Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

The Hungarian War

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 335;
Written: by Engels on April 25, 1849;
First published: in the New Rheinische Zeitung No. 282, April 26, 1849.

Cologne, April 25. Today we have no new information from the theatre of war. That which we already published yesterday about the departure of a corps of substantial size from Pest to Gran has been fully corroborated, and this is a most important fact. It obviously constitutes the first step towards the abandonment of Pest.

We do not know the strength of the departed corps, nor how many men still remain in Pest. Some papers report that 10,000 men marched away; if this is so, 5,000-7,000 men at most can have remained in Pest. The Wanderer, a martial-law sheet pursang, which has connections with the military camp, speaks of a “departure of the whole camp” to Gran having occurred during the night, after Welden had been in Pest for some hours and then returned to Gran. The Wanderer relates:

“The march towards Waitzen and the neighbouring area began at 4 a.m. The whole army stationed on the Ofen bank of the Danube as far as Komorn is crossing the river and today will take the offensive against the insurgents at all points, while Schlick and the Ban, operating beyond Waitzen, are attacking them in the rear and on the flanks. Already yesterday it was said at headquarters that decisive results were expected within three days.”

The strategic reason which the Wanderer gives for the Austrian withdrawal is more than ludicrous. According to it the plan is for the main imperial army to cross the Danube between Komorn (this is how far the retreat has already gone!) and Gran and attack the Magyars in the front, while Jellachich and Schlick (i.e. two out of the three army corps!) will cross over to Waitzen and cut off their retreat.

But if the imperial forces have made such progress that they can already think of such decisive manoeuvres, why do they not remain at Pest, where they are in complete command of the Danube crossing, on the left bank of the river, and march up along that bank towards Waitzen and Balassa-Gyarmat? In this way, with “Schlick and Jellachich’s” assistance, they could completely cut off the Hungarians from their base of operations, and totally destroy them after winning one battle, while in case of a defeat their own retreat to Pest could not be cut off?

However, the Wanderer’s glosses are the more certainly pure phrases as the small number of reinforcements arrived in the last few days do not allow the imperial side to think even remotely of resuming the offensive.

It is as clear as daylight: what is happening is that the imperial forces are retreating from Pest and taking up new positions in the area from Komorn to Gran and Szent Endré along the right bank of the Danube and the Gran so as to oppose the Magyar pressure on Komorn. Incidentally, this very “speedily” performed withdrawal is the best commentary on the supposed imperial victory at Parkfiny on the Gran.

What these manoeuvres seem to suggest is that Welden, in the crude fashion in which he conducts warfare, intends to provoke a decisive battle at all costs and as speedily as possible. His rashness will probably end badly for him.

D, the “best-informed” Vienna correspondent of the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, a black-and-yellow bureaucrat and an authority for the Kölnische Zeitung, but otherwise an impudent braggart and extremely ignorant of geography, is again lying with remarkable impertinence when he speaks of two Magyar corps marching with all haste towards Kaschau to meet Lieutenant-Field Marshal Vogl’s forces. One of these corps is said to be 30,000 strong, the other to be commanded by Görgey (!)-but Lieutenant-Field Marshal Wohlgemuth is alleged to be following hard on their heels and if he could get to Miskolcz before them (the Austrians are now on the march to Miskolcz!!!), the Magyars would have to retreat over the Theiss!! A brilliant strategist, this “best-informed” correspondent of the best-informed Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung.

These lies show the lengths to which those on the imperial side have to go to sustain the spirit of their troops even to some extent.

In a similar way, they also sought to capture Komorn, the fortress they could not capture by force of arms. They sent spies to spread among the garrison the rumour that Debreczin had long ago been taken by the imperial forces; that Mack was already inclined to capitulate, but Esterházy was not. Fortunately, a Magyar spy got through to Komorn and brought the news of the latest Magyar victories.

In the Banat, the Magyars are already beginning the encirclement of Temesvar.

From Galicia, there is still no news at all of Vogl’s alleged entry into Hungary with his fictitious twelve battalions, reports of which were so grandly trumpeted abroad. It appears that the plans for the disposition of the troops concerned have been changed so frequently, because Galicia cannot be trusted to keep calm, that they have not yet even been assembled on the border.

There is nothing new from Transylvania. We shall print only an excerpt from a report about Bem, sent to the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung from the Wallachian border. These admissions from the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung are the most striking confirmation of what we have so often said about Bem:

“At this moment, the whole of Transylvania is obedient to the irresistible authority of Bem, a leader who is as bold as he is fortunate, whose genius and exceptional energy have decimated the best troops of two emperors’ and driven them from the country. With relatively few and for the most part inexperienced forces, this extraordinary man has been able to set at nought the immense sacrifices demanded by this unprecedentedly bitter struggle, and to frustrate the brilliant feats of arms of the Austrian troops, nay, even the universally feared Russian intervention. Bem’s successes are all the more amazing as he has succeeded in conquering a country in which the majority of the inhabitants, and especially the Saxons and Romanians, without exception, remained loyal to their Emperor and readily made every sacrifice, however hard. In face of so sad an outcome of this war, as protracted as it is destructive, all previous sacrifices, indeed even the summoning of foreign assistance, appear as sheer waste, while the reconquest of the country demands new sacrifices which are the heavier as the tireless Bem has increased his power tenfold by promptly levying soldiers and contributions. The inhabitants of Hermannstadt alone are reported to have been afflicted with a levy of four million florins C. M., payable within three days. What is equally distressing is the fact that this so lamentable misfortune, which could have been averted by prudence and strong measures, has led to an extraordinary cooling off in the sympathies which the populations thus Afflicted previously gave so cordially to the Government, while their spirits have been crushed and their energy crippled by the imposed Constitution. All this is very natural, considering the enormous distance between the rights demanded in the well-known petitions of the Romanians and Saxons and those granted in the Constitution of March 4, and the obstinacy with which the Vienna Government withholds the concessions promised in Olmütz to the Romanian deputation.[261] The common sense of the people sees that fundamentally it is all the same whether its rights are neglected or curtailed by the arrogance of the Hungarians or by an all-powerful Government.”