Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung February 1849

Bulletin No. 23. — From the Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 423;
Written: by Engels on February 23, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 230, February 24, 1849.

Army Bulletin No. 23 has appeared. It says:

“Simultaneously with the already announced successes achieved against the insurgents by our gallant army under Colonel Urban in Northern Transylvania despite the cold and the heavy snowfall, we were gratified to hear of a similar and no less brilliant success at Arad achieved by the troops of Lieutenant-Field Marshal Gläser, who according to his orders is instructed to operate in the Maros valley against Transylvania with his division composed of units from the Todorovich corps.

“The insurgents attempted to cross at Szadorlak in a strong column, and thus threatened our left flank. Thereupon Lieutenant-Field Marshal Gläser ordered two battalions of Peterwardein border guards [348] to capture the first houses of Old Arad and brought up one battalion of Leiningen and then one battalion of Illyrian Banaters for the assault.

“After a drawn-out, bloody engagement the enemy was thrown back, all the batteries set up by the insurgents on the right bank of the Maros facing the fortress were destroyed, and all the cannon mounted in them, 23 in number, were captured; of these, 11 heavy guns were removed to the fortress, 3 were sunk in the Maros, 3 were spiked, 2 were placed at the disposal of the royal imperial Austro-Serbian army corps and 4 dismantled by the valiant Temesvár artillery; 3 enemy ammunition wagons were captured, and in addition enemy ammunition dumps were blown up in several places.

“Because of the hostility displayed by its inhabitants Old Arad was subjected to a grenade attack from the fortress and in many places fires were started which continued to burn all night. — Forty prisoners were also taken in the fighting.

“According to a dispatch of February 13 just received from Master of the Ordnance Count Nugent in Esseg, the fortress of Esseg surrendered on the same day without waiting to be attacked.

“Three of the gates were immediately occupied by the besieging troops, and on the morning of the 14th the garrison laid down its arms on the glacis.

“On the 13th news came from Berthodfalva, a few hours from Eperies, about the column of General Götz, who — as we have already related — had joined up with the brigade of General Prince Jablonowsky at Tyrnau and pursued the fleeing rebel corps under Görgey towards Leutschau.

“This news said that the enemy column, which is indeed a strong one and is accompanied by a strong train of artillery and wagons, after forcing the Zips where it destroyed all bridges and roads, had taken the road from Eperies to Kaschau in order to seek contact with the other rebel hordes in the area of the Theiss.

“Lieutenant-Field Marshal Count Schlick with his three brigades has taken up a position at Torna on the flank of this laboriously moving and all-devastating enemy column, so as to be best able to attack it as soon as he has linked up with the column under General Götz, which has indeed now been done via Margitfalva, Einsiedl and Schmöllnitz.

“General Götz engaged in a skirmish with a rebel raiding-party at Margitfalva, in which several hussars were captured, who supplied detailed information about the position and intentions of the enemy.

“As a large unit under Lieutenant-Field Marshal Schulzig has taken up positions at Miskolcz, we shall shortly be able to give a detailed report of events in these areas.

“Vienna, February 17, 1849.”

From this victory report it emerges, then, that Esseg really has capitulated and that Arad has been relieved by the imperial forces; whether their success on the Maros is of the importance that the bulletin would attribute to it, remains to be seen.

On the other hand, the situation of the imperial forces on the Upper Theiss is very poor. According to the last bulletin, Schlick was at Tokaj firing across the Theiss at the Hungarians drawn up on the other side, and today we find him beating a hasty retreat in a north-westerly direction, to avoid the danger of being attacked in the rear by Görgey and being caught between two fires.

Görgey’s manoeuvre is really brilliant. By forcing the, Zips into the Sáros comitat, occupying Eperies and continuing from there down the River Hernath, following exactly the same path that Schlick had taken, he fell on him full in the rear and forced him to withdraw from Tokaj more than twelve miles deep into the Torna comitat, and so to take up a position between Götz (in the Zips) and Schulzig (at Miskolcz). Thus Görgey is now able to advance directly to the Theiss and reinforce the main Magyar army with his entire column which is “indeed a strong one”, and, as the bulletin itself says, is well equipped with artillery. Perhaps he still has a few words to say to Schlick in passing.

Further unofficial news about Hungary circulating in Vienna is as follows:

Vienna, February 18. According to the latest reports of the 18th from Pest, we may shortly expect decisive news from the Theiss area. After the arrival of the news that Szegedin has surrendered and sent a deputation to meet the advancing Serbs, the Ban of Croatia has set up his headquarters at Szolnok, and everyone is preparing for a major battle. The inhabitants of Szegedin, who had offered to deliver cattle and supplies to the imperial army, have had a levy of half a million guldens imposed on them. The people of Szegedin are known to have hitherto been the keenest supporters of Kossuth. They supplied his army with everything. From Debreczin reports up to the 12th have been reaching Pest through refugees. Mészáros is still in charge of the Ministry of War, and Kossuth is more fanatical than ever. The former has written to Prince Windischgrätz that he and his forces will defend themselves to the last man, and would rather perish than surrender. In view of the very gloomy news from Transylvania, where Bem appears to be the master, this sort of language is quite explicable. According to the war reports of the Kossuth faction in Debreczin, Kronstadt has been captured by the Szekler[349] after a street-battle etc. Other rumours, however, would have it that the Russians have come to the rescue and saved the situation.

The Breslauer Zeitung has a dispatch from the Hungarian border which is on the whole favourable to the Austrians, but is nevertheless forced to admit that the Austrian war bulletins only give a highly incomplete picture of the battles in Transylvania and beyond the Theiss because they always stress only the gains of the royal imperial troops, and make no mention whatsoever of the thorny way in which they have been achieved, for all reports direct from the theatre of war agree that the Magyars have been defending themselves with the utmost desperation for the last few weeks, and have inflicted severe damage on the royal imperial army. The regiments under Schlick, Ottinger and Götz have already suffered significant losses, and the Croats, who are already longing to be back home and still feel a deep-seated respect for the Hungarian cavalry, are showing signs of a mood that is giving their Ban cause for misgivings.

It is even said that odd units of the Croat battalions have gone over to the Magyars, which I cannot vouch for however. What is causing Prince Windischgrätz most trouble is the condition of the roads, which is quite appalling in the present thaw, especially between the Danube and the Theiss, rendering the transportation of heavy artillery downright impossible; only with the greatest effort and on wagons with wheel-rims a foot across is it possible to move the 3- and 6-pound cannon. Twelve-pound batteries, in which the superiority of Austrian artillery really lies, are totally untransportable, thus creating an equalisation of the armaments of the two sides that must necessarily prolong the fighting. Even if its outcome is not in doubt (!), many a day may well elapse before Windischgrätz can report to Olmütz: “The country is quiet!” In the end the Magyar forces, which still have a strength, of 60,000-70,000 men, could concentrate in Transylvania, where, Bem reigns supreme, and the nature of the terrain is particularly favourable to a stubborn defence.

The Vienna Lloyd also says that Pest is arming strongly:

“Since yesterday (the 14th) reinforcements for the Theiss army have been leaving continuously. A decisive battle is expected to take place there in the next few days. These new forces being sent to the Theiss could number at least 11,000 men.”

The Österreichischer Correspondent mentions a victory of the Serbs over a greatly superior force of Magyars at Szento. Unfortunately, the otherwise so omniscient bulletin knows nothing about this.

This much is certain: for the present “the war in Hungary” is not yet “coming to an end”.