Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

From the Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 188;
Written: by Engels on April 3. 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 263, April 4, 1849.

Today the news that the Hungarians have advanced by way of Gyöngyös into the area of Waitzen, 5 hours from Pest, is reaching us from all directions. Now nobody dares doubt it any more; the Kölnische Zeitung, the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen all agree on this. The Austrians have had to retreat in all haste to Waitzen from Hatvan and Gödöllö on the worst country roads. Their flank is threatened by the Hungarians, who are simultaneously beginning to present a danger to the siege area around Komorn.

As a result of these successes on the part of the Hungarians the spirits of the inhabitants of Pest have risen again. Proclamations by Madarász, the Debreczin Minister of Police, in which the inhabitants of the two capitals[174] are urged to hold out in view of their impending liberation, have been distributed in great numbers in Pest.

Görgey has the supreme command of the advancing Magyar corps. The rumour about Dembinski’s resignation on the grounds of his disagreements with Görgey is being repeated. Vetter, who together with Bem drafted the original plans of campaign, is said to have assumed command in his place.

Another piece of news which is similarly beyond doubt now is that of the entry of 30,000 new Russian auxiliaries into Transylvania. The Lloyd and several issues of the Lithographierte Correspondenz from Vienna announced this unanimously and simultaneously, and also the news that the Bukovina too has been occupied by the Russians.

Incidentally, the Lloyd reports in addition that Bem has been utterly defeated by the Russians and compelled to retreat into Wallachia. We are unable to judge whether the first part of this report is true or not, but it can scarcely be doubted that the second part is completely false. Bem had pursued the Russians as far as the Roterturm Pass, but had been unable to force this pass. If he was defeated, then it was only because of the newly arrived Russians, and these, needed precisely at Hermannstadt, had no means of access other than the Roterturm Pass. Thus Bem could not possibly have been expelled to Wallachian territory through this pass. To the right of the Roterturm Pass lie three other passes leading to Wallachia; but to reach these Bem would first have had to take Kronstadt, which was occupied by imperial troops and Russians and in addition covered by Puchner who had taken up positions on the Küküllo (Kokel). Here too, therefore, it would have been impossible for Bem to get across. Finally, the fifth of the Transylvanian-Wallachian passes, the Sill Pass, lies to the left of Hermannstadt. If he had used this pass then he would have been acting like a lunatic. If he was defeated at Hermannstadt the following courses were open to him: 1) the road along the Maros into Hungary, 2) the road to Klausenburg, and 3) the road to Maros-Vásárhely. In all three cases he would be able to remain at the place of battle and fall back upon Magyar corps to reinforce his troops. Crossing the Sill Pass on the other hand would have meant trampling on the most elementary rules of strategy, cutting himself off voluntarily from the Maros, his basis of operations, and crossing the frontier in a fit of dejection as it were. Thus, until we hear that hitherto unknown and unprecedented imperial advances have cut him off from an otherwise secure retreat we can at most believe in his defeat through Russian superiority, but not in his crossing into Wallachian territory.

No news has been received about the capture of the Arad citadel by the Magyars. On the other hand even the most black-and-yellow newspapers admit that a considerable Hungarian army is concentrating in and around Alt-Arad, this “Magyar Saragossa"[175], and that evidently important battles are in preparation there.

Incidentally, Bem has exercised the same salutary terrorism against the Russians in, Transylvania as against the Saxons and the Romanians. Thus among other things he is said to have ordered the hanging of 300 Cossacks captured by his troops in the attacks on Hermannstadt, and to have said of the deed that it had been one of the most satisfying of his life.

As a punishment for this and other atrocities, the Lloyd reports, the Russians ordered the hanging of six captured staff officers of Bem’s after the battle they are alleged to have won.

Komorn and Peterwardein will soon surrender, hopes the royal imperial press. One knows by now how often and how long these facts, so desirable to the imperial side, have been “hoped for”. The rain has not let up, the roads are turning more and more into quagmires, the post arrives later every day, and military operations must also be restricted for the present.

In brief, the state of the royal imperial cause in Hungary is such that the Olmütz Government is seriously considering negotiations. It is said that a peace congress is to be held in Miskolcz. Of this the Ost-Deutsche Post writes:

“The Government appears to have made new decisions concerning Hungary. One of these is said to be the repeated demand for a surrender, in conjunction with the promise of full immunity (amnesty) for all those troops and officers who return to subordination.”

The Serbs are growing more and more serious. The following dispatch in the Lloyd shows that they are demanding more than a merely rhetorical independence:

Semlin, March 21. Besides the deputies sent to Vienna by the Serbian National Congress upon the demand of the Government, about whom I informed you in my dispatch the day before yesterday, a further two elected deputies, Alexander Kostich and Georg Stojakovich, have departed for Ofen to bring back from the Governor’s palace all the documents concerning the Serbian nation as well as the Serbian National Funds and other institutions.”

In short, if it were not for the Russians we should be shouting “Finis Austriae!” much sooner than “Finis Hungariae!” Now even the neighbouring journalists realises this at last.