Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung March 1849

From the Hungarian Theatre of War

Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 471;
Written: by Engels on March 4, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 237 (2nd edition), March 4, 1849.

Direct news from the theatre of war is today again very scanty. From Pest we hear that the Magyars, after giving the Austrians a wholesome fright by their sudden advance, are again withdrawing to the Theiss. According to the Lloyd the imperial troops are said to be occupying the line from Waitzen to Consencz (?) and from Hatvan to Szolnok. Windischgrätz has really departed from Pest into the area of Gyöngyös.

On the other hand, it is confirmed today that Bem in Transylvania has once again decisively beaten the hero Puchner. Bem had assembled his troops at Deva, in that narrow defile where the martial-law papers were already hoping that Puchner and Rukavina would block him and force him to capitulate. For according to an earlier bulletin, 3,000 Rumanians were standing there, barring every exit. To the great astonishment of all believers in the bulletins, instead of 3,000 Rumanians, there are suddenly no fewer than 4,000 Magyars with 8 cannon standing there, with whom Bem has joined. On February 9 he attacks the pursuing Austrians, defeats them after fourteen hours’ fighting, wipes out several whole regiments and drives the fleeing royal imperial army back to Hermannstadt, where it re-formed only on the 12th. The Austrian right wing tried to make a stand at Alvinz on the Maros, but was thrown back to Karlsburg.

So Bem is again master of the western half of Transylvania. In the eastern half the Szeklers stand behind the Aluta, two hours from Kronstadt. The following is the official report on the fighting at the latter place:

“The hostile advance into Burzenland of the Szeklers, who have repeatedly perjured themselves (1), induced the Russian General Engelhardt to make a reconnaissance in strength in the direction of Petersberg at 7 a. m. on the 4th of this month with one Russian battalion, 150 Cossacks and two cannon, supported by one battalion of the 1st Regiment of Rumanians.

“Barely an hour from Kronstadt the reconnaissance already encountered the enemy who was moving in strong columns from Honigberg in the direction of Petersberg and who, noticing the weakness of our troops, attacked them with tenfold superior strength, without, however, making them yield.

“During the engagement the Kronstadt garrison was alerted, the entire military force followed the reconnaissance and two Russian battalions with six cannon, then a squadron of Savoy dragoons entered the line of battle in two columns.

“Although under heavy, well-maintained fire from covered positions, the Russian artillery forced the enemy’s centre to yield, while a second detachment of Russian troops took the heights near Petersberg, well occupied by the enemy, and thereby made the enemy’s retreat general. — He withdrew through Honigberg across the Alt bridge, which he destroyed behind him, and took up positions on the other side, but here also was forced by well-aimed artillery fire to retreat further, and with that the engagement, which had begun at 8 a. m., ended at 2 p. m.

“The enemy’s retreat across the Alt was so rapid that only three prisoners could be taken. His strength was 8,000 to 9,000 infantrymen, 500 cavalrymen, all well armed, and six cannon. An enemy column approximately 1,200 men strong, which was moving from Marienburg to Szunyogszeg, returned to Heldsdorf at the beginning of the bombardment.”

According to this, the Szeklers are masters of the eastern half of the country, and in spite of the 20,000 Russian soldiers, who have marched to the chief Saxon cities, all Transylvania, with the exception of Kronstadt and Hermannstadt, is in the hands of the Magyars. — What credit the brutish Flemings of Transylvania, our kith and kin, do to us Germans, emerges from the following fact:

Kronstadt, February 5. The local Town Council has sent a message of thanks to General von Lüders who is in command of the Russian troops in the Danubian principalities.”

On the Bukovina border the imperial gentlemen are not advancing either. They claim to have got as far as Bistritz, but the matter is still in doubt. Listen to the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen:

“Colonel Urban has already advanced from the Bukovina side as far as Bistfitz in Transylvania, and Lieutenant-Field Marshal von Malkowsky was already by then two miles from Bistritz in Maroszeny, where he reconnoitred, and on the second day withdrew to his headquarters in Dorna to obtain reinforcements and thereupon to advance at once.”

“Two hours from” a town which one occupies, one no longer “reconnoitres”. So Bistritz is still Magyar, and Malkowsky has retreated to Watra Dorna, in Bukovina territory.

In conclusion we add the following correspondence of the Constitutionelles Blatt am Böhmen of February 23 from Pest:

“In the near future there is likely to be a decisive blow struck in the theatre of war in our neighbourhood. Two days ago there was already that brisk activity at headquarters which usually precedes important actions. Today, as I learnt from a fairly reliable source, the Prince himself is to start and move his headquarters further forward to Gyöngyös, Grassalkovich’s one-time country-seat, four hours’ journey from here. According to the statements of some officers, the Hungarian fighting force is surrounded (!) so that it must expect complete defeat unless (!) it again finds a little back door open (!!). The day before yesterday a convoy of more than 300 prisoners was brought in, and all from the above areas.

“The convoy consisted of Honveds of various battalions, deserted troops of the line, hussars and two carts of civilian prisoners. The greatest sensation was caused by a lady who rode at the front in a cart and was wrapped up to her nose in a cloak and shawl. The gullible crowd took her for the wife of General Görgey; later they made her a mistress of the latter. She had been arrested because her short, curly hair and her strong, somewhat unfeminine features aroused the suspicion that she was a man disguised as a woman. On examination her right to wear petticoats was indeed established, but important letters of highly treasonable content and 2,000 florins in Hungarian banknotes were found in her bustle.”