From the Theatre of War, April 1, 1849 (2)

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 1 April 1849


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 8, p. 181;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 261 (second edition), April 1, 1849.
Collection(s): Neue Rheinische Zeitung

Der Lloyd reports — and it is well known that Der Lloyd is an honourable man — that the Magyars under Görgey have moved across the Theiss and are at Neograd. Neograd is seven miles to the north of Pest and about 20 miles this side of the Theiss. Görgey has also occupied Kaschau and Gyöngyös, that is why the mail dispatched to Kaschau was returned to Pest even before it had reached Gyöngyös. The aim of this campaign is to relieve Komorn.

The Austrian papers had triumphantly proclaimed, that Dembinski had relinquished his command because of disagreements with Görgey. Now the matter is being resolved. After some dissension between the generals, Kossuth succeeded in reconciling them. They have come to the following arrangement — Görgey retains the supreme command of all insurgent armies, while Dembinski becomes chief of the Hungarian general quartermaster staff, and the campaign must be conducted in strict accordance with the plans of operation laid down by him. Vetter, the former Austrian Staff Officer and currently General of the malcontents, assumes supreme command over Dembinski’s corps; a Frenchman named Duchatel is in command of the forces at Arad.

Some time ago Schlick was in real danger of being taken prisoner; he was attacked by several Hungarian hussars and only the arrival of a Croat detachment saved him.

The Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen relates the following information on the Hungarian war, which shows the enormous heroism with which the Magyars are fighting. The Magyar army is not a regular, organised, well-trained army. It has not even enough rifles to arm the newly arriving recruits of the Landsturm. Hence, behind each Magyar front line stands a crowd of unarmed and untrained men, who are only waiting to take up the muskets of those who have fallen and to fill the gaps torn in the Magyar ranks by the Austrian guns. And it is these improvised soldiers who hold at bay the royal imperial army and its Russian allies.

The well-known story of the recognition of Francis Joseph as King of Hungary by the Debreczin National Assembly[1] has been put into circulation again by the martial-law Figyelmezö (Observer) in Pest. Only this time the actual recognition is said to have been given on the basis of the Pragmatic Sanction, and on condition that the Hungarian Constitution be recognised. It is also said that Kossuth along with 15 others voted against it.[2]

About Transylvania, the Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen has received a report from Czernowitz (Bukovina), according to which the whole of Transylvania except Kronstadt was in the hands of the Magyars and Bem was about to enter this town as well. It is “believed” that Malkowsky will advance towards Transylvania after he has only just been driven out! 30,000 Russians are expected to move in immediately.

Moreover, that Hungary can only be subjugated by the Russians is as good as admitted by the Austrian Ministers. We shall have to wait and see whether they will have the courage to let the Russians come.

The situation in the Banat looks bad. We quote the following report on the battle of Szolnok, sent from Kecskemét on March 15, from a Slav paper, the Morawski Nowiny (Moravian Newspaper):

“At 8 in the morning on March 5 a great battle was fought at Szolnok. Two battalions of infantry, half a cavalry regiment and three artillery batteries were on our side; but the mass of the enemy troops was enormous. As soon as we confronted them on the battlefield, they assaulted us with guns as well as with their entire infantry. When we realised that it was no longer possible to withstand them, we retreated. Then the enemy began to assail us forcefully from two sides, until we were wedged in between the narrow banks of the rivers Zagyva and Theiss which merge at Szolnok. Now things really began to happen; the hussars rushed upon us and cut into us so terribly that many of our men jumped into the water and were drowned. When we realised the great danger, we put up resistance and fired on the enemy. Luckily, our aim was good, and the hussars literally rained down from their horses and were compelled to retreat. Fortunately we succeeded in fighting our way out of this confined area on the banks of the rivers, where we were as good as captured already. It was terrible to see soldiers and horses drowning, and our men and the Magyars lying in pools of blood. Among our men, barely 34 of a company of 380 were left after this battle, and, although greatly weakened, we are nevertheless advancing. At Szolnok we threw away our knapsacks and reached Kecskemét (by way of Körös), where we are now expecting the enemy at any hour, since Kossuth is only three hours away from us.”

Der Lloyd carries the following report about the fighting at Theresiopel:

Semlin, March 19. After their capture of Zombor, intoxicated with victory, the Serbs under the command of Dragich and Stein and the Serb auxiliary corps under the leadership of Milija Stanojevich set off towards Maria-Theresiopel via Bajmok and Pacs. But the Serbs from the Serb principality, who together with the Austrian Serbs were just about to storm Theresiopel, suddenly received orders to return to their homeland, orders which they obeyed without question. When the Magyars heard of the recall of the Serbs, they sallied out of Theresiopel, which had not yet been cut off from Szegedin whence they obtained substantial reinforcements, and fell on the small Serb force left with the encouraging battle-cry: ‘Forward, have no fear, the Turkish Raizen [3] are no longer here!’ The battle lasted fully three hours. Our forces had two guns of their own, an eighteen-pounder from Knicanin and a Racksa twelve-pounder, and held on bravely. The enemy simulated a retreat. Deceived by this into abandoning their advantageous positions, the Serbs impetuously pursued the enemy, who turned round unexpectedly, defeated the Serbs and put them to flight, capturing the guns mentioned above. In this battle the Chaikists [4] suffered the heaviest losses, 200 of them ending their lives on the battlefield.”

Incidentally, the spirit that reigns among the Serbs is shown by the following proclamation issued by Lieutenant-Field Marshal Rukavina in Temesvar:

“For some time now, among the population of this area opinions have emerged and remarks are being made openly in nearly all inns and coffee-houses, which show an ill will that can no longer be tolerated. Accordingly, the honourable mayoralty should with all the severity at its command, as the civil police authority, initiate in this respect a supervision which will give full attention to the inns and coffee-houses and will not tolerate, in such places anything directed against the person of the Monarch, the Government, or existing conditions in general, and will eradicate any provocations by word or deed; it should make all innkeepers and coffee-house owners responsible for immediately reporting to the local commander and to the civil authorities concerned everyone who allows himself anything of that kind so that such persons can be arrested in good time. Anyone who neglects to make such a report will be punished for the first offence with arrest and a fine of 100 florins C.M., for the second offence with more rigorous detention and a fine of 200 fl., and for any repetition of the offence with trial by martial law and the closing down of his business. Similarly, all citizens who, having knowledge of such traitorous incitements, omit to report them and this comes afterwards to the knowledge of the local authorities, will become — Subject to martial law. Hereafter, not only will the honourable mayoralty itself take the necessary measures within the fortress, but will also fully inform the lower courts of the contents of this decree and call for its strict application."

Moreover, the Südslavische Zeitung has a report on the disagreements between Patriarch Rajachich and Lieutenant-Field Marshal Rukavina:

Becskerek, March 13. The Serb Central Committee[5] and the Constitutional Committee yesterday sent a deputation to the Patriarch with the request that he convene a National Assembly as soon as possible. The Patriarch replied that he could not immediately comply with this request, as many areas in the Banat are still under Rukavina’s authority, in particular the comitat of Krasso and the Wallacho-Illyrian regiment. In private conversation the Patriarch expressed the opinion that the National Assembly will probably be convened after Easter. — In some districts petitions to the Patriarch for the early convening of a National Assembly are being signed.”

  1. The reference is to the Hungarian National Assembly which moved to Debreczin early in January 1849 because of the advance of the Austrian troops on Pest. Some of the Right-wing deputies refused to leave for Debreczin and went over to the side of Windischgräz who captured the capital of Hungary.
  2. The reference is to the Hungarian National Assembly (Diet) convened in Pressburg before the 1848 revolution in the Austrian Empire. The Assembly, in which the liberal nobility predominated, put forward a demand for a Constitution. After the revolutionary demonstrations in Pest on March 15, 1848, the Assembly introduced a parliamentary system. Executive power was vested in the Hungarian Government, but the two states — Hungary and Austria — continued as monarchies under one crown. The imperial government at first had to recognise this status of Hungary, but subsequently, as a result of the deepening conflict, tried to demolish it through armed intervention. At the same time, in the Hungarian National Assembly which held its sessions in Debreczin there was the “Party of Pacification” which consisted mainly of aristocratic elements and was striving to find a compromise with the Habsburgs and to secure recognition of the new Emperor Francis Joseph as the King of Hungary. The “Party of Pacification” was opposed by the radicals headed by Kossuth who came out for more resolute action against the Austrian monarchy. The Pragmatic Sanction was a royal decree having the force of fundamental law on succession to the throne. Adopted in the Austrian Empire in 1713, it established the principle of the indivisibility of the Habsburg crown lands and the possibility of distaff succession if the Emperor had no sons.
  3. Raizen (Rascians, Rascier) is the name for Serbs of the Orthodox denomination, often used to denote Serbs in general; it probably derives from the ancient town of Rassa, the centre of the Raschka district where the first Serbian tribes settled.
  4. Chaikists — Austro-Hungarian infantrymen who served on small sailing vessels and rowing boats (chaikas) in the Military Border area. They built pontoon bridges and transported troops along the Danube, Theiss and Sava. Recruited mainly from among the Serbs, inhabiting the Chaikist Area in Slavonia, from 1764 onwards they formed a special battalion
  5. The reference is to the Chief Administrative Committee of the Serbian Voivodeship or the Chief Odbor in Karlowitz—an executive body elected by the Assembly (Skupstina) of representatives of the Serbian communities in the South-Slav border regions of the Austrian Empire in May 1848. The Skupstina proclaimed the Voivodina an autonomous region within the Empire. In the autumn of 1848, a number of Serbian cities formed Local Odbors which were patterned on the Chief Odbor and concentrated all civil and military authority in their hands. The Chief Odbor became the scene of struggle between the liberals headed by Stratimirovich (who was elected President) and clerical and feudal group, who professed loyalty to the Habsburgs and opposed liberal reforms. At the beginning of 1849, this group led by Patriarch Rajachich took the upper hand. They directed the Serbian national movement in the Voivodina towards still closer collaboration with the Austrian counter-revolutionary Government which,having made use of the Serbs in the struggle against revolutionary Hungary, broke its promise and, in March 1849, refused to grant them autonomy.