Arthur Gorgei - Encyclopedia

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ARTHUR GORGEI (1818-), Hungarian soldier, was born at Toporcz, in Upper Hungary, on the 30th of January 1818. He came of a Saxon noble family who were converts to Protestantism. In 1837 he entered the Bodyguard of Hungarian Nobles at Vienna, where he combined military service with a course of study at the university. In 1845, on the death of his father, he retired from the army and devoted himself to the study of chemistry at Prague, after which he retired to the family estates in Hungary. On the outbreak of the revolutionary war of 1848, Gdrgei offered his sword to the Hungarian government. Entering the Honved army with the rank of captain, he was employed in the purchase of arms, and soon became major and commandant of the national guards north of the Theiss. Whilst he was engaged in preventing the Croatian army from crossing the Danube, at the island of Csepel, below Pest, the wealthy Hungarian magnate Count Eugene Zichy fell into his hands, and Gdrgei caused him to be arraigned before a courtmartial on a charge of treason and immediately hanged. After various successes over the Croatian forces, of which the most remarkable was that at Ozora, where io,000 prisoners fell into his hands, Gdrgei was appointed commander of the army of the Upper Danube, but, on the advance of Prince Windischgratz across the Leitha, he resolved to fall back, and in spite of the remonstrances of Kossuth he held to his resolution and retreated upon Waitzen. Here, irritated by what he considered undue interference with his plans, he issued (January 5th, 1849) a proclamation throwing the blame for the recent want of success upon the government, thus virtually revolting against their authority. Gdrgei retired to the Hungarian Erzgebirge and conducted operations on his own initiative. Meanwhile the supreme command had been conferred upon the Pole Dembinski, but the latter fought without success the battle of Kapolna, at which action Gdrgei's corps arrived too late to take an effective part, and some time after this the command was again conferred upon Gdrgei. The campaign in the spring of 1849 was brilliantly conducted by him, and in a series of engagements, he defeated Windischgratz. In April he won the victories of Gdddlld Izaszeg and Nagy Sarlo, relieved Komorn, and again won a battle at Acs or Waitzen. Had he followed up his successes by taking the offensive against the Austrian frontier, he might perhaps have dictated terms in the Austrian capital itself. As it was, he contented himself with reducing Ofen, the Hungarian capital, in which he desired to re-establish the diet., and after effecting this capture he remained inactive for some weeks. Meanwhile, at a diet held at Debreczin, Kossuth had formally proposed the dethronement of the Habsburg dynasty and Hungary had been proclaimed a republic. Gdrgei had refused the field-marshal's baton offered him by Kossuth and was by no means 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. The Russians had now intervened in the struggle and made common cause with the Austrians; the allies were advancing into Hungary on all sides, and Gdrgei was defeated by Haynau at Pered (20th-21st of June). Kossuth, perceiving the impossibility of continuing the struggle and being unwilling himself to make terms, resigned his position as dictator; and was succeeded by Gdrgei, who meanwhile had been fighting hard against the various columns of the enemy. Gdrgei, convinced that he could not break through the enemy's lines, surrendered, with his army of 20,000 infantry and 2000 cavalry, to the Russian general Riidiger at Vilagos. Gdrgei was not courtmartialled, as were his generals, but kept in confinement at Klagenfurt, where he lived, chiefly employed in chemical work, until 1867, when he was pardoned and returned to Hungary. 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, perhaps naturally, to his being accused of treason by public opinion of his countrymen. After his release he played no further part in public life. Even in 1885 an attempt which was made by a large number of his old comrades to rehabilitate him was not favourably received in Hungary. After some years' work as a railway engineer he retired to Visegrad, where he lived thenceforward in retreat. (See also Hungary: History.) General Gdrgei wrote a justification of his operations (Mein Leben and Wirken in Ungarn 1848-1859, 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, 25-26. Amongst those who wrote in his favour were Captain Stephan Gdrgei (1848 es 1849 bol, Budapest, 1885), and Colonel Aschermann (Ein offenes Wort in der Sache des Honved-Generals Arthur Gdrgei, Klausenburg, 1867).

See also A. G. Horn, Gorgei, Oberkommandant d. ung. Armee (Leipzig, 1850); Kinety, Gorgei's Life and Work in Hungary (London, 1853); Szinyei, in Magyar Irok (iii. 1378), Hentaller, Gorgei as a Statesman (Hungarian); Elemar, Gdrgei in 1848-1849 (Hungarian, Budapest, 1886).

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