Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung February 1849
Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 404;
Written: by Engels about February 17, 1849;
First published: in the supplement to Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 225, February 18, 1849.
No. 22, the “Victory Bulletin” of the imperial army, has been published. It is the funniest that has yet appeared.
“Owing to the greater distance of the theatre of war, which, with the retreat of the rebels across the Theiss has been pushed back as far as Transylvania, we have not until now been able to supply news of the successes gained by the army of His Highness Field Marshal Prince zu Windischgrätz.”
From the Theiss to Transylvania is after all a distance of forty miles and more. As yet not a single Austrian has crossed the Theiss. Yet when Schlick is on the Hernath and Windischgrätz at Szolnok, with neither of them able to advance one step further, this is described in the swaggering language of royal imperial reports as follows: the theatre of war has been pushed back as far as Transylvania.
And what is the nature of the “successes gained by the army of His Highness Prince Windischgrätz"?
First “success “:
“After the retreat from Pest one section of the rebels headed in the direction of Grosswardein and Debreczin, the other under Görgey made their way to Schemnitz and, after plundering the mountain towns, at first set off via Neusohl for Rosenherg. There, however, finding that the St. Marton and Turany passes had already been occupied by Major-General von Götz’s troops, they headed for the Zips, where they met with a battalion of Nugent’s infantry led by Major von Keisewetter, with whom battle took place at Kirchdorf and Hertnek on February 3 and 4.
“In the meantime reinforcements sent from Eperies by lieutenant-Field Marshal Count Schlick immediately strengthened the occupation of the Braniszka Pass, and as another column of Deym’s brigade advanced from Kaschau via Margitfalva, and the always active Major-General von Götz with Prince Jablonowsky’s brigade, which had reached Telgarth via Brisen on the 8th inst., was also immediately detached against Leutschau, it looks as if the rebels, threatened on all sides in the Zips, are even more encircled than ever, all the roads along the Galician border from Neumarkt, Kroscienko, Piwniczna, Tylicz as far as Dukla having at the same time been occupied in greater numbers under the command of Lieutenant-Field Marshal Vogel operating from Tarnów, and the Landsturm having been mustered all the way along that section.”
The “direction of Grosswardein and Debreczin” is no more than an exaggerated euphemism used by Herr Welden to describe the fact that the Hungarians have reached the Theiss. He might just as well have claimed that they had withdrawn “in the direction” of the Black Sea.
Welden then goes on to tell us that Görgey “made for Schemnitz after the retreat from Pest”. We have known this for a long time and what Herr Welden should have informed us of outright is how Görgey was driven out of the town. Earlier there had been a great deal of boasting that Görgey had been thrown back towards the Theiss, and almost annihilated in fact. Now the victory report suddenly admits that he has occupied the Zips, which has already been “cleaned up” by Schlick several times, and is now operating in Schlick’s rear. The extent to which Görgey is threatening the imperial troops in this position can be seen from the way in which reinforcements are hurriedly sent against him. Götz’s corps was never successful against him (Csorich’s corps has disappeared from the battlefield, and one concludes that the “ridiculous exaggerations” of the Magyars must have been right after all when they reported that Windischgrätz recalled it post-haste to Pest); Schlick had sent a column to the Braniszka Pass against Görgey “from Eperies” (i.e. four weeks ago); in addition, a second column was detached against him “from Kaschau”, in other words also from Schlick’s corps; and yet in spite of all these reinforcements, Görgey, in his position in the Carpathian Mountains, represents such a threat to the Austrians that Vogel in Galicia, operating from Tarnów, has reinforced all the positions on a sector of some twenty miles and has mustered the Landsturm.
In other words: instead of “being threatened on all sides in the Zips” Görgey is in fact himself threatening not only Schlick’s position on the Hernath but also Galicia. And that is the worst thing that could happen to the imperial forces. An invasion of this purely Polish part of Galicia could have very unpleasant consequences for the Austrians at a time when the peasants have then disappointed in the royal imperial promises.
Second “success “:
“Up to now heavy drifting ice on the Theiss has made the crossing of the river difficult both at Tokaj and Szolnok for that column of the First Army Corps which has advanced as far as the right bank. This has given the enemy time to turn more towards Transylvania, after an unsuccessful attempt on Arad, in order to link up with the column led by Bem, the rebel chief, who, as we have already reported earlier, on being pushed back from the Bukovina, marched via Bistritz and Maros-Vásárhely to Hermannstadt, where he was so powerfully repulsed by the general-in-command, Baron Puchner.
“The column of rebels which left Grosswardein for Klausenburg headed towards Karlsburg where they attempted to take Milhlenbach on the 5th. In this area, between Deva, Hatzeg and Szászváros, there is a formation of 3,000 Rumanians under the command of Captain Czernovich, which is guarding this section against the rebels — there is also a good garrison at the fortified castle at Deva.
“Meanwhile the general in command in the Banat, Lieutenant-Field Marshal Baron Rukavina, has formed a division under Lieutenant-Field Marshal von Gläser and Major-General Baron Mengen out of units of the Todorovich corps, and it is to operate in the Maros valley against Transylvania and simultaneously to threaten Grosswardein.”
So the Austrians have still not crossed the Theiss; their successes consist in having for three weeks been unable, here in the decisive sector of the war, to advance one single step.
“Drifting ice” has apparently allowed the Magyars to turn “more” towards Transylvania. What a delightful use of the word “more"! If the Magyars were able to detach a column from Debreczin in the direction of Arad and Klausenburg that is proof that they have more troops than are required to defend the Theiss line. Or would Welden have us believe that the Magyars would take advantage of drifting ice, which can be over within a week, to expose their most important position and send the troops so urgently needed on the Theiss off on a stroll to Transylvania, which takes at least four to five weeks there and back?
The Hungarian column which fired on Arad came from the Banat according to an earlier bulletin. In addition a second column “from Grosswardein” has therefore gone to Transylvania. After these reinforcements we shall soon be hearing from Bem.
And how do things look in Transylvania? The Magyar reinforcements have advanced as far as Karlsburg and Mühlenbach. But no one need fear that things are going badly for the imperial forces! For there are after all 3,000 Rumanians at Hatzeg, Deva and Szászváros “who are guarding this section against the rebels”.
Which “section"? Well, the section from Hatzeg etc., namely a “section” which is completely off the Magyars’ route, and where it would not occur to them to march! The Magyar column is marching from Karlsburg to Hermannstadt in order to link up with Bem, i. e. in an easterly direction; the 3,000 Rumanians are to the south-west, in the furthermost corner of Transylvania, and will most probably stay there until the second Magyar column moves up the Maros from Arad and disperses them.
In addition, however, the newly formed Banat division led by Gldser is said “to be operating in the Maros valley against Transylvania and simultaneously threatening Grosswardein”.
In order “to threaten Grosswardein” this division — assuming it had already reached the Maros, whereas it is in fact no further than the Temes — would have to cover a distance of 20 miles to the north (in a straight line) crossing the Maros, the White, the Black and the Rapid K6r8s and three lines of swamps. In order to be able to operate in the Maros valley against Transylvania, the same division would have to march about 30 miles to the east. These two movements, one northwards and the other eastwards, it is supposed to execute “simultaneously"!
“The two brigades of Major-General Dietrich and Count Pallfy, which were part of the corps of Master of the Ordnance Count Nugent, have both advanced, the one heading left via Boly to Mohács, the other via Siklos-Baranyavar towards Esseg, where the fortress is surrounded by royal imperial troops right up to the foot of the glacis, and has already made surrender proposals.”
An important success already credited to Nugent himself two weeks ago, which now turns out not to have been achieved yet, for the “two brigades” have still not reached Esseg!
“The rebels led by Nemegey crossed the Danube at Mohács, and in the defile between Bezdán and Zombor fell into the hands of the Serbs who were in that area having advanced along the left bank of the Danube from the Roman rampart, and on this occasion the greater part of the rebel army was massacred and dispersed by the Serbs.”
Assuming this to be correct, it could have been no more than a small-scale guerilla skirmish. Long ago the Austrians trumpeted the news that the Magyars who had been driven back from the Drava were supposed to have retreated as far as Szegedin, i. e. as far as the Theiss!
Fifth and final “success":
“After the surrender of Leopoldstadt the division under Lieutenant-Field Marshal von Simunich received orders from the Herr Field Marshal’ to advance along the Waag towards Komorn to tighten the blockade of this fortress. — During this advance fighting broke out on the 8th inst. not far from Neuhäusel between the division and a detachment of rebels which had set out from Komorn and crossed the Neutra above Naszvad to plunder the area, and above all to take salt into the fortress, where it is scarce and where diseases are already very much on the increase. — In this battle four companies of the Archduke Wilhelm’s infantry and a squadron of Banderial hussars attacked an enemy unit of 1,200 men so courageously that the commander, one officer and 90 Honveds were taken prisoner and a considerable number of dead and wounded were left behind on the battlefield.”
Here the “success” amounts to Simunich managing, over a period of more than two weeks, to push forward exactly seven miles in an area which had already been three or four times “pacified”, “cleaned up” and “purged”, where a “good spirit” has begun to germinate once more — and that comes to half a mile a day; add to that the constant battles and you will understand why Simunich the hero has still not covered the ten miles from Leopoldstadt to Komorn.
These then are the “successes of His Highness Prince Windischgrätz": pompous reiteration of earlier bulletins, boastful statements about what is to happen, and the result of it all is that in reality nothing has happened. The case with the bulletins is exactly the same as that of the great Schwanbeck with the Prussian Chamber: “the present is being lost” for them through a “dead past” and a “distant, perhaps never attainable future”.