Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

From the Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 252;
Written: by Engels on April 9-10, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 269, April 11, 1849.

That Bem is master of all Transylvania is no longer open to doubt. The Austrians who have hurriedly withdrawn from Hermannstadt to Kronstadt and the Russian garrison there, offered no resistance. Allegedly “for lack of ammunition” they also left Kronstadt without striking a blow, and withdrew to Wallachian territory. Some 22,000 men, 3,000 horses and 50 guns are supposed to be there, besides 8,000 Russians, and on the Bessarabian-Moldavian border another corps of 15,000 men which has already received orders to cross the Pruth. Thus reports the Wiener Zeitung.

Whether the information in the Wiener Zeitung is correct remains to be seen. This much is, however, certain: if it is correct, Bem’s forces must have swollen enormously to be able to drive out 25,000 Austrians with 50 guns and 6,000 to 10,000 Russians from an area so rich in advantageous positions as the environs of Kronstadt. In spite of the Russians we can therefore be easy about the fate of Transylvania. For nobody will be taken in by the fib that the imperial troops had to flee “for lack of ammunition” when Kronstadt is their second main depot after Hermannstadt.

All the reports received so far show that the Wiener Zeitung has given only a fifth of the real number of Russian soldiers in Wallachia.

Quoting an eye witness, a Saxon from Hermannstadt, the Magyar correspondent of the Neue Oder-Zeitung confirms a report carried earlier by the Breslauer Zeitung about the capture of Hermannstadt. Bem is said to have restrained his troops from any excesses and to have promised a general amnesty except for those who called in the Russians. But these are said to have already fled.

According to a Cracow report in the same paper the “depressing news” which the Royal Imperial Consul in Belgrade, Herr Mayerhofer, is taking to Vienna is said to convey that the Turkish Government has protested against the Russian intervention in Transylvania which is being conducted from Turkish territory, asserting its exclusive right to intervene from its own territory.

Incidentally, even the royal imperial martial-law reports admit that Bem, far from being threatened in his position, is rather himself threatening Wallachia and Bucharest. Should circumstances indicate an incursion there as appropriate, he will appeal to the suppressed Wallachian revolution[203] and to the ambition of the Turks which has been offended by the Russian invasion. The Russian appetite for the Danube provinces and the alliance of the Austrians and Russians have moreover roused much sympathy for the Magyar cause among the Turks.

No changes have occurred in the positions of the two armies on the Theiss since yesterday’s news. Yet the lamentations of the Austrians are becoming more frequent, and their situation apparently more depressing every day. Some 13,000 soldiers are said to be lying wounded and sick in Pest, and the active army on the Theiss to have dwindled to 45,000 men. Windischgrätz is reported to have handed over the command to Jellachich (?). The courage and power of the Magyars, on the other hand, are growing day by day. They are drawn up in a great semi-circle round Pest from Waitzen to Szegléd; their mobile units patrol as far as Komorn and the Moravian border. Kossuth has had banknotes issued for another 15 million guldens, and thereby covered the costs of his army for a further six months.

The Imperial Command is making every effort to improve the situation of the army on the Theiss. A corps has withdrawn from the close encirclement of Komorn (where 5,000 Austrians are said to have already died of sickness or in battle) and has marched towards Pest; three battalions have marched from Vienna, and two squadrons of cuirassiers and one regiment and one battalion of infantry from Olmütz. In addition considerable preparations are being made in Moravia and Galicia. Ten thousand Russians are to be called to Lemberg, so that Hammerstein can at last move off to Hungary with the entire Austrian garrison (see under “Poland”). The best officers of Radetzky’s army, Lieutenant-Field Marshal Baron Hess, generals Benedek and Mayerhofer have been called to Hungary, and in spite of all this the Austrians’ hope of success is so slight that they do not intend to “begin operations in Hungary in earnest before May”.

In the south, things are equally disagreeable for the imperial forces. True enough, there is again talk of the victory of the Serbs at Zenta and of the inevitable cruelties which they afterwards committed. On the other hand, the bonds between Serbs and Austrians are now so far dissolved that the latter have to fear the worst.

“Recently, Lieutenant-Field Marshal Rukavina has declared categorically that the three Banat border regiments, and — as regards the internal administration — also the three comitats, Temes, Krasso and Torontal, must obey his orders unconditionally, failing which he would be forced to take the most serious measures against all offenders. This declaration and the half-hearted action of the General Staff excited the greatest hostility among the people, and after fruitless endeavours to win Rukavina back to the national cause, the Patriarch yesterday felt obliged to dispatch the courier Jovan Nedeljkovich to His Highness Prince zu Windischgrätz with the request for 20,000 rifles to arm those Serbs who are fit to bear arms, and to instruct generals Rukavina and Todorovich to work more sincerely in the Serbian national cause, failing which he would find himself in the most disagreeable position of having to treat with the Magyars. People are looking anxiously into the future.”

This is how they write to the Austrian papers from Semlin.

Moreover, the Magyars have made another incursion into Galicia. The Wiener Zeitung writes:

“A band of 800 Hungarian insurgents attacked the village of Brzywka in Sambor district, situated hard on the Hungarian border, drove away all the cattle and then withdrew. The verger, who wanted to raise the alarm by ringing the church bell, was shot by the insurgents.”