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Austria page 4


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The Government of Vienna resolved now to crush the Hungarian insurrection at any cost. An imperial decree was issued, dissolving the Diet, declaring all its ordinances and acts illegal and void, constituting Jellachich Commander-in-Chief in Hungary and Transylvania, with unlimited powers, and appointing also a new Hungarian Ministry. Kossuth met this by a counter-proclamation, asserting the entire independence of Hungary, and denouncing the Ban and the new Prime Minister as traitors. The power given to Jellachich excited the indignation not only of all Hungarians, but of the citizens of Vienna. "Until peace be restored," ran the imperial proclamation, "martial law is declared in Hungary. Our Ban of Croatia, Sclavonia, and Dalmatia, is hereby appointed Commissary Plenipotentiary of our Royal Majesty, with full and unlimited powers, that he may act as circumstances may require, as the representative of our Royal Majesty." A decree ordering packs of blood-hounds to be let loose upon the country could not have excited more horror. Even the army at Vienna revolted against the atrocity of such a decree.

Balleydier sketches a dramatic scene at a meeting of conspirators in Vienna on the 4th of October, where the assassination of Count Latour, as the most formidable enemy of the revolution, was determined upon. The president of the meeting said - "We have received information from one of our associates at the War Office, that, on the day after to-morrow, the traitor Latour is about to execute a coup-de-main; but we shall be beforehand with him. What say you, brethren?" Answer, "Yes, yes." "It is well. A revolution is a fine thing, brethren; but, to render it profitable, it must be really one, and not a mere caricature. What we require is a revolution of the people, with bared arms, locks tossed by the wind, wrath in their eyes, and the fusil in their hands - a revolution with barricades and war in the streets, like that of Danton and Robespierre, and not a parody, as that of Louis Blanc and Lamartine. What we require, in fine, is a revolution with corpses enough to satisfy the vengeance of the people, and a victim elevated enough to compromise the people,, and render retreat impossible. Do you understand me, brethren?" "Yes, yes; we demand justice!" "Against whom?" "Latour." "Agreed, agreed! Justice to the people! death to Latour! life and independence to Germany!" The conspirators then took a solemn oath to execute the enterprise.

On the morning of the 6th of October, the Grenadier Guards were ordered to march to the assistance of the Croats against Hungary, the Ban having suffered several defeats, and having pressed urgently for reinforcements. The Grenadiers did not absolutely refuse to march, but they had an understanding with the National Guards, that their departure would be prevented by the breaking up of the railway, which was accordingly done. The troops were then ordered to proceed on foot, but they were stopped by $ barricade on the Tabor bridge, which they passed over fraternising with the National Guards. Regiments of infantry and pieces of artillery were then drawn up to reduce the insurgent troops. General Breay gave the word, "Fire, " with a loud voice, and was shot dead as he uttered it. Some workmen seized the guns and a powder waggon. The Nassau Infantry fired three volleys, the revolted troops returned the fire, the infantry were charged with the bayonet, and compelled to fly back into the city. The triumphant insurgents then returned, planted their guns in University Square, placed guards upon the city gates, sounded the tocsin to rouse the citizens, formed a central committee to conduct the operations, and prepared for a regular battle with the imperial forces that should remain loyal. Barricades were quickly erected, old fortifications were occupied, and the fighting commenced.

The only post in the city that remained in the occupation of the royal troops was the hotel of the Minister of War, where a council of war was being held, under the presidency of Count Latour, guarded only by 176 men. The majority of the council thought further resistance hopeless. Bach, the Minister of War, said that concession at that stage would be worse than cowardice. It would be the consecration of revolt; besides, it would not save them. "Listen to the cries below the windows," he exclaimed. "They are the howling of wild beasts for their prey. Let us have no concessions. What is required for the monarchy and the capital is to proclaim a state of siege, and to oppose to the daggers of revolution the swords of the faithful Austrians." The majority of the council, however, were for surrender. Count Latour reluctantly signed the order - " The firing is everywhere to cease." This announcement was received with loud cheers, but the insurgents still pressed on. They made prisoners of the military guard, rushed in, and surrounded Count Latour. He offered to resign his post, and a portion of the National Guard endeavoured to save him; but he was seized, buffeted, and dragged down to the court-yard, where he was smitten with sledge-hammers, axes, and scythes, and then hung from a lamp-post, where his body remained twenty-four hours suspended as a target for the National Guards. His garments were cut in pieces and carried off as trophies.

The insurgent multitude had now tasted blood. They were wild with excitement, and determined to go through with the revolution at all hazards. Their next step was to attack the arsenal, and get possession of the arms and ammunition; but it was stoutly defended by a body of soldiers within, who replied to the summons to surrender, by running out guns at the gate, and sweeping the Reinegasse with grape and canister, which killed and wounded a great number of the insurgents, who, notwithstanding, returned to the charge, and repeated their attempts to get possession of the building. The committee of students sent several flags of truce to the garrison; but the bearers were shot dead on the spot. The insurgents now rendered furious, and aided by the revolted troops and the artillery of the National Guard, maintained a terrible fire against the building, which was continued during the night. At length it took fire, and, dreading the explosion of the magazine, the garrison surrendered.

The triumphant rebels immediately took possession of all the arms and ammunition, which were distributed amongst the citizens. The populace ran riot through the building, which contained a sort of museum of the most interesting relics of the Austrian monarchy - ancient arms, suits of armour, trophies, the swords of celebrated heroes, helmets worn by monarchs, &c. The swords of Sunderberg and Prince Eugène were proudly brandished by dirty mechanics. The helmets of Charles V. and Francis I. adorned plebeian heads; while the arms of Wallenstein and Daun were tossed from hand to hand, to gratify the ignorant curiosity of the Red Republicans. The constituent assembly meantime appointed a "committee of public safety," and sent a request to the Emperor to dismiss his reactionary cabinet, to appoint a popular Ministry, to remove Jellachich from his command, to revoke the last proclamation against the Hungarians, and to grant a general amnesty for all offences committed during the insurrection. The Emperor yielded so far, that he authorised two leading members of the Assembly to form a government. But the revolutionary party refused to accept any half measures. They demanded that the committee of public safety should assume the dictatorship to the exclusion of the Emperor, and forbid the commander of the army, Count Auersperg, to obey his orders. Immediately upon this appeared a proclamation, addressed to the insurgents, which said: - "People of Austria, Europe will regard you with admiration, and history will place our elevation to freedom as one of its most illustrious exploits." They also required that despatches should be sent to the Southern Railway, and forwarded to Olmutz and Bremen, to bring no more troops to Vienna.

In the face of these events, we cannot wonder that the Emperor felt that the Committee of Safety would not be likely to spread its protecting wings over him, and that he could find safety only by departing as quickly as possible from the focus of revolution. Therefore, before daybreak on the 7th of October, he and the rest of the Imperial family were driving rapidly on the road to Olmutz, escorted by a body of cavalry. He left behind him a sealed proclamation, in which he stated that he had done all that a Sovereign could do - he had left his ancestral castle, and come to his people in Vienna with full confidence in their loyalty; and he had renounced the unlimited power inherited from his forefathers. But all was in vain. A small band of misled men threatened to destroy the hope of every true patriot. Anarchy was at its height; Vienna was teeming with murders and conflagrations. His Minister, whose age, if nothing else, might have protected him, expired under the strokes of assassins. He trusted in God and his just rights, and left the capital to bring succour to his oppressed people. Kraus, one of the new Ministers, who brought this proclamation to the Assembly, denounced it as "unconstitutional and threatening," and stated that he had refused to countersign it. The preceding night was described by an Austrian journal as decidedly the most anxious one Vienna had witnessed since the bombardment of Napoleon, in 1809. "Till dawn the streets swarmed with armed men scattered in groups, and now and then a patrol. At the corners of the streets, in the public squares, before the cafés, crowds were assembling discussing the events. The silence of the night was interrupted at intervals by reports of fire-arms, especially in the direction of the Wieden and the high road (Auersperg's quarters), which attracted universal attention. On and around the barricades men were sleeping in blouses, fully armed; women and girls, not of the most respectable appearance, were mingled among them, Some laughing and talking, others, like the men, sleeping on heaps of stones. The walls and bastions of the city offered a most animated appearance. One line of watch-fires stretched as far as the eye could reach, each surrounded by students in Calabresian cloaks, men in blouses, artisans with their sleeves tucked up to their elbows, National Guards, and others. Above the gates guns are pointed to sweep the approaches of the city; artillery-men, students, and workmen, on duty near them, with lighted matches. Patrols of every description parade the walls in regular beats. There could not have been fewer than 10,000 men on the bastions."

Meantime Count Auersperg, who had under his command about 20,000 men, had stationed them in the gardens of the palace of Prince Schwartzenberg, and near the Belvedere Palace, on heights which commanded the city, with his head-quarters at Engersdorf. There he waited till the succour came which the Emperor had promised. It was not long delayed. From Radetsky triumphant in Italy, from Windischgrâtz at Prague, and from Jellachich in Hungary, came assurances that they were making haste to rally round the Emperor's flag, and to cause it to wave in triumph over the vanquished revolution. The latter with his Croats moved up with forced marches, availing himself of the Southern Railway, and on the 9th he was within two hours' march of Vienna.. The object which he avowed in this rapid and important movement was, that by supporting the Emperor he might advance the Sclavonian cause. He wrote at the time to friends in Bohemia, " It was my duty as. a faithful and sincere Sclavonian, to oppose in Pesth the anti-Austrian party, which rose in arms against Sclavonianism. But as I approached Pesth, that nest of the Magyar aristocracy, our common enemies rose, and had they conquered in Vienna, my victory in Pesth would have been incomplete, and the mainstay of our enemies would have been Vienna. Therefore I turned with the whole of my troops to Vienna, in order to chastise the enemies of Sclavonianism in the Austrian capital. I was led solely by the conviction that in approaching Vienna I was advancing against the enemies of Sclavonianism."

On the news of the approach of this formidable enemy, consternation seized the Viennese. The Ban, in order to increase their terror, had sent forward to order rations for 60,000 men - double the actual number. Crowds of people ascended to the tops of houses and thronged the church steeples, in order to catch a glimpse of the invading hosts, which now came distinctly into view, and in their varied uniforms and costumes presented a novel and striking picture. " First came the Illyrians, with their red caps; next the Scoregranes, wrapped in their scarlet mantles; the Croatians, with their grey, broad- brimmed hats, with no uniform but a grey blouse, and a fusil and dagger. With these were mingled large bodies of Austrian cavalry and artillery, clad in the Imperial uniform. Farther off to the east, clouds of cavalry and the neighing of steeds, heard even at so great a distance, announced the approach of the Magyar horse and the army of Hungary, intended to co-operate with the insurgents. It seemed as if all the forces of the monarchy were assembled at a rendezvous under the walk of Vienna for a grand military tournament. On the evening of the 12th Jellachich effected his junction with Auersperg in the gardens of the Belvedere, and their united forces amounted to 50,000 combatants."

The tide of fortune now turned in favour of the Emperor. The devoted Windischgrätz was rapidly approaching with his army from Prague, whose magistrates and people at once became intensely loyal, when they learned that the contest was now one of races, between the Sclavonians and the Magyars. The reinforcements brought by Windischgrätz swelled the Imperial forces at Vienna to 70,000 men. In the presence of this host, hanging like an immense thunder-cloud charged with death and ruin over the city, the citizens relied chiefly upon the Hungarian army. But this was held in check by the Croatian army, and Kossuth deeming it prudent not to enter into the contest, withdrew his troops within the bounds of Hungarian territory. But the democrats prepared for a determined resistance. They erected barricades, they fortified all available positions of defence; while the popular clubs, as well as the National Assembly, sat in permanence. Even the enemies of the democracy have recorded, to their honour, that life and property were scrupulously respected by the insurgents, and that during the time they had the city completely under their command, no acts of robbery or outrage sullied the Austrian character. During the days of suspense, the awful pause before the strokes of despotic vengeance fell upon the democrats, hosts of recruits poured into the city from foreign countries, especially Poles, experienced revolutionists, always ready to join any battle against the oppressors of their country. Among them was the celebrated General Bern, who had saved the Polish army from destruction at Austrolenka in 1831. Being one of the ablest and most renowned commanders of his time, his accession was hailed with enthusiasm by the insurgents. They had also been encouraged by the arrival of Robert Blum, who, with two others, came as a deputation from the assembly at Frankfort, to congratulate the Viennese on their glorious revolution. These gentlemen were so enthusiastic in the cause, that they at once joined the ranks of its defenders, and bore their part gallantly in the tremendous struggle that ensued. Blum was a journalist at Leipsic, and one of the members of the Frankfort Diet. After some days of silent preparation on both sides, Prince Windischgrätz, who had assumed the supreme command, announced the terms on which he would spare the city. Among these were the following: - " Within forty-eight hours after receipt of this present, the city of Vienna, with its faubourgs and neighbourhood, are to surrender; and by detachments the inhabitants are to give up their arms at some place appointed for that purpose, with the exception of private fire-arms; the dissolution of all armed corporations and of the academical legion; the University to be closed; the president of the academical legion and twelve students to be made hostages. Certain individuals, hereafter to be named, are to be given up to me."

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Vienna 1848
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