Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung March 1849
Source: MECW Volume 8, p. 451;
Written: by Engels on March 1, 1849;
First published: in Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 235, March 2, 1849.
There is still no up-to-date news from the theatre of war. What we learn consists almost entirely of further details about events which are already known.
On the upper reaches of the Theiss the Magyars occupy both sides of the river. Through Görgey’s daring manoeuvre — “carried out with a degree of dexterity not expected of him” (Contitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen) — the entire country to the east of the Theiss and Hernath has been cleared of the enemy. Through the simultaneous advance of Dembinski across the Theiss the imperial troops have been thrown back along their whole left wing and centre and only below Szolnok they are still at the Theiss. So when the Austrian newspapers report that Schlick “has joined the main army” or that he “has reached the head of the main army” that means no more than that the remains of the 4 brigades he commands have been thrown back onto Windischgrätz’s troops instead of securing the left wing.
Profiting by this opportunity, as the Magyar correspondent of the Breslauer Zeitung reports,
“the major part of the Polish regiment of Rothkirch has gone over to the Hungarians and entered Debreczin in triumph. Among the prisoners there are also two generals. The comitats of Zips, Stiros, Abaujvár, Zemplin, Unghvar and Heves are thus, due to the complete defeat and expulsion of the imperial troops, again under the control of the Hungarians”.
The Constitutionelles Blatt aus Böhmen confirms in two reports of the 20th from Pest that Görgey has joined up with the main Magyar army and that this army “has again taken up a threatening position” and “seems to be decided to give battle”.
The above-mentioned Magyar correspondent goes on to report:
“From Kaschau many refugees have arrived in Pest. Count Szirmay, one of the richest Hungarian magnates, has been killed by the enraged people in the most gruesome manner. He had caused himself to be hated because it was due to his betrayal that Schlick entered Kaschau. He had also attempted to raise a volunteer battalion for the imperial army. He was a major in the imperial army.”
How precarious the situation on the left wing is for the Austrians is demonstrated by the regular dispatches of reinforcements there. Nearly every day Ban Jellachich inspects in Pest new troops leaving for there. The Magyar correspondent in a report on the 22nd says:
“On the 20th a brigade with a large quantity of artillery left Pest in the direction of Hatvan. It consisted mostly of Croats. Ban Lieutenant-Field Marshal Jellachich held a review of the brigade and delivered an address to it. The public which attended looked on unmoved. Then a general came rushing up and shouted, ‘Off with your hats when the Emperor is acclaimed!’ The public turned about as one man and left From that too you can judge of the mood, which is getting more bitter every day.
The reinforcements which Görgey brought to the main Magyar army consist according to the Constitutionelles Blatt am Böhmen of 9,000 men, including 1 battalion of grenadiers, 1 battalion of Este infantry, 2 battalions of Wasa, 8 divisions (16 squadrons) of hussars, 30 cannon and 12 howitzers. That these figures underestimate rather than overestimate the truth may be concluded from the sentiments of the paper from which they were taken.
At Windischgrätz’s centre and right wing little has changed. Szolnok on the Theiss is still in the hands of the Austrians while the Magyars hold the opposite bank. While the former build entrenchments at Szolnok, both sides shoot at each other with cannon across the Danube.
Szegedin, lower down on the Theiss, which has been reported three or four times as captured by the Austrians, has according to today’s reports been taken yet again. This time however by troops dispatched from Pest, which had joined up near Szegedin with the Serbs approaching from the south to seize this important point dominating the confluence of the Maros with the Theiss. Se non è vero, è ben trovato. [It’s well devised even if it is not true]
On the other hand the Austrian correspondent reports from a private letter that
“shortly after its capture Arad was wrested from the imperial troops, some of the latter having dispersed too quickly into the houses of the town to look for food, and the insurgents availed themselves of this circumstance to assemble rapidly and drive back our troops. The commanders are said not to have been to blame, as they could not prevent the totally exhausted troops, allegedly Serbs and men from Peterwardein:  from seeking food”.
The heroic deeds of the Serbian army stationed here consist mainly in destroying and burning, looting, torturing with fire, killing and raping. The places around Szegedin, as well as Maria-Theresienstadt, Zombor and other places have been treated most disgustingly by these Turkish barbarians and have been almost destroyed. One need only hear what the pro-Czech Constitutionelles Blatt am Böhmen says:
“In the Banat the Serbs are advancing victoriously, but robbery and arson mark their passage and many Hungarian and German localities have had to pay a terrible price for daring to show sympathy for the cause of the Hungarians. Zombor, an important trading city, has been partly consumed by flames, as the Serbs set fire to all houses whose owners had earlier taken part in enforcing the martial law applied against the Serbs by the Hungarians.
“Yesterday and today there is general talk here that the Serbs have finally succeeded in taking Szegedin, and in that case we can only commiserate with the many Hungarians who live there, for the Serbs will hardly treat them with lenience.”
Further back, on the Drava and Danube, the army of Nugent is concentrated around Peterwardein, the surrender of which is “to be hoped for”, to use the language of an earlier bulletin. His army too is distinguishing itself by the most shameful barbarities. The inhabitants of Sikiosz are said to have shot at the Imperials after they had previously welcomed them with open arms. What does Nugent do? He immediately surrounds the town, trains cannon loaded with shrapnel on all the gates and sets the place on fire. Whoever escaped from the flames fell victim to the shrapnel. The Kölnische Zeitung finds this “strange”.
To sum up all these operations we must agree with the following judgment borrowed from the Leipziger Zeitung:
“Military experts assure us that in the operations in Hungary significant mistakes have been committed and that Prince Windischgrätz failed to reveal himself as an outstanding army commander.”
A conclusion to which we had already been led almost every day for a long time.
Finally we have now from Transylvania the reports of the local papers on the entry of the Russians. In Kronstadt this event was preceded by a declaration of martial law. From this town the Satellit of February 2 reports:
“In order to prevent the threatened attack on Kronstadt by the Szeklers, yesterday and today strong contingents of Cossacks, Russian riflemen, grenadiers and a whole artillery park with the necessary personnel under the command of the imperial Russian General von Engelhardt have entered Kronstadt and been quartered on the population. Tomorrow a further battalion of Russian infantry is expected. The cannon have been installed between the Promenade and the Schlossberg and adequately supplied for immediate action. Day and night they are guarded by a strong contingent of Cossacks and grenadiers, while Russian riflemen guard the fortifications.”
Further, dated February 6, a report on the fighting between Engelhardt and the Szeklers:
“February 4 was a hot day for our district. Early in the morning the Russian Major-General Engelhardt went on reconnaissance towards Honigberg with a battalion of Russian infantry, 170 Cossacks, two pieces of field artillery and three companies from the Ist Rumanian Border Regiment. Halfway there he noticed numerous Szekler groups moving through the mist towards Petersberg, probably in order to attack Kronstadt from there. The Russians advanced against them and the Szeklers opened cannon-fire. As the enemy was numerically superior the Russian general sent immediately into the town for his remaining troops. They arrived with 84 Austrian dragoons and 45 hussars after more than two hours during which Engelhardt engaged the Szeklers with attacks by the Cossacks, skirmishes and cannon-fire. Then General Engelhardt attacked the four times (!) stronger (!) enemy in earnest, drove him from the heights between Petersberg and Honigberg and after five and a half hours of fighting forced him to retreat. On the Russian side 1 officer and 2 privates were killed, on the Austrian side 1 officer and 3 privates (2,400 Russians and about 500 Austrians were involved in the fighting). The enemy suffered 150 casualties in killed and wounded and fled leaving cannon, weapons, munitions etc. behind.”
Kronstadt (Siebenbürger Wochenblatt). The following proclamation to the citizens of Kronstadt was made by the Russian general.
“To the citizens of Kronstadt. Some evil-minded Kronstadt citizens have spread the false rumour that I had quarrelled with the royal imperial Austrian General von Schurter and that I had intended to leave the town with my troops! I have on the contrary found a good comrade in Herr General von Schurter and shall continue to esteem and honour him as such. If I have sent back my baggage-carts to Wallachia that has been done simply and solely in the interest of the local inhabitants as it would have been difficult for them to find forage for the 700 uhlans who are arriving today as well as for the teams of horses of the baggage-carts. The entire contents of the baggage-carts, consisting, of biscuits, remain in the town and only the empty carts were dispatched. This false rumour is therefore an infamous and stupid lie; even if I myself were not in accord with General von Schurter I would nevertheless remain here for the protection of this city, for that is the All-highest will of my Emperor and Lord.
“Kronstadt, January 29 (February 10), 1849
Major-General von Engelhardt”
Kronstadt, February 10. The expected Russian uhlans arrived here yesterday afternoon. The Szeklers, whom the imperial Russian General von Engelhardt taught a lesson (!) on the 4th inst., have nevertheless again crossed the River Alt near Hidveg and have entered Marienburg. From there they yesterday again molested the community of Heldsdorf and requisitioned a quantity of bread, hay and oats (Siebenbürger Wochenblatt).