

In Hermannstadt, Bem’s troops are said to have wrought “great havoc”, which would be no more than just retribution for the barbarities of the imperial forces and the calling-in of the Russians. After a few hours Bem left the city again; naturally, after he had severely chastised the Saxon philistines,[155] his business there was finished.

The strategic aim of the campaign is obviously to isolate Puchner once again, and to drive away the imperial forces marching up along the Maros from the Banat. We shall soon hear how the tireless Pole has sported with them, perhaps how he has pursued them deep into the Banat and there attracted reinforcements himself.

While Puchner with the imperial and Russian forces is fighting the Szekler guerillas deep in the mountains, Malkowsky and the chivalrous hero Urban, the “Jellachich of the Bukovina”, have been completely driven out of Transylvania on the northern side. According to the last Bulletin, Urban was still occupying Bistritz; from there he has been beaten back to Watra Dorna, and from Watra Dorna deep into the Bukovina. The headquarters of Malkowsky, the Supreme Commander, has already been shifted back again to Ober Wikow, fully 20 miles from Bistritz, and only 8 miles from Czernowitz on the Russian border. Thus reports the Austrian correspondent. In Czernowitz itself, he goes on, the greatest anxiety rules; the precautionary measures taken by the imperial authorities, abatis, the occupation of the passes, the call-up of the Landsturm etc. show that the, danger is near. But the Hungarians will take care to penetrate into the Bukovina no further than is necessary to secure the border. They know too well that the Russians are only waiting for the signal to invade. In Novoseliza, right on the border between the Bukovina and Russia, there are 10,000 Russian troops, and the whole frontier with Moldavia is swarming with Russians.

The most important aspect of the matter is simply this:

(1) Bem can operate independently down the Maros with part of his troops, while the rest of his corps, along with the Szeklers, suffices to keep Puchner and the Russians busy;

(2) In the north, where previously Bem himself had to drive out the imperial forces every time, the insurrection has spread to such an extent that it can cope with Malkowsky and Urban even without Bem;

(3) Bem therefore not merely operates in distinguished fashion as a military leader, but at the same time he has also organised the Transylvanian insurrection and made it more formidable than ever;

(4) The Romanians, the majority of the Transylvanian population, who initially behaved with such fanaticism against the Magyars and Szeklers, either have lost all spirit for further fighting because of the successes of the latter, or must even have joined them, impelled by their hatred of the Russian invasion. Without this, Bem’s latest successes would have been quite impossible.

At last we have some news about the position of the imperial forces on the Theiss. The Lloyd reports from Pest on the 20th that Götz is in Tokaj, Jablonowsky in Miskolcz, Schlick in Erlau, and Jellachich in Szegléd.

This means that in this sector the imperial forces are in precisely the same positions on March 20 as they were on January 20. Compare Army Bulletin No. 19 and our comments on it in No. 214 of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung;

Hence, for two months the imperial forces have been roaming around in the area between the Danube, the Carpathians and the Theiss, with varying fortunes. When the Theiss was frozen, they were stationed in front of it and tried to advance across the ice; the Magyars drove them back with casualties. Then it was said that the drifting ice prevented them from getting across. It did not prevent the Magyars from following the imperial troops to the right bank. After this, Görgey came, drove Schlick back to the main army, joined with Dembinski, and the two advanced to within a few miles of Pest. That was four weeks ago. They retreated again, the imperial troops followed them, and since the glorious “victory” of Kapolna they have not advanced a step further; Schlick’s headquarters, Erlau, is on the battlefield of Kapolna so to speak.

Whether Götz is actually in Tokaj or only in its vicinity remains an open question. The positive information we have today from this region comes from the martial-law Lithographierte Correspondenz of the 24th from Vienna and is this: General Hammerstein, whose move from Galicia into Hungary with 10 battalions was so definitely reported by the Vienna newspapers and correspondents from Pest, has still not pressed forward towards Hungary at all!

Schlick and Jablonowsky are harmless in their present positions for the time being. The former is said to have already started to move; but what use is that in view of “the slushy weather that has set in” and the imminent season of spring rains which we mentioned this morning?

And to crown all the Ban, the chivalrous, invincible Ban Jellachich!

He marched towards Szegedin, he occupied Kecskemét, and set up his headquarters in Felegyhaza, four miles further on; he was said to have so routed the Magyars at Szegedin that the city surrendered; the procession of the inhabitants to the Ban, with maidens clad in white, garlands, flags, music and all the trappings, was already described, and, lo and behold, the South-Slav Don Quixote is suddenly back at the point whence he had set out, on the selfsame Spot Where he rejoined his troops after they were defeated at Szolnok — at Szegléd in the Pest comitat!

Moreover, the Olmütz Government appears to be fed up with Windischgrätz’s incompetent conduct of the war. It is reported that Windischgrätz will be dismissed, and that Master of Ordnance d'Aspre will take over from him as commander of the army of the Theiss. Certainly, d'Aspre burnt and plundered enough in Italy last year to appear a capable general to a Schwarzenberg-Stadion Government.

Incidentally, the 50,000 men which Windischgrätz requested as reinforcements to enable him to cope with the Magyars, are supposed to be actually supplied. As the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung reports from Vienna, 50,000 men from Vienna, Moravia, Bohemia and Galicia, are said to be marching to the theatre of war, 10,000 of which alone are to reinforce the army besieging Komorn. In addition, six batteries of heavy artillery are said to have been dispatched there from Olmütz a few days ago. Whence all these troops are supposed to be coming the Gods alone may know. It would be very surprising indeed if the Government were able to draw another 50,000 men from the German and Slav provinces, infuriated by the imposition of the Constitution, in addition to the troops (about 350,000 men) already fighting in Hungary and Italy.

On the 24th, the rumour circulated on the Vienna Stock Exchange that Komorn had capitulated after three days’ heavy bombardment. If this were the case, we would first have learnt of it through official reports, as we did of the “victory” of Kapolna, and not through Stock Exchange puffs.

The only information we have from the Banat comes from statements in the Vienna and Olmütz papers that Baja on the Danube was occupied on the 18th by 4,000 Magyars. Baja is located in the comitat of Bacska, hence in the part of the Voivodina claimed as Serbian, and at the same level as Theresiopel (Subotica), about eight miles away. The garrison crossed over the Danube, i.e. into the insurgent comitat of Tolna; it is attempting to move towards the forces of Colonel Horváth, which are approaching by steamship and tug and are to clear the Danube of guerillas. But probably, nothing more will even be heard of it, as the insurgents are likely to have cut it to pieces already long ago.

One hears from the Slovakian mountains that Perczel is now at the head of the guerillas organised there, who have already been mentioned several times. A correspondent writes to the Schlesische Zeitung from Vienna on the 22nd that Perczel was recently in Tyrnau, five miles from Pressburg and eleven from Vienna, and was threatening the former town. He has however returned from there to Neutra and is now moving towards the Moravian border to threaten Olmütz. Everywhere he incites the Slovaks to rebellion and arms and organises guerilla forces. He has laid under contribution all the villages and localities which have provided recruits for the royal imperial army; he is having hanged all those clergymen who previously were in agreement with Hurban.

It is evident that the so-called Slovak deputation which, with Hurban at its head, was recently in Olmütz,[156] is by no means representative of the Slovaks, and that these on the contrary prefer to side with the Magyars. Soon Perczel is likely to concentrate here the same formidable force with which Görgey conducted his brilliant campaigns.

To sum up: the imperial forces are suffering defeats everywhere, and what they need to crush the Magyar revolution is nothing more than — 50,000-60,000 Russians!

But, in addition to the Slav movement and the Italian war, there is something else which may give a different turn to the whole Hungarian revolutionary war and change it into a European conflict, i.e. the Turkish affair. Turkey is Europe’s most sensitive spot: movements in Turkey immediately bring England and France into collision with Russia. And it seems that at all events Turkey wants to move against Russian encroachments upon the Romanian provinces, and Russian intrigues in the Slav Danube provinces. A correspondent writes from Czernowitz (Bukovina) on March 16:

“Letters from Jassy bring us the news that the Turks have marched into Galatz as well as Wallachia in significant strength, 100,000 men, it is said, to protest arms in hand against the Russian occupation of the Danube principalities.”

And the Austrian correspondent adds from Zara in Dalmatia on March 13 that considerable military preparations have been going on for a fortnight in the neighbouring town of Mostar, and all men of the region capable of bearing arms have been called to the colours. In April, all men from 16 to 40 years of age are to be called up and only one man is to be left behind with each family for its support. In Zara one does not know what to make of it.

If it is confirmed that the Porte wishes seriously to oppose Russia — and the French papers too have been reporting this for some time — a new and scarcely avoidable impulse will be given to a European war. And this war will be upon us before we realise it and bear the European revolution in its train.

Postscript. At Hochwicsen (two miles from Schemnitz) a guerilla force which advanced from Komorn under the leadership of Ernst Simonyi has been driven back, the Wiener Zeitung reports. This and a few fires is all that this official paper has today about Hungary!

A correspondent writes from Pest that the general offensive was to have begun on the 20th. Heavy artillery has gone to support Schlick. Theresiopel has not yet been taken, despite the reinforcement of Todorovich there by 5,000 Serbian volunteers. On the other hand, the Honveds are said to have been driven out of Baja again.