Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

Magyar Advances

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 353;
Written: by Engels on April 28, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 285, April 29, 1849.

Cologne, April 28. No commentary is necessary on the royal imperial Army Bulletin No. 35, the main points of which we have already this morning communicated to our readers. It reads as follows:

“Concerning events in the army in Hungary. After the movement back towards Pest made by the Austrian army early this month, in order to concentrate in positions protecting the two cities, the enemy almost daily attempted attacks on the same which, though they were without results, nevertheless gave him proof that our main strength was gathered at Pest and Ofen. Soon afterwards he attacked Waitzen, where two brigades were stationed commanded by General Götz — in the fighting the latter died the death of a hero — and advanced up the Danube via Leléd and Kemend. Believing that we were kept sufficiently busy at Pest, the enemy then marched in two strong columns, one on the left bank of the Gran and the other via Ipolyság, towards Leva. Here he assembled about 30,000 of his best troops on the 18th and crossed the Gran in three columns at Kaina, Bars and Sz. Benedek.

“Lieutenant-Field Marshal von Wohlgemuth — in command of five brigades totalling about 15,000 men from Moravia and Austria, which as a reserve were drawn up behind the Gran — made aware of this movement, left Kemend on the night of the 18th to march toward the enemy between Malas and Bese.

“Meanwhile the enemy drew up his entire force — outnumbering ours by two to one — in battle order between Verebely and Nagy Sallo. An attack launched on Nagy Sallo by Prince Jablonowsky’s brigade was indeed completely successful, one column already having reached the town, when entry had to be given up because the town was ablaze. The enemy took advantage of this to outflank us on our right between the Gran and Nagy Sallo, at the same time attempting a similar manoeuvre against our left flank from Verebely. A most stubborn battle had already raged from early morning till afternoon; with his proven composure, Lieutenant-Field Marshal von Wohlgemuth made a fighting retreat, leading his very tired troops from one position to another; the enemy, on the other hand, extended his outflanking manoeuvre even towards Neutra.

“Lieutenant-Field Marshal Wohlgemuth had already previously been given orders to continue his retreat behind the Neutra and even back across the Waag, if things took an unfavourable turn, so as to cover both the valley of the Waag and Pressburg, and beyond the Waag to effect a junction, by way of Schütt Island, with the corps besieging Komorn, where in the meantime the bombardment was continued in the most lively manner.

“The commanding general, Master of Ordnance Baron Welden, who had arrived in Gran on the 17th, convinced that the main force of the enemy could have made the outflanking movement through the mountains to relieve Komorn, immediately ordered the Ban to sally forth from Pest with his entire force and to attack the enemy, but not to follow up advantages too quickly. On the 19th, the Ban advanced in all directions (!!!!), but the enemy gave way before him so rapidly that he was not even within reach of our artillery (!).

“On the 20th, another enemy column, which up to then had been held in reserve at Paszto on the River Ipoly, moved down the right bank of the Gran with the left wing of the enemy towards Kemend and Gran, and immediately attacked the Csorich division, stationed there as a reserve, which, since on that day Lieutenant-Field Marshal Wohlgemuth had already passed Neuhäusel, retreated fighting towards Gran and dismantled the pontoon bridge there so as to defend this point as strongly as possible. The commanding general arrived at Ofen on the 20th.

“Given this military situation, it appeared to the commanding general that to continue to hold Pest and Ofen would have great disadvantages for further military operations, especially since the Danube from Komorn to Waitzen had been taken by the enemy, and neither city offered a useful pivot for the operations. The Master of Ordnance therefore set about concentrating his troops in a secure position, and is convinced that, with the reinforcements placed at his disposal which are marching to his aid, he will soon be in a position to renew the offensive successfully.

“Messages from Pest of the 21st of this month report that the enemy made an attack at Czinkota on that day, but after not very stubborn fighting he was forced back everywhere by our troops which were advancing towards him.

“According to news of the 17th of this month, just arrived from Semlin from the Master of Ordnance Count Nugent, the state of things on the Lower Danube is taking an increasingly favourable turn: the Chaikist area [268] has again been cleared of the enemy; the position at Peterwardein has been much strengthened by the well-placed entrenchments constructed under the energetic direction of Colonel Mamula, and through the troop reinforcements moving on Peterwardein from all directions the corps being formed there will soon be in a favourable position to resume the offensive and advance on Szegedin.”

This Bulletin confirms everything that we have already reported from the theatre of war. Moreover, it is written more clearly than the previous imperial hushing-up proclamations.

At Komorn, to which fresh troops and fresh cattle for slaughter have been brought by the Hungarians, many guns were left behind by the imperial forces, which, though in part spiked, fell into the hands of the Hungarians. Now, 24 hours after we pointed it out in our newspaper, all the papers bewail the fact that the imperial troops no longer have a single defensible position in Hungary, and will have to withdraw beyond the Leitha and March.

The imperial authorities have glaringly failed in their attempt to issue the new Hungarian banknotes, alias “forged bills”. The Ost-Deutsche Post relates the following story:

“A high-ranking staff officer went into the vault of a money-changer the other day, demanding that he change 2,000 florins of the new paper money into Austrian banknotes, and even offered them at a premium. The money-changer declined to do so, under the pretext that he had only a few Austrian notes. However, he was willing to change a few 100 florins, though without any premium. The officer replied: you are a money-changer, you must have notes, and if you do not change them I will have your vault locked up. After some argument between them the notes were exchanged. On the following day, the money-changer’s wife received from that same staff-officer a little packet of 5-florin notes in new Hungarian bills. She said that she could not change them. Shortly afterwards, the officer himself appeared, accompanied by an adjutant. In the meantime, the money-changer also arrived and declared that he was certainly willing to change silver money and ducats, but not the banknotes, for, he reasoned, not without logic, if the bills were valid, the General had no need to change them and could use them as well as the money-changer; if they were no good, he did not want to change them, for he could not use them. He had payments to make in Vienna, and he was so far not aware that the new bills would be accepted in payment there. If he were to change them for the General hundreds of people would immediately turn up with similar requests which he would be unable to satisfy. The General replied that it was beneath his dignity (!!!) to answer him, and ordered the mayor to be fetched, instead of whom a town councillor appeared and locked up the vault on the General’s order.”

The news from Hungary has had a tremendous effect in Vienna:

As in the days of the barricades last year, crowds were moving up and down the streets. A stranger might suppose that the masses of people swarming hither and thither like ants were there in response to the warm spring weather, but to anyone even moderately familiar with the physiognomy of the capital, it was clear that mighty levers of curiosity, hope and feverish tension must have agitated the Viennese, encouraging them despite the ubiquitous glint of bayonets, despite the vigilance of the police, to a form of passive resistance expressed in crowds gathering at street corners, loud and fearless political beer-hall talk, and a thousand other variations. Former legionnaires [269] in ranks four and five deep marched past the guards as though on parade, with bold provocative glances; former national guards shook hands with one another as though asking ‘Well, will it start soon?’ while those in favour of ‘calm at any price’ despondently and fearfully crept along keeping close to the houses as though Kossuth were at the gates of Vienna.

“That the ‘loyal ones’ have a guilty conscience was clearly and strikingly shown yesterday. In inns and coffee-houses, cries of Eljen were raised to Kossuth. ‘I am biding my time, and it will come,’ says Perceval to the Queen. Today the tumult seems to have died down somewhat, at least the sound of tramping and the buzzing of voices are not as audible today as yesterday.”

Another letter from Vienna reports:

“The turn in the Hungarian events has produced a simply indescribable despondency among the majority of the city’s inhabitants” (i.e. the bourgeoisie). “The numerous refugees arriving here hourly from Pest increase the anxieties, and only now vent is given to the universal execration of Windischgrätz (!). Already loud shouts of ‘treason’ can be heard (!!). However, the city is quiet. Both yesterday and today, troop reinforcements have gone from here to the battlefield. On the other hand, the arrival of fresh troops is again expected here; two battalions have already arrived since yesterday.
"The courier coach with the mail from Pest has already failed to turn up today, and we must be prepared for that city being cut off once again by Kossuth.”

A third correspondent, who already sees half a step further, makes the following observation:

“A ministerial crisis is inevitable, Schwarzenberg will have to follow Windischgrätz, public opinion must have its victims, otherwise — I doubt if I need say more.”

It is obvious that it will now be a matter of crises quite different from ministerial crises!

Important news has come in from the south:

Vetter has advanced towards Stuhlweissenburg and the Plattensee with a Magyar column.

Further to the south, Perczel too has crossed the Danube and recaptured Vukovar, on the road to Fünfkirchen.

Karlowitz in Syrmien has been attacked and bombarded by the Magyars.

We hear from several quarters that Bem has invaded Wallachia and driven the Russians back to Rimnik Vatitza, three and a half miles from the border.

In short: the Magyars are advancing victoriously at all points, and the Austrian “united monarchy”, the centre of European counter-revolution, will be destroyed within a fortnight, unless a miracle happens.

But it is on the ruins of the “united monarchy” that the European revolution will arise anew.