Ignác Török and the Organization of the Corps of Honvéd Military Engineers
Ignác Török is mostly known as the defender of the castle of Komárom as well as the leader and organizer of the corps of honvéd military engineers, this characterization is only partially true. He was in full charge of leading the corps of military engineers in the last month of the war of independence only, he had much more to do with the organization of the corps. Establishing an organizational unit for Hungarian military engineers started in the spring of 1849 only, when Ignác Török, stationed in the fortress of Komárom, set about the task locally. This was where those organizational principles were developed which provided a model for establishing the general corps of engineers. The paper points out that human resources, which were mostly available for other arms and services, were not sufficient for launching the military engineering service. The military engineer officers of the imperial and royal army, even though there were a surprisingly high number of them, were mostly stationed outside of Hungary, so they could not constitute a base for the military engineering corps. There were only six persons who were in service throughout the Hungarian war of independence, and all of them were compelled every now and then to participate in services other than military engineering. Of the military engineer officers in service in Hungary only three were fighting for the cause of the war of independence, and two of them belonged to the previous group. All this meant that establishing a corps of military engineers was only possible through involving civil engineers. Török's empathic and teacher-like temperament (he had been an instructor at the Noble Guards) made him ideal for the organizational job. However, it proved to be a rather challenging task to accommodate the civilian mentality of discussing politics to disciplined military thinking. Overcoming such problems were mostly successful when leadership roles were given to civilian engineers who had done military service in the imperial and royal army before either as military engineers or in some other services (like János Mihalik, for example). Dictated by necessity, the stopgap to place all military engineer officers with excellent military education in the new general staff was also a huge problem, which, until the spring of 1849, practically prevented the establishment of the Hungarian corps of military engineers (mainly due to the lack of cadres). It was only in May 1849 that a chief was appointed to lead the corps of military engineers, but general Miklós Gyulai Gaál was mostly involved in other areas. Because of this, it was Ignác Török who had to deal with the tough organizing task, which he could only start as an appointed chief in July, when the war of independence was already about to collapse. In spite of this, he attained spectacular results, his organizational principles used in Komárom were applied throughout the army. The involvement of civil engineers and other technical experts made it possible to establish a modern, effective military engineering service, which the military engineer general, who died as one of the martyrs of Arad, led resolutely until the day the council of war in Arad decided to surrender.
Ignác Török's Role in Organizing the Defense of Komárom
After several years of service, Ignác Török arrived in Komárom as a fortification administrator with ample experiences in military engineering in September 1848. From 7 January till 11 April 1849, he was also the constable of the castle. The extensive fortification system was one of the most important storage fortresses of the Habsburg Empire, but was not built to withstand a real siege. On behalf of the National Defense Committee, it was Török's task as fortification administrator to build ramparts in the Újszőny and Monostor-hegy region. These, however, had not been completed by the time the imperial armies laid the assault. Beside the construction of fortifications south of the Danube, preparations for defending the castle against a siege were also started. This included setting about fortifying the northern side at the river Vág and the Apály island. The construction works continued even during the siege of Komárom. The capture of the mountain Monostor-hegy by he imperial army made it necessary to fortify the Hadi island on the Danube. They continuously tried to upgrade the artillery system in the fortification by deploying heavy cannons, while they also constructed several bridges on the Danube and the river Vág to support the movement of troops. After consulting experts, it was Török who, as constable, made the decisions about the fortification works. He also managed to secure the funds necessary for the defense of the isolated fortress. It was due to his efforts that, from January 1849, Komárom could successfully withstand the attack of the imperial forces, which first circumvented then, from the middle of March, laid siege to the town. On 11 April 1849, he handed over his constable title to general János Lenkey, who had managed to get into Komárom. The Hungarian political and military leadership made use of his military engineering knowledge and experience later, too, for example, during the construction of a bridgehead near Esztergom and Párkány as well as a fortified camp in Szeged.
Heinrich Hentzi, the Leonidas of Buda Castle
Major general Heinrich Hentzi von Arthurm, who defended the castle of Buda during the siege of the honvéd army, was born in Debrecen on 24 October 1785 into a family of Swiss origin. He entered the imperial and royal army as a cadet in 1804, and was promoted to lieutenant in 1805. He participated in the campaigns against Napoleon in 1805, 1809 and 1813-1815, then he was promoted to major in 1828, lieutenant-colonel in 1834 and colonel in 1841. He was advanced to commandant of the imperial and royal pioneer corps in 1842, was granted title of nobility in 1844, then promoted to major general in 1847. He was a hard soldier, not too popular, but an expert in his field. In 1848, he became the commander of the garrison in Pétervárad, but when he was suspected of planning to hand over the fortress to the Serbian rebels, he was arrested in the middle of December 1848, sent to Pest and kept in home detention. At the beginning of January 1849, he remained in town after the evacuation of the capital. After the imperial and royal armies entered the town in January 1849, he reported for military service before field-marshal Alfred zu Windisch-Grätz, the commander in chief of the imperial and royal army, and the prince promoted him to commander of the castle of Buda. In 1848-1849, Buda could not be regarded as a state of the art fortress, but Hentzi did his best to make it defensible. The castle was connected to the Chain Bridge through a wooden fortress, which protected the water pump that provided water supply for the defenders in the castle. Between 4 and 21 August 1849, Hentzi could quite vigorously defend Buda against Görgei's armies, but his decision to bombard Pest was completely unjustifiable. On 21 May, he was fatally wounded during the decisive assault, and died on 21 May. Even though after the capture of Buda, first it was suspected that it was the commander's treason that lead to the fall of the castle, his death was in itself a clear denial of this theory. Franz Joseph I posthumously awarded him with the cross of the Order of Maria Theresa, and made his son a baron.
The Engineering Expertise and the Erudition of Honvéd General Miklós Gyulai Gaál
To this day, we barely have detailed portraits of the military leaders of the 1848-1849 Hungarian war of independence, we know very little of their education, expertise and erudition. Among them, Miklós Gyulai Gaál was one of the most qualified, who also had extensive knowledge and erudition. The paper discusses his major achievements as an engineer after his graduation at the military engineering academy in Vienna as well as his broad education. After he had graduated at the academy, he became a military engineer in the imperial and royal army, and worked mostly on designing structures for years, as part of his varied tasks required in the army. He realized it early that there were several engineering problems in the army with severe consequences. One such issue was the insufficient transfer of exhaust from heating devices and furnaces, which often resulted in the backdraft of smoke. In such cases airing was required, which caused severe colds often putting soldiers on the sick-list, especially in the winter. To solve this problem, Gaál constructed a heuristic chimney add-on, which did eliminate the problem during a long test. He described his proposal in detail in a small book published in Brünn (Brno) in 1837, which earned him a written commendation by his superiors. He also thoroughly studied group lavatories, in which pipe freezing caused a lot of troubles, including leaking sewage damaging the walls. Gaál designed a solution which prevented such issues during a long test period. He published his design, which was environmentally friendly, in a booklet in Brünn in 1841. The paper examines these two printed books on engineering problems by Gaál as both can be regarded as unprecedented examples of Hungarian building engineering. He participated in the competition announced in 1844 for designing a new parliament building in Pest, and his plan was accepted, which bears witness to the fact that its quality was up to the rather stringent requirements of the tender. But it is not just his military and engineering expertise that makes Gaál one of the most notable generals of the war of independence: he also excelled with his wide education. He could speak several languages. He was not just a music lover and expert, but he could also play the violin and even composed music. He was also conversant with literature and astronomy, and he created several artistic drawings and paintings. An early, small selfportrait of his is kept in the Hungarian National Gallery. Several of his paintings created during his imprisonment after the suppression of the war of independence are kept in the Ereklyemúzeum in Arad.
The Friendship of Count István Széchenyi and József Lonovics
Count István Széchenyi and the bishop of Csanád, József Lonovics knew each other as early as the in the 1830s. At the time, their relationship was official but it is remarkable that the count – who had a tendency to make cutting remarks about his contemporaries, including clerics – was always respectful when talking about Lonovics. On 19-20 August 1836, during his visit to Temesvár, the count described Lonovics as a “smart” person, and from the 1840s onwards he mentioned the bishop of Csanád more and more often in his diaries. This is notable because Széchenyi, after the beginning of the 1840s, took a political stance that was both pro-government and was representative of the civil reform movement, while Lonovics, though not averse to certain reforms, was primarily supporting the government. Their concerns about the politics of the opposition brought the two men together. Despite the fact that they disagreed on some fundamental questions (for example, railway construction), they started meeting more often. In September 1846, Lonovics traveled to Szeged at Széchenyi's request, and the tone of his letter of invitation is noteworthy because it seems to suggest that their relationship was official rather than friendly at that time. Though the last paragraph bears witness to the fact that Széchenyi still had confidence in the bishop, the prospects and general state of health of whom he also described. It seems as if the distance between them had grown before the revolution, though Széchenyi still counted on József Lonovics' support for some of his political plans, for example, at the conference of conservative magnates at the end of December 1847. After 1848, they met again in Döbling in January 1854. Lonovics did play a part in soothing Széchenyi's self-condemnation, but his involvement has often been overestimated. Later, the count was always happy to welcome the one-time bishop, and they stroke up a friendship on the basis of the elements of their long-term relationship. Széchenyi thought highly of Lonovics' erudition, and never made biting remarks of him or made fun of him, unlike of other visitors. On the other hand, Lonovics could recognize Széchenyi's historical role and significance, and, in the end, this mutual respect turned into friendship. There were several factors that facilitated the development of their friendship: Széchenyi's position, their Christian belief, their common interest in Anglo-Saxon culture as well as the political environment of the era. Lonovics came very close to becoming an intimate friend as it was not only political issues that the count discussed with him but also personal problems, including his and his wife's. They recommended books to each other and they were reading several newspapers together. Their friendship was not shaken by the fact that Lonovics was critical of Anglo-Saxon Liberalism, the system Széchenyi was endeavoring to adapt to Hungary. Lonovics was always welcome as the count enjoyed his witty erudition, while Lonovics thought highly of Széchenyi's knowledge, reasoning ability and ambitious projects that he managed to realize. Both of them were critical of the system, even though it was Lonovics who could, every now and then, influence Széchenyi's political moves. In this period, they already regarded each other as friends. After Széchenyi's suicide, Lonovics made it clear to the count's widow that they had been on friendly terms.
In Pursuit of a Legend. Count Károly Vécsey's Hand-Kiss in the Shadow of the Gallows Tree
The history of the 1848-1849 Hungarian revolution, self-defensive war and war of independence became an organic part of our national mythology in the past 150 years. Several cults, myths and legends intertwine with the events, and it is often very difficult to separate reality from myth. This is a sign of how firmly a nation hangs on to this glorious chapter in its past, to relive it not only rationally, but also emotionally. Of course, we need to safeguard our legends but, for the sake of historical clarity, we also need to separate them from our factually verifiable image of the past. In most books, historical essays and publications, memorial TV and radio shows paying tribute to the martyrs executed in Arad on 6 October 1849, the following romantic episode has kept cropping up for decades. Being the last of the thirteen to appear under the gallows tree, count Károly Vécsey, as there was nobody left alive to say farewell to, stepped up to the dead body of János Damjanich, who was hanged just before him, and kissed his hands. This episode is peculiar as it was widely known that the two honvéd generals had not been on good terms. After the battle of Szolnok on 5 March 1849, they were quarreling so furiously that the revolutionary government decided to command Vécsey elsewhere. It also intensified the romantic overtones of the episode that Danjanich was of Serb origin, while Vécsey was the offspring of a Hungarian noble family. So the hand-kiss could hold a lot of connotations. The paper examines the authenticity of this scene, and through a systematic analysis of the sources, it tries to find out whether count Károly Vécsey actually kissed the hands of János Damjanich before he got executed. It is remarkable that the story did not come up in the accounts of those priests and ministers who accompanied the martyrs on their last journey. We have to see that the hand-kissing is first mentioned in 1895, that is forty seven years after the event, by a journalist of Budapesti Hírlap, who wrote the story on the basis of the recollections of a civilian. We do not even know if this person existed at all and, as far as we know, his memoirs did not survive, either. Yet, the story of the hand-kiss started to spread rapidly. In the fifth volume of György Gracza's work on the history of the war of independence we can even find a drawing illustrating the episode, then Ödön Hamvay's summary, which pays tribute to the martyrs, describes passionately the sublimity of the scene. These works were published in the second half of the 1890s. However, it is revealing that as early as 1899 a witness published an authentic refutation, clearly denying that Vécsey kissed Damjanich's hand. The paper examines source material from the second half of the 19th century (and some from the 20th), and comes to the conclusion that the hand-kiss episode is a fabrication of romantic past-construction and legend creation in the 1890s.