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Artúr Görgei de Görgő et Toporc (born Arthur Görgey; Hungarian: görgői és toporci Görgei Artúr, German: Arthur Görgey von Görgő und Toporc; 30 January 1818 – 21 May 1916) was a Hungarian military leader renowned for being one of the greatest generals of the Hungarian Revolutionary Army.

Artúr Görgei

de Görgő et Toporc
Görgei Artúr by Miklós Barabás.jpg
Artúr Görgei, painting by Miklós Barabás
Dictator of Hungary
Acting civil and military authority
In office
11 August 1849 – 13 August 1849
MonarchFrancis Joseph I
Prime MinisterBertalan Szemere
Preceded byLajos Kossuth
Succeeded byRevolution suppressed
Minister of War
In office
7 May 1849 – 7 July 1849
Prime MinisterBertalan Szemere
Preceded byLázár Mészáros
Succeeded byLajos Aulich
Personal details
Arthur Görgey

(1818-01-30)30 January 1818
Toporc, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire
(today Toporec, Slovakia)
Died21 May 1916(1916-05-21) (aged 98)
Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Spouse(s)Adéle Aubouin
Military service
AllegianceFlag of Hungarian Revolution of 1848.png Hungarian Revolutionary Army

In his youth Görgei was a very talented chemist, with his work in the field of chemistry being recognized by many renowned Hungarian and European chemists; however, he is more widely known for his role in the Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–1849 during which he also served as Minister of War, and in the last days of the revolution, before his surrender to the Russians at Világos, he was the dictator of Hungary.

Görgei's relationship and conflicts with Lajos Kossuth, the foremost politician and president-governor of Hungary, influenced the course of the war of independence and his military career but also his post-revolutionary life until his death. Kossuth's Letter from Vidin, written in the aftermath of the revolution, instilled a long-lasting hate for Görgei amongst the Hungarians, many of whom came to believe that he was a traitor. In the 20th century, this characterisation was challenged by modern research. As a result, Görgei's reputation as one of the most talented and successful Hungarian generals of the 19th century has largely been restored.


Görgey or Görgei?Edit

The earlier books and articles about Artúr Görgei, usually used his surname as Görgey. For example, Sándor Pethő's bibliographical book: Görgey Artúr (Budapest, 1930), or Artúr's younger brother István Görgey: Görgey Arthur ifjusága és fejlődése a forradalomig (The youth of Artúr Görgey, and his development until the revolution, Budapest, 1916), Görgey Arthur a száműzetésben 1849–1867 (Artúr Görgey in exile, Budapest, 1918). But the newer historiography uses the form Görgei (for example Róbert Hermann's and Tamás Csikány's works). Artúr Görgei had born with the surname Görgey.

Artúr Görgei's signature

In the Hungarian surnames the "y" instead of an "i" (used today), as last letter of the name (as a locative adverb suffix, for example Debreceni, meaning "from Debrecen") usually appear on the nobles names, because their names appeared earlier than the common peoples names, so the nobiliary surnames kept the archaic writing style of the period they first were written down. The surnames of the common people which appeared later, after the Hungarian writing style changed, received an "i" as the last letter. Being noble by origin, initially Görgei had an "y" at the end of his surname, but during the 1848-49 revolution, a period of an anti-nobiliary reaction, many Hungarians from noble families changed the last letter of their surnames from "y" to "i". For example, the renowned novelist Mór Jókay became Mór Jókai. Görgei made the same change to his name, because of his progressive liberal views. Even after the revolution was suppressed, he kept using the form Görgei instead of Görgey. Although in some works which appeared after his death, and that the translation to Hungarian of his works Mein Leben und Wirken in Ungarn in den Jahren 1848 und 1849 (My life and work in Hungary in 1848 and 1849) made by in 1911 by his smaller brother István Görgey, appeared with the form Görgey, Artúr kept using the Görgei form until his death.[1] This is why in this article we are also using this form.

Early lifeEdit

He was born as Johannes Arthur Woldemár Görgey at Toporc (today Toporec) in Upper Hungary on 30 January 1818 to an impoverished Hungarian noble family of Zipser German descent who immigrated to the Szepes (today Spiš) region during the reign of King Géza II of Hungary (1141–1162). During the Reformation they converted to Protestantism. The family name refers to their origin from Görgő village (Hungarian: görgői, lit. "of Görgő"), today Spišský Hrhov in Slovakia.

Equestrian statue of Artúr Görgei

In 1832 Görgey enrolled in the sapper school at Tulln, profiting from a tuition-free place offered by a foundation. Because his family was poor, this was a great opportunity for him, but initially he did not want to be a soldier. During this period he wrote to his father that he would rather be a philosopher or scientist than a soldier.[2] He spent almost thirteen years in this school, receiving a military education. He decided not to accept money from his family, and ate very little and wore poor clothes in an effort to train himself for a hard life.[1] Records from the school show that his conduct was very good, he had no errors, his natural talents were exceptional, and his fervency and diligence were constant, being very severe with himself but also with the others.[3] Despite this, in his letters he wrote that he despised the life of a soldier because he had to obey officers whom he did not respect, and that he dreamed about a free and active life that he could not find in the army.[4] Following graduation, he served in the Nádor Hussar regiment, undertaking the role of adjutant. By 1837 he had reached the rank of lieutenant and entered the Hungarian Noble Guard at Vienna, where he combined military service with a course of study at the university.[1]

Start of a promising career in chemistryEdit

In 1845, on his father's death, Görgey happily left the army, feeling that the military life did not suit him, to be a student of chemistry at the University of Prague.[2] He loved chemistry, writing this to his friend, Gusztáv Röszler, who recommended him to professor Josef Redtenbacher, a great chemist at that time. Görgey wrote to Röszler:

[Y]our recommendation to Redtenbacher made me very happy. I am gaining life as never before. The science of chemistry itself, but also the leading of it by such a great professor as Redtenbacher, totally conquered me.[5]

His works in chemistry from this period are worthy of note: he conducted research into coconut oil, discovering in it the presence of decanoic acid and lauric acid.

Görgey's article about chemistry in the Annalen der Chemie un Pharmazie (Annals of Chemistry and Pharmacy) from Heidelberg, 1848

He started his research in the spring of 1847 in Prague but finished the experiments at home in Toporc, sending the results to the Imperial and Royal Academy of Vienna on 21 May 1848.[2] His method for the separation of the fatty acids homologues was not the traditional way of using fractional distillation, but instead used the solubility of barium salts. His research can be summarized as follows:

  • He detected the presence of lauric acid (C12) and decanoic acid (C10) in coconut oil.
  • He produced lauric ethyl ether.
  • He determined some physical properties of the distillation of lauric acidic barium.
  • He discovered that, in coconut oil, the undecylic acid (C11) was a mixture of lauric and decanoic acids.[6]

Right before Görgey started his study, a French chemist named Saint-Évre wrote an article in which he announced the discovery of the undecylic acid. At first Görgey was disappointed that with this announcement his work would be pointless, but then he noticed that the French chemist was wrong in thinking that the undecylic acid was an original undiscovered acid rather than a mixture of lauric and decanoic acids, which he demonstrated in his study.[6]

His results were published by Redtenbacher with the title: Über die festen, flüchtigen, fetten Säuren des Cocusnussöles (Sitzungsberichte der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der k. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien. 1848. 3.H. p. 208–227), by Justus von Liebig in Heidelberg (Annalen der Chemie und Pharmazie. 1848. 66. Bd. 3.H. p. 290–314), and again, more than 50 years later, by Lajos Ilosvay in 1907 in the Magyar Kémiai Folyóirat (Hungarian Chemistry Magazine). Görgey's skills and achievements in chemistry were praised by Vojtěch Šafařík and Károly Than.[7] Redtenbacher wanted to hire Görgey as a chemist at the University of Lemberg, but in the end he retreated to the family domains at Toporc because his uncle Ferenc had died and his widow had asked him to come home and help the family.[7] After the defeat of the revolution, in 1851, he received an award and 40 Hungarian pengős as an honorarium for his achievements in chemistry, during the two and a half years he worked in this field, from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.[2]

Becoming a generalEdit

In March 1848, during the early days of the Hungarian revolution, Görgey was in Vienna and Prague preparing to marry Adéle Aubouin, a Huguenot-French girl, who was the lady companion of a maiden relative of Redtenbacher. He married her in the Lutheran church in Prague.[1] After he finished his research in chemistry in his home at Toporc, he went to Pest, hearing about the demand of the Hungarian government from 17 May 1848 to decommissioned officers, to join the newly established Hungarian army, and he was conscripted at the rank of captain in the 5th Hungarian battalion from Győr, to train newly enlisted men. Shortly after that, one of his former companion-in-arms, Lieutenant Imre Ivánka, Prime Minister Lajos Batthyány's secretary, recommended him to Batthyány to work in the ministry.[1] He was given the assignment to go to Istanbul and Smyrna (today, Izmir), to buy weapons for the newly conscripted Hungarian troops, but soon it became clear that the local merchants were not trustworthy. Instead, Görgey was sent to the state factory in Wiener Neustadt to buy percussion caps, and to Prague to buy primers from the Sellier & Bellot factory. Görgey accomplished his mission successfully.[1] The egalitarian ideas of the revolution made him change his noble surname from Görgey to Görgei. He first met Kossuth on 30 August 1848, when he proposed building a factory to produce percussion caps and primers, for which the politician promised to obtain funds.[8]

Entering the Honvéd Army with the rank of captain, Görgei worked with Ivánka on a plan to organize the voluntary mobile national guards into four camps, and was named the captain of the national guard camp at Szolnok.[1]

In August 1848 the imminence of an imperial attack against Hungary grew day after day. Finally, at the beginning of September, King Ferdinand V of Hungary, the Habsburg emperor under the name Ferdinand I of Austria, dismissed the Batthyány government, authorizing the Ban of Croatia Josip Jelačić to occupy Hungary, the latter invading the country on 11 September 1848. When the troops of Jelačić crossed the Dráva river to enter Hungary, Görgei's national guards were ordered to come from Szolnok to Csepel Island to keep an eye on the movements of the Croatian supplies. Here, Görgei organized the villagers from the region to observe and capture the envoys and supply carriages sent from Croatia to Jelačić and vice versa. On 29 September the Croatian ban sent the wealthy pro-Habsburg Hungarian noble, Count Ödön Zichy, to inform the commanders of the Croatian reserve troops led by Major General Karl Roth and Major General Nicolaus Philippovich von Philippsberg about his decision to attack the Hungarian capitals. Görgei's troops captured and arrested Zichy, who was charged with treason for his pro-Austrian activities, court-martialed, and hanged.[1] This bold act of Görgei impressed Kossuth, who saw in him a great future leader of the Hungarian armed forces, promoting the 30-year-old major to the rank of general. Later, when a conflict between the two arose and started to become serious, Kossuth tried to prevent Görgei from becoming the leader of the main Hungarian forces because he saw in the independent general his greatest opponent, and this conflict caused difficulties in the Hungarian struggle for independence.[1]

In the Autumn and the Winter CampaignEdit

After the Battle of Pákozd, in which on 29 September 1848 the Hungarian troops led by János Móga defeated the troops of Jelačić, saving the Hungarian capitals (Buda and Pest), Görgei's 2,500 troops, reinforced with 16,500 peasant militia from Tolna county, watched the movements of the Croatian reinforcements troops led by Roth and Philipovich, blocked their retreat, and eventually forced them to surrender. Görgei's superior was General Mór Perczel, a nobleman with almost no military experience, lacked Görgei's knowledge in the theory and practice of warfare. Seeing that some of Perczel's orders were wrong, and could allow the escape of the enemy, Görgei gave the right orders, issuing them directly to his troops, thus contradicting Perczel's orders. Perczel became angry, and wanted to put Görgei in front of an execution squad, but when the latter explained to the officers' council the reasons for his actions, Perczel pardoned him and accepted his plans, putting them into effect, but he did not like him afterwards. On 7 October 1848, thanks to Görgei's plans, the Croatian troops led by Roth and Philipovich were forced to surrender at Ozora, the Hungarians taking almost 9,000 prisoners, together with their weapons, 12 guns, and ammunition, this being the most successful pincer maneuver of the Hungarian Freedom War.[9][10]

The Croatian troops surrender at Ozora at 7 October 1848

After the defeat of Jelačić, the people of Vienna revolted on 6 October, forcing the emperor to flee to Olmütz. The Hungarian troops led by János Móga, who had defeated Jelačić at Pákozd, advanced to the Hungarian-Austrian border, and many people thought that it should come in aid of the revolutionaries from the imperial capital, which was at that time surrounded only by the troops of Jelačić, but the officers from the Hungarian army, many of whom were foreign and unsure what to do, said that they would agree this only if the people of Vienna asked them to do it. But although the Viennese revolutionaries thought about this, they were reluctant to officially ask for Hungarian aid. In the meantime, the Austrian commander Windisch-Grätz crushed the revolution from Prague, then came with the imperial army to Vienna to crush the revolution there, bringing the overwhelming superiority of the imperial army (80,000 Austrian soldiers against 27,000 Hungarians). Kossuth, waiting in vain for the Hungarian troops to cross the Austrian border, decided to personally go there to convince them. In the war council the old commanders, led by Móga, declared that an assault on the Austrian border would bring with it a Hungarian defeat, pointing at the superiority of the enemy. Kossuth argued, "Our cause is linked with Vienna – separated from it, nobody will give us any importance." He also said that the conscription period of the national guards from the Hungarian army would be over soon, and if they did not engage the Austrians, they would go home without any fighting. He also said that if only one of the Hungarian commanders would say that he would attack, showing a plan by which success could be achieved, he would give the leadership to that person. At that moment Görgei stood up and said, "We have no other choice than to advance, because if we do not advance, we will lose more than losing three battles." Hearing that Kossuth wanted to give him the main command, Görgei refused. So in the end Móga remained the main commander until the end of the battle. In the Battle of Schwechat the troops of Windisch-Grätz and Jelačić routed the Hungarian army, which was composed mainly of inexperienced national guards and peasants. Görgei led the advance guard, and achieved some success, but the lack of experience of the soldiers and the commanders made all his actions useless, and the panic of the volunteers who started to flee sealed the fate of the battle.[11]

During the skirmishes before the battle of Schwechat and the battle, Görgei, although he was mostly in the second plan, by his successful engagements with the enemies vanguards, than by successfully protecting the retreat of the Hungarian troops, preventing their disaster.[12]

Artúr Görgey leading his troops

On 9 October, Görgei was named colonel. After the battle of Schwechat, on 1 November he was named general and appointed commander of the army of the Upper Danube, charged with protecting Hungary's western frontier against the imperial army's imminent attack.[13] While he waited for the attack which ultimately came on 14 December 1848, Görgei reorganized his army, sending home the national guards and the peasant militias (who had been the first to flee from the battlefield after some enemy shooting, in the battle of Schwechat), which had a very low value in fighting against a highly professional army such as the imperial army, and increased the number of the battalions of the Hungarian Honvéd army, training them for future battles. He debated with Kossuth about how to organize an effective defense of the border, and was forced to accept Kossuth's idea of aligning his units along the border, although he thought that grouping them further back from the border would be a much better choice.[1] But when, in the middle of December, the Austrian troops under Windisch-Grätz advanced across the Lajta (the border between Austria and Hungary) to attack Hungary in order to crush the revolution, Görgei slowly retreated,[14] thus angering Kossuth, who thought that he should fight for every inch of Hungarian territory.[1] Görgei understood that if he would have followed Kossuth's wishes, he would certainly have been crushed by the much superior imperial army (he had 28,000 inexperienced soldiers against Windisch-Grätz's 55,000 imperial troops).[15] Kossuth urged every general to engage in a fight with the enemy, so when Mór Perczel, before Görgei had arrived, entered into battle with the imperial troops led by Josip Jelačić, he suffered a heavy defeat on 30 December 1848 in the Battle of Mór, thus leaving Görgei alone in a hopeless struggle against the hugely superior Austrian army.[16]

Lajos Kossuth 1848 Prinzhofer

During his retreat from the Hungarian border to Pest, can be named as partly successful, but this is understandable because this campaign was his first in which he was the high commander of such a great army, and in the same time the main army of Hungary, having on his shoulder such a great responsibility (retreating from the numerically and technologically superior enemy forces, without suffering a decisive defeat), and in the same situation were also his subordinates and the majority of his soldiers. Although so far strategically his decisions were not faultless, but tactically he was mostly successful. The maximal goal of defending the border and repulsing the enemy it was impossible to achieve, even if Perczel's troops would have joined him at Győr, but the minimal goal: to save his troops from the destruction by the superior forces of Windisch-Grätz, he managed to accomplish, suffering only two defeats which can be named important, at 16 December at Nagyszombat, and at 28th at Bábolna, but these too were mostly caused by the inattention of his brigade commanders.[17]

Görgei understood that with his inferior troops he could not stop the main Austrian army, and if he would engage in battle, he would have suffered a decisive defeat, which would have sealed the fate of Hungary's bid for independence. In the war council held on 2 January 1849 Görgei convinced the other commanders that there was no other way than to retreat from the capitals.[18] In spite of remonstrations from Kossuth, who wanted him to accept a decisive battle before the Hungarian capitals, Görgei maintained his resolve and retreated to Vác, letting Buda and Pest fall into the hands of the enemy, who entered the cities on 5 January 1849, forcing the Hungarian government to retreat to Debrecen. This caused a negative effect among the officers of the Hungarian army of foreign origin, who left the Hungarian army in great numbers, which threatened to cause the total dissolution of the Hungarian army. In Vác, irritated by these events, and blaming his defeats on the interference with his strategy to defend Hungary, Görgei issued (5 January 1849) a proclamation (known as the Proclamation of Vác), throwing the blame for the recent defeats and the evacuation of the capitals upon the government (which was at once understood by Kossuth as a revolt against his authority), but also declaring that he, along with his army, would not put down their weapons, and that he would fight with all his energy and power against the imperials to defend the Hungarian revolution and the April laws. This proclamation stopped the dissolution of the army, convincing the majority of the foreign or wavering officers and soldiers to remain in the Hungarian army, and to defend Hungary with all determination.[19][20] After the proclamation Görgei chose to retreat towards the east through the Northern Gömör-Szepes Ore and Tátra Mountains and to conduct operations on his own initiative, forcing the Austrian commander Windisch-Grätz, to send many troops to follow and encircle him, and to remain with the bulk of his army around Buda and Pest (because he did not know about the plans of Görgei, and he feared that the latter could turn towards the west and attack Vienna),[21] preventing them from attacking Debrecen, where the Hungarian government had retreated, and providing time to the Hungarian troops east of Tisza to reorganize. He also gathered the monetary and ore supplies from the so-called Mining towns (Körmöcbánya, Selmecbánya, Besztercebánya, etc.) and sent them to Debrecen, providing the supplies needed in Hungary's struggle against the imperial army.[1] One of Görgei's goals was to relieve the fortress of Lipótvár, which stood near the Austrian border from the enemy siege, and to take the defenders and the provisions from this fort with his troops towards Debrecen, but he understood that this would be a very risky plan, because he could have been encircled by the enemy. So he renounced to this plan, and Lipótvár was forced to surrender to the Austrians at 2 February 1849.[21] Despite of this, he succeeded to accomplish other goals, mentioned earlier. In the harsh winter, marching in the mountains, several times Görgei and his troops escaped the encirclement by the Austrian troops (at one point they escaped by opening a formerly closed mine tunnel, crossing it to the other side of the mountain),[22] then on 5 February 1849 broke through the mountain pass of Branyiszkó, defeating General Deym in the Battle of Branyiszkó [hu], and uniting with the Hungarian troops led by György Klapka on the Hungarian plains.[23]

According to the military historian Róbert Hermann, the one and a half months of Görgei's campaign to the East through Northern Hungary was a strategical success, because: thanks to his way towards North, he prevented Windisch-Grätz to attack with all his forces towards Debrecen, where the Hungarian Committee of National Defense (which temporarily functioned as an executional power in Hungary after the resignation of the Batthyány-Government at 2 October 1848) took refuge, and put an end to the Hungarian revolution, providing enough time to the concentration of the Hungarian forces behind the Tisza river, "cleaned" the Szepes region from the enemy troops, assuring with this the whole territory between Szeged and the Galician border as a Hungarian hinterland for the future counterattack. During his retreat he fought five noticeable battles, from which he won two (Igló at 2nd, and Branyiszkó at 5 February 1849), lost two (Szélakna at 21st, and Hodrusbánya at 22 January 1849), and scored a draw at Turcsek 17 January 1849).[24]

The troops of Görgei crossing the Sturec pass

The supreme command was conferred upon Henryk Dembiński by Kossuth, who did not want in any way to give the main command to Görgei. Many officers from Görgei's Army of the Upper Danube (György Kmety, Lajos Aulich) were astonished at Kossuth's decision and sought to protest, but Görgei ordered them to accept it.[25] One of the first decisions of the Polish commander were to order to many of the Hungarian units under the lead of Görgei and Klapka, to retreat, enabling the Austrian troops of General Franz Schlik to escape from their encirclement.[21] But when Dembiński, after making mistake after mistake, lost the Battle of Kápolna on 25–27 February 1849 (in which Görgei's VII corps could not participate, because of Dembiński's wrong placement of the troops, the VII corps arriving at the battlefield only after the battle ended),[26] the Hungarian officers revolted against the Polish commander, demanding his dismissal and a Hungarian general in his place.[27] Among the generals who the Hungarian officers would accept as main commander, Görgei was the most popular, and in the officers meeting, held in Tiszafüred, in the presence of the government's chief commissary Bertalan Szemere, they elected Görgei as main commander, with the decision also signed by Szemere. When he heard about this, Kossuth was angered and rushed to the military camp, declaring that he would order that Görgei be executed for this revolt, thinking that Görgei was its organizer, but when he arrived at Tiszafüred and saw that the majority of the officers supported Görgei, Kossuth was forced to accept the situation, but he declared that the final decision about who would be the main commander, would be given after he presented the events to the Parliament.[28] In Debrecen Kossuth, and the politicians who were on his side, ignored the wish of the Hungarian generals to name Görgei and designated Antal Vetter as main commander.[29]

Leader of the victorious Spring CampaignEdit

In the middle of March, Vetter planned a Hungarian campaign in order to defeat Windisch-Grätz, and to chase his troops out of Hungary. On 16–17 March the Hungarian troops crossed the Tisza river, but due to some unfounded rumours, Vetter decided to retreat to their starting position. During these events Görgei was the only military commander who achieved noticeable successes, by advancing from North through Tokaj to Gyöngyös through Miskolc and Mezőkövesd, which he succeeded, to divert Windisch-Grätz's attention from the crossing of the main Hungarian forces at Cibakháza, and forcing the Austrian commander to take a defensive position, thus giving up the initiative to the Hungarians before the start of their Spring Campaign.[30]

At the end of March 1849, Görgei was named as main commander (only temporarily) by Kossuth, because Vetter fell ill. Before this, Kossuth again hesitated, trying to find somebody else, even thinking of taking the main command of the army himself, but when the generals, who were in charge of the Hungarian army corps of the main army (György Klapka, Lajos Aulich, János Damjanich), declared that Görgei was the most able commander for that job, he had to accept it. So Görgei became temporary supreme commander, only a few days before the start of the spring campaign.[31]

The plan of the Spring Campaign was based on the fact that the enemy troops were numerical superior to the Hungarians So they decided to defeat them in detail.[30] The plan was that the VIIth Hungarian Corps with deceiving movements to divert the attention of the Austrian commanders, while the other three Hungarian army corps (the Ist, the IInd, and the IIId) had to advance from the South, getting around them, and falling on their back, or forcing them to retreat through the northern banks of the Danube, letting the Hungarian capitals (Pest and Buda) on the hands of the Hungarian army. The minimal objective of the Hungarians was to force the Austrians to retreat from the Danube–Tisza Interfluve. During these operations, do to some of Görgei's corps commanders faults (György Klapka and András Gáspár), as well to Windisch-Grätz cautiousness, the latter managed to escape the trap of being surrounded, but nevertheless, because of his defeats at Hatvan (2 April), Tápióbicske (4 April), Isaszeg (6 April), he was forced to retreat from the Danube–Tisza Interfluve, taking refuge in the Hungarian capitals.[32] In two of these battles (Tápióbicske and Isaszeg), the intervention of Görgei on the battlefield, who spoke personally to the hesitant Klapka, ordering to hold his position and to counterattack, decided the victory for the Hungarian weapons.[33]

The second part of the Spring Campaign resulted other three important successes for the Hungarian armies: Vác (10 April), and Nagysalló (19 April), and Komárom (26 April). The plan was similar to the first part: this time the IInd corps led by General Lajos Aulich, and two brigades led by the colonels György Kmety and Lajos Asbóth had to demonstrate, diverting the attention of Windisch-Grätz from the Ist, IIId, and VIIth corps pincer maneuver through North-West, in order to relieve the fortress of Komárom, besieged by the Austrian army, force them to retreat from the capitals, and eventually to encircle the enemy troops around Buda and Pest. This maneuver ended also with a great success, except the encirclement of the enemy troops, which escaped, retreating from all Hungary, except of a landstrip near the Austrian border.[33] These Hungarian successes were achieved despite of the changing of three Austrian high commanders (Alfred zu Windisch-Grätz, Josip Jelačić and Ludwig von Welden), or the sending of reinforcement troops under Ludwig von Wohlgemuth from the Austrian hereditary provinces to Hungary.[34]

As a result of the Spring Campaign led by Artúr Görgei, combined with the successes of the Hungarian armies in the other fronts, forced the armies of the Austrian Empire and its allies, which at the beginning of March had controlled around three quarters of Hungary, to evacuate almost all Hungary, except for a narrow strip of land in the west, Croatia, and a few land pockets and forts. In the battle of Isaszeg, Görgei had been close to encircling and completely destroying the main Austrian army led by Windisch-Grätz (which could have brought with it a decisive victory for Hungary in the war), but the refusal of one of his army corps commanders, András Gáspár, to attack from the north, made possible the escape of the enemy. Görgei shared some responsibility for the failure to make the best of this opportunity because, thinking that Gáspár had already begun, he did not urge Gáspár to attack.[35] Also playing an important role in the liberation of the country were the troops of Józef Bem, who liberated Transylvania,[36] and Mór Perczel, who liberated much of southern Hungary, except for Croatia.[37] However, Görgei was the commander who achieved the greatest success by defeating the main Austrian army, which constituted the most operational, and best equipped forces of the Austrian Empire, and its commanders, regarded as among the best which Austria had at that time, forcing them to retreat from the most developed central and western parts of the country, including the capitals.[citation needed]

Hungarian Spring Campaign in 1849

Görgei achieved his successes with a numerically and technologically inferior army (47,500 Hungarian soldiers, having 198 cannons vs 55,000 Austrian soldiers with 214 cannons and rockets),[38] which lacked heavy cavalry (relying almost completely on the light Hussar cavalry), and having very few soldiers fighting in the other types of units common in the armies of that period (chasseurs, grenadiers, lancer cavalry, dragoons, cuirassiers) in comparison with the Austrian army,[39] which had plenty of these, and with constant shortages of weapons and ammunition.[40] Several times these shortages caused the Hungarian infantry to not to engage in long shooting duels with the imperials but to start bayonet charges, which were repeated if the initial attempt to break through was unsuccessful, causing the Hungarian infantry heavy casualties.[41]

Görgei commanding the Hungarian troops in the Battle of Isaszeg

During the spring campaign, the military attitude of Görgei changed drastically, from an extremely cautious commander with slow movements, who calculated every move, to a general full of energy, quick in action, ready to take risks if necessary to achieve his goals. Görgei understood that the main cause of Dembiński's failure was his slowness and extreme cautiousness, which prevented him to gather his troops before the Battle of Kápolna in such a way that they could help each other; fearful of being encircled, Dembiński had put his units so far from each other that they could not help each other when attacked.[30] Görgei started the spring campaign as a mature commander, who let his generals (János Damjanich, Lajos Aulich, György Klapka, András Gáspár), who led his four army corps, make independent decisions (but following the campaign plan), and intervening only when needed, as he did at Tápióbicske and Isaszeg, and turning, with his personal presence and decisions, the tides of battles that had started faltering.[33] He took great risks at the start of both phases of his spring campaign, because he let only a few troops in front of the enemy, sending the bulk of his army to make encircling maneuvers, which, if discovered, could have caused a frontal attack of the enemy, which might have resulted in the breaking of the weak Hungarian front line, cutting of his supply lines, and the occupation of Debrecen, the temporary Hungarian capital.[42] But Görgei later wrote in his memoirs that he knew that he could take these risks against such a weak commander as Windisch-Grätz.[33]

According to József Bánlaky and Tamás Csikány, Görgei failed to follow up his successes by taking the offensive against the Austrian frontier,[43] contenting himself with besieging Buda, the Hungarian capital, taking the castle of Buda on 21 May 1849 instead of attacking Vienna and using that strategical opportunity, which the Hungarian victories from the Spring Campaign created, to win the war.[44][45]

The Battle of Komárom on 26 April 1849

Some of the representatives of the new generation of Hungarian historians, like Róbert Hermann, believe that the siege of Buda was not a mistake by Görgei, because at that point he had not enough troops to attack towards Vienna, because the Austrians had concentrated around Pozsony a fresh army that was two times the size of Görgei's troops, and also far better equipped. To achieve a victory with his tired troops, who had almost completely run out of ammunition, would have been virtually impossible.[46] Görgei hoped that while he was conducting the siege of Buda, new Hungarian troops would be conscripted, the Hungarian generals who were operating in Southern Hungary would send him reinforcements, and the issue of lack of ammunition would be resolved, and that then he would have a chance to defeat the Austrian troops. He also knew that the castle of Buda had a 5,000-strong Austrian garrison that controlled the only stone bridge across the Danube, the Chain Bridge, which disrupted the Hungarian supply lines[47] and threatened to attack the Hungarian troops and supply carriages, causing the Hungarians to make a huge detour, which caused weeks of delay, and preventing their use of the Danube as a transport route. Besides that, he had to deploy a considerable portion of his force in order to monitor the Austrian troops in Buda, thus weakening his troops which could attack westwards. Also the presence in southern Hungary of the 15,000-strong Austrian troops led by Josip Jelačić, which might come north by surprise to help the garrison of Buda, presented a big threat, threatening to cut Hungary in two, and only the liberation of Buda could diminish this danger. Kossuth also urged Görgei to take the capital; he hoped that such a success would convince the European powers to recognize Hungary's independence, and prevent a Russian invasion.[48]

Siege of Buda on 21 May 1849

All the military and political advice seemed in favor of taking Buda first, rather than moving towards Vienna. According to Hungarian Historian Róbert Hermann, the capture of Buda after three weeks of siege (the only siege of the Hungarian Freedom War that ended in the taking of a fortress by assault; the remaining fortresses and castles were taken, by one or the other side, only after negotiations and then surrender) was one of the greatest Hungarian military successes of the war.[49]

Görgei had refused military medals of honor and Kossuth's offer of the field-marshal's baton,[50] and was not in sympathy with the new regime. However, he accepted the portfolio of minister of war, while retaining the command of the troops in the field.[51] Meanwhile, at the Parliament in Debrecen, Kossuth formally proposed the dethronement of the Habsburg dynasty,[43] which the Parliament accepted, declaring the total independence of Hungary on 14 April 1849.[52] Görgei was against the dethronement (although he did not oppose it when Kossuth divulged his plan at Gödöllő after the battle from Isaszeg) because he thought that this would provoke the Austrians into demanding Russian intervention. He thought that declining to demand dethronement and using the significant military successes he had achieved as arguments in an eventual negotiation with the Austrians might convince them to recognize Hungary's autonomy under the rule of the House of Habsburg, and the April Laws of 1848. He believed that this was the only choice to convince the Habsburgs not to ask Russia's help against Hungary, which he thought would cause destruction and a national tragedy. This is why Görgei even attempted to initiate secret talks with the Hungarian Peace Party (who were in favor of a compromise with the Austrians), to help him stage a coup d'état to overthrow Kossuth and the Hungarian government led by Szemere, to achieve the position of leadership necessary to start talks with the Habsburgs, but the Peace Party refused to help him, fearing that a military dictatorship would take power, so he had to abandon this plan.[53][54] However, Görgei was wrong when he thought that the Hungarian Declaration of Independence had caused the Russian intervention, because the Austrians had asked for it, and the Czar agreed to send troops to Hungary before they had learned about the Declaration of Independence of 14 April.[8]

Main Commander, then General of the Summer Campaign and dictator of HungaryEdit

The Russians intervened in the struggle and made common cause with the Austrians, and in mid-June 1849 the allies advanced into Hungary on all sides.[43] Görgei found himself before a greatly superior united enemy army. The reinforcements that Kossuth had promised did not came because on 7 June general Perczel, the commander of the southern Hungarian army, had suffered a heavy defeat in the Battle of Káty from the Austro-Croatian army, reinforced with Serbian rebels, led by Josip Jelačić;[55] Perczel could not send the reinforcements because he needed them there.[56] Another problem was that many of his experienced generals, who had proved their talent in the Spring Campaign, were no longer available: (János Damjanich had broken his leg; Lajos Aulich became ill;[57] and András Gáspár had resigned from the Hungarian army because of political reasons.[58]) Görgei was forced to put in their place other officers who were capable soldiers, but were not experienced as army corps leaders, many of them lacking the capacity to act independently when needed.[51] Another problem was that being at the same time high commander and head of the war ministry, he could not adequately fulfill both duties at the same time, being forced to move frequently between Pest and his general staff office from Tata.[59]

Battle of Vác, 15–17 July 1849

Nevertheless, Görgei decided to attack Haynau's forces knowing that he had no other opportunity to defeat them before the main Russian troops led by Paskevich arrived from the north – hoping to break them and advance towards Vienna, but despite an initial victory in the Battle of Csorna on 13 June,[60] his troops were not so successful afterwards. In the next battle, fought at Zsigárd on 16 June 1849, while he was in the capital to participate in the meeting of the ministry council, his troops were defeated, although his presence in the battle could had bring a better result.[59] In the next battle at Pered, fought at 20–21 June, he was present, but, despite all his efforts, the intervention of the Russian division of more than 12 000 soldiers led by Lieutenant General Fyodor Sergeyevich Panyutyin in behalf of Haynau, decided the fate of this engagement.[61] On 26 June he was again in the capital at a ministry council, and tried to convince Kossuth to concentrate all the Hungarian troops, except those from Transylvania and Southern Hungary, around Komárom, to apply a decisive strike on Haynau's troops, before the main Russian forces arrive. This plan was maybe the only rational way to end, if not with full success, but with at least a compromise this war against the overwhelmingly superior enemy forces. The place for the Hungarian concentration, the fortress of Komárom (one of the strongest fortresses of the empire), was also the best choice, if they wanted to face with a chance of success, the enemy armies, instead of retreating to the Ottoman Empire.[59] The ministry council accepted Görgei's plan, but unfortunately because of his presence in the ministry council, Görgei was unable to concentrate his troops to face Haynau's army, freshly deployed from the northern to the southern banks of the Danube, when they attacked Győr on 28 June. Görgei arrived only at the end of the battle, when already it was too late to change the situation for the hugely overwhelmed Hungarian forces (17 000 Hungarians against 70 000 Austro-Russian soldiers), but he managed nevertheless to successfully cover their retreat towards Komárom, by personally leading hussar charges against the advancing enemy forces.[62]

After learning about the defeat from Győr, and the advancement of the main Russian forces led by Field Marshal Ivan Paskevich from North, the Hungarian government in the lead of Kossuth, in another ministry council, held this time without Görgei, changed its decision to follow the latters plan of concentration of the troops around Komárom, ordering him to lieve the fortress and move with the bulk of his troops to Southern Hungary, to the confluence of the rivers Maros and Tisza. Görgei found this plan completely wrong, that the region which they wanted to concentrate the troops was completely sacked by the war, that the most important fortress of the region, Temesvár was in the hands of the enemy, and that this retreat will provide enough time for Haynau and Paskevich to unite their forces against the Hungarians, creating a huge numerical superiority. Despite of this he agreed on following the governments plan, in order to avoid an open conflict or a break of relations with them.[63] So he promised to lead his troops to Southern Hungary starting with 3d July, hoping that until that day all the scattered units of his army will be able to gather and join his army.[64]

But before he had the chance to accomplish this task, his troops were attacked by Haynau's twice superior army, reinforced with Panyutyin's Russian division, twice his troops size at Komárom on 2 July, but he defeated them, upseting Haynau's plan to quickly conquer the capitals. But at the end of the battle Görgei suffered a severe head wound (a shell splinter shot by an enemy cannon made a 12-centimeter (4.7 in) long cut on his skull, opening it, making his brain visible, and despite this he remained conscious, leading his troops until the end of the battle, and only then he fainted), which caused him to lose consciousness for several days (during which time he underwent several surgeries) preventing him from taking advantage of his success which he achieved on the battlefiels.[65]

Mór Than: Görgei and his general staff after he was wounded in the Battle of Komárom at 2 July 1849, wearing, because of that, an Arabic style headscarf

But before the battle, another unespected event happened. Because of a misunderstanding, Kossuth revoked Görgei from the high commandment demanding that he go to Pest, and named Lázár Mészáros, the former minister of war, who was a weak general, in his place,[64] but when the latter went towards Komárom to inform Görgei of the change, he heard along the way the sound of the cannonade of the battle of Komárom, and returned to Pest.[1] The cause of Kossuth's drastic act was as follows. Görgei on 30 June, wrote two letters to Kossuth. In the first he reaffirmed his decision to remain in Komárom and fight with the main Hungarian forces the decissive battle against Haynau. The second letter he wrote later that day, after the meeting with the governments delegation, who came with the order for Görgei to leave Komárom and march towards Szeged, in Southern Hungary. In this letter, as shown before, he accepted to follow the governments new order. The two letters of Görgei were sent on the same day, Kossuth did not notice their registration number, but he read the letters in the wrong order, reading the second one (in which Görgei had written that he would march towards Szeged) first, then the first letter (in which Görgei had written that he would engage in battle at Komárom) second. Thinking that Görgei had changed his mind, and chose not to obey to the order about the concentration around Szeged, probably remembering Görgei's refusal in the Winter Campaign to follow his orders and the proclamation of Vác from 5 January, which he considered an act of revolt, or his critique to the dethronement of the Habsburg dynasty issued by Kossuth on 14 April 1849, the governor called Görgei a traitor and he revoked Görgei from the high command and demanded that he come to Pest to take over the war ministry and let Mészáros lead the army.[64]

Because Mészáros returned to Pest, Görgei did not learn about his revocation, and, because of Haynau's attack on 2 July, he had to postpone temporarily the retreat towards Szeged, being forced to enter in battle with the enemy, and, as described above, he managed to force the greatly superior opponent to retreat, but in the end, as it was shown before, he lost consciousness for several days. In the meantime, the letter with Görgei's revocation arrived on 3 July, while Görgei being in unconscious, but his officers led by György Klapka, were against this decision.[8] In the meantime, Kossuth understood that Görgei had not disobeyed him, but he lacked the courage to formally admit his mistake and revoke Görgei's dismissal. In spite of this, Görgei remained the commander of the Northern Danube Army until he had the opportunity to hand it over, which meant until he would arrive at the concentration point from Szeged,[8] but the disastrous military events that unfolded at the beginning of August in southern Hungary, where he had to lead his army, caused quite the opposite situation for Görgei. On the other hand, Kossuth's silence about his mistake towards Görgei casts a shadow on the reputation of the great politician.[8]

In the meanwhile Klapka, the senior officer who took over Görgei's duties, during the time he was unable to do these, because his injury, was reluctant to fulfill the governments order to lead the troops to Southern Hungary. He decided to lead an attack against Haynau's forces, hoping to defeat them. But in the third battle of Komárom on 11 July the troops led by Klapka suffered a defeat. The yet not fully recovered Görgei watched the battle from the fortress. The result of this battle was that Görgei, who then took again the command of his army, was forced to retreat eastwards and let the capitals to fall again into enemy hands.[66] Despite suffering because of his head wound, he managed to stop the greatly superior forces of the Russian main commander Ivan Paskevich in the second battle of Vác on 15–17 July,[67] then, because his way to south, towards Szeged, was closed by the Russian army, in almost the same way as he had done in the winter of 1848–1849, he retreated to the North-East, luring after himself five times greater Russian forces,[63] diverting them for almost a month from attacking the main Hungarian troops from the Hungarian plain,[68] through forced marches (40–50 km per day) avoiding their attempts to encircle him, and defeating them in seven defensive engagements:[69] (Miskolc, 23–24 July,[70] Alsózsolca, 25 July,[71] Gesztely, 28 July,[72] etc.), losing only one, Debrecen, 2nd August, slowing their advancement and winning time for the rest of the Hungarian army to prepare itself for the decisive battle.[69]

The last Hungarian ministerial council held on 10 August 1849 in Arad, in which Kossuth (in the middle) hands over political and military power to Görgei, naming him the dictator of Hungary

The Russian Czar, Nicholas I. of Russia was impressed by Görgei's brilliant manoeuvers, comparing him twice to Napoleon,[73] writing this to Paskevich:

The fact that Görgei, after retreating from Komárom, got first around our right then around our left wing, making such a huge circle, then he arrived south and united with the main troops, blows my mind. And he managed to do all these against your 120,000 brave and disciplined soldiers.[74]

Görgei and his officers saw that with the Russian intervention the fate of Hungarian independence was sealed. So, with the knowledge of the Hungarian government, he began negotiations with the Russian commanders about an eventual Hungarian surrender. So, during his operations and continuous battles with the Russians, he also negotiated with Paskevich, hoping that he could reach an agreement with the Russians in order to start a conflict between the Austrians and the Russians, or to obtain favorable conditions from them, all the while keeping the Hungarian government informed (there were unfounded rumors about an alleged Russian plan to hire Görgei and his generals for the Russian army),[75] but the Russian commander responded that they would talk only about unconditioned surrender.[76]

Görgei surrenders before Rüdiger at the Szőlős plain near Világos.

In spite of Görgei's successes, in other theaters of operation the other Hungarian generals were not so successful, and they were defeated by the enemy. The new main commander chosen by Kossuth, Dembinski (who, as seen before, proved in the battle of Kápolna to be a weak commander), after being defeated on 5 August in the Battle of Szőreg by Haynau,[77] instead of moving his troops north (despite being asked to do this by the Hungarian government),[78] to meet with Görgei, who won a several days distance from the pursuing Russians, and together engage in a battle with Haynau again, he moved south, where the Hungarian main troops suffered a decisive defeat in the Battle of Temesvár on 9 August.[79] Thus, Dembinski's decision prevented Görgei to take part with his 25,000 troops in the decisive battle for Hungary on 9 August. After this defeat, Kossuth saw the impossibility of continuing the struggle and resigned from his position as regent–president. He handed over all political power to Görgei on 10 August 1849 at Arad, while he and many of his ministers, politicians, and generals went south and entered Ottoman territory, asking for refuge.[80] In this situation Görgei saw that he could not break through the overwhelmingly superior enemy's lines, and surrendered his army of 20,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry to the Russian general Theodor von Rüdiger at Világos/Nagyszőlős.[81] Days before the surrender he wrote a letter to Rüdiger in which he presented his wish to surrender before the Russian general, whom he respected very much for his bravery and military talent, explaining, among other things, why he decided to surrender before the Russian troops and not the Austrians:

You will agree with me, when I declare it solemnly, that I prefer to let my army corps to be destroyed in a desperate battle by a no matter how much superior army, than to put down my weapons in front of such an enemy [the Austrians], who we defeated so many times, and almost at every turn.[82]

Like in the Spring Campaign, in the Summer Campaign too Görgei's personal intervention on the battlefield was crucial in the important battles, preventing the defeat (as in the second battle of Vác) or even deciding the victory (as in the second battle of Komárom). From the three Hungarian operational plans elaborated during the Summer Campaign two were made (the plan of the concentration around Komárom) or decided in haste (the plan of the pincer maneuver towards North-East after the second battle of Vác) by him, and both were strategically correct. When he persoanally led his troops, he was able to force his will on the much superior enemy, like when his troops stationed around Komárom, Haynau could not move towards Pest, or when he campaigned through Northern Hungary, Paskevich's main forces could not move towards Szeged.[83] During the Summer Campaign Görgei reached its peak as a military commander. His last campaign in Norterh Hungary against the five times larger Russian main forces can be named a tactical masterpiece do to his audatious decisions, quick troop movements, rapid forced marches around and between enemy troops, than ahead of them, outrunning them, winning several days distances over them, cleverly slipping out in the last moment from the enemy encirclements, perfectly chosen positions, surprising counterstrikes, and accomplishing all these with a big sized army, show us a great military tactician, unique among the Hungarian generals of the Freedom War.[1]

Görgei's qualities, skills as military commander, and war leading methodsEdit

Görgei once told this about the cause of his military successes:

I didn't have any military genius in me. That is nothing else than a fairytale, a Hungarian legend, like so many other things. I just kept orderliness among my soldiers, that's all, and the fellows on some occasions behaved bravely. Everything else is fiddlesticks.[84]

Artúr Görgei lithography by Miklós Barabás

Of course these very modest words are not completely true, but he pointed out one of his most important principles in war: the discipline. But for Görgei, to achieve the military successes which he obtained, he had to possess much more specific qualities, which were required for a general of his time. To analyse and evaluate Görgei's military and strategical qualities, we have find out which were accepted as the best qualities for a successful commander of the historical period in which he activated? We cannot take him out from his time, and compare with the military commanders of our times, the medieval era or the antiquity. One of the greatest military theorists of the 19th century, Carl von Clausewitz pointed that a good commander must have the following qualities: he has to be courageous, determined but not stubborn, he had to have presence of mind in dangerous situations to take quick but correct decisions, the straight eye of a military commander, thoughtfulness, ability of orientation, imagination, to take quickly, from the many contradictory informations, the correct decision, and finally an intellect which can synthesize all these qualities and abilities.[84]

During the Winter Campaign, when he was the commander of the army of the Upper Danube, was remarkably firm and independent. His consistent, harsh, peremptory leading method was accepted by his subordonates and soldiers. They respected, loved him and feared him in the same time.[85] One of his artillerymen wrote: I was afraid of him more than from a whole Austrian army, when he rode towards me, looking at me through his glasses.[85] In his youth, when he was a simple soldier, Görgei wrote that he wants to be an officer, whose simple glance will be enough to force even the most unruly [soldiers] to obedience and respect. Once, when a major of the hussars started to curse and insult Damjanich and the supply service of the army in front of Kossuth, Görgei appeared, looked severely at his officer, who instantly became quiet and peaceful, than a guard came and took him to arrest.[85] This rigorousness and consistency made possible for him to organize from newly conscripted, inexperienced soldiers with low quality, outdated weapons[86] after the defeat of Schwechat, a disciplined, combat-worthy army.[85] He was against any improvisations made hastely in the moment of the battle, being in favor of carefully preparing every step of it long before it happened. He organised an army in which the spheres of action of every officer and soldier were exactly determined, the training, the leading, the armies supplies were well organized, like in every professional army of Europe of that period. Like Leiningen, one of his most talented generals, wrote: the revolutionary army needed a Görgey too, in order to dominate over the passions.[85]

He regarded the discipline as one of the most important requirements for a successful army. He demanded order in the army and unconditioned obedience from his soldiers and officers. And he tried to show example for them. Very often he wore his old major uniform coat, sojourned among his officers and soldiers even in harsh cold, heat, rain or snow. For this he prepared himself from his young age spent in the sapper school.[87] When, after the capture of the Buda castle, the Hungarian Government wanted to award him with the First Class Military Order of Merit and the rank of Lieutenant General, he refused both, saying that he do not deserve these and he do not agree with the rank and order hunger of many of the soldiers and officers.[50] He punished very severely those who were not following his orders: he punished those who forgot or defaulted to fulfill their smallest duty, or were undisciplined, with degradation, but many times also with execution. He required heroism in battle from his soldiers, and himself showed examples of this in battle, often being quite reckless, if the situation of that moment required this act to encourage his troops, or to force, in a critical moment, a positive outcome. Unlike the majority of the commanders of his time, he showed himself in the first line giving orders to his troops, or even, for example in the Second Battle of Komárom, he took the lead of the hussar regiments, leading himself their charge against the enemy cavalry and artillery, in the end being heavily wounded by them.[88]

Görgei in red, leading the Hungarian hussars to attack before he was wounded, in the Second Battle of Komárom. Painting of Mór Than

When in the 1890s he was asked by the Hungarian writer and journalist Kálmán Mikszáth about the secret of his successes, he replied: it is certain that I never knew what is fear. The nature forgot to bless me with this feeling, unlike the other people.[84]

Because he showed this example to his officers and soldiers, he required from them the same heroism and recklessness in fulfilling his orders, often punishing those who showed cowardice in a very brutal mode, like it happened in the Second Battle of Komárom (2. July 1849), when Görgei, after he tried first unsuccessfully to stop them verbally, stopped those units who were fleeing in disorder from the enemy, with ordering the artillery to unleash a grape-shot cannonade on them which stopped the fleeing soldiers caught between the two fires, and with this forcing them to stop, regroup and start a counter-attack, which ended with success.[89] He required courage not only from the soldiers and officers, but from every man in his army. For example, he obliged the war medics to be on the battlefield in order to help the wounded soldiers right there.[87] From the officers of his army, he required creativity, ability to decide what to do, when they were on their own. He wrote to major Kálmán Ordódy, who had the duty of defending a mountain pass: ... Act according to your own discretion, and do not ask too much [what to do] The Austrian army would had not lost so many battles if they would have allowed their autonomous generals to be free to act as they considered being the best option. You are on the field, you know the placement and strength of the enemy, and the field. Don't expect from me, who do not know none of this, from my desk, to which I am bound, to send you detailed orders, from six miles away. Your brigade was trusted to you in order [to be able] to use it.[87] Görgei required from his officers independence in decisions or in creating strategies, as well as in applying them. On 3 April 1849 Kossuth wrote about him: He don't envies the glory from nobody, but offers occasions for others to achieve glory - [despite] he enforces fully his authority, he is not power-mad, but he accepts without objection what is [a] good [ideea].[87] He applied this principle on himself too. If he considered that an order from his superiors is wrong, and obstructs or prevents his army to achieve the success against the enemy, he was the first to object against it, and if he was not listened, than he refused to follow that order but he acted according to his own decision, which he taught that it was the better choice. After the Battle of Kápolna lost because of the disastrous decisions of Henrik Dembinski, Görgei wrote to him that he was obliged to make his own decisions, instead of following those given by the Polish commander, because he saw them highly uncertain and unclear. In the end of his letter he writes that he is ready to defend the decisions he took independently in front of the Hungarian court-martial.[90]

It is true that the majority of the strategical plans which he used were not made personally by him, but by his general staff, but in the war councils he was the one who chose from the plans presented to him by the staff. Despite of this on the battlefield, in every occasion, even facing unexpected situations, Görgei was able to make quick correct decision after a short thinking, being very determined in his decisions, showing no hesitation.[91] But when it was needed he himself elaborated strategical plans, and the majority of those (except of the plan of the offensive in the Vág region) had a successful outcome.[83]

He chose his most important colleagues with a good sense, like for example the chief of his general staff, József Bayer, who elaborated, in front of the maps in detail the strategical plans which Görgei and his general staff made.[92] Görgei in March 1849 wrote to Antal Vetter, then the interim main commander, that he was aware off not being very skilled and having no patiente to elaborate, with a table full of maps and papers, the campaign strategies, so he relied on József Bayer on this, who was very good in this, and the general staff, which was led by the latter.[91] So they were those who decided the directions and the distances which the army corps had to achieve every day. But then Görgei used these plans to lead the marches.[92] During the battles he wrote his decisions on slips of paper, and gave them to the orderly officers, who were around him, ordering them to take these to the deputy officers from the field, but when it was needed, he went personally to the critical place, often, when the situation was dramatic, and needed his presence, he went from one military unit to another, encouraging the officers and even the soldiers to attack.[92] For example, in the second battle of Komárom, after some trenches of the fortress had been occupied by the enemy, he went to his infantry, which stood under a rain of bullets and cannonballs, shot from those trenches, and addressed loudly to their commander, Samu Rakovszky: Mr. major! Do you trust in your battalion that they would chase out the enemy from our trenches? Because they completely occupied them. Rakovszky then addressed to the soldiers: Did you heard what said mr. General? The soldiers shouted: We will [re]occupy them! We will chase out the enemy! Long live our land! Long live the freedom! Long live Görgei![93] Or in the same battle, during the famous hussar-charge led by him and Ernő Poeltenberg, Görgei who was wearing a red coat, seeing that the left wing of his attacking 3000 hussars, because of the heavy enemy artillery fireing, which caused them heavy losses, started to slow down and turn in a wrong direction, he quickly rode to them, shouting: Boys, you not [want to] follow the red coat in attack? (Fiúk hát nem gyüttök a vörös hacuka után atakba?) Hearing this, the hussars quickly reorganised, and followed him, heading towards the enemy lines.[94]

Because in his youth he served both at the infantry as well in the cavalry, he was well experienced and qualified to give the right orders to them, and to position them in the most effective way possible, but because he had less knowledge in the field of the artillery fight, he entrusted with this his excellent artillery chief, Mór Psotta.[92] His engineering corps were led by Szodtfried Ferdinánd.[92]

As conclusion we can say that Görgei was an erudite soldier, a man with logical thinking, who was able to recognize in the moment the importance of a situation or opportunity, capable of taking quick decisions, and direction of their application in the best way, even if he had to make changes on them in the course of the events, because of the changing situation on the battlefield required them. His personality was characterized by autonomy, eccentric behaviour, but also by a disciplined, emotionless attitude, and lot of cynicism.[90] This cynicism, lack of sympathy, sincereness, quick decisions, which on personal questions not always were the correct ones, made him many enemies among the officers or politicians, who later played the main role in his stigmatization as traitor of Hungary[95] but despite of this his soldiers worshiped him.[96] He was characterized by the Russian military historian Ivan Ivanovitch Oreus (1830-1909) in his book Описание Венгерской войны 1849 года (Description of the Hungarian War of 1849): Görgei was by nature hot tempered, but still he was not an enthusiast: he hated the swaggerers and he scourged them with relentless mercilessness.[95]

Róbert Hermann summarized Görgei's talent, activity as a military commander as it follows:
1. Görgei's strategical decisions, except of the Vág offensive in June 1849, were correct and ended with success;
2. His reactions in unexpected situations were quick and correct in almost every situation;
3. His personal interventions often turned the fate of the battle in the favour of the Hungarians, or stopped the retreet of his troops. The only occasion in which he was unable to do this, was the battle of Hodrusbánya from 22 January, when he too was nearly killed;
4. From all the Hungarian generals, Görgei managed to create the most organised army, which was the most compatible with the rules of the regular warfare, being against any participation in it of irregular units, which were common in many other Hungarian armies of that war. This resulted from the fact that he had a clear organizational conception, and he was able to carry through, against all attempts of intervention and influence from the inside or the outside (for example from the political leadership). Besides of this, he chose well his closest assistants (for example the chief of the general staff József Bayer, his chief intendant János Danielisz, etc.). Regarding the corps and the division leaders, the situation is more complicated, because he had to take in consideration also the predetermined order of promotions and some political guidelines as well.[97] And sometimes he made wrong decisions too, regarding this matter, for example before the second day of the battle of Pered, according to Hermann, it was a mistake, to replace Lajos Asbóth, the commander of the II. corps, who was the most successful from all the corps leaders, with the weak József Kászonyi;[98]
5. Görgei was accused of five important mistakes.
- First because, when the Austrian invasion started in December 1848, he let half of his troops on the Northern banks of the Danube. But Hermann's opinion is that even if he would had group all his troops on the Southern banks, the outcome of the campaign would have been the same.
- Secondly Görgei is accused, that in February 1849 when he arrived around Kassa, he lost one day before he attacked the troops of Franz Schlik, which prevented the total destruction of the latters forces. But Hermann argues that even if he did so, Klapka's fail of closing the retreat of the Austrian troops would have prevented anyway their encirclement.
- As the third mistake is shown the omission of Görgei in the battle of Isaszeg, to order to general András Gáspár to attack with the VIIth corps the troops of Franz Schlik, which, in many peoples opinion, would had brought the encirclement and destruction of Windisch-Grätz's army. Hermann argues against this, that during the battle Görgei received an information that Gáspár's troops are actually advancing against Schlik, this is why he did not sent him an order to attack. He also points, that even if the VIIth corps would have attacked, the imperial troops could not be encircled, although their losses would have been definitely heavier.
- He is also accused that during the campaign at the Vág river he was absent from the battle of Zsigárd, where his presence would have been decissive for the winning of that battle. Görgei, by way of an excuse wrote that he wanted with this to try his new corps commanders. But this excuse is weak, because during the Spring Campaign he always was near the battlefield, and helped his corps commanders of that time (Klapka, Damjanich, Aulich, Gáspár), who were much more experienced than the new ones (Knézich, Nagysándor, or Asbóth) in June 1849. And furthermore the plan of the campaign at the Vág river was much more complicated, thus harder to accomplish than the Spring campaigns, so the presence of Görgei was much more needed.
- As the fifth mistake of Görgei is shown that, after he successfully resisted to the Russian attack at the Sajó river he did not rushed towards the Tisza river, but sojourned at the Hernád river, losing precious time, instead of rushing to join his troops with Dembinski's main army. But Hermann excuses Görgei under this accusation, writing that with his sojourn at Hernád, he tried to win time for the main army, and that then, with a forced march, he reached Arad, where they supposed to meet, but instead of this, Dembinski moved to south, to Temesvár where his troops, led then by Bem, suffered the final defeat from Haynau. So Görgei repaired this supposed mistake.[99]
6. Among Görgei's greatest skills we can mention also the ability to lead huge armies, avoid the traps, the reasonable risk-taking in order to achieve his great successes, as well as great interest for surprising technical ideas (like the reopening of a closed mine tunnel to escape his encircled troops in January 1849, the construction of a base bridge over the Danube on 23–26 April 1849, or the way how he organised of the siege of Buda).[100]

Summary of Görgei's battlesEdit

The following table shows those battles in which Görgei himself, or those troops and units of which he was their chief commander, took part, even if he did not directly participate in every battle, but he designated their positions, commanded their movements, and gave them orders what to do, sending troops to the critical localtions, or intervening personally if it was needed.[101][102][103][104]

Battle Date Result Hungarian commander Opponent Hungarian troop strength Enemy troop strength Hungarian casualties Enemy casualties Notes
The Ozora campaign 4 October – 7, 1848 Victory   Mór Perczel
  Artúr Görgei
– Karl Roth  
– Nicolaus Philippovich von Philippsberg  
29,064 (9452 + ? regulars, 16,500 irregulars) 9000 7 9000[105] After relentless harassment and misleading manoeuvres, Görgei's units, together with Mór Perczel's troops and the Tolna County peasant militia, forced Josip Jelačić's Croatian reinforcements to surrender.
Vanguard skirmishes around Bruck 17 October – 19, 1848 Victory
  • Bruck: Victory
  • Bruck: Defeat
  • Bruck: Victory
  • Wilfleinsdorf: Defeat
  Artúr Görgei   Josip Jelačić 3960 hussars unknown 4 + ? 20 + ? Görgei's hussars occupied Bruck an der Leitha, taking many prisoners and a large number of battle standards. Jelačić's vanguard was forced to retreat behind the ditch from Wiener Neustadt, leaving Lower Austria's eastern narrow landstrip in Hungarian hands.[106]
Schwechat 30 October 1848 Defeat -   János Móga
  Artúr Görgei
-   Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz
  Josip Jelačić
27,000 30,000 695 89/96[107] Many of the Hungarian troops were irregulars, armed with pitchforks or scythes. Görgei conducted the vanguards, then, when the defeat became obvious, he protected the retreating troops, preventing them from being crushed. After the battle, Kossuth names Görgei as the commander of the Upper Danubian Army to defend the western border.
Nagyszombat & Parndorf 16 December 1848 Defeat -   Richard Debaufre Guyon
  Lipót Zichy
  Balthasar von Simunich ~ 8555 17,500[108] 942 40[109][110] Start of the Winter campaign. The first battle as high commander of the Northern Danube Army, which was the VIIth army corps. The imperial forces broke into Hungary from the north. Görgei sent Richard Guyon to stop them, but he was defeated at Nagyszombat. At Parndorf the rear guard troops of Zichy Lipót were attacked by Jelačić's troops and put to flight.
Bábolna 28 December 1848 Defeat   Kornél Görgey   Ferenc Ottinger ~ 4000[111] ? 700 ? Görgei's retreating right flank led by his cousin, Kornél Görgey, were surprised by the cuirassiers of Ferenc Ottinger, losing many prisoners.
Tétény 3 January 1849 Inconclusive   Artúr Görgei   Ludwig Wallmoden-Gimborn ~4000 ~4200[112] ? ? The result is a draw, but tactical Hungarian success. Görgei's rear guard pushed back Jelačić's attacking vanguard units, but retreated after hearing the approach of other enemy troops. This skirmish slowed the imperial advance, making them more cautious.
Vanguard skirmishes around Verebély & Ipolyság 11 January 1849 Victory
  • Verebély: Victory
  • Ipolyság: Defeat
-   Lajos Aulich
  Richard Debaufre Guyon
-   Balthasar von Simunich
-   Felix Jablonowski
  Franz Wyss
~11,013[113] 11,406 + ?[108] 40 + ? 5 + ? Görgei’s rearguard troops manage to stop the enemies advance.
Turcsek 17 January 1849 Inconclusive   Lajos Aulich   Franz Wyss ~5324[113] 3000[114] ? ? Hungarian tactical victory. Görgei's right flank troops, led by Lajos Aulich, forced Götz to retreat.
Szélakna, Selmecbánya, Hodrusbánya 21–22 January 1849 Defeat
  • Szélakna: Defeat
  • Hodrusbánya: Defeat
  Richard Debaufre Guyon
-   Artúr Görgei
  Anton Csorich ~6794[115] ~13,198 + ? [115] 700 ? Görgei's rear guard is defeated and forced to retreat from the "mining towns".
Branyiszkó 5 February 1849 Victory   Richard Debaufre Guyon   Franz Deym von Stritež 4002 1891 150 395 [116] Richard Guyon's brigade occupies the Branyiszkó mountain pass, ending with success the winter campaign of the Northern Danubian Army led by Görgei.
Szén 13 February 1849 Victory   Richard Debaufre Guyon   Franz Schlik ~5446[113] ~1460[117] ? ? The brigade of Sándor Kossuth fell by surprise on Franz Schlik's rear guard, taking the majority of them prisoner.
Mezőkövesd 28 February 1849 Victory -   György Kmety
  Kornél Görgey
  Franz Schlik ~17,118 ~5306 ? 58[118] The brigade of György Kmety is attacked by the Austrians, but when two other Hungarian brigades come to the rescue, the imperials retreat, losing 3 cannons and 29 prisoners.
Hatvan 2 April 1849 Victory -   András Gáspár
  Ernő Poeltenberg
  Franz Schlik 14,563 11,000[119] 20 202[120] Start of the Spring Campaign of the main Hungarian troops led by Görgei. Under his command were the I., II., III. and the VII. army corps. The VII. Hungarian corps and the support units sent by Damjanich defeat Schlik's army.
Tápióbicske 4 April 1849 Victory -   György Klapka
  János Damjanich
  Josip Jelačić 22,419 16,000[119] 800–1500 301[121] The I. corps led by György Klapka are surprised by Jelačić's army corp, but the arrival of Görgei and the III. corp led by János Damjanich, turns the battle in favour of the Hungarians.
Isaszeg 6 April 1849 Victory   Artúr Görgei   Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz 31,315 26,000[122] 800–1000 373/369[123] The first decisive battle of the Spring campaign is won by Görgei, forcing Windisch-Grätz to retreat from the Danube–Tisza Interfluve.
1st Vác 10 April 1849 Victory   János Damjanich   Christian Götz  11,592 8,250 150 422[124] The III. corps defeat the Austrians. Among the Austrian casualties is their commander, Christian Götz.
Nagysalló 19 April 1849 Victory -   János Damjanich
-   György Klapka
-   András Gáspár
  Ludwig von Wohlgemuth 23,784 20,601 + ? 608 1538[125] The Austrian army corps, led by Wohlgemuth, sent from Italy to help the Austrians in Hungary, is heavily defeated. Instead of joining the siege of Komárom, as it was planned initially, Wohlgemuth's corps is forced to retreat westwards, near the Austrian border.
Kéménd 20 April 1849 Victory   András Gáspár   Franz Wyss ? ~5296 ? ?[125] The last Austrian troops are forced to retreat beyond the Danube.
1st Komárom 26 April 1849 Inconclusive   Artúr Görgei   Balthasar von Simunich &
  Franz Schlik
18,884 + ? 33,487 800 671[126] Draw, but strategic Hungarian victory. The Austrian siege troops were chased out from the trenches from around the fortress of Komárom, but when the IIId. Austrian corps, which were retreating from Pest, arrived, forcing the Hungarians to retreat, but only to secure a safe retreat of the main Austrian army towards Vienna. The Hungarians capture much of the siege weapons of the Austrians. Then much of central and western Hungary is liberated.
Buda 4–21 April 1849 Victory   Artúr Görgei   Heinrich Hentzi  34,277 4890 368/427 4914[127] The Hungarian troops capture the fortress of Buda. The Austrian commander, Heinrich Hentzi, is fatally wounded.
Vanguard skirmishes on the Western front 9–13 June 1849 Victory -   József Nagysándor
-   Lajos Asbóth
-   Ludwig von Wohlgemuth
-   Anton Csorich
~20,304 ~12,946 + ? 18 20 [128] The Hungarian troops push forward to the west of Austrian positions.
Csorna 13 June 1849 Victory   György Kmety   Franz Wyss  5002 2690 271/215 258[129] The start of the summer campaign as high commander. Under his command were the I., II., III., VII. and the VIII. army corps. A Hungarian detachment led by György Kmety defeats the Austrians, whose commander, Franz Wyss, is fatally wounded.
Zsigárd 16 June 1849 Defeat   Lajos Asbóth   Ludwig von Wohlgemuth &
  Anton Csorich
24,480 31,200 765 154[130] In Görgei's absence (because he was fulfilling his duty as minister of war) the I. and II. corps of his army started an attack, but after initial successes, they had to retreat, suffering heavy losses, because of a counterattack by the superior Austrian army. One of the main causes of the defeat was the total inactivity of the III. Hungarian corp.
Pered 20–21 June 1849 Defeat
  • 20 June: Victory
  • 21 June: Defeat
  Artúr Görgei -   Julius Jacob von Haynau
-   Ludwig von Wohlgemuth
  Anton Csorich
  Feodor Sergeyevich Panyutyin
25,286/23,727 39,500 2878 668 [131][132] This time Görgei led his troops personally. In the first day, despite the fierce Austrian opposition, his troops took control of Pered and other localities too. But the intervention in the second day of the Russian troops of Panyutyin in the battle, decided the imperial victory.
Ihász 27 June 1849 Defeat   György Kmety   Georg Heinrich Ramberg 5700 ~4376 112 277[133][134] The detachment of Kmety is defeated, but causes heavy casualties, then retreats towards southern Hungary.
Győr 28 June 1849 Defeat -   Ernő Poeltenberg &
-   Artúr Görgei
-   Julius Jacob von Haynau
-   Feodor Sergeyevich Panyutyin
17,480 69,350 607/706 342[135] In the presence of the emperor, Franz Joseph I of Austria, Haynau occupies Győr, defeating a more than three times smaller Hungarian army. Görgei arrives towards the end of the battle, and secures, leading his hussars in attack against the advancing imperial troops, the safe retreat of the Hungarian troops towards Komárom.
2nd Komárom 2 July 1849 Victory   Artúr Görgei -   Julius Jacob von Haynau
-   Feodor Sergeyevich Panyutyin
26,884 52,185 1500 890[136] The troops of Haynau initially occupy strategical positions around Komárom, but Görgei's counterattack force them to retreat. Towards the end of the battle Görgei is heavily wounded, and this prevents him from taking advantage of his success. He is deposed from high commandement, retaining only temporarily the commandment of the troops around Komárom, until he would led the troops to the designated meeting point around Szeged.
3nd Komárom 11 July 1849 Defeat -   György Klapka
-   Ernő Poeltenberg
-   József Nagysándor
-   Julius Jacob von Haynau
-   Feodor Sergeyevich Panyutyin
43,347 men 56,787 400/500/800/1500 813[137] Despite initial successes, the Hungarian attack to break the Austrian blockade around Komárom failed because of the inactivity of two generals: Gusztáv Pikéthy and József Nagysándor, who did not help Ernő Poeltenberg's and Károly Leiningen-Westerburg's attack. Görgei observed the battle from the fortress, but could not personally intervene in it, because he had not fully recovered from his head wound. His troops were led on the field by György Klapka.
2nd Vác 15–17 July 1849 Inconclusive
  • 15 July: Victory
  • 17 July: Inconclusive
  Artúr Görgei -   Ivan Paskevich
-   Theodor von Rüdiger
27,834 52,831 1400 + 452 [138] Hungarian tactical victory. In the first day Görgei's troops chase out the Russians from Vác, and in the third day they retreat north, repulsing the Russian attacks. The failure of Paskevich to crush Görgei's army prevented the Russians from joining Haynau's advancement to south in order to put down the revolution – forcing them to chase, with their entire army, Görgei's troops, fearing that he would cut their supply lines – and prolonged the Hungarian War of Independence for another month.
Battle around Miskolc & Görömböly 23–24 July 1849 Inconclusive
  • 23 July: Victory
  • 24 July: Inconclusive
  Ernő Poeltenberg   Michail Ivanovich Tscheodayev 8600[139] ~39.886[140] ? 24 [141] Hungarian tactical victory. The VII. corps of Ernő Poeltenberg occupies Miskolc, and on the first day, repulse the Russian attack, then in the second day, after receiving Görgei's order to retreat (who feared that his general faced the whole Russian army), retreats, repulsing the Russian charges.
Alsózsolca 25 July 1849 Victory   Ernő Poeltenberg
-   Károly Leiningen-Westerburg
  Michail Ivanovich Tscheodayev ~ 17,900 [139] ~39.886[140] ? 35[142] The attack of the Russian IV. corps led by Lieutenant General Tscheodayev was repulsed by the III. and VII. Hungarian corps.
Poroszló 25 July 1849 Defeat   János Korponay   Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov 3280[140] ~6634[143] 0 79[143] The Russians cross the Tisza river. The Hungarian detachment, of which only 1100 have assault weapons, cannot stop them.
Gesztely 28 July 1849 Victory   Károly Leiningen-Westerburg   Pavel Hristoforovich Grabbe ~9200[139] ~12.887[140] 1 103[144] The attack of the troops of Lieutenant General Grabbe is disorganised by the well-hidden Hungarian artillery unit of the III. Hungarian corps, led by Leiningen, putting them to flight.
Debrecen 2 August 1849 Defeat   József Nagysándor   Ivan Paskevich 11,338 62.427 ~1901 337[145] The I. Hungarian corps led by József Nagysándor is defeated by the main Russian forces. Görgei was later criticised for not going with this other troops to help. But Nagysándor's mission was exactly to hold the enemy in order to enable to Görgei to retreat towards south to unite with Dembinski's troops. The orders towards Nagysándor were not to engage in battle at any cost, but to slow the enemy's advance. He engaged in battle because he miscalculated the Russian troops' strength. On the other hand, even if Görgei would have tried to march towards the battlefield with the other two Hungarian corps, he would have arrived with tired troops three hours after the battle ended, which would have caused him a crushing defeat from the three times bigger enemy.[146]

After the defeat of the RevolutionEdit

Artúr Görgei in a newsreel (1910)

Görgei asked the Russians for mercy towards his officers and his soldiers, Görgei saying even that if they want someone to hang, then he would accept this for himself, but in exchange he wanted his generals to be spared, which Paskevich and the Czar accepted and did, asking forgiveness for Görgei and his men, but initially the Austrians refused to fulfill their allies' wishes. After a while they accepted that Görgei would not be court-martialed and executed, and would be kept in confinement at Klagenfurt, but they did not pardon his generals, who were executed on 6 October 1849 at Arad. Because of the execution of his 13 generals, Görgei was accused of betraying them, and of causing their deaths.[147]

He lived there, chiefly employed in chemical work, until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, when he was pardoned and returned to Hungary.[43][148]

Photo of Görgei with his son
Political cartoon by Don Pirlone: Görgei presenting Hungary's cut-off head to Russia, 1853
Görgei in old age

The surrender, and particularly the fact that his life was spared while his generals and many of his officers and men were hanged or shot, led to his being accused of treason by public opinion.[43] The main cause of these accusations was a letter written by Kossuth, already in exile, from Vidin on 12 September 1849, declaring unfairly that Görgei had betrayed Hungary and its nation, when he put his weapons down.[1]

The letter from Vidin misled many people: one of Hungary's greatest poets, Mihály Vörösmarty, who played also a role in the revolution as a member of the Hungarian Parliament, wrote on 10 October 1849 an angry poem about Görgei, with the title Átok (Curse), naming him a "worthless villain", "worm", and "traitor", and cursing Görgei for his "treason" of the Hungarian land, to be chased by hate and misfortune and his soul to be damned after his death.[149] These accusations, have their root in the letter from Vidin of Kossuth, who after the revolution, became one of the most respected and beloved politicians and the symbol of the Hungarian revolution and independence, reached even the international public, too. Many newspapers and books depicted Görgei as a traitor of the revolution and freedom. For example, in the Italian book with allegorical drawings Don Pirlone a Roma. Memorie di un Italiano dal 1 Settembre 1848 al 31 dicembre 1850 (Don Pirlone in Rome: Memories of an Italian from 1 September 1848 to 31 December 1850), Görgei is presented as a traitor who hands over Hungary's head to Russia, and receives sacks of gold in return.[150]

After his release he played no further part in public life, but had to suffer many attacks from his countrymen who believed that he was a traitor. He faced all these accusations with stoicism and resignation. Despite the accusations from Kossuth, who never retracted his words about him, Görgei respected the former Governor–President of Hungary, declaring that in 1848 Kossuth was a great man, without whom nothing would have happened, while he (Görgei) was only a bubble thrown on the surface by the wave of events.[8]

In 1885 an attempt by a large number of his old comrades to rehabilitate him was not favorably received in Hungary. After several years spent working as a railway engineer, he retired to Visegrád, where he lived in retirement. For decades he had been considered a traitor, often humiliated in public places, but in the last years of his life, his very important role during the war and unique military talent became widely acknowledged by his compatriots. Only after his death was he definitively discharged of the accusations of treason by historians.[151] General Görgei wrote a justification of his operations (Mein Leben und Wirken in Ungarn 1848–1849, Leipzig, 1852), an anonymous paper under the title Was verdanken wir der Revolution? (1875), and a reply to Kossuth's charges (signed Joh. Demar) in Budapesti Szemle, 1881, pp. 25–26. Amongst those who wrote in his favor were Captain István Görgey (1848–1849 bol, Budapest, 1885), and Colonel Aschermann (Ein offenes Wort in der Sache des Honved-Generals Arthur Görgey, Klausenburg, 1867).[43]

Görgei passed away on 21 May 1916 (67th anniversary of one of his greatest victories: the taking of the Buda castle) at the age of 98 in Budapest.[152][153]


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  3. ^ Pethő 1934, pp. 15.
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External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Lázár Mészáros
Minister of War
Succeeded by
Lajos Aulich