Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

From the Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 237;
Written: by Engels about April 6, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 266, April 7, 1849.

No fresh news at all has arrived from the theatre of war. Only from Transylvania do we have two Magyar bulletins today, signed by Bem himself, brought by the Debreczin official Közlöny.

“1. Hermannstadt Headquarters, March 15. In my dispatch of March 13 I had the fortune to declare that I had sent a corps to the Roterturm Pass (Vöröstorony) in order to sever as far as possible communications with Wallachia. This army corps was unable to advance very far, however, since the whole Austrian army was positioned in Frek, and thus only separated from the defile by a mountain ridge, and so the flank of my advancing troops was threatened. By way of a detour I gained control of this defile, however, and I shall not only hold it, but at the same time press the enemy towards Kronstadt, from where he would only be able to cross the Carpathians with great difficulty, if, that is, he should wish to escape into Wallachia. I shall commence these operations of war this very day.
"Yesterday our troops once again captured a staff officer, Colonel Kopet. The names of the two staff officers previously captured are Baron Berger (Lieutenant-Colonel) and Teichbert (Major).
"The capture of Hermannstadt was of inestimable value to us, a great number of weapons have fallen to us from all sides, while the vital artery of the enemy has been severed.”

“2. Roterturm (Vöröstorony) Headquarters, March 16. My operations yesterday designed to dislodge the Russians from the Roterturm Pass were crowned by such good fortune that we had ejected the Russians from this strong position by 11 o'clock the same night. The ‘March 15’, the anniversary of the Liberty of Nations, could not have been celebrated in more worthy fashion. [190] Today at 5 o'clock in the afternoon the Russians have taken to the wildest headlong flight. Four Austrian generals: Puchner, Pfersmann, Gräser and Jovich have fled to Wallachia with approximately 3 companies. I myself have inspected the Roterturm Pass most carefully, and have made such arrangements that the Russians will find it hard to penetrate here again with hostile intent. I have dispatched another part of my army in pursuit of the Austrians, who according to the statements of prisoners of war are demoralised and making for Kronstadt in disorder. Their main force is at Fogaras, the rearguard, however, has just left Frek. The enemy had demolished the bridge over the Olt behind him, which hindered the energetic pursuit of him for a time. Now that the bridge has been rebuilt I shall continue the pursuit with the utmost vigour. I hope to take Kronstadt within 3 or 4 days, thereby the imperial Austrian army will be partly destroyed, and partly dispersed, and in any case rendered harmless as far as the internal tranquillity of this country is concerned. And then the return to obedience of those Wallachian bands which still operate in isolation will be so much the easier.

Post scriptum. After taking Kronstadt I shall immediately leave for Hungary with an army corps.”

(As our readers already know, General Bem did not succeed in taking Kronstadt.)

The extent to which the Pest revolutionaries have been encouraged by the recent gains of the Magyar army may be inferred from the following report in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

Pest, March 30. A secret committee appears to exist here which is in contact with the Debreczin revolutionary government. For a large number of printed posters in the Hungarian language are daily found in every street, containing partly war bulletins from the Debreczin Government, and partly its orders and decrees. By means of such posters Bem’s capture of Hermannstadt was already known here on March 22. The police have not yet succeeded in tracking down these secret information centres. If one is to believe such a poster, countless copies of which were distributed yesterday, then the Hungarian Lieutenant-Colonel Goal stormed and captured the fortress of Arad on March 23. But the imperial officer commanding the fortress, Lieutenant-Field Marshal Baron Berger, is said to have made good his escape. — The Ban, Master of Ordnance Baron Jellachich, is ... here. The plan of advancing on Szegedin has been abandoned. The theatre of war has shifted back about 40 miles nearer the Austrian border, and thanks to this an area of about 300 square miles has been abandoned to the Magyars. The imperial army is now altogether restricted to the defensive. Among the officers the conviction is also generally expressed that without substantial reinforcements a decisive victory is scarcely conceivable. — Yesterday the Jewish community here had to pay a fine of 40,000 guldens because two local Jews were sentenced for deliveries made to Debreczin. — Colonel Horváth is advancing on Baja, which the insurgents have occupied with 4,000 men. His task is to clear the Danube line and to destroy the insurgents’ ships.”

According to this, Jellachich, after three or four attempts on the Theiss, has returned to Pest for the fifth time; and just as he previously discovered that the Theiss cannot be crossed at Szolnok and marched towards Szegedin, he has now discovered that Szegedin cannot be taken. These repeated retreats are the “laurels” of the “chivalrous Ban Jellachich"! “Poor Jellachich! Poor Kölnische Zeitung"!

Herr Welden has issued a bloodcurdling proclamation to the garrison at Komorn, which has the following positive content after many inflated words:

“Wherefore I grant a further grace of 12 hours so that every man may return to the royal imperial flag. Upon the expiry of this grace, however, I shall continue with the destruction of Komorn so long as I have one trusty soldier and my cannon the wherewithal to shoot. God will assist us! Outside Komorn, March 26, 1849.”

The rumour that the Russians have entered Galicia is emphatically contradicted.

Martial-law reports announce: “We still lack consoling (!!!) news from Hungary.”

Letters from Jassy announce that in Moldavia great preparations for some war or other are being made, especially as Russian troops in great numbers are arriving from all directions and General Paskevich is expected any day now.

The Neue Oder-Zeitung today prints a document of the erstwhile Palatine of Hungary, Archduke Stephan,[191] from which it becomes clear that the betrayal of Hungary which is now practically complete was contemplated and projected as early as March last year. The document reads as follows:

Your Majesty, the condition of Hungary is so critical at the moment that the most violent eruption can be expected any day. Anarchy reigns in Pest. The authorities have been ousted from their spheres of action by committees of public safety, and — while the Governor’s Council at least maintains the outward form of its authority under the powerful leadership of Count Zichy — the Exchequer has been reduced to practically nothing. The nobility” (it appears to be implied from the context later on that the rural population is meant, since the nobility has already enjoyed rights) “has rebelled in several places in order to win real rights for itself.
"In this anomalous and dangerous situation every man expects his salvation from the impending formation of a responsible government. [192]
"Even if we regard this plan as a calamity, the question now at issue, however, is which is the least calamity?
"I shall now attempt briefly to adduce the three means by which alone I can still hope to achieve anything in Hungary. The first means would be to remove the whole of the armed forces from the country and abandon it to total devastation; passively to observe the destruction and arson, and passively to watch the bitter struggles between the nobility and the peasants.
"The second would be to negotiate with Count Batthyány (who is now the people’s only hero; — if we hesitate for long his star too is likely to fade — ) concerning the proposed legislation, in order to save as much as can still be saved. One must know in advance, however, what is to be done if in the event of his dissatisfaction he should perhaps resign.
"Finally, the third means would be to furlough the Palatine immediately and to send to Pressburg a Royal Commissioner invested with extraordinary powers and accompanied by a considerable military force, who after dissolving the Diet there would leave for Pest and there continue to run the government with a strong hand as long as conditions demand it.
"I frankly confess that I myself recoil in horror from the first alternative. It is immoral, and it is perhaps also not proper for a government to forsake its subjects completely, some of whom at least are well disposed, and to abandon them as victims to all the cruelties of a rebellion (!). Moreover, the example this would set to the undisciplined rude masses would produce the most damaging effect in the other provinces.
"The second alternative on the other hand is a good one, and although at first glance it has the semblance of separation, yet for the present it is the only means of retaining this province, provided that the gentlemen to be newly appointed are capable of exercising complete influence over internal developments — which can admittedly no longer be claimed with complete certainty in advance. With the coming of more propitious times much may be organised differently which might cause a separation at present. I am not certain that one might not achieve something by way of proper negotiations through Batthyány and Deák — but solely through them — for if they deliberate in Pressburg [193] everything is to be feared. At this juncture, however, I must, as a faithful servant of the state, make so free as to draw Your Majesty’s attention to a circumstance of the greatest significance: what will happen if in the event of unsuccessful negotiations Batthyány should hazard everything and be ready to resign?
"Here I consider it my duty not to exaggerate but to observe in accordance with the truth that one must be prepared for this eventuality in order to be able to meet with armed force the demonstrations along the Danube and on the road from Pressburg to Vienna which will certainly be instigated by the youth of Pressburg and a section of the nobility. In this case the third alternative would remain, provided that neither the will nor the possibility of its employment were lacking. This third means would have to be used with great dispatch. Four questions arise in this connection, however:

“a) is there sufficient money available? That is, is it not impossible to send a fairly large military force, by which I understand at least 40,000 to 50,000 men, to Hungary?
Or “b) is this force available and able to be concentrated quickly? Is, further,
"c) a Royal Commissioner available who is both willing and fitted to take over this task? Finally, however,
"d) is there also no doubt that this means is sufficient for achieving the end desired?

And whether later in the winter an accommodation will not be brought about, and whether the other hereditary provinces will remain tranquil upon perceiving this? Will one not need a substantial military force in Galicia and in Italy?
"If to all these questions, which I am unable to judge from my own position, a favourable answer can be given according to which the execution of the plan is possible without illusions and without, for instance, calculations which perhaps later prove to be incorrect, then I have no further comment to add against its being carried out, provided that the settlement with Count Batthyány is attempted, and in addition that the dignitaries of the country, who have to be summoned in any case, are asked.
"I frankly confess that in the present state of affairs I must pronounce myself to be for the second alternative, and I do not doubt that the dignitaries of the country — although I have not yet spoken with them — are of the same opinion. I have definite knowledge only of the opinion of Supreme judge of the country Mailáth.
"If, however, Your Majesty in Your wisdom should consider the first or the third means to be more to the purpose, then Your Supreme Highness will without doubt command me in accordance with the prevailing laws and customary practice as to whether for the time being I shall remain in Vienna in this event or whether I ought to travel elsewhere.

Your Majesty’s most faithfully obedient subject,
Stephan m. p.

Vienna, March 24, 1848.”

We refrain from all further discussion of this document, which is self-revealing indeed. In the margin of the original document there are comments by Archduke Stephan in his own hand and a dispatch note: “Stephanus 23 March 1848” and “Kiads Marcz 24čn 1848” (i.e. dispatched on March 24, 1848).

We have found the following additional information in the papers which have arrived this morning:

The village of Aszod, four miles from Pest on the road to Hatvan, was captured by the Magyars. They had already left it again the following day, however, in order to advance further in the direction of Neograd and the Waag. The Slovakian guerillas have once again been so encouraged by Görgey’s sudden appearance on the Eipel that they are ranging as far as the Moravian border.

Götz and Jablonowsky are in Waitzen. The report that they had held Eperies and Kaschau against Görgey was therefore untrue. The whole of the Zips, and indeed the whole of Upper Hungary, are thus once more in the hands of the Magyars, and the imperial forces now occupy only the western and southern borders, also the land between the Danube and the Drava and the immediate environs of Pest.

“Ban Jellachich,” states the Pest Observer (Figyelmezö), “is not only a hero, but also an astute diplomatist. He caused a sensation in Kecskemét. He summoned the Gipsy bands of Körös and Kecskemét, marched through the town to the accompaniment of the most genuine Hungarian melodies, and has so enthused the whole population with his Magyar conduct that they declared: ‘Even if he were to land us in the middle of the Theiss, we should follow him!!'”

Ban Jellachich is daily revealing himself as more of a buffoon and a, Don Quixote.

The Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung reports the following fact, which may once again serve as proof of the genuinely revolutionary character of the Hungarian war:

“While the young Count Esterházy holds a command in the fortress of Komorn and will probably be executed for high treason should this be taken, the old Count Esterházy, the young Count’s father, has just presented 160 casks of wine to the siege troops as encouragement for them to storm the fortress!”