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Ban Josip Jellacic

Ban Josip Jellacic (Jellaci´c de Buzcim, Josef, Graf, 1801-1859) Before 1848, Josip Jellacic served as a regimental colonel for seven years along the Croatian military frontier. Described by contemporaries as poetic and humane, he was a consummate professional military officer. A Croatian nationalist favoring the Illyrian movement, he received the support of the Croatian national party. Regardless of his shifting political motives, he was a military officer and personally loyal to his emperor throughout his career.

In March 1848, with the revolutionary fever taking hold in Zagreb, the Croatian Diet declared Josip Jellacic Ban of Croatia. On March 23, on the advice of Baron Franjo Kulmer, Emperor Ferdinand V promoted Jellacic to Lieutenant-Field Marshal and confirmed his appointment as the Ban of Croatia.

Second only to his loyalty to Ferdinand, Jellacic was faithful to the movement in Zagreb, and quickly responded to many popular demands: termination of serfdom and feudal dues, ending the Sabor's feudal nature by calling general elections on May 18, and defense of Croatians' independence from the Magyars of Hungary.

The newly declared Ban took immediate steps to terminate Hungarian control over Croatia, officially severed all relations between Croatia and Budapest, declaring Croatia's "independence and equality to Hungary" on April 19. Encouraged by the Austrian court, Jellacic accused Batthyany's Hungarian government of intending to secede from Austria. For several months the court vacillated. Attempting to conciliate Hungary, Ferdinand promised Batthyany Hungary to absorb all of Croatia.

Jellacic refused to the emperor's summons to travel to Innsbruck to justify his defiance of Hungary. On June 10, bowing to Batthyany's pressure, the emperor signed a manifesto to the Croats condemning Jellacic's policy and replacing him by another officer of the Imperial Army, General Hrabovszky. Marshal Hrabovszky was nominally sent against the Croats, shelling Carlowitz and forcing the surrender of Novi-Sad, a city with a large Serbian population. However, the court was not eager to lose Jellacic's loyalty. Jellacic in turn refused to step down, and the Zagreb Congress declared him Ban of Croatia, Slovenia, and Dalmatia, and Jellacic declined to dissolve the Agram Diet. The court secretly told the imperial officer, Hrabovszky, who was sent to Croatia to remove Jellacic to desist. Although labeled a traitor, the allowed Jellacic to retain his position in order to pursue what he saw as the greater interests of the empire. To bolster his efforts, Jellacic surreptitiously received large quantities of supplies from the Viennese minister of war, Count Latour, as well as help from Radetzky and the rest of the court.

Having severed all ties with Pest, Jellacic refused nine times to meet with Batthyany. In July 1848, the emperor finally arranged a meeting between Batthyany and Jellacic. The personal pleas of Archduchess Sophia before the meeting reinforced Jellacic's loyalty to the imperial cause. When Batthyany requested Croatia's demands, Jellacic did not mention his own Sabor's resolutions. Instead, Jellacic insisted that Hungary assume a share of the Viennese debt and that the empire's war and finance ministries should be centralized in Vienna; thus Jellacic articulated the Austrian court's program and provoked the war that the camarilla secretly urged him to begin. After the conference, he repeated his demands with an ultimatum to the Hungarian Diet.

Jellacic intensified his build up of the Croatian army during August was aided by Latour. Latour's final attempt to assist Jellacic by ordering the Vienna garrisoned Richter battalion of grenadiers to help save Jellacic who had been forced out of Hungary would spark a Viennese pro-Magyar democratic mob to lynch Latour and in turn initiated a revolt in Vienna.

On September 4, the camarilla had reinstated Jellacic as ban, and on September 11, Jellacic declared war on Ferdinand V, King of Hungary, in the name of Ferdinand V, King of Croatia, and invaded Hungary with an army of forty-thousand men. Jellacic's army made swift progress after crossing the Drave. The primary loyalty of the Hungarian commander of the army on the Drave, Adam Teleki, were to Austria, like many of the commanders stationed in Hungary. He declared to the Government Commissioner of Hungary that his oath to the emperor and king forbade him to fire on imperial troops. He then withdrew his men and even threatened to join Jellacic. Several regiments joined the Croats and in southern Hungary strong-points were surrendered to the Serbs. With the invasion, Jellacic increasingly became the Austrian court's representative in Hungary. The Austrian court replaced General Count Lamberg with Jellacic as commander of all Hungarian armed forces after Lamberg was murdered by a mob from Pest. On October 3, Ferdinand dissolved the Hungarian Diet and proclaimed Jellacic governor of Hungary in military and civil affairs; Jellacic immediately declared martial law.

After the battle of Pakozd on September 29, Jellacic was forced ba ck across the Hungarian border into Austria. Jellacic was forced to retire to Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg), just a short distance from Vienna. Suddenly boasting that he had given up his campaign in Hungary in order to restore order to Vienna, Jellacic joined Windischgrätz in marching on the city. The combined armies had returned to Hungary and marched into Buda-Pest on January 5.

In 1849, Jellacic's Banal Council of Croatia protested against the publication of the new constitution, but Jellacic was determined to see that it was excepted and that the council was only to carry out his orders. The constitution restricted local political control. Jellacic accepted for Croatia the treatment that Hungary received as a punishment. Jellacic remained in his office with only ceremonial functions until his death in 1859.
Brian G. Smith


Istvan Deak, The Lawful Revolution: Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians, 1848-1849 (Columbia University Press, 1979).

Jyraj Krnjevic. "The Croats in 1848", Slavonic and Eastern European Review, December, 1948, 106-114.

Alan Sked. The Decline & Fall of the Habsburg Empire:1815 - 1918, New York: Longman Inc., 1989.

Barbara Jelavich. History of the Balkans, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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