ARTÚR GÖRGEY

Artúr Görgey painted by Miklós Barabás

Görgey, Artur (1818–1916) Hungarian military officer, commanding general of the Hungarian Honvéd army during the revolution of 1848–49

Son of an impoverished noble, he began his military studies in the sapper school at age 14; at age 21 he was promoted to lieutenant in the bodyguard; in 1842 he became first lieutenant in the cavalry. After his discharge in 1845 he studied chemistry at Prague University. When revolutionary events in March 1848 took a sudden turn toward Hungarian independence from Habsburg rule, he offered his services to the new government. On June 13 he was promoted to captain, and a month later to major. In November the National Defense Committee of the Hungarian parliament, at the recommendation of LÁJOS KOSSUTH, promoted him to general. That winter he made his mark by employing quick maneuvers against the invading Habsburg army and with his skill he succeeded in demolishing the enemy line with concentrated artillery fire. Politically, however, he promoted compromise with the Habsburgs, a course that favored the interests of the middle nobility to which he belonged against the high aristocracy that owned immense estates and wielded dominant political influence. He defied Kossuth’s order to engage the enemy in open battle and, in a pronouncement at Vác in January 1849, announced his readiness for compromise. By doing so he isolated himself from the National Defense Committee and that winter he acted independently. By spring military realities compelled him to join up with an army on the Upper Tisza, which acted in concert with the Defense Committee. After spectacular military successes that spring, he made common cause with the peace party and placed himself in open opposition to Kossuth and the radicals who strove for a complete break with the Habsburgs. His position gained enough support for him to be named minister of defense from May 7 to July 14. He entered the field again after the Russian army, which the new emperor FRANCIS JOSEPH had invited to help put down the Hungarian rising, invaded the country. Realizing the overwhelming odds against his forces, on August 13, at the town of Világos, he unconditionally surrendered to the Russian army. During the heavy reprisals that followed, he was a prime candidate for being tried for treason but, at the intercession of Czar Nicholas I, he was spared and exiled to Klagenfurt in Austria.