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Austria page 6


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Windischgrätz was, meantime, diligently preparing for the conquest of Hungary, with an army which numbered 65,000 men, with 260 guns. There was another force of 20,000 under Count Nugent, as a reserve, on the frontier of Styria, and a third of 14,000, to act on the north-east of Hungary, besides two or three smaller bodies in other parts. The Hungarians were able to bring 150,000 men into the field, with more than 2,400 guns - the army, including 20,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry, who had deserted from the Austrian service. Their main army was encamped near the Danube, prepared to operate against Windischgrâtz, another was placed under the command of General Bern, who had escaped from Vienna. In addition to these two armies, there were various smaller bodies being organised in Upper Hungary and Transylvania. The Hungarian army was largely made up by fresh levies, and was inferior in discipline as well as in numbers to the Austrians. The principal division of the army was under the command of Görgei, who had succeeded Moza after the defeat near Vienna. He had proved himself to be a man of decided military genius, with a talent for organising and a spirit which inspired his troops with unbounded confidence. He had first studied for the military profession, and he became a lieutenant of Hussars. He had, however, retired from the army, and was devoting himself to the study of chemistry, when, hearing that his country was in danger, he hastened to Pesth, and placed his sword at the service of the Government. He very soon won the confidence of Kossuth, and rose rapidly to the highest position in the Hungarian army, from which Moza was removed on account of his incapacity. But he had as yet no name which could inspire any alarm in the mind of the Imperial commander-in-chief. The latter marched on Raab in the last week of December, and having driven the Imperial rear-guard before him, he arrived at that town on the 26th, when he found it was evacuated by Görgei. The latter retired, in order to gain time for the formation of the armies in the interior, and because he apprehended that it would be disastrous to oppose his raw levies to the Austrian veterans. He conducted his retreat in a masterly manner in tempestuous weather, over a country without proper roads, and succeeded in reaching Pesth, though opposed by Jellachich, who took from him 700 prisoners. At Mour he was reinforced by General Perczel with 10,000 men, whom the Ban also attacked, making 2,000 prisoners. The retreat of Görgei and the defeat of Perczel greatly disheartened the Magyars; and rumours having spread that they had committed atrocities against the Croats and other friends of Austria, Windischgrâtz proclaimed a war of extermination against the inhabitants who should be found with arms, threatening that any village in which a single officer or courier was attacked should be levelled with the ground. On the 13th the Imperial army laid siege to Komorn, then one of the strongest places in Europe, with a large garrison, and amply supplied with munitions of war and provisions. Leaving part of his army before the place, Windischgrâtz marched on to Pesth, from which the Diet and Government had departed, taking with them the regalia of Hungary to Debreczin, which was thenceforth their head-quarters, They left just as the last hour of the old year sounded, Kossuth having waited till the new year dawned to drink a toast - " The first year of Hungarian independence." This movement might have had very disastrous results but for the skilful manoeuvring of Görgei, who so successfully attracted the attention of the enemy to himself, that the column which conducted an immense multitude of old men, women, and children, suffering from hunger and the intense severity of the weather, arrived at Debreczin unmolested. Kossuth issued a soul-stirring proclamation, calling on the Hungarians to rise and crush their enemies " like an avalanche which rolls down the sides of a mountain." Görgei, meantime, retired into the country, for the purpose of strengthening his army with recruits from the north of Hungary. By threatening the communications of the Austrians with Vienna, he obtained six weeks for accomplishing this necessary object. Leopoldstadt and Esseek had surrendered, the latter with 614 guns; but the two remaining Austrian strongholds, Komorn and Peterwardein, though closely blockaded, still held out. Bern had succeeded in collecting 30,000 men in Transylvania, whose inhabitants were enthusiastic in the cause, and he had them so well trained, that he drove the Austrians into the Banat. Görgei was not so fortunate in the material which he had to work upon, and he had a most overwhelming difficulties to contend with in his marches through the mountains. His troops had sometimes to force their way on roads covered with ice, and to cut through deep snow-drifts in narrow valleys overhung by precipices on either side, where they were liable to be overwhelmed by avalanches, and where Austrian detachments occupied the passes. Görgei having forced his way through all obstacles, at length reached the mountain summit, and descended by Iglo. There he had to encounter an Imperial army, under General Schlick, whom he drove back and compelled to retreat towards Eperies, after several desperate and sanguinary battles, though he describes his toil-worn and hungry troops as more like a crowd of beggars than a military array. At length he effected a junction with Colonel Klapka, which raised his forces to 21,000 men.

Windischgrâtz might have dealt a mortal blow at the head of the insurrection, if he had pushed on to Debreczin, the seat of the Hungarian government, where its military stores were collected, and where the means of defence were inadequate. But he remained for nearly two months in a state of inactivity at Pesth - a strange fact, of which no better account has been given than the state of the weather and the difficulty of the country to be traversed; for although his forces had been divided, he retained under his immediate command troops enough to enable an enterprising general to crush the revolt at this early period. This delay, however, was of immense advantage to the Hungarians. Kossuth still continued to prove himself not only an orator, whose speeches were invaluable to the cause, but an administrator, whose forethought and energy left nothing undone to provide it with material resources. He had obtained power from the Diet for an unlimited issue of paper money, which passed current everywhere in Hungary; and lie issued a decree, declaring Austrian money not a current medium of exchange in that country. It was, therefore, all called in to the Treasury, and Hungarian notes given in exchange. By this means, Kossuth obtained ample funds for the purchase of arms and ammunition in England, Belgium, and elsewhere. Thus furnished with the material of war, the eloquent Dictator sent forth thrilling appeals to the national spirit of the country, by which the whole population was wrought into a state of exalted patriotism and self-devotion. "Armed bands sprang up as if by magic from their mother earth. Old arms, which had hung undisturbed for centuries, since the Turkish wars, were taken down and furbished up; and the spectacle was exhibited of an entire nation taking up arms to combat, as they thought, for their king, their country, and their independence." At length Windischgrâtz moved forward to attack Debreczin; but before he arrived there, he was met by the Hungarian army at Kapolna, on the right bank of the Theiss. The forces of Görgei and Dembinski, another Hungarian general, had effected a junction, and the combined army now numbered 40,000 men with 225 guns. The Austrians were not so numerous; but they were veteran troops, and were confident of victory. The battle, which was expected on both sides to be decisive, commenced early on the 26th February, and lasted the whole day. It was one of the most fiercely-contested, obstinate, and bloody battles that had occurred in Europe in modern times. The fortunes of the day Varied, and the fight continued, until, night coming on, the exhausted troops on both sides lay down beside their guns and horses, unsheltered and without covering, upon the frozen ground. Next day the battle was resumed, when Windischgrâtz directed the fire of his batteries against the town of Kapolna, which was taken by assault. The united Austrian forces next made a determined attack on the Hungarian right, where Görgei commanded, and, after a severe contest, the Hungarians were driven back, which was the signal for a general retreat, the infantry and artillery flying in confusion, and the cavalry alone retiring in echelons, in a regular manner. Had the Austrian commander-in- chief followed up his victory, it is supposed the Hungarian cause would have been totally ruined on that day. Had the routed army - encumbered with artillery, baggage, and wounded men - been hotly pursued, they might have been driven into the Theiss, now swollen with winter torrents. But the Hungarians were permitted quietly to continue their retreat. Their defeat was no doubt due to the dissensions among their generals. Görgei, Klapka, and Vetter accused the commander-in-chief, Dembinski, of total incapacity. The soldiers joined their generals in denouncing his gross mismanagement, and he was accordingly deprived of his command. He should have been succeeded by Görgei or Klapka; but these two generals being rivals, the vacant post was conferred on Vetter, a man in whose ability neither had confidence. " You have given yourself a rival," said Dembinski to Kossuth, " who will soon overturn you. God grant it may not be on the ruins of Hungary! " The new general, however, exerted himself with vigour and effect to restore the spirit and strength of the army. He was zealously seconded by the other two generals, and was soon able to resume the offensive.

In the meantime, Bern had been conducting the war in the east, of Hungary with the most brilliant success. He was there encountered by the Austrian General Puckner, who had been shut up in the town of Hermanstadt with 4,000 men and eighteen guns, and Bern succeeded in completely cutting off his communications with the main Austrian army. Under these circumstances, the inhabitants of Hermanstadt and Kronstadt, on the Russian frontier, both menaced with destruction by the hourly increasing forces under Bern's command, earnestly implored the intervention of Russia. Puckner summoned a council of war, which concurred in the prayer for intervention. For this the Czar was prepared, and a formal requisition having been made by Puckner, General Luders, who had received instructions from St. Petersburg, ordered two detachments of his troops to cross the frontier, and occupy the two cities above mentioned. To this intervention Bern himself referred in the following terms, in a letter written to Lord Dudley Stuart: - " Between 18,000 and 20,000 Austrian troops with their generals, which the camarilla had employed to kindle and keep alive a civil war, performed their task throughout that country, called to their aid the Russians, 10,000 of whom came from Wallachia, and occupied the frontier towns of Hermanstadt and Kronstadt. This armed intervention of a foreign power threatened for a moment my progress. However, this state of things did not last long, and I was fortunate enough to beat both, to drive them entirely out of Transylvania, and to restore liberty to that unfortunate country. Such is the state of things at this moment. You can well imagine what pleasure I feel, when Fate puts it in my power to thrash (étriller) the Muscovites."

This Russian intervention had a decisive effect on the destiny of Hungary. The fortune of war had turned in favour of the Hungarians. A series of brilliant successes attended the national arms, the enthusiasm of the people was unbounded, and they fully expected to be able in a short time to drive the enemy out of the country. These hopes were raised very much by the fact that, owing to the illness of Vetter, Görgei succeeded to the post of commander-in-chief. Advancing towards Pesth, the two armies met again in force. Windischgrâtz hastened to the relief of Jellachich, who first coming into collision with the Hungarians, directed a tremendous fire of artillery upon a small corps commanded by Klapka, which fled in great confusion. Görgei met the panic-stricken fugitives, crying out that all was lost, that their battery was taken, and that Klapka was slain. But Gorgei's generalship soon turned the tide of battle. He brought up his best 'men, who boldly confronted the victorious Austrians, drove them back in confusion over the bridge they had crossed, and compelled them to take shelter behind some sand-hills on the other side. The brave Hungarian général resolved to follow Up his advantages. " Conquer to-day," he said, "or back behind the Theiss; such is the alternative; I know of no third. Damjanics still continues the battle; Aulich advances; Klapka has stopped his retreat. Forward! we must conquer." The position of the Hungarian army at this critical moment corresponded with the moral sublimity of the cause for which they were fighting. The Magyar forces were now all concentrated upon one battle-field in front of a forest, which had taken fire the day before, and which shot up vast columns of flames, in the lurid light of which both armies in grim array appeared in bold relief, photographed by the awful conflagration. The strategetic movements of Görgei were successful. The Hungarians won the battle of Isaszeg. Windischgratz's forces fell back on all sides. He concentrated his troops behind the Kakos, with the design of covering Pesth from any direct attack; but here again the old Austrian general was out-manœuvred by Görgei, who rapidly turned his left flank, forced him to abandon his covering position, to evacuate the capital of Hungary, and lay bare the road to Vienna. This masterly movement forced the Austrians to retire to Presburg, and concentrate their forces there, in order to protect the metropolis of the empire. Everything turned out according to Görgei's calculations. Görgei, acted with chivalrous honour in the hour of victory. General Gatz had been defeated in the town of Waitzen, and he himself had been struck dead by a ball in the forehead. Görgei ordered a splendid military funeral, which was followed by the discharge of 100 guns, in honour of the remains of the Russian general. At the same time all his private papers and effects were carefully transmitted to Windischgrätz. The tidings of these victories caused the greatest possible alarm at Vienna. Several cabinet councils were held; Windischgrätz, proved to be incompetent by a long train of disasters, was deprived of his command, and succeeded by General Weiden, Jellachich occupying the post provisionally till his arrival.

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