Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

From the Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 368;
Written: by Engels about April 28, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 285 (second edition), April 29, 1849.

The imperial army is disintegrating. The Croats have openly rebelled and forced their Ban, Jellachich, to go with them from Pest down the Danube by steamship to the south, probably so that they may protect their homeland. Jellachich had to give way, and hence the whole of the First Army Corps is on the march southwards.

Welden has indeed withdrawn his headquarters to Raab. Though he insists that Ofen is still garrisoned (by 6,000 men commanded by Schlick, they say), this however is very doubtful.

Another rumour, though immediately disavowed by other sources, has it that Wohlgemuth, who has just been defeated, has now defeated Görgey!!!

The Pest mail of the 22nd arrived in Vienna 24 hours late.

A letter from Pressburg to Breslau of April 24 says

“that the Komorn siege artillery, sailing up the Danube, has just arrived and that the Austrian troops are withdrawing to Pressburg”.

Finally the correspondent expresses the fear that all correspondence will probably be interrupted quite soon. The last mail was also missing in Pressburg.

Welden’s proclamation, mentioned previously, runs thus:

“To reassure the public we herewith announce that according to news just received from the headquarters of Lieutenant-Field Marshal Baron Welden, Ofen continues to be occupied by an adequate force, and the main army, continuously following the enemy’s movements on the right bank of the Danube, is in process of being concentrated. At the same time we announce that Komorn is still under continuous bombardment and is being kept under observation by our troops. In addition, Csorich’s division continues to occupy Gran and covers the Danube crossing.

“The Commanding General and Deputy Governor,
Baron von Böhm, Lieutenant-Field Marshal.”

The Austrian retreat towards Vienna is now called “concentration”.

The martial-law paper Die Presse reports the following on the latest operations:

“The Hungarians were above all concerned to get possession of the left bank of the Danube above Waitzen by a rapid movement under cover of the mountains. Thus they achieved a double purpose: the insurrection gained scope and strength, and they could hope in this way to relieve Komorn, the key to the Danube. The execution of this plan was concealed from the Austrian general by sham attacks on our troops by a few brigades, and since he allowed himself to be deceived it was in the main successful. The insurgents crossed the Eipel and Gran and were thus able to bypass General Wohlgemuth, stationed at Kemend with 15,000 men. This bypassing was executed with far superior numbers of insurgents and could not have been prevented even by Wohlgemuth’s most energetic and devoted resistance. The Magyars extended the line of their bypassing to Neutra, and, while their right wing reached the flank of the royal imperial troops between Sallo and the river Gran, their left wing threatened the rear. It seems therefore to have become impossible for General Wohlgemuth to carry out his intention of retreating across the Waag, thus covering Pressburg and occupying the Schütt Island in conjunction with the corps besieging Komorn, for he withdrew to Neuhäusel.”

The (Italian) Mazzuchelli regiment is reported to have gone over to the Hungarians.

In Pest, a proclamation issued by Havas, the royal commissioner, warns the inhabitants against attempts on the departing royal imperial troops, as the destruction of the city would ensue; Havas exhorts them not to place any obstacles in the way of the withdrawal of the troops. — The military hospitals have been placed under the protection of the municipality. The guns have disappeared from Ofen’s ramparts. The imperial side must be in a bad way if it has to resort to such proclamations.

The Hungarian banknotes are — al pari; the Austrian notes have dropped considerably.

The Pester Zeitung has engaged a Magyar editor; the Figyelmezö has ceased to appear.

The retreat from Pest is said to be the result of a 48-hour cease-fire granted by the Magyar forces outside Pest to the imperial forces.

The Neue Oder-Zeitung writes:

“The Magyar army is reported to amount to 200,000 men, including the Landsturm. In newly occupied areas, Kossuth likewise calls up the Landsturm so that his combat forces will soon amount to 300,000 men, etc. etc. The fact is that since March 4 the energy of the Croat troops has declined, and Jellachich is having to employ all his prestige to restrain them.”

General of the Cavalry Hammerstein has not left Lemberg to this day, and the First Deutschmeister battalion [279] marched off to Stryj only on the 14th of this month, to replace a battalion stationed there and destined for Hungary. The report that Lieutenant-Field Marshal Vogl is with the corps which consists of 20,000 men and is already on Hungarian soil has thus proved incorrect. The entire force now on the way to Hungary probably consists of 53 companies of infantry, six squadrons of cavalry and four artillery batteries, formed up in three columns. The first is commanded by Major-General Barco, the second by Major-General Benedek, and the third by Colonel Ludwig. Lieutenant-Field Marshal Vogl is in charge of the operations.

As a precautionary measure, Lieutenant-Field Marshal Simunich has sent guns to Vienna; but already yesterday they were sent back to Hungary by steamship.

Since the 25th, more fresh troops have arrived in Vienna and others have marched off. Commercial and banking circles have recovered a little from their fears. In the suburbs, especially Josefstadt and Wieden, considerable excitement prevails, and last night, particularly in the former, people drank immoderately in most inns; nay, Hungarian tunes were demanded and chanted.

Two days previously, in the Josefstadt transport depot, a detachment of the Hungarian Alexander infantry regiment,[280] which is in process of reorganisation, was worked on by emissaries. But the battalion was quickly sent away, and some of the “agitators"[281] were arrested. Today was the first day of recruiting by the drawing of lots and up to now it has passed off quietly, although in the suburbs those liable to conscription had been greatly incited. The Government has taken stringent police measures to check the throng of “agitators” and to remove strangers. Kossuth’s proclamations to the sister nation in Vienna, in which it is called upon to aid in the restoration to the throne of the legitimate Emperor Ferdinand, have been read here. In addition, the rumour was circulating that a cabinet council decided yesterday to reject Russian intervention in the Austro-Hungarian question.

Although somewhat belatedly, we are reprinting a letter from Pressburg which appeared in the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen, because it contains much that is interesting.

“The stage-coaches to the Upper Comitats were discontinued already last week; soon afterwards, mail also was dispatched only to Neutra, and — yesterday morning it was already reported that the Hungarians had entered Neuhäusel (three to four hours from Komorn). During the day, a traveller arriving here from Tyrnau showed me a proclamation issued by the military commandant there, which refuted the rumour that the Hungarians had entered Neutra as well, but in such a way that from the few lines one might easily infer the opposite. Yesterday afternoon, this doubt was strengthened by the dispatch by train to Tyrnau of a detachment from the garrison here, provided with guns. Late in the evening, I was told by an acquaintance who had arrived the same day from Neuhäusel that this town was already occupied by an insurgent force of nearly 40,000-45,000 men together with a considerable number of guns, and the royal imperial troops, about 12,000-15,000 men, had withdrawn to Sellye (two hours up-river towards Pressburg), because of the great superiority of the enemy. I was still quite unwilling to believe this strange news, when I heard an imperial army sergeant confirm this sad fact. Both agreed that the troops had run out of ammunition and for that reason alone had to retreat. An observation that unfortunately one has had to hear more than once since the beginning of the unhappy civil war in Hungary.

“Our trades people here were however greatly surprised when this morning they wanted to travel by train to the market in Tyrnau, and found that railway journey there had been suspended. In answer to their enquiries they were told that last night almost the whole of our garrison, together with artillery, had been hurriedly sent off to Tyrnau, for which purpose all the carriages had been requisitioned. — It has become known that a fairly heavy encounter between our troops and the enemy army has taken place at Neuhäusel, on which occasion the Nassau infantry regiment is said to have suffered heavily. It is also said that the Tyrnau railway carriages which left last night will bring back here a large number of royal imperial troops today.

“A camp of about 18-20 battalions is soon to be formed outside one of the city lines. It is certain that already last week, the innkeeper in the Schlossberg fort which is now fairly heavily fortified, was given definite instruction by the military commandant here to lay in all necessary provisions for at least three to four weeks, and the garrison here is expecting at any moment the order to move into that fort with bag and baggage. — The announced issue of the new compulsory notes naturally did not produce a good mood. The standing questions regarding these notes are: (1) To what amount are they to be issued? (2) Will the Bohemian, Silesian and Austrian industrialists accept them at their full value?

Postscript. Just now we hear that the Hungarian advance guard is already at Szered."'

The same newspaper carries a report from Vienna about Transylvanian affairs:

“A considerable number of refugees from Transylvania arrived here recently. Some of them, who came directly from Hermannstadt — directly now means through Wallachia and via Esseg — relate the events there in almost identical terms. The murder stories are in large part invented; looters were shot, and the strictest discipline was soon established. Bem put up to public auction all the belongings of the officers which they left behind, with the exception of General Puchner’s belongings and correspondence: these he forwarded to him by some Honveds, together with a polite letter. They were, however, intercepted by the Russians, and none of the refugees was able to say anything about what had happened to either the Honveds or the documents. Incidentally, they depict the condition of the country as deplorable, and the conduct of the Russians towards the refugees as really shocking, but all agree that they were moved by the kindness and considerateness of the Turks.”