Works of Frederick Engels 1849

Repudiation [404]

Source: MECW Volume 9, p.482;
Written: by Engels on July 26, 1849;
First published: in Beiträge zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung No. 2, 1967

It has come to the cars of the undersigned, who served in Willich’s volunteer corps during the campaign in the Palatinate and Baden, that the following accusations are being made against that corps:

1) Willich’s corps is said to have deserted Becker’s in the Black Forest[405];

2) it is said not to have acknowledged Becker as commander-in-chief;

3) it is said to have crossed into Switzerland whilst Becker’s corps was still eight German miles behind.

As regards the first accusation, let the following facts speak for themselves: Willich was positioned in Furtwangen with orders to hold the Simonswalder Thal and the defiles leading to the Höllenthal. He advanced the larger part of his troops over the mountains towards Simonswald and St. Märgen. Becker was positioned in Triberg and St. Georgen, on Willich’s right. To our great astonishment Becker suddenly appeared in Furtwangen with his whole corps. He explained this strange manoeuvre to Willich by saying that the troops stationed in Triberg had left their posts in defiance of their officers and he himself had gone after them, from St. Georgen, to persuade them to re-occupy Triberg. And in fact Becker and his corps did march off again towards evening. Meanwhile Wiftich went to headquarters in Donaueschingen to see how matters stood. The enemy, who had broken through to Villingen by crossing Württemberg, had already reconnoitred the territory up the road. In Donaueschingen it was first of all intended to take up a position near Hilfingen, an hour’s march further back; later, however, it was decided to retreat to the Swiss frontier and defend the Wutachthal. As soon as this decision was taken, Willich sent two dispatches to Furtwangen. From there the information was passed first to Becker and only then to Willich’s companies, which were in advanced positions, although along the difficult mountain tracks it would take longer to reach the latter. By the time Winich’s corps had assembled in Furtwangen, Becker could therefore also have arrived there. Wiflich himself went as far as Neustadt to meet his corps, and there he delayed departure until the arrival of two companies from Becker’s corps. From Bondorf he sent another dispatch to Becker notifying him that the enemy was already advancing well towards Lenzkirch and that the route through Bondorf a was therefore to be preferred. And Becker did in fact take this route and reached Tiengen with his whole corps without being attacked, whilst Willich with one company and four cannon faced the enemy first forming the rearguard based on Stühlingen and later the right flank at Ofteringen and Wutöschingen. It is clear that there can he no question of any “desertion” here.

The second accusation refers to the fact that the captain of one of Willich’s companies stationed in Furtwangen refused to leave the post where Willich had stationed him and to march with Becker. He acted rightly. Willich’s corps had formed voluntarily and had put itself voluntarily under Willich’s command. It consisted exclusively of men who knew what they were fighting for. It is self-evident that such a corps ceases to exist if it is broken up and dispersed. Furthermore, Willich had been specifically ordered to hold this position with his corps, and the withdrawal of the company in question would have thwarted all his arrangements.

The third accusation has even less foundation. It is public knowledge that at the last council of war held in Jestetten[406] Becker advocated crossing on to Swiss soil, whereas Willich was for continuing the struggle. It is public knowledge that from Tiengen Becker marched with the main part of the army to Baltersweil while Willich covered his retreat with 350 men and four cannon near Erzingen, and from Baltersweil to Jestetten whilst Willich occupied the position the army had vacated at Baltersweil. It is public knowledge that Willich remained for a further 24 hours with his corps in this position — the artillery had already left him — whilst Siegel crossed into Switzerland at Rafz and Becker a few hours later at Rheinau; that we only left the position after facing the enemy outposts for several hours without being attacked; that we spent that night still bivouacking on German soil and only entered Swiss territory the following morning — the last to do so.

It is by no means our purpose to become involved in the unedifying disputes which have broken out between the various leaders of the Baden army. We merely ask that false reports should not be circulated about our corps and our leaders.

Canton Vaud. July 26, 1849

Koehler, Captain