Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

From the Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 178;
Written: by Engels about March 31, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 261, April 1, 1849.

Recent news from the theatre of war is entirely lacking. Only individual details about events of which we already know are at hand. In the following we give the most important of these:

Lieutenant-Field Marshal Schulzig has been recalled because of his incompetent conduct of operations in Hungary, and transferred to the post of Commandant in Styria. The first of the much vaunted royal imperial Austrian generals of whom an example is made. More are in prospect.

Jellachich is said to be in Felegyhaza and his outposts four hours from Szegedin, which is said to be encircled and cut off from supplies from the Banat. A glance at any large-scale map giving the location of the swamps around Szegedin shows that this report is an empty boast.

About 2,500 Hungarian insurgents sought to effect an entry into Galicia in the district of Stryj, but were repulsed with casualties.

It is learnt that as a rule the cadres of the Hungarian army reserve battalions consist of Polish veterans.

The most recent order of Field Marshal Windischgrätz that no one can be forced to accept Hungarian banknotes has had no effect at all in Pest.

In another issue of the Lithographierte Correspodenz from Vienna we read:

“The Hungarians are continually advancing on Pest and will make every effort to relieve Arad, Romorn and Peterwardein, efforts that may be successful, since the Hungarian army is daily growing larger and more enthusiastic, while the imperial troops are reduced in numbers and disheartened as well by strenuous marches, bad provisioning and continuous skirmishes. Most recently a very violent engagement took place at Török Szent Mikios, in which both parties suffered heavy losses, the Hungarians however were left in possession of the battlefield. At Szegedin, a heavy encounter between the Hungarian army of the South under Vetter and Damjanich and the Serbian army corps is expected any day now. The Serbs have actually gone back to Serbia, lock, stock and barrel, and the unit numbering about 8,000 men will be greatly missed by the imperial generals. Peterwardein is still occupied by Hungarian troops and, as I learnt yesterday, the force there has resolved, after throwing into the casemates all suspect officers, to blow up the ancient rocks of Peterwardein rather than surrender. Hence the navigation on the Danube may well have been opened from Karlowitz, but not further upstream; for any boat that ventured near Peterwardein, which completely commands the whole Danube, would be sent to the bottom of the river. Komorn has been bombarded since March 17 without any success; large siege artillery is being sent by steamship down to Komorn every day. Bem has taken Hermannstadt and driven out the 3,000 Russians and 2,000 Austrians who were garrisoned there.”

On Bem’s capture of Hermannstadt, a Vienna correspondent of the Börsen-Halle writes:

“A look at the map shows the daring with which the insurgent leader has effected this coup, for, as the reports say, he made a 26 hours’ forced march with 12,000 men from Vásárhely and attacked Hermannstadt before daybreak, surprised and disarmed the Russian garrison there which in part was still in barracks, and is said to have captured several guns. It is also reported that several Russians have been hanged. The Russian protection, which was promised with the arrival of the Russian relief-force, has consequently been of very little help to the unfortunate inhabitants of Hermannstadt.”

A correspondent, who is an enthusiast of the royal imperial cause, has written as follows to the Breslauer Zeitung from the Hungarian border:

“The rumour of Prince Windischgrätz’s resignation is daily growing stronger. For Windischgrätz is said to be not only disgruntled by the unsatisfactory progress of the war, which he attributes to the oft requested but never granted reinforcements to his troops, but to be particularly offended by the tutelage the Ministry has recently found it expedient to impose upon him in respect of the civil administration of the country. The affair of the banknotes caused the first rift in the entente cordiale between Windischgrätz and the Ministry, and the dispatch of Baron Kübek to Ofen to superintend the Hungarian finances was not designed to restore the shattered harmony either. It is asserted that Baron Welden in Vienna, recently promoted to the rank of Master of Ordnance, is destined to replace the austere Marshal in Hungary. Welden’s post as Governor of the capital city of the Empire will be taken by Master of Ordnance Count Nugent, since the notorious incidents in Friuli in spring last year [167] have made it impossible for this general to remain in the field. — An air of mystery continues to hang over the terrible fate of Maklar. After the battle of Kapoina, this beautiful market town was badly damaged; hence Prince Windischgrätz caused compensation of 1,000 florins to be granted to it. Later it was said to have been razed to the ground because of the alleged hold-up there of five royal imperial ammunition wagons. This report, however, is denied in Hungarian newspapers appearing in Pest under the eye of the Field Marshal, although the facts concerning the destruction of Maklar appear to have been incontrovertibly established.”

The same correspondent sends the following details about Komorn, from which it follows that the capture of the fortress is out of the question. An “assault” on a fortress, particularly one as impregnable as Komorn, an assault to be made before the walls are breached, would be sheer madness. Nevertheless, the correspondent predicts the assault. One sees how the Austrian officers take the journalists in with the craziest nonsense.

In addition, we learn that the so-called Palatine line, which is supposed to have been taken long ago by the imperial forces, is still in Hungarian hands, and that only now the direct-fire batteries [168] have been brought into action against it. Hence there is still no question of the capture of this outwork.

The correspondent writes:

“The Komorn fortress has been shelled assiduously since the 20th of this month, but so far with little success. Two thousand shells are intended to be fired into the area of the fortress. Should the garrison still not surrender, a general assault will be ventured, which the royal imperial troops are impatiently awaiting, since their bivouac is not very inviting in 12 degrees of frost and, moreover, the townships in the whole of the surrounding area are so impoverished and plundered of everything that their inhabitants come into the Austrian camp to beg and gladly pay 30 Kr. for a loaf of army bread merely to be able to still their hunger. The batteries set up on the Sandberg alongside the Danube are intended to clear the island and dismantle the enemy guns of the outer works of the Palatine line; another battery is shelling the road running from the bridgehead through Neu-Szöny; long-distance mortars and rocket batteries commanded by First Lieutenant Jäger, well-known from Italy, complete the list. The garrison is courageously defying death, for the fortress commandant Mek, a young man who has risen in nine months from an artillery sergeant [169] to the rank of the Colonel, sees the scaffold in front of him and will sell his life dearly.
"In Debreczin the insurgent officers lead an extremely gay life, for money is available there in abundance; a glass of punch costs 1 florin C. M., and quite ordinary cylinder clocks which cost 35 florins in Germany, fetch 200 florins there. Gold and silver are also disappearing from circulation in the seat of the Hungarian junta; payments are now made solely in banknotes, not as though the Hungarian Government were short of talers and ducats, not at all; but solely because it is keeping hard cash under lock and key, both to increase Austria’s embarrassments and to preserve hard coin ready for all eventualities. As everybody knows, the cunning of the agitator Kossuth has succeeded in getting his emissaries to spread the myth that the National Bank in Vienna is no longer solvent and has suspended payments. Even in Pest the manoeuvre succeeded and Prince Windischgrätz is not a little angered by this successful ruse of the enemy.”