(REFORM and REVOLUTION in EUROPE to 1850 – continued)
In his war against the Austrian army, King Charles Albert of Piedmont-Sardinia was holding back, hoping that British and French troops might fight in place of his troops – support that would never arrive. Meanwhile, the commander of the Habsburg force in northern Italy, General Joseph Radetzky, was employing terror against the Italians. In mid-April in Venetia he burned the village of Montebelo and slaughtered its men, women and children, the news of which dampened enthusiasm for rebellion against Austria. And that month, Pope Pius IX turned against Italian nationalism and called for peace and an end to Catholics fighting Catholics. Pius IX was siding with Catholic universalism, traditionally opposed to nationalism – a universalism promoted also by the Catholic Habsburg Empire.
In mid-May, 1848, barricades went up in Naples, accompanied by demands that armed forces be sent to join the war against Austrian occupation of Italian lands to the north. In June, with the help of Swiss mercenaries and pro-monarchist casual laborers, the king of Naples-Sicily, Ferdinand II, crushed the rebellion.
Czech nationalists were also crushed. The most radical of Czech nationalists had placed their hopes in a pan-Slav movement, which met in Prague in June. They were at odds with the Germans in Prague and elsewhere in Bohemia. And the Czech nationalists were opposed by democrats, liberals and conservatives in Vienna. In mid-June, an Austrian army led by Alfred Windischgraetz clashed with Czechs in Prague who had build barricades. Militarily, range remained significant, artillery having a greater range than weapons held by those behind the barricades. Windischgraetz used artillery against those at the barricades in Prague, and the Czech nationalists were crushed. Windischgraetz dissolved the pan-Slav congress and arrested the leaders of the Czech nationalist uprising.
In July, General Radetzky routed the troops of Piedmont and other Italian troops and marched into Milan. The French considered intervening on the side of the Italians, but the French government decided against it. On August 5 an armistice was signed, ending the war between Piedmont and the Austrians. The people of Milan blamed the return of Austrian troops to their city on Charles Albert. Disgusted by the armistice, an Italian nationalist leader in the Italian Alps, Giuseppe Garibaldi, refused to disband his volunteer militia. The war between the kings was over, he declared, and now a war of the people would begin.
It was in August that the Habsburg-Lorraine emperor, Ferdinand, returned to Vienna, and, in September, Austria's National Assembly voted to abolish serfdom – with compensation for those landlords who lost serfs. The Austrians, meanwhile, were maneuvering to regain control of Hungary, Vienna was upset by the refusal of Hungarians to serve in military units fighting for Habsburg rule in northern Italy. Violence had broken out between the Hungarians on one hand and Croats and Rumanians on the other, the latter two resisting Hungarian domination. Austria sided against the Hungarians and for order within the empire. On September 11, an Austrian army crossed the Drava River, from Croatia into Hungary. It was not marching rapidly toward Budapest, but people in Budapest were alarmed. On September 28, when an Austrian general, Field Marshal Lamberg, arrived in Budapest for consultations, a crowd inspired by radical activists dragged him from his carriage, beat and lynched him. The government in Vienna responded by declaring the government in Budapest dissolved.
In October, Austria's Minister of War, Count Theodor von Latour, ordered reinforcements for an army marching against the Hungarians. Some subject to military orders rebelled against being sent into Hungary, and an impassioned mob in Vienna seized Count Latour in the street and hanged him from a lamp post. This rising in Vienna put the city under the control of the left again, and Emperor Ferdinand and his court fled again – to the German town of Olmütz (Olomouc) in Moravia. The conflict between the radicals in Vienna and conservative Austrians, including the monarchy, had come to a head, with the majority of the Viennese opposed to the radicals.
From Olmütz orders were sent to the Royal Habsburg army in Hungary to take control of Vienna. The army reached the outskirts of Vienna at the end of October. They shelled positions held by the small and amateurish army formed by the radicals, and once again artillery put an end to rebellion. Approximately 2000 radicals were killed in the fighting, and defeated radicals were executed. The army's commander, Windischgraetz, exercised political power in behalf of the emperor and replaced Austria's liberal head of government (the Prime Minister), with his brother-in-law, Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, who favored a return of monarchical absolutism.
The turn of events in Vienna encouraged Frederick Wilhelm IV in Prussia to move against leftist disturbances and his kingdom's constitutional monarchists. On his orders, in early November, 13,000 soldiers from the nearby town of Potsdam marched into Berlin and put an end to street demonstrations and the making of noises through the night at the homes of targeted conservatives. Frederick Wilhelm replaced his prime minister, Ernst Heinrich Adolf von Pfuel, a constitutional monarchist, with a conservative military commander, Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg. Brandenburg moved 50,000 troops into Berlin and forced retirement of the Constituent Assembly that Wilhelm had agreed to months before. Gone with the Constituent Assembly were the proposals of liberals that army officers take an oath of loyalty to a constitution rather than to the emperor, that the nobility be denied its titles and privileges and that the emperor be denied "by the grace of God" from his title.
Opposed to Wilhelm's reaction and the new Brandenburg government, crowds in a few cities tried to seize government buildings, but to no avail. Wilhelm's armed forces restored order. The National Assembly in Frankfurt, however, remained in session. And liberal constitutions remained in Saxony and Bavaria, where liberals won election victories.
Copyright © 2002-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.