Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung March 1849

The War in Hungary

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 466;
Written: by Engels on March 3, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 237, March 4, 1849.

Cologne, March 3. Today’s news from the Hungarian theatre of war is limited to a confirmation and partial elaboration of yesterday’s. It is said, indeed, to be Dembinski himself who stands at Hatvan, while two French generals stand a few miles further back at Gyöngyös with a Magyar corps. The magnitude of the danger is shown by the continuing dispatches of troops from Pest to the Theiss.

According to other, also imperial, reports of the 25th from Pest, Windischgrätz has set up his headquarters in Gyöngyös, almost halfway between Pest and Hatvan, and his vanguard under General Zeisberg is already back in Gyöngyös.

“The rebels,” it is said, “are retreating as before at Szolnok, but this time they will hardly escape without bloodshed, since General Götz is operating from the mountain towns, and Lieutenant-Field Marshal Schlick has again taken the offensive, so there is joint action from all sides.”

Here we learn various new things. First, the great military commander Götz, whom we had lost sight of on the Galician border after his defeat by Görgey high up in the Carpathian Mountains, reappears. He reappears in the mountain towns, fifteen to twenty miles south-west of his last position. So, during the week he was lost, Görgey’s alleged “pursuer” has effected quite a considerable retreat.

We also hear that Schlick has again taken the offensive. So he had given it up for a time. Instead of “driving back” the Magyars to Hatvan, as we were told yesterday, he was the one to be “driven back”. Today, then, it is indirectly admitted that Schlick has suffered a setback. Where, we are not told. Neither are we told where he is now. Presumably, Görgey has driven him back from Rimaszombat through Lasoncz in the direction of Ipolyság, and now he is trying to push forward again over the mountains.

Finally, it is said that the Magyars are again retreating and that Gyöngyös has again been taken from them. How far this news is correct we leave open. But even if it is correct, the question still arises whether only the Magyar advance guard has gone back to the main army, whether the movement backwards is a movement of concentration, or whether it is a retreat. In the first case it would merely be the precursor of a decisive battle. In the other case, if the Magyars should again cross the Theiss without accepting a decisive battle, neither would that prove anything at all in favour of the imperial army. One could only conclude in that case that the Magyars had thought it necessary to make their demonstration at the gates of Pest so as to encourage their followers, to train their young soldiers who are not yet much used to open battle, and perhaps also to make some recruits in the districts Jazyg and Kuman, while at the same time being not sufficiently advanced in their military organisation to venture a decisive blow with safety.

We hear from all sides that the Magyars do not confine themselves to defending their position with the forces they have already gathered, but that, on the contrary, they are using their unassailable position behind the Theiss for preparation on the grandest scale. The Austrian reports themselves admit:

“The Hungarian forces have gained time to organise and have now become impressive.

And the Magyar correspondent of the Breslauer Zeitung reports from Debreczin:

“The Magyar troops have of late had frequent military exercises, in particular great battle manoeuvres under fire, at which Frau Kossuth always appeared in a carriage-and-six and sought to encourage the soldiers by friendliness and praise. Kossuth’s spouse is certainly a remarkable woman, full of ambition and patriotism, who willingly shares all dangers with her husband, and one of the clumsiest slanders which the Austrian party sought to spread from the beginning so as to discourage the Hungarian patriots and make them distrustful, was its announcement that Kossuth had already sent his wife and family to Hamburg to hasten to North America ahead of him.”

That the Royal Imperial Government is becoming less and less confident in a rapid and happy outcome of the Hungarian war is proved by the negotiations with Debreczin, which are constantly resumed in spite of the hostilities. They founder, however, on two Austrian demands: compensation to Austria for the costs of war, and the handing over of all the principal leaders.

While the main Magyar army occupied Hatvan, the Magyar left wing attacked Szolnok, where the Austrians had dug entrenchments and, according to one report, had even put up a bridge across the Theiss. The Honvéds crossed, attacked the Austrians, and are said to have driven them out of Szolnok.

In the south the capture of Szegedin by the Austrians is still questionable. Today the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen declares again that Szegedin is still in the hands of the Magyars, who have beaten off two assaults by the Serbs. Kniçanin, on the other hand, is said to have destroyed part of the garrison during a sortie.

From a report by Rukavina taken from the Grazer Zeitung it is clear that the fortress of Arad was certainly not relieved by the entry of the Serbs and Austrians, but that, on the contrary, the Austrians have retreated again without having achieved anything and have again abandoned Old and New Arad to the Magyars (Bulletin No. 23 is accordingly to be corrected). This report says, after describing the course of the fighting similarly to the Bulletin:

Since it was neither timely nor intended to occupy Old Arad for further operations, our brave troops, having fully carried out their intentions (!), withdrew again the very same day to New Arad and on the 9th, under quite minor vanguard skirmishes, to their previously determined positions. Enemy losses are considerable. Our losses were, besides 80 men, three officers killed and five wounded. Temesvár, February 10, 1849. Baron Rukavina, Lieutenant-Field Marshal.”

The Magyar correspondent of the Breslauer Zeitung reports from Transylvania that not 10,000 but 20,000 Russians are in Transylvania and unashamedly take part in the fighting against the Magyars and Szeklers. Nevertheless, the Szeklers are said to have resumed the offensive, crossed the Aluta at Marienburg and occupied Heldsdorf near Kronstadt. Incidentally, the Transylvanian mail has again failed to arrive in Vienna for several days. Concerning the Russian intervention the Breslauer Zeitung writes “from Hungary”.

“The entry of the Russians into Transylvania has immensely embittered not only Hungarians but Austrians as well, since for several weeks it has been no secret that the Russians had offered their aid on condition that Austria gave its consent to the incorporation of the Danubian principalities into Russia, which has for long been the Russians’ intention. This consent has been fully granted.”

Subsequently we have learnt from the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen that part of Görgey’s corps has indeed advanced through the Carpathians to Sandec in Galicia. Unit after unit was sent there from Zymiec, and the Magyars eventually retreated again, probably motivated by Görgey’s changed plan.

The Austrian Government has at last realised that in the present state of the war in Hungary it is utterly lost unless it concedes the demands of the Southern Slavs. It has further seen that it cannot put a better curb on militant and freedom-proud Hungary, once it has been subjugated, than a series of small Slav states separated from Hungary, which will restrain the Magyar element on all sides. It has therefore prevailed upon Windischgrätz to “reorganise” Hungary. Croatia, Slavonia, the Serbian Voivodina and Transylvania will be separated from Hungary, constituted into three independent provinces and, along with Galicia and Dalmatia, chained to the “German hereditary dominions”. The Ban’s Council commission sent from Agram to the Hungarian Royal Chancellory in Pest has obtained from Windischgrätz the order for the Royal Chancellory to pay out the Croat finances which it has hitherto administered. The Hungarian central authorities in Ofen have been instructed in future to regard Croatia, Slavonia, the Voivodina and Transylvania as not belonging to their sphere. For the time being the Slovaks are apparently to be fobbed off with an order to the royal imperial commissioners to conduct their correspondence in the Slovak language. The Slovaks, incidentally, are not inclined to be driven in the slightest degree to national fanaticism, in spite of all the royal imperial efforts. They alone of all the Slav peoples of Hungary have decided Magyar sympathies.

Nevertheless, the sympathies of the Croats for the Austrian Government are not yet too certain. The royal imperial troops rule the country; a priest at Agram, who declared the Slavs to be the saviours of the Emperor and the entire monarchy, landed his village in a temporary state of siege and won himself the title of “traitor to the Emperor”. In Agram there are constant complaints about the “machinations” of the Magyar party, and as a result the Committee of Public Safety has threatened all disseminators of malicious rumours with court martial.

In Agram there has been a comical affair, with which we will end today’s report on Hungary: Bishop Haulik deposed the Vice Archpriest Stoos, one of the “most respected Croat patriots”, on account of a pamphlet against the celibacy of priests. Moreover, he refused to celebrate a requiem mass for Voivode Shuplikac because the latter was allegedly a heretic and did not believe that the Holy Ghost proceeds equally from the Son and from the Father. The man moreover issues all his writings in Latin. Now the whole storm of Croat pan-Slavist patriotism is rising against Bishop Haulik, and the poor bishop must feel that his Croats believe even more in Ban Jellachich than in the Holy Ghost.