Second Battle of Komárom (1849)

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Second Battle of Komárom
Part of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848
Komáromi csata II Than 2.jpg
The Second Battle of Komárom. A painting by Mór Than
Date2 July 1849
Location
Result Hungarian victory[1]
Belligerents
Flag of Hungarian Revolution of 1848.png Hungarian Revolutionary Army Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austrian Empire
Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Hungarian Revolution of 1848.png Artúr Görgei (WIA)
Flag of Hungarian Revolution of 1848.png György Klapka
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Julius Jacob von Haynau
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Franz Schlik
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Ludwig von Wohlgemuth
Flag of Russia.svg Feodor Sergeyevich Panyutyin
Strength
Total: 26,884[2] (27,400)[3] men
- II. corps: 5925
- III. corps: 7766
- VII. corps: 10,661
- VIII. corps: 2444
131[4] (134)[5] cannons
Total: 52,185[6] (58,938)[7] men
- I. corps: 18,523
- Reserve corps: 15,549
- Cavalry division: 4259
- Panyutyin division: 11,672
- Other units: 2187
234[8] (216)[9] cannons
Did not participated:
III. corps: 12,558 men
42 cannons[10]
Casualties and losses
Total: 1500 men Total: 890 men
- 140 dead
- 588 wounded
- 162 missing and captured[11]
Memorial column for the Battle of Ács

The Second Battle of Komárom, sometimes known as the Battle of Ács, took place at 2 July 1849, between the Hungarian army led by General Artúr Görgei and the imperial army of Austria led by Field Marshal Julius von Haynau, which had also an almost 12 000 strong Russian contingent led by Lieutenant General Fyodor Sergeyevich Panyutyin. The imperial army outnumbered the Hungarian troops by 2 to 1, was superior also regarding the multitude of infantry (landwehr, grenadiers, seressaner, kaiserjägers) and light (uhlans, dragoons, cossacks, chevau-léger) as well as heavy (cuirassiers) cavalry unit types (while the Hungarians except the landwehr, called in Hungarian Honvéd, and the hussars, had numerically very few other kinds of units), and the quality of the weapons. Except the problems of military kind, problems of other kind also influenced negatively the Hungarian army. Short before the battle, the conflict between the Hungarian commander, Görgei, and the political leadership of Hungary, Lajos Kossuth and the Szemere-Government, escalated abruptly. The government lead by Kossuth, decided to retreat the Hungarian troops from the perfectly defendable Komárom to Southern Hungary, leaving half of the country in the hands of the enemy, without consulting the war minister Görgei, who was the only person with the right to take a military decision. Görgei considered this illegal decision as very wrong, but he accepted to execute it, in order to avoid the confrontation with the political leadership in such a critical military situation, fixing the date of the depart towards southern Hungary to 3 July. But despite of this, on 31 June Kossuth laid off Görgei from the high commandement of the Hungarian army, because he had read two of the latters letters in the wrong order. All these caused uncertainity and conflicts among the Hungarian officers and also soldiers before this very important enemy attack. Kossuth even sent Lieutenant General Lázár Mészáros to Komárom, to take the leadership from Görgei, and send him to Pest. But when Mészáros approached on 2 July, on a steam boat, to Komárom, he heard the gunshots of the battle, and returned to Pest.
The Austrian Supreme Commander Field Marshal Julius Jacob von Haynau's plan was to force the Hungarian troops to retreat in the fortress of Komárom, to lay, with a part of his army, a siege against it from the south, opening in this way the road towards Buda and Pest. After accomplishing this goal the bulk of Haynau's troops had to advance towards East, and occupy the Hungarian capitals, before his allies, the Russian main troops led by Ivan Paskevich, arrived there.
The battle started on the early morning of 2 July with the attack of the I corps led by General Franz Schlik of the imperial troops from the direction of Ács, chasing quickly away the Hungarians from the Ács forrest, then pushing them into the fortifications lying South from Komárom, and even capturing the Monostor-trenches, thus entering in the fortifications, menacing to occupy the whole southern fortification and trench system of the fortress, putting in danger the Hungarian troops from there, to be completely encircled.

Artúr Görgei was not expecting a major enemy attack in that day, and, forseeing that he will be dismussed from the military leadership, and knowing the animosity of the political class against him, in that night and early morning, right when the enemy attack started, he was writing a letter in which he explained the causes of his military decisions, accusing Kossuth for the military and political problems. He stopped the writing when he heard the sound of the gunshots of the battle, and rushed to the battlefield. He arrived on the battlefield, and faced the disastrous situation, in which the Hungarian VIII corps was fleeing from the battlefield, letting the Western external trenches of the fortress and some of the fortifications in the hands of the Austrians. The Hungarian main commander, after trying in vain to convince them to fight the advancing Austrians, stopped the rout of the Hungarian soldiers of the VIII corps by commanding grapeshots and volley fire against them, managing with this extreme method to stop them, then ordering them to regroup, and with the support of the VII and II corps, to chase away Schlik's troops from the fortifications, as well as from the Ács forrest. The Hungarian counter attack, supported from South (the Herkály waste) by the Hungarian cavalry of the VII corps, led by General Ernő Poeltenberg, put in danger the Austrian left flank commanded by General Franz Schlik to be cut from the rest of the imperial army, but the latter was saved by the involvement in the fights of the Russian division led by Lieutenant General Fyodor Panyutyin and the Austrian Simbschen-brigade of the I. corps, which forced Poeltenberg to retreat, in order to escape the encirclement, thus stopping the Hungarian advancement.
During these fights on the imperial troops left flank, on the right flank, the Austrian brigade of the IV (reserve) corps, led by General Lajos Benedek occupied Ószőny, which opened the way of the imperials towards Buda and Pest. General György Klapka, the commander of the Hungarian III corps, ordered several counter attacks to reoccupy this crucial locality, but despite some initial successes, his troops were forced to retreat.
During these events Haynau was totally unaware of the situation on the battlefield, and thought that his troops had already won the battle, ordering his center (the IV corps) to retreat from the battlefield, thus putting his army in danger to be destroyed by a Hungarian attack, by cutting his lines in two. Görgei noticed the opportunity, and tried to concentrate his cavalry in the middle, massing also important artillery units there. Luckily for Haynau, his brigade commanders (Simbschen, Ludwig, Lederer), as well as Panyutyin, understood the danger and intervened with their troops, closing the gap from their forefront.
Görgei understood how crucial is to retake Ószőny from the enemy, so he decided to force them to send reinforcements from the flanks towards the centre, by commanding an attack with the concentrated cavalry and artillery of the Hungarian army under his control in the middle. Klapka also sent the cavalry of the III corps in the middle to help Görgei, hoping that this will force Benedek to weaken his troops from Ószőny, sending reinforcements to the centre. The Hungarian hussar charge was commanded personally by Görgei and Poeltenberg, putting to flight many units of the enemy cavalry. The Hungarian artillery, which followed the cavalry, started a cannonade which hit the Austrian headquarters from Csém where the emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was observing the battle, forcing him and the main commander Haynau to retreat with the headquarters to Bana. The Hungarian cavalry attack, in which participated around 24 hussar companies (3000 riders), being the biggest Hungarian cavalry charge of the entire war, reached its goal, and forced General Benedek, to send reinforcements towards the center, which enabled Klapka, to recapture Ószőny, from where the Austrians retreated in haste. The cavalry attack continued, when Görgei, who was leading the hussars, was hit in the head by a shell splinter shot by an enemy cannon, causing him a very heavy injury. Despite of this he remained sane - trying to send orders to his troops while his head was massively bleeding - until the end of the battle, when he finally fainted, remaining after that, unconscious for several days, being in the meanwhile operated a couple of times.
In the end, thanks to the reinforcements sent from the flanks, the enemy cavalries and artilleries massed infront of the Hungarian hussars, forming an important superiority, which finally pushed back the Hungarian cavalry, then both armies retreated from the battlefield. The battle ended around 8 pm.
The result can be considered a Hungarian victory, because Haynau's plans to close the Hungarian troops in Komárom, enabling to his army to occupy the Hungarian capitals, failed, and his troops were forced to retreat from every strategical position occupied during the battle. The total defeat of the imperial army was prevented not by Haynau, but by his subalterns, who recognised the danger created by their high commanders wrong decision to retreat his troops from the middle, and filled the gap, before the Hungarian cavalry arrived there.
The day after the battle the Hungarian generals learned about the deposition of Görgei from the high commandement by Kossuth, and protested against this decision, forcing him to let Görgei to continue to lead the Army of the Upper Danube. After 11 July Görgei was again in charge of the army, fighting successfully his way through Northern Hungary towards East against the 5 times bigger Russian army led by Ivan Paskevich.

Background[edit]

After the Battle of Győr the Hungarian army retreated to the fortress of Komárom, which was one of the most powerful and modern fortifications of the Habsburg empire.[12]

Görgei's chief of the Hungarian Operational Office, Colonel József Bayer (as well as the governments commissioner János Ludvigh) wrote to Kossuth to Pest about the news of the lost battle, pointing that the enemy may arrive in the vicinity the Hungarian capital in a short time, advicing him to move with the Szemere-Government to Nagyvárad under the protection of the army of general Józef Bem, while Görgei wanted to remain at Komárom, and lead a decissive attack against the Austrians, before the arrival of the Russian army. Initially Kossuth did not wanted to leave Pest, declaring to Bayer, that the government will leave the capitals only together with the Hungarian army.[13] Görgei wrote to Kossuth on 30 June again, summarizing his plans:
"For our nearest future I have a simple operational plan: here, under the protection of Komárom['s walls] to concentrate all our forces, except Bem's, Vetter's and [Lajos] Kazinczy's [troops], and to attack decisively the Austrians."[14]
The cause of Görgei's drastic plan of "putting all eggs in one basket" was that the military situation and fate of Hungary was in a very grave danger. As the result of the Austrian governments official help asking demand from Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, in the middle of June 1849, Hungary was invaded by a Russian army, consisting of 200 000 soldiers, which, together with the 170 000 Austrian soldiers already operating in Hungary, outnumbered with more than two to one the 170 000 Hungarian soldiers. Furthermore, the Russians also put 80 000 soldiers in stand by, near to the Carpathian Mountains, to intervene in the war, if necessary.[15] To these enemies we can also count the several tens of thousands of Romanian insurgents retreated in the Western Carpathians of Transylvania,[16] and Serbian insurgents and Croatian troops from Délvidék and Syrmia.[17] The enemy (the Austrian and the Russian troops) had also superiority regarding the quality and number of the weapons, the Hungarians suffering more and more from the shortage of the weapons and the ammunition. Among the riffles used by the Hungarians were the outdated flintlocks, or even hunting and ceremonial riffles, but also some percussion rifles and muskets, which shows that they were using every weapon they could gather.[18] Regarding the artillery, the enemy armies had 1354 cannons, while the Hungarians 857.[19] At the end of June 1849 the military situation in Hungary started to become more and more desperate for the Hungarians: the Russian troops, led by Field Marshal Ivan Paskevich, which entered from the North in 15th June, now were approaching Debrecen,[20] South-Eastern and Eastern Transylvania was invaded by two Austrian armies led by General Alexander von Lüders,[21] in Southern Hungary the Austrian and Croatian troops led by Lieutenant Field Marshal Josip Jelačić were advancing towards Szeged,[22] while the main Austrian army, led by Julius Jacob von Haynau, reinforced by a Russian division of Lieutenant General Feodor Sergeyevich Panyutyin from West, pushed Görgei's troops towards Komárom.[23] In this situation the political and military leaders of Hungary taught that militarily its impossible to defeat these huge enemy forces. So they thaught that the only way its to convince them to open political discussions with them for a compromise. In this situation the armies role was only to win time, with successful military operations, for the Hungarian political class, to bring the emperor to the negotiation table.[24]

Görgei believed that it is impossible against these so powerful enemies to win the war. He believed that, in this situation, the only chance to save at least partly the Hungarian independence, is that before the arrival of the Russian main forces in the vicinity of the Hungarian capitals and to Komárom, with the concentrated Hungarian forces under his command, to apply a crushing defeat against the Austrian main troops led by Haynau, which he hoped that it will force the Habsburgs to make an agreement with Hungary, instead of asking the Russian troops to defeat the Hungarians in their place, because this would cause a great loss of the prestige of Austria in Europe. In this case, Görgei hoped, that the Habsburg Empire will be forced to accept the Hungarian April Laws from 1848, abrogated by the by emperor Franz Joseph I. with the March Constitution, issued at the beginning of March 1849.[24]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hermann 2013, pp. 43.
  2. ^ Hermann 2004, pp. 303.
  3. ^ Csikány 2015, pp. 132.
  4. ^ Hermann 2004, pp. 303.
  5. ^ Csikány 2015, pp. 132.
  6. ^ Hermann 2004, pp. 303.
  7. ^ Csikány 2015, pp. 129.
  8. ^ Hermann 2004, pp. 303.
  9. ^ Csikány 2015, pp. 129.
  10. ^ Hermann 2004, pp. 303.
  11. ^ Hermann 2004, pp. 303.
  12. ^ Hermann 2004, pp. 27.
  13. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 344.
  14. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 344.
  15. ^ Hermann 2013, pp. 43.
  16. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 308-310.
  17. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 318.
  18. ^ Csikány 2015, pp. 132.
  19. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 318.
  20. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 330-332.
  21. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 333-336.
  22. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 321.
  23. ^ Hermann 2001, pp. 344.
  24. ^ a b Görgei Artúr Életem és működésem Magyarországon 1848-ban és 1849-ben, (2004)

Sources[edit]

  • Az 1848–1849-es szabadságharc története ("The history of the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848–1849) (in Hungarian). Budapest. ISBN 963-8218-20-7.
  • Bóna, Gábor (1987). Tábornokok és törzstisztek a szabadságharcban 1848–49 ("Generals and Staff Officers in the War of Independence 1848–1849") (in Hungarian). Budapest: Zrínyi Katonai Kiadó. p. 430. ISBN 963-326-343-3.
  • Csikány, Tamás (2015). A szabadságharc hadművészete 1848-1849 ("The Military Art of the Freedom War 1848-1849 1848–1849") (in Hungarian). Budapest: Zrínyi Katonai Kiadó. p. 382. ISBN 978-963-327-647-1.
  • Görgey, Artúr (2004). Életem és működésem Magyarországon 1848-ban és 1849-ben- Görgey István fordítását átdolgozta, a bevezetőt és a jegyzeteket írta Katona Tamás (My Life and Activity in Hungary in 1848 and in 1849). István Görgey's translation was revised by Tamás Katona, and also he wrote the Introduction and the Notes. Neumann Kht.
  • Hermann, Róbert (2001). Az 1848–1849-es szabadságharc hadtörténete ("Military History of the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848–1849") (in Hungarian). Budapest: Korona Kiadó. p. 424. ISBN 963-9376-21-3.
  • Hermann, Róbert (2004). Az 1848–1849-es szabadságharc nagy csatái ("Great battles of the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848–1849") (in Hungarian). Budapest: Zrínyi. p. 408. ISBN 963-327-367-6.
  • Hermann, Róbert (2013). Nagy csaták. 16. A magyar függetlenségi háború ("Great Battles. 16. The Hungarian Freedom War") (in Hungarian). Budapest: Duna Könyvklub. p. 88. ISBN 978-615-5129-00-1.
  • Pusztaszeri, László (1984). Görgey Artúr a szabadságharcban ("Artúr Görgey in the War of Independence") (in Hungarian). Budapest: Magvető Könyvkiadó. p. 784. ISBN 963-14-0194-4.