Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung May 1849

News from Hungary

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 400;
Written: by Engels on May 4, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 291, May 6, 1849.

Cologne, May 4. We have received the following reports from Vienna dated May 1:

In the concluding days of last month, and especially yesterday, April 30, an unusual amount of activity could be observed in the streets of the capital. There was general excitement as the news spread about the withdrawals of troops from the Hungarian border. Evidence of the heavy losses and defeats sustained by the Austrian side is provided by the continuous transports of maimed and wounded, who for the past two days have been coming, brought in hundreds of carts, to the military hospitals in Vienna. The latter are already so full that all the corridors and the spaces between the beds are being used to accommodate patients. The men brought back under these conditions are in a wretched state, which cannot but remind one of Napoleon’s retreat from Russia — pale, emaciated, tattered apparitions, their wounds are covered with makeshift bandages of rags, they lie on the bare planks of the carts. One cannot look upon this picture of suffering without shedding tears of pity. The majority of the wounded received incurable fatal injuries — many losing their noses and chins — in the course of the Hungarian cavalry attacks. In short, it is impossible to describe how badly these poor devils have been mauled. In addition, ten carts laden with caps of all branches of the service, together with cavalry harness, arrived here yesterday, followed by about 500 unmounted horses which had lost their riders in the battle.

Altogether, things look very bad for the Austrian cause in Hungary; a week ago the royal imperial troops were still in Pest, and now their headquarters has been in Oedenburg for several days already; the Austrian army is no longer withdrawing but is in full flight; the Oedenburg supply column has just arrived with soldiers of all branches of the service and military baggage. I met a sergeant-major I know who belongs to an Upper-Austrian regiment formerly stationed in Vienna. According to his account there can be no doubt about the Hungarians’ victory, since the latter are taking advantage of the Austrian troops’ utter confusion, allowing them no time to rally, but continually attacking with fresh energy and forcing them to fall back. The Hungarian army is far superior to them and is fanatically devoted to its cause, whereas the Austrians, as a result of fatiguing and pointless marches, discouraging losses and setbacks, and as a result of bad leadership having been left in the lurch at decisive moments by their officers, are naturally not defending the cause of the dynasty with the necessary determination. The ignorance displayed by the royal imperial generals and officers, on whose training during the pre-March period such a vast amount was spent, is said to be unparalleled; they lead the troops straight to the slaughter-house. Inquiries are already being held on five generals. The Hrabowski Regiment (Upper Austrians), which only recently returned from Italy, has changed sides almost to a man and so has the Lower-Austrian Hess Regiment, in general it is considered that the German troops are not such reliable tools for the designs of the dynasty as the Slav troops are. Altogether five regiments have changed sides, apart from the countless number of Croats. A quite unprecedented and incredible demoralisation has set in in the army. The war in Hungary is being carried on under the command of the Polish General Dembinski. The Polish contingent consists of ten legions, with a total strength of 36,000 men and about 25 generals; they are said to perform unparalleled feats and the royal imperial troops fear them most of all.

On Sunday, April 29, there was a big battle near Wieselburg, with the Austrian losses amounting to 6,000 dead and wounded — so that there are grounds for believing that a sensational defeat has been suffered, and that this accounts for the transports of the wounded.

The army corps commanded by the Ban is thought to have been completely routed.

The Hungarian insurgents have advanced with a force numbering 15,000 men and 30 pieces of ordnance north-westward into the Turocz comitat and at present hold the county town, St. Martin, as well as Mossocz. It is said they intend to cross the Waag, to occupy the Kisuca valley and block the roads from Silesia and Galicia.

In St. Martin, from which town the Slovakian Landsturm received many volunteers, there is said to be great fear that vengeance will be meted out by the insurgents. Slovakia, too, seems to be falling very much under Magyar influence.

In Pressburg on the 29th the post from Pest failed to arrive for the fourth day in succession. In the heath on the outskirts of the town earthwork and redoubts are being built.