A Magyar Victory, April 13, 1849
|Written||12 April 1849|
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 271 (second edition), April 13, 1849.
Written : April 12
Cologne, April 12. We are publishing a second edition today, not to inform our readers of yesterday’s basically quite unimportant debates at Frankfurt but to report something much more important, namely that the Magyars have gained a significant victory over the imperial army and that the imperial army, beaten all along the line, has withdrawn to below the walls of Pest. (See “Hungary”)
Written : April 13
After a prolonged period of depression the Kölnische Zeitung suddenly raises its shrewd head and speaks:
“After a long interval the Austrians have recommenced operations and the blow now about to fall will, in all probability, be decisive.”
Thus the Kölnische Zeitung gratefully refers to the 40,000 Russians and 50,000 Austrians who were recently marshalled against Hungary and who were especially provided in order to extricate the Kölnische Zeitung from the complicated situation in which it had landed itself as a result of its bellicose military operations in Hungary.
The Kölnische Zeitung proposes but Dembinski disposes.
A few hours after our worthy paper has ascribed such “decisive”, miraculous powers to the Austrian attack, in strange disregard of the failure of its threefold victorious march to Debreczin, the report has been received in Cologne that
“Dembinski has beaten the Austrians all along the line and driven them back to the walls of Pest”.
“Truly, that’s how it is. It really is so. I have had it in writing.”
Windischgrätz himself does not deny it. Bulletin No. 34 has arrived. In it Windischgrätz whines about the superiority of the enemy, especially in light cavalry, which is decisive on the Hungarian plains, and also about the “numerous cannon” at the disposal of the Magyars and declares that he wants to wait for reinforcements from Pest. The Bulletin reads:
“Vienna, April 9. Communications from His Highness Field Marshal Prince Windischgrätz, from Pest on the evening of the 7th, give the outcome of the reconnaissance-in-force — mentioned previously — undertaken against enemy troops on the 4th and 5th of this month and led by the Field Marshal in person. For these enemy troops commanded by Görgey and Klapka, allegedly 50,000 men with a considerable number of cannon and extremely strong in cavalry, had advanced from Miskolcz to Mezö-Kövesd towards Gyöngyös, while their advance guard under Dembinski moved forward almost to Hatvan.
"It was this which was attacked on the 2nd of this month by Lieutenant-Field Marshal Count Schlick and driven back to Hort with considerable losses in cannon and in prisoners. Another body of insurgents on the right bank of the River Theiss between Szolnok and Jasz Apfiti was advancing towards Baron Jellachich, the Master of Ordnance.
"The 3rd corps under Lieutenant-Field Marshal Count Schlick was drawn up behind the Zagyva while the first corps was deployed near Tapio-Bicske. This being the situation, the Field Marshal wanted to estimate the disposition and strength of the enemy for himself and therefore came to Gödöllö on the 4th, where a part of the 2nd Army Corps had likewise been sent, leaving its left wing in position in Balassa-Gyarmat and Vadkert.
"The reconnaissance undertaken revealed the whole strength of the enemy who, anticipating an attack, directed his main forces first against the third and then against the first army corps.
"There must have been approximately four enemy corps which had now joined forces near Gyöngyös and Szolnok and attempted to attack our centre around Tot-Almas.
"An advance by the third corps, in the enemy’s right flank, a splendid encounter near Tapio-Bicske which, as already stated, was fought by Master of Ordnance Baron Jellachich, brought home to the Field Marshal the superiority of the enemy, especially in light cavalry in a quite open terrain. In order to make contact with his reserves which were coming up from all sides, he issued orders to the first and third corps as well as to the second corps, hitherto held in reserve between Waitzen and Pest, to join forces thus establishing a long concentrated position in front of Pest so that the city would remain encircled by a great arc extending from Palotta and Keresztúr to Soroksar.
“In the course of this manoeuvre which the enemy followed with great speed and launched his attack especially against the first army corps drawn up near Isaczeg while supposing that he was engaging the third army corps deployed near Gödöllö, — battle was joined about midday on the 6th during which the Fiedler Brigade, reinforced by a detachment from the Lobkowitz division, forced the enemy to retreat, which he afterwards sought to cover by a large-scale attack by 12 squadrons of cavalry. But this was thwarted by a flank attack made by two squadrons of Kress’ light cavalry and one squadron of Max Auersperg’s cuirassiers, as a result six more cannon were captured from the enemy who left many dead on the battlefield, for the well-directed fire of our guns wreaked havoc in his ranks. Master of Ordnance Baron Jellachich, too, made a spirited attack on the enemy and then took up the positions assigned to him.
"His Highness the Field Marshal is determined there to await reinforcements which at this moment are advancing against Hungary from all sides and since his army is completely concentrated this enables him to operate in all directions with such forces as circumstances may require.”
We must, alas, reserve our comments on this edifying and, as we hope, final Bulletin of the imperial army until tomorrow owing to lack of space. We can merely add today that according to reports in the Breslauer Zeitung, the Magyar army commanded by Dembinski has partly cut off the corps commanded by Jellachich from the main army and that the same is said to have happened to a part of the corps commanded by Schlick. We shall know by tomorrow night to what extent these reports are correct. But this much is certain: since the beginning of the campaign the imperial forces have not suffered two such reverses as those inflicted by Bem in Transylvania and Dembinski near Gödöllö.
- Here and in the two reports given below, “A Magyar Victory” and “An Austrian Defeat”, Engels writes about the military events in Hungary early in April: the victory won by the Hungarian troops at Hatvan on April 2 and the subsequent blows they inflicted on the Austrian army
The bombardment of Hatvan on April 2, 1849 opened a new stage in the Hungarian offensive against the Austrian troops. It was prepared for by successful movements in the centre of military operations at the Theiss, Bem’s victories in Transylvania, guerilla warfare in areas occupied by the Austrians, and vigorous measures taken by the Kossuth Government (the Defence Council) to strengthen the army and mobilise all its resources for the struggle against the enemy. When Engels wrote this report he had not yet received the news of the battle at Hatvan. Meanwhile, the victory scored by the Hungarian army there and the subsequent blows inflicted by it on the Austrians at Tapio-Bicske (April 4), Isaczeg and Gödöllö (April 5-7), Waitzen (April 10), etc. brought about it radical change in the war in favour of revolutionary Hungary. On April 19, 1849 the Hungarians routed the Austrians in a decisive battle at Nagy-Sallo, advanced further, relieved Komorn on April 22, and liberated Pest on April 24. The defeated Austrian army retreated to the western border.
The Hungarian command faced the prospect of spreading the revolutionary war into Austrian and German territory. However, because of anti-revolutionary sentiments among a number of high commanders, Görgey in particular, and the fear of diplomatic complications, it was decided to cease the pursuit of the Austrians and to turn the main forces towards the fortress of Buda, which was still held by an Austrian garrison. The siege of Buda was time-consuming (it was captured only on May 21) and this gave the Austrians the respite they needed to bring up new reserves and complete their talks with tsarist Russia about help in suppressing revolutionary Hungary (the final agreement was reached at the meeting of Francis Joseph and Nicholas 1 in Warsaw on May 2 1). All this had fatal consequences for the Hungarian revolution.