From the Theatre of War, April 20, 1849
|Written||19 April 1849|
Written: by Engels on April 19, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 277 (second edition), April 20, 1849.
According to the letters and papers which have arrived from Eastern Germany only this evening (Thursday), the Hungarians are masters of the left bank of the Danube to the point at which the Gran flows into it from the north, five miles below Komorn. On the 12th Pest was still besieged by a Hungarian corps which could be observed quite clearly from the roofs with the naked eye, and which is supposed to have occupied the Pest railway station. To avoid exposing it to bombardment, and because from here it would be impossible to effect a crossing of the Danube under the guns of Ofen, this corps has not attacked the city itself.
The most contradictory rumours are current about the battle at Waitzen, but they all agree that the left wing of the Austrians has suffered a complete defeat there. One report asserts that Götz is not dead but severely wounded and in the hands of the Hungarians. After their defeat, part of the Austrian corps which linked up at Waitzen retreated across the Danube, while another part, two brigades strong, drew back behind the Gran. Here, five brigades of reinforcements, which have arrived from Austria. etc., are said to have been stationed for a considerable time (!), the force is estimated at 25,000 men (!!) by the Wanderer. These five brigades are probably not more than a few regiments who marched away from the former siege corps of Komorn, for had five brigades been stationed on the Gran, four miles from Waitzen, they would hardly have remained there while the Hungarian guns thundered at Waitzen!
The Wanderer is nothing but a martial-law paper printing reassuring news. It had to report that Waitzen had been captured by the Magyars without a battle, and that only one volunteer corps was stationed there, whereas all the other papers speak of a violent battle and it is certain that Götz, Jablonowsky and Csorich were there, not counting the troops which Windischgrätz took with him when he personally went there. The Wanderer further believes that there is no threat at all to Pest (!!), otherwise the imperial forces would surely have removed their wounded and constructed a second pontoon bridge. But the imperial generals have never shown much concern for their wounded, and all they do care for, the baggage, munitions and above all the money, has long been dispatched to Ofen. They have even stolen the gold and silver reserve of the Hungarian National Bank, 1,700,000 guldens C.M., which were kept as backing for the Hungarian 1- and 2-florin notes, and incorporated them in the state treasury in Ofen. As concerns the second bridge, the Austrians obviously have much greater need of their pontoon trains on the long battle-front from Pest to Waitzen and Gran than in Pest, which no longer forms their centre but their left flank.
This Wanderer has now also suddenly to estimate the imperial army at 100,000, namely 50,000 men at Pest, plus the above non-existent 25,000 at Gran, plus the 10,000 reinforcements from Galicia under Vogl, plus Nugent’s force, a total of 100,000 men; that is supposed to be reassuring. We are quite willing to believe that Windischgrätz had 50,000 men before the recent battles, and now still has 40,000. But the 25,000 men at Gran amount to 10,000 at most, scattered along both sides of the Danube from Raab and Gran to Neuhäusel, the remainder of the siege corps at Komorn, reinforced by newly arrived troops. Vogl is still in Galicia, and Nugent is hard-pressed in Syrmien. The imperial forces were indeed over 200,000 strong at the beginning of the war, but the Hungarians have made a clean sweep and scattered the imperial troops to all points of the compass. Puchner is in Wallachia, Knicanin back in Serbia, the Banat volunteers have gone home, large numbers of Croats have been disbanded, and of the whole army at most 120,000 effective troops are scattered over the wide Hungarian territory; of these, perhaps 50,000-55,000 face the main Magyar army.
The rumour persists that a Magyar corps has crossed the Danube south of Pest in the Bacska area and is marching on Stuhlweissenburg, but there is as yet no positive information on this corps’ position.
Komorn is already virtually relieved. The siege area has been considerably reduced by the advance of the Magyars. As a substantial part of Windischgrätz’s troops had earlier been moved to Pest, the remainder obviously had to march to Gran, to face the Magyars approaching from that direction. Even prior to this, the garrison is said to have made a sortie against the weak besieging troops, scattered them and captured all the siege artillery. Now a report in the Ost-Deutsche Post says, moreover, that Komorn has sufficient provisions for two years, and that its garrison is united and resolved to defend it to the utmost.
In the small area of Upper Hungary still occupied by the imperial forces, the end of their rule is now approaching. According to the Österreichischer Correspondent, a Magyar column reputed to be composed of 800 infantrymen, 200 cavalrymen and five guns, under the command of a Polish officer, Bernicki, marched into Leutschau on April 4, into Neudorf on the 5th, and into Rosenau on the 6th. One of Welden’s battalions garrisoning the neighbouring area was called to Eperies, which was threatened by this movement. Nevertheless, the Magyar corps captured Eperies and drove the royal imperial troops, together with the notorious Slovak Landsturm, into the Carpathians, to the Galician border.
The name of Bem, who at one time was said to be at Debreczin and at another time already at Kalocsa on the Danube, currently looms like a spectre over the Banat. It is also reported from Alt-Orsova, on the 2nd of the month, that Bem is preparing an expedition of 10,000 against the Banat. Rukavina is, incidentally, not pensioned off there but merely relieved of the civil administration, which has been transferred to the Patriarch, Rukavina retains command of the Banat Military Border area,  and Major-General Mayerhofer, serving under him, will be in command on the Syrmien border.
By the way, the Magyars have not rested content with the seizure of the Bacska. They have crossed the Theiss and occupied the districts of Kikinda and Neu-Becse.
In their hour of greatest need the imperial authorities have no other cure but to take radical measures. The official report of Windischgrätz’s dismissal and Welden’s appointment to supreme command in Hungary has at last arrived. At the same time, Wohlgemuth has set off with Welden (whom Böhm replaces in Vienna) for Hungary, where he is to command a corps of six brigades. Benedek has gone to Galicia to be given a command in Vogl’s corps of 10 battalions; the corps is said to be marching via Eperies. Wrbna is to be retired.
But not even that is the end of this revolution in the army.
They have realised that without the Russians they cannot cope with the Magyars. Russian assistance has therefore been directly asked for. 30,000 Russians are expected to arrive in Hungary via Cracow.
In the Banat also the endangered slogan: svoboda a slavjanstvo (freedom and Slavdom) will be kept up with Russian assistance. Already there is talk of the approach of Russian troops and, to hasten matters, delegates were sent to Duhamel in Bucharest from an assembly held in Semlin on the 5th.
We may hope that the arrival of the Russians will everywhere be too late, and that they will find that the war has already taken so decisive a turn that the most they will be able to do is to look on while the brave Magyars and the Viennese, who may also soon reappear on the field of battle, prepare an ignominious end for
“the Austria of old,
For feats and victories oft extolled”.
Today again the latest Vienna and Breslau papers have not arrived.
- C.M. (conventional money, or 20-guiden coins) had existed in Austria since the eighteenth century and, under the respective convention, was also introduced in Bavaria. Its standard was silver (20 guldens were to contain 234 grams of silver). In the eighteenth century, paper money was issued which, from the early nineteenth century, was called “Vienna currency”. Transactions were quoted in conventional monetary units.
- The reference is to the inhabitants of the so-called Military Border area, i.e. the southern border region of the Austrian Empire under a military administration. The area included part of Croatia and southern Hungary. its population was made up of Serbs and Croats who were allotted land in return for military service, the fulfilment of state obligations and payment of duties. Borderers often rose in revolt against this system of military-feudal oppression. Peterwardein borderers as well as Serezhans and other South-Slav army formations mentioned below performed compulsory military service on the Austro-Turkish border (in the so-called Military Border area). They were named after their regimental or company districts or communities from which the soldiers came. In 1848-49 the Austrian authorities and the Right-wing bourgeois-landowning nationalist elements drew them into the war against revolutionary Hungary. An allusion to the Austrian special border troops who wore red-coats and caps and were recruited mainly from among the inhabitants of the Empire’s Slav provinces (Croats, Serbs of the Voivodina etc.). In 1848 and 1849, they were used by the counter-revolution against the revolutionary movement.