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Austria page 8


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In the meantime General Bern made his way by a circuitous route to Gorgei's head-quarters, in order to persuade him to continue the war, contending that they could still muster an army of 100,000 men. Görgei argued that this was impossible, destitute, as they were, of everything; without food, ammunition, shoes, or clothing. The gallant Pole was indignant; his heart was too full for utterance, and, rejecting the proffered hand of Görgei, he mounted his horse and galloped off to the forest of Lugos, where a small band of faithful followers awaited him. It was midnight when he arrived, and taking his stand under one of the forest trees, the stars shining brightly, he addressed the heroic band thus: - " Hungary approaches its last hour. Betrayed by men, rather than deserted by the chances of war, she is about to lay down her arms before the imperial eagles of the Emperor Nicholas, and bow before the Prince of Warsaw. To-morrow the imperial bulletins will proclaim to Europe. Order reigns in Pesth. ' Soldiers! soldiers! you know what that order is. It is the order of Warsaw - the abuse of victory - the order of the executioner! I have no wish to influence or even know your intentions; but I will tell you what are my own. As long as I have an inch of steel in my hand, or a brave man at my side, I will defend the cause to which I have devoted my body, my soul, my blood, and my life! " The heroic soldier explained to his devoted followers that it was not in Hungary that the cause could now be maintained and that they must look for aid to foreign lands. Then, at the head of a few hundred volunteers, he pursued his course towards the Wallachian mountains.

Görgei now prepared to take the last step. In a letter to the Russian General, Rudiger, he said, " The greater, and I may say the better, part of the nation have not entered lightly into this contest; but after having been drawn into it by a number of honourable men who appertain to foreign lands, they have persevered in the contest firmly, honourably, and not, as you know, without glory and success. I now perceive that further effusion of blood would be useless, and fatal to Hungary, as I foresaw would be the case from the moment of the Russian intervention. I have invited the Provisional Government to resign their power, which was every day more and more compromising the fate of Hungary. They have acknowledged this truth, and done so by resigning their power into my hands. Influenced by these feelings, and in order to stop the effusion of blood, and deliver my fellow-citizens from the horrors of war, I lay down my arms. In acting thus, I place my confidence in the well-known generosity of His Majesty the Czar; and I flatter myself with the hope that he will not abandon to their sad fate my brave companions in arms, who, formerly officers in the Austrian service, have found themselves involved, by the force of circumstances, in a war with that power. I indulge the hope that the Emperor of Russia will net deliver over the people of Hungary, bowed down under the weight of misfortune, to the blind thirst for vengeance in their enemy. It may be enough if I am the sole expiatory victim for all. Hasten then, general, to take the necessary steps to ensure that the sad spectacle of disarming may be witnessed only by the troops of the Emperor of Russia; for I declare solemnly that I would rather sacrifice my whole army in a hopeless contest, than lay down its arms without conditions before the Austrian forces. To-morrow I shall march to Vilagos, the day after to Barassino, and on the 14th to Biel; I indicate these points, in order that you may know how to place your army between mine and the Austrians. Surround me on all sides, and separate me from them."

Görgei now summoned a council of war, and having laid this letter before them, without a word of comment, he left the room. It received their unanimous approval, which they signified officially. The Russian Commander-in-Chief received the letter with satisfaction, and prepared to act on it. Next day, at twelve o'clock, at a place called Szollos, near Vilagos, where two roads meet, the mournful ceremony of surrendering their arms was performed by the Hungarian army. At the appointed hour, Görgei repaired to the spot, at the head of his staff, and riding forward alone, he met Count Rudiger, who also advanced alone to meet him, offering his right hand. An exclamation burst from the Hungarians of joyful surprise at this proof of esteem from the victor to the leader of the vanquished. The Count agreed that the general officers should retain their arms, and all possible courtesy was shown to men who had won so many laurels, and suffered so many trials for their country. The Hungarian army consisted of 28,000 men, with 140 guns. They were arranged in two lines, the cavalry forming the wings. The Russian army was drawn up before them in splendid array on the great plain. At four o'clock Görgei and his generals rode forward in the front between the two armies, Rudiger, with his staff, riding forward to meet them, the drums at the same time beating along the whole Russian line. The infantry laid their arms on the ground, two yards in front, and the cavalry hung their swords on the pommels of their saddles, the Russians presenting arms during the operation. At a second roll of drums, the ranks were broken, the cavalry dismounted, the muskets of the infantry were piled in pyramids, the artillery were drawn close together and unmanned, the flags and standards lay prostrate before the disarmed ranks. The Governors of the various Hungarian strongholds were ordered to surrender them at once. Klapka, who had a powerful garrison in Komorn, held out till he received an urgent letter from Görgei, commanding him to surrender. " General," he said, " the die is cast, our hopes are crushed, our power has been broken by the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine, aided by the armies of Russia. The struggles and the sacrifices of our great nation were fruitless, and it were madness to persevere. General, you will think my actions at Vilagos mysterious and even incredible. I will explain my motives to you and to the world. I am a Hungarian. I love my country above all things, and I followed the dictates of my heart, which urged me to restore peace to my poor and ruined country, and thus to save it from perdition." He then, in virtue of his office as dictator, summoned Klapka to follow his example. In another communication of a private nature addressed to the same General, Görgei betrays the bitterness of his own feelings, respecting some of the circumstances that led to the ruin of the cause. He said, " The eternal disunion of the Provisional Government, and the vulgar jealousy of some of its members, have brought matters to the point which I have foreseen since April last. When I passed the Theiss at Tokay, and gained brilliant advantages over the Russians, the Government expressed a desire to make me Commander-in-Chief. Kossuth, in secret, named Bern; but the nation looked for my appointment, for Kossuth had given a perfidious answer to the Diet. Much deceit has been the cause of all our subsequent evils." The soldiers of the Komorn garrison were offered rank in the Austrian army corresponding to their own; but they declined, saying, "We will serve our country again, if need be."

It is interesting to read Kossuth's account of the end, which he gives in a letter to Batthyani, dated Arad, August 11th. He says, "Gorgei's conquest of Ofen was the last gleam of the setting sun of the Republic, for immediately afterwards Dembinski was defeated in the north, and Perezel in the south; then Görgei fell into his fatal position at Komorn, and finally Bern was compelled to retreat before Luders. My slender hopes of being able, by resorting to extraordinary measures, to give our cause a more favourable turn have been wholly destroyed by the shameful ingratitude of Görgei; for the sudden revelation and execution of his plans which I had long perceived and feared, was a treason to the cause of the nation, and inflicted on me, and through me on the Republic, a death-blow. Our misfortune has cost us 200,000 cannon-balls; and a flight, already become dangerous, is the grave of so many glorious victories. Our cause is now utterly lost. The immense fatigues I have lately undergone have wearied my spirits, and shattered my bodily strength. I sigh for repose. My greatest consolation in my present critical position is the knowledge that those most dear to me after my native land - my family - are in safety."

Paskievitch and the other Russian generals behaved to the vanquished like Christians and gentlemen. The former pleaded earnestly with the Emperor of Austria, imploring him to extend his clemency to all the officers and soldiers who had been engaged in the insurrection. But the Emperor was deeply mortified at the humiliation of having to call for Russian aid against his own rebellious subjects; he was vexed at the horror the Hungarians felt about surrendering to his army, as well as jealous of the magnanimity of the Muscovites. He therefore answered the Russian appeal, that he had sacred duties to perform towards his other subjects, which, as well as the general good of his people, he was obliged to consider. The warmest apologists of Austria were forced to condemn the vindictive and cruel policy now adopted. "These words," says Alison, "were of ominous import; they froze every heart with norror." Görgei was pardoned and offered rank in the Russian army, which he declined, and Klapka escaped by the terms of his capitulation; but fourteen other Hungarian officers of the highest rank were cruelly immolated to Austrian vengeance, namely - General Damjanics, Count Leiningen Sandor, General Count Vicszey, General Schwirdel, General Desewffy, General Lagar, Count Ernest Kiss, Count Aulich, Colonel Zorot, Colonel von Poltenberg, Major Lahour, Captain Knezich, and Count Czaryi. The historian just quoted remarks; " The death on the scaffold of brave men, whose military exploits had recently filled all Europe with admiration, excited a universal feeling of horror. They all behaved nobly. Damjanics, with his leg broken, was conveyed in a carriage to the place of execution, and was spectator of the deaths of his friends. 'It is strange,' he said, ' that I should be the last here. I used to be the first in the attack.' " The mass of the Hungarian troops, with their inferior officers, were allowed to return to their homes, and soon after 70,000 of them entered the Austrian service, and were drafted into other provinces, to assist in keeping down the democracy and the nationalities, which its Government sought in vain to compress into one body politic. A rather farcical conclusion of the horrid Hungarian drama was the jealousy between the conquerors. Haynau published a general order congratulating his troops on their victories over the Hungarians, without the slightest allusion to the Russians. The Czar retaliated in a proclamation to his army, in which he ascribed everything to their valour, and utterly ignored the Austrians.

But of all the atrocities which stained the name of Austria, and brought down upon her the execration of the civilised world, none was so base and infamous as the judicial murder of Count Batthyani. This illustrious man was sprung from one of the noblest and most ancient of the Hungarian families. He had been, throughout his public life, the consistent supporter of the liberal party, and a leading member of the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament; anxious to maintain the connection with Austria, but, at the same time, to see his country restored to her ancient rights as an independent state, united by the crown to Austria, just as Hanover had been united to England. When the troubles commenced in 1848, he exerted himself to the utmost as a mediator, going frequently to Innsbruck, in order, if possible, to effect a reconciliation between the Sovereign and his people. Failing in this, he resigned his office, and retired to his estates in Eisenberg. In December he returned to Pesth, and took part in the proceedings of the Parliament, where he always counselled moderation, and endeavoured to act as a mediator between the violence of conflicting parties. When it was proposed to move the Diet and the Government from Pesth to Debreczin, he earnestly protested against the measure, on the ground of its illegality; and he made a final effort at conciliation by getting a deputation appointed to wait upon Windischgrätz, in order, if possible, to effect a compromise between the King and his country. But as moderate reformers are always most hated by despots and their tools, the Austrian general, though he received the deputation, refused to see its most distinguished member, Count Batthyani. This was ominous. On the 8th of January, 1849, he was arrested at Pesth, dragged from the drawing-room of his sister-in-law, and incarcerated, first at Oedenburg, next at Labak, and then at Pesth. After nine months' confinement, he was tried by court- martial on the 6th of October, found guilty of high treason, and sentenced to be hanged. Having taken leave of his wife, he endeavoured, in the course of the night, to escape the infamy of such a death by opening the veins of his neck with a blunt paper-knife; but the attempt was discovered, and the surgeon stopped the bleeding. The sentence, however, was not executed according to the letter. Next day the noble patriot was shot, dying as he lived, "calm, majestic, and conscious of innocence. "His estates were confiscated, and his wife and children went into exile. Count Batthyani was a Boman Catholic. He was charged with having, as Prime Minister of Hungary, outstripped the administrative limits of that country, and weakened the legal bonds established by the pragmatic sanction of the empire, of having joined the insurgents, of having assembled the Diet dissolved by his Majesty, and of having fortified and maintained the cause of revolution. But a far heavier indictment might have been made against the King of Hungary himself, as having violated the pragmatic sanction, abolished the constitution, and perfidiously warred against the liberty of the country that he was sworn to protect; so that he was far the greater criminal, and if justice could have prevailed, would have been much more deserving of the gallows.

Kossuth, Bern, Dembinski, and some thousands of the Hungarian leaders, found refuge at Shumla, within the Turkish frontier. A joint and imperative demand was made by Austria and Russia upon the Sultan to deliver them up. This demand was enforced by two envoys from each court. The pressure was nobly resisted by the Sultan, who refused to yield to a demand which required him to violate his own honour, the national dignity, the dictates of humanity, and the most sacred rights of hospitality. He took this decided course at the risk of a rupture with Russia. But he was strongly supported by Lord Palmerston and the French Government. The refugees, numbering about 5,000 men, were removed to Kuthai, in Asia Minor, where they remained till August 22nd, 1851. On the 1st of September in that year the ex-governor of Hungary left Turkey. On his arrival at Marseilles, he was refused permission to travel through France; but he was hospitably received at Gibraltar and Lisbon, and on the 28th of October arrived safely in England, where he was welcomed with unbounded enthusiasm. In about a month he sailed for the United States, where he delivered lectures on European despotism, and where his progress from city to city was marked by a series of popular ovations. Some of the other refugees conformed to the Mussulman faith, which was required as the condition of their continued protection. Bern complied at once, remarking cavalierly that his mission was to fight against Russia, not to dispute about religion.

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Vienna 1848
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Kossuth
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Austrian troops
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Count Cavour
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