From the Theatre of War, April 12, 1849

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Nothing has happened in the theatre of war. The imperial forces have held a big council of war in Pest and have decided to confine themselves to the defensive for the next four weeks and in the meantime round up reinforcements (50,000 men are mentioned!). The Magyars, however, are acting so challengingly that Windiscgrätz could not help showing his teeth — loose already — once more, despite this decision. On April 4 he advanced to Gödöllö three miles from Pest, and made his headquarters there. The Ost-Deutsche Post concludes from this that a battle is near. At Hatvan and also at Szegléd people say they have heard gun-fire, but what happened there is as yet quite unknown.[1]

Because of an announcement recently disseminated by the insurgents that Kossuth’s paper money [2] is to be regarded as legal tender and must be accepted on pain of martial-law treatment, the Government again insists that these money tokens are invalid and worthless and gives particular warning against accepting the ten-florin notes recently issued by Kossuth, since they will not only be subject to confiscation, but anyone on whom they are found is liable to penalties.

Baja, which had briefly fallen into the hands of the imperial forces, has been regained by the Magyars, who in general seem to be making considerable progress in the Banat. The Austrians can spread as ,@y martial-law rumours as they like, such as that Szegedin has been conquered and is in flames; their own papers are forced to contradict them and to admit that the Magyars are making considerable progress in the Bacska (between the Danube and Theiss).

Komorn is being heavily bombarded, but what good is that with a fortress in which every building is bomb-proof. To show their contempt for the imperial cannon, the garrison the other day made a man in dressing-gown and white nightcap walk about on the wall and dust it very carefully with a white handkerchief. The imperial cannon-balls whistled by on all sides, but the genial Hungarian did not allow himself to be at all disturbed in his absorbing occupation.

There is nothing new from Transylvania. A martial-law report asserts that the Russians have invaded in superior strength and retaken the position recently conquered by the Magyars. Such brazen lies have rarely been told. Another report claims that, on the contrary, Bem has already arrived at the Theiss and declared that Transylvania was secure and that he had left 20,000 men there to garrison the country and the passes. The one assertion is as false as the other. Bem holds the whole of Transylvania and is still there, and in a few days he will perhaps hold all the country to the Danube and the Pruth.

  1. 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
  2. The reference is to the paper money issued in 1848-49 by the Hungarian revolutionary Government. The notes were first issued in May 1848. Despite the Austrian authorities' repeated ban on the "Kossuth notes", the Hungarian paper money was a serious competitor to Austrian money, not only within Hungary but also in Austria proper. The "Kossuth notes" were in circulation until almost the end of 1849.