Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung February 1849

The 19th Army Bulletin and Commentaries on it

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 300;
Written: by Engels on February 5, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 214, February 6, 1849.

The 19th Army Bulletin has been published. Even assuming we give credence to this document, the recent advantages gained by the imperial troops are hardly worthy of mention.

We are told nothing of the army corps in the Slovak (north-west) comitats. Obviously, therefore, this corps still has its hands full with “pacifying the parts of the country already occupied”.

We are also told nothing of the troops sent from Pest to Miskolcz, who were to establish contact between Windischgrätz and Schlick, and who, as will no doubt be remembered, we prophesied would have rather a long journey. Of these troops, whose advanced posts, according to supposed letters from Schlick’s camp, are said to be already at Miskolcz, we also hear nothing. Proof that they have not got very far.

We likewise hear nothing of the Banat Gipsy bands.

And, lastly, we are told nothing whatsoever of the troops sent out against Bem. In general, for some time now not only the official bulletins but also the otherwise so boastful unofficial fabrications have maintained a total silence with respect to Bem. Sufficient proof that the imperial troops have not won any laurels fighting against him either. Thus, with no news whatsoever of Bem, we ought not to be at all surprised if very soon he suddenly appears at Schlick’s rear, or on his flanks, and manages to upset the whole imperial plan.

We hardly need mention that the Bulletin does not say a word either about the storming of Leopoldstadt, a lie which has been spread six times by the martial-law newspapers, and six times believed by Mama Dumont. [.e. the Kölnische Zeitung] We must assume therefore that there is still “hope” that this fortress will be captured.

All this, then, is not said in the Bulletin. What does it actually say?

It has knowledge of the situation in three places: on the Slavonian border, at Szolnok, and on the Upper Theiss. Of course, from these three places it once more reports “brilliant successes”.


“Master of the Ordnance Count Nugent, who set out on January 25 from Kanizsa to march to Fünfkirchen in order to disperse the rebels who had banded together there, transferred his headquarters to Fünfkirchen on January 29. The rebels, numbering 4,000 men with 10 cannon, left that town on January 26 and may have taken the direction of Esseg to assemble there, sheltered by the fortress which is occupied by the rebels. They will not, however, succeed in doing this as that fortress is encircled by the brigade of Colonel van der Nül of the Gradiskan border regiment, and Master of the Ordnance Count Nugent also will follow them in that direction. The appearance of the royal imperial army in the Baranya and Tolna comitats has completely annihilated the elements hostile to the Government.”

Let us first note that according to this the Esseg fortress on the Drava has not been taken, as the rumours circulating since the establishment of martial law maintained, but has so far only been “encircled”, an encirclement which is all the more likely to be broken by the “4,000 men with 10 cannon” as it is absolutely impossible to maintain an encirclement on the left bank of the Drava because of the extensive swamps.

The further success is that Nugent has advanced as far as Fünfkirchen. As, according to the 18th Bulletin, Kaposvár had been occupied by the imperial troops, all that has been gained is that the army has advanced its position by some ten miles parallel to the Drava. The result of this is nothing but more difficulty in provisioning, which will grow worse in the same measure as the army approaches the heart of Hungary. Incidentally the Magyars appear to be pursuing the same tactics here as Görgey did in the Slovak region: they hold the towns as long as possible and then begin to fight a guerilla war in the countryside. What is said about the pacification of the Baranya and Tolna comitats reminds one entirely of the way Slovakia was pacified. We shall soon be hearing that the army has been unable to advance here either because it has first to restore peace and order in the comitats that have already been conquered.


“As was already reported in the 18th Bulletin, the Ottinger cavalry brigade, reinforced by three battalions of infantry and two batteries of foot-artillery, has taken up position at Czegléd. On receiving the news that the rebels intended to attack that position, Field Marshal Prince Windischgrätz felt decided to march against them with all available troops, hoping that the rebels would accept battle. However, they did not dare to risk a decisive engagement this time either, and seeing the reinforcements approaching, they hastily withdrew across the Theiss, with the Grammont brigade in pursuit.

Well then! The fact that Windischgrätz himself went to Czegléd “with all available troops” proves that Herr Ottinger must have suffered a severe set-back there. Even the “three battalions and two batteries” received as reinforcements were of no avail! All the gains amount to is that the Austrians are at Szolnok, that is once more on the Theiss.

It is odd that Windischgrätz should be annoyed that the rebels have yet again refused to accept battle. As though it had not been the plan from the very outset where possible for the time being to avoid all decisive battles, to lure the imperial troops as far into Hungary as possible and to organise peasant war and guerillas in their rear! When the time is ripe they will “risk a decisive engagement”.


“Having already successfully cleaned up the Zips, lieutenant-Field Marshal Count Schlick has by now achieved the same with respect to the rebels in the Zemplin comitat, and has then set out for Tokaj where Kossuth’s supporters have gathered from various points. On January 19 the advanced guard of Lieutenant-Field Marshal Schlick, under the command of Major Piattoli, encountered the enemy at Szanto and drove him back towards Tokaj. On January 21 reconnaissance showed that the enemy had retreated and taken up a rather favourable position at Tokaj, Tarczal and Keresztdr. On January 22 Lieutenant-Field Marshal Count Schlick opened the general assault on that position. Major Herczmanovsky led his gallant Stephan battalion along with a squadron of imperial light cavalry and four cannon in the attack on Keresztúr, while Lieutenant-Field Marshal Count Schlick advanced on Tarczal via Tallya and Mad with the main column. The battle ended in victory for the imperial troops. The enemy suffered considerable losses, particularly in dead among the Polish legion."
[This legion was nearly 3,000 men strong and fought against the imperial troops from December 1848]

This advantage comes as a complete surprise. Schlick drove the Hungarians’ advanced posts back a few miles and met them in battle at Tallya and Keresztúr. “The battle ended in victory for the royal imperial troops,” says the laconic report of success. Not a word about whether Tallya and Keresztfir have been taken, or whether the Magyars have withdrawn across the Theiss. The same will probably happen with this battle, which was such a great victory and so singularly lacking in success, as happened with Ottinger’s last victory, which in the end turned out to be a defeat. No skill is required to “clean up the Zips” since the Zips is inhabited mainly by Germans. The Zemplin comitat is inhabited by Ruthenians, [283] who for the time being are still friendly towards the imperial troops, and here, too, it sounds odd to hear talk of “cleaning up”.

The main conclusion to be drawn from the Bulletin is that the imperial troops are occupying two positions on the Theiss at a great distance from each other. The two corps have no contact with each other. Kossuth will probably quite soon attempt the decisive blow: he will either throw all his forces into separate attacks on the two corps, or break through between them, march on Pest, and attack the Austrians from the rear.

And while this state of affairs persists, while the imperial troops, despite their superior strength, advance only with extreme hesitation and caution, all their columns operating individually without thinking of concentrating their forces, while the Magyars stand armed on the other side of the Theiss, the martial-law press reports that Kossuth has been taken prisoner near Stry in Galicia. And German newspapers reprint that.