From the Theatre of War, April 15, 1849 (1)

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No further definite news has arrived from Pest today. The Vienna Lithographierte Correspondenz reports though that the Austrian army has evacuated Pest completely, has withdrawn to the right bank of the Danube and that the Hungarian generals entered Pest on the evening of the 7th, greeted by a torchlight procession and general jubilation. This report, however, is certainly premature. The battle around Pest which began on the 2nd and which raged right under the walls of Pest on the 5th and 6th, continued on the 7th and, if we may believe one isolated report, still continued on the 8th. It is not hard to grasp that the victory at Pest is not such an unimportant matter as many would like to believe. The imperial forces have two advantages, firstly, their rear is covered by the Danube, the Ofen fortress and by the town itself whose fortified approaches would suffice to hold up the enemy in the event of a retreat while the defeated imperial forces crossed the river. Secondly, their positions were more concentrated than those of the Magyars. They form a semicircle around Pest and the Magyars, in their turn, form a larger semi-circle around the imperial forces. Added to which is the fact that the clumsy, slow but stubborn and obedient character of the Austrian army makes it pre-eminently suited to a defensive position. It is therefore probable that the imperial forces have continued to fight around Pest for two more days.[1] But that in the end they were cut to pieces and driven across the Danube cannot be doubted in view of the reports coming in from all sides about the unexpected strength and incredible bravery of the Magyar army. The retreat of the imperial baggage trains through Pest and across the Danube was going on for 48 hours. The thunder of gun-fire resounded about the gates of the city.

At any rate these reports seem to indicate that the Magyars do not want to compel the imperial forces to abandon their position around Pest by means of strategic manoeuvres but are waging the decisive battle under the walls of Pest itself. In our opinion, and according to reports so far received, success cannot be in doubt.

It was reported in Vienna that Kossuth is with the Magyar army, that Klapka has been badly wounded; according to other reports he was taken prisoner near Jasz-Bereny etc. If this last report were true we would already have read it in the Bulletins.

We shall take this opportunity to give some information about Klapka. He is not a Pole as has been asserted here and there, but a Hungarian, a Magyar Slav from Temesvar where his father as mayor was head of the municipal council for many years. While he was still a youth his lust for adventure drew him to military life. He distinguished himself greatly in mathematics and military science in the School of the Bombardier Corps in Vienna and in 1841 was posted to the Hungarian Guard of Nobles. The morale and spirit of this corps were not such as to make a peacetime garrison post on the frontiers of the monarchy — to which he was transferred after six years — seem attractive and he resigned his commission as a first lieutenant. Later we find him in Bucharest offering his services to the Hospodar as an organiser of artillery. Even the idea of a journey to India seemed to attract him. But then came March 1848 and by April he was already in Pest, in the closest contact with the Radical Party. He now rose, for he was a most ardent Magyar and after Görgey was the most outstanding talent in the National Army of Insurrection.

Incidentally, the Magyars seem to have spread out suddenly from all sides. The masses of reserve troops between the Theiss and Maros, which Kossuth trained to become efficient soldiers, have suddenly appeared on the battlefield. The Hungarians are victorious not only in Transylvania, not only around Pest, but also in the Banat and are surging forward with incredible speed. As we wrote yesterday, the Banat as well as the whole of Bacska have been occupied by them. We did not want to report that a Magyar corps under Perczel had fought its way through the besieging Austrians to Peterwardein, because it seemed to us to be too incredible to be true. And yet it seems to be beyond doubt, for the Agramer Zeitung, the organ of the Croat Government, itself prints it. Perczel and Batthyány (ex-commandant of Peterwardein) have broken through the blockading cordon and entered the fortress with fresh troops. The siege appears to have been completely abandoned. Nugent has again turned westwards towards Zombor where the Magyars have occupied the town and its environs. Everything imperial has withdrawn from Peterwardein and its environs to Syrmien and Slavonia.

As a result of these recent advances by the Magyars, the Serbs in the Banat are completely isolated just as Puchner had been previously isolated in Transylvania. It is clear that this isolation can only have a favourable influence on the negotiations which still continue between the Serbs and the Magyars.

In Transylvania, finally, Bem’s conquests seem to be completely secured. The Austrian soldiers who fled into Wallachia and whose numbers have only now been officially made known, are abandoning any attempt to return to Transylvania. By way of Wallachia they will go to the Banat. Happy journey!

The following is the official report about this printed in the Wiener Zeitung itself:

“Latest reports from Transylvania say that the royal imperial troops arrived in the vicinity of Hermannstadt on March 13, and were drawn up near Geroldsau in order to link up with the Russians holding the Falmatsch position. On the 15th the royal imperial troops marched towards Kronstadt and the Russians in accordance with the royal imperial quarantine regulations entrenched themselves in the most extreme border area. The Transylvanian headquarters, Lieutenant-Field Marshal von Puchner and several royal imperial generals as well as 1,200 men of the royal imperial infantry who had also withdrawn into Wallachia had set off for Rimnik. The Transylvanian royal imperial army corps arrived in Kronstadt on the 18th with the aim of holding this town which was occupied by the Russians under the command of General Engelhardt. The rebels, under the command of Bem, arrived likewise in the vicinity of Kronstadt. Meanwhile, however, General Lüders had given orders to evacuate Kronstadt. This, together with the fact that the royal imperial troops had no munitions, were short of many other necessities and were exhausted, determined the officer commanding these troops, General von Kalliani, to evacuate Kronstadt and on March 20 to move on to Wallachia together with the Russians. The army corps consisted of 8,140 men of the infantry and artillery, 900 cavalrymen and 42 cannon. Major Baron Hayde, who was in command of 1,200 infantrymen and 240 cavalrymen, hurried towards Törzburg and was expected in Campulung, in Wallachian territory, on March 21. Thus there were now 12,000 men of the royal imperial forces in Wallachia. The main force under General Kalliani is stationed in Campina, Ploesti and Konkurrenz and is to rest for 10 or 12 days. The Government of the country has helped as much as possible with regard to supplies. The former Hungarian Minister of War is said to be now in command in Hermannstadt and Bem to lead the rebels in Kronstadt, from whence it is believed he will seek to march to Bukovina. The number of refugees who have left Transylvania to seek protection in Wallachia is very large. The royal imperial Major von Reichetzer, the Adjutant of the General Command, arrived in Bucharest from Craiova on March 27, in order to organise the march of the royal imperial troops from Campina to the Banat by way of Craiova and Orsova.”

From this it follows: (1) that Bem must have a very considerable army if he was able to defeat over 12,000 Austrians and 10,000-15,000 Russians; (2) that the Russians, too, are at present not keen on returning to the Transylvanian area and thus Transylvania is at last secured and with Transylvania the rear of the Hungarian revolutionary army.

The 40,000 Russians thus do not seem to be willing to come to the aid of the Kölnische Zeitung. But it still has Hammerstein’s 15 battalions and Haynau’s 30,000 men.

Eh bien! According to the most recent and direct reports Schlick was still in Lemberg trying to induce its citizens to send him a petition inviting the Russians to come in. At the same time he gave orders for an army corps to be assembled near Dukla, 25 miles from Lemberg. Three or four weeks at least must elapse before this corps can be concentrated there and equipped with munitions, provisions, transport etc. and who knows where the Magyars will be by then.

As far as Haynau’s famous 30,000 men are concerned, who are supposed to arrive on Hungarian soil within 12 days (!), these are even more harmless. Haynau had to abandon the blockade of Venice and advance into Lombardy. We know how the Brescians kept him occupied on March 31 and April 1.[2] We know that he cannot leave his position until he is relieved by Radetzky — and Radetzky is still not able to do this. And when he is finally relieved, he has still to cover between 150 and 170 German miles before arriving at Pest. True, part of the journey can be covered by rail, but when it is a matter of transporting 30,000 men along with their artillery, cavalry, baggage train etc., railways do not speed things up very much. The “twelve days” can therefore easily become six weeks and meanwhile the Magyars will have time enough to teach Windischgrätz’s army some very serious lessons. Who knows — perhaps the Magyars will meet Herr Haynau halfway!

  1. The battles for Pest were fought from April 6 to 25, 1849. They also continued after the main Austrian forces, beaten by Hungarian revolutionary troops, had been compelled to retreat north-west to the borders of Austria. After Pest was liberated, the Austrian garrison still held out in the fortress of Buda which was besieged by the Hungarians from May 4 to 21, 1849
  2. In March 1849, the war between Piedmont and Austria was renewed and this served as a new impetus to the national liberation movement in Lombardy, in the rear of the Austrian army. A large popular uprising against Austrian rule took place on March 20 in Brescia. The Austrian garrison was trapped in the fortress. The Austrian troops sent against Brescia consisted partly of those which had taken part in the operations against the Republic of Venice. They were under the command of General Nugent, who was later replaced by a Master of Ordnance, Haynau. The insurgent city was severely bombarded, but continued to resist even after the truce was signed between the King of Piedmont and Austria. Brescia was taken only by a fierce assault on March 31 and April 1. Haynau inflicted brutal reprisals on the insurgents. On the blockade of Venice, where the masses had proclaimed independence and restored the “Republic of St. Mark” as early as March 1848, took an active part in the national liberation struggle against Austrian rule. The Venetians continued to offer resistance to the Austrians even after the armistice was concluded on August 9, 1848, between Austria and Piedmont, and withstood for many months a severe blockade by sea and land. After scoring a new victory over the Piedmontese army in March 1849, the Austrians reinforced their troops besieging Venice, which was finally forced to surrender. On August 22, 1849, the Republic of Venice, the last bulwark of the revolution in Italy, collapsed.