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From the Theatre of War, April 27, 1849
|Written||26 April 1849|
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 283, April 27, 1849.
We begin our news today with the following report from the Neue Oder-Zeitung:
“From private sources we have received the important news that a big battle was fought between Gran and Komorn on the 20th and 21st. Welden led a reserve corps and held the heights near Gran. A large part of the royal imperial forces, including the Jablonowsky and Simunich brigades, was spread out on the plain between Gran and Komorn. The Magyars attacked all the positions of the imperial forces with such fierceness that the latter were thrown into confusion right from the outset. Despite the most courageous defence of the soldiers, Welden had to retreat. In addition to the great loss in dead and wounded suffered by the royal imperial army, 20 guns and 2,000 prisoners fell into the hands of the insurgents.
“According to another report, which generally confirms the news of the Hungarian victory mentioned above, the immediate consequence of this victory has been the relief of Komorn.”
Evidently, this job’s news is already known in higher circles, for Government Counsellor von Festenburg, who accompanied Master of Ordnance Welden to Hungary, arrived in Vienna as a courier on the night of the 21st, and between then and the departure of the mail on the evening of the 22nd, not a word transpired either on the reason for his arrival or on the content of the dispatches he brought.
We have to await confirmation of this report, however probable it may seem. The letters from Breslau take us up to the evening of the 23rd; news of the Magyar victory at Komorn on the 21st could hardly have reached Breslau by then. But a letter from another Breslau source also reports that news of the capture of Gran by the Magyars came with the train which arrived there on the morning of the 23rd.
We were quite correct in our estimate of the butcher Welden. He was eager to mark his arrival in the field at once by a great battle and to spread his fame far and wide. According to all the reports from Vienna, this battle actually took place on the 20th and 21st.
All the newspapers now unanimously recognise that the departure of the main imperial forces from Pest was actually the beginning of their retreat from the city. It even appears that they have become convinced of the impossibility to hold Ofen, and that they intend to give this up as well. All the woolsacks requisitioned for the ramparts have been returned to their owners and the sand-bagging of the ramparts has also ceased. According to the Magyar correspondent of the Breslauer Zeitung, the Magyars are said to have already occupied Neu-Pest (the first suburb). There are, by the way, not many of them left; their main corps, as we know, departed long ago, the unmounted Landsturm has for the most part been disbanded, and only the mounted Landsturm armed with the fokos (a strong staff with a small brass axe at one end) are still at Pest, along with some Honveds and a few guns.
According to D, the “best-informed” correspondent of the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, who, incidentally, cannot spell any Magyar or Serb name correctly, the Magyars are no longer stationed along the Danube but along the Gran, from the Leva down to the confluence of the Gran and the Danube. Their main force is said to be located in Ipolyság (a few miles to the rear). Wohlgemuth, who has 5,000 men, is said to he facing their right flank.
More recent reports state that this right flank has wheeled round, crossed the Gran and advanced towards Neutra, driving Wohlgemuth back to the town. Even the Lloyd admits this. There is no definite news of the positions of the imperial forces. Vienna newspapers and Lithographierte Correspondenz still have “Schlick and Jellachich operating beyond Waitzen in the rear of the insurgents”, as if it were possible to get “beyond” Waitzen without first getting “into” it! And Waitzen is and will remain in the hands of the Magyars, despite all the martial-law lies of the black-and-yellow press.
The butcher Welden is ruining himself by his brutal impatience to attack. If he stayed on the defensive, covered by the Danube and the Gran, and if his main force were united with the corps besieging Komorn, he might succeed in holding his ground until the arrival of reinforcements. But he wants to get all the credit for putting down the Magyar revolution, with the result that by now he together with his entire army may have perished.
For at last we have more definite news about the Galician reinforcements. Some of them are concentrated on the Jablunka Pass. These are said to be under Benedek’s command and to be rapidly advancing on the mountain towns. The others — eight battalions, 1,200 cavalry and 15 guns — are reported to have marched from Lemberg on or about the 16th and a reserve force of six battalions, 800 cavalry and nine guns was supposed to be following. These troops, whose numbers are obviously much exaggerated, were supposed to be marching over the Carpathians in three columns, and to be operating directly against the main Hungarian army and not in the direction of the Theiss. But remarkable obscurity still persists as to when they will arrive.
Hence a report from Breslau that Vogl has been surrounded in the mountains at Munkacs and his entire corps destroyed, is false. Munkacs lies far to the east of Vogl’s line of operations. It is, however, possible that an Austrian column invaded there from Galicia and was beaten.
Concerning Komorn, the imperial forces also had very philanthropic intentions: The brigadier commanding the corps of sappers and engineers, Major-General von Zitta, who himself had built the Komorn fortress, is said to be leading the last attempt to force the capitulation of the fortress which, according to his own declaration, cannot be taken by assault. It is reported that he is attempting to flood the casemates in order to drive out the garrison from this bomb-proof refuge and confront it with the alternative of either surrendering Komorn or seeking shelter from the devastating rain of fire in the ruins of the town.
But this kind intention will surely have been frustrated by recent events.
It is now officially reported that Nugent in the south has very politely but firmly been recalled. His son, who abandoned Zombor to the Magyar Landsturm without a fight, is said to be court-martialled. What a farce! Stratimirovich’s victory does not prevent the Magyars from keeping the Bacska occupied; the flight of the Serbs across the Danube and the Theiss is continuing. Mayerhofer is now in command in Nugent’s place but is now almost without troops, as they have nearly all been sent to Ofen.
It is confirmed that Bem is in the Banat. He has equipped the Szekler Landsturm well with arms from the Hermannstadt and Kronstadt arsenals and, leaving to it the guarding of the country, is advancing with 30,000-40,000 of his best troops reinforced with Wallachian and Saxon recruits. He is reported to have already taken Temesvar.
The new Hungarian banknotes devised by Windischgrätz have now been issued, but no one will accept them. All exchanges and shops are closed. The Magyar report writes about this:
“Despite the martial-law threat, all the banking-houses and merchants have refused to accept the notes. With the Hungarian army in the vicinity, the imperial military authorities have not deemed it advisable to employ force, and further issue of the banknotes has been deferred until better times. But there is already circulating here a decree of the Hungarian Government, branding these banknotes as maliciously manufactured, forged bills’ and warning everybody against accepting them. Another of Kossuth’s proclamations outlaws those commissars installed by Windischgrätz who have dared partially to reintroduce the compulsory labour abolished by the Diet of 1848.  The peasants of Duna Vecse, Germans, have already taken advantage of the proclamation and killed one of these commissars.”
Fresh support for the Magyars, which just now, on the eve of their probable victory, is of the greatest significance, is the Polish peasant rising which is about to break out in Galicia. About this movement, which the Cracow martial-law sheet Czas (The Times) seeks as far as possible to conceal, the Vienna Lithographierte Correspondenz writes:
“Forced recruiting has caused a serious situation in the vicinity of Cracow. Three thousand peasants have moved to the law forest near Chrzanov and are camping there. Attempts to persuade them amicably to come out have merely elicited the response: ‘We would rather die here than in Hungary; what have the Hungarians done to us?’ Many of the young people, who do not wish to serve against the Hungarians either, have fled from Cracow to the forest, and there are fears that this example will prove contagious and that a general rising might develop. It is well known that Cracow is almost totally denuded of troops.”
At this moment talk of Russian assistance is more widespread than ever. The rumours are self-contradictory. But it is a fact that between Kalisch and Bucharest 200,000 Russians are already drawn up and ready to invade Galicia and Hungary so soon as the orthodox Tsar gives the order. 40,000 are stationed at Cracow, 50,000 at Brody (Radziwilow), and the remainder partly further to the rear, partly further to the south in Podolia, Bessarabia and the Danube principalities.
We had almost forgotten to inform our readers that the first defeat of the Austrians on the Gran has been confirmed. It was Wohlgemuth who was there in command and did not take 2,000 Hungarian prisoners but rather suffered these losses himself. This accounts for his otherwise inexplicable positions at Leva and later at Neutra.
- ↑ The reference is to the resolutions on abolition of serfdom, labour services and tithes and landowners’ courts by the Hungarian National Assembly on March 18 1848 in the atmosphere of general revolutionary upsurge. The agrarian reform carried out by the Assembly (it was elected before the March revolution according to the principle of estate representation and on the whole expressed the interests of the nobility) was half-hearted, however. The peasants had to pay redemption for the abolition of certain feudal obligations, and the terms of redemption were such that whole categories of landless and land-starved peasants were virtually unable to free themselves of labour services. During the revolution, the radical wing made repeated demands for further measures in favour of the peasants, but met with resistance from the moderate elements among the nobility. Incomplete agrarian reforms were one of the inner causes of the defeat of the Hungarian revolution of 1848-49