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December 8, 1804|
|Died||October 6, 1849
|Years of service||????-1849|
|Hungarian Revolt of 1848||
János Damjanich (Serbian: Jovan Damjanić / Јован Дамјанић, December 8, 1804 – October 6, 1849) was a Hungarian general of Serb origin. He is considered a national hero in Hungary. He never lost on the battlefield.
Damjanich was born in Lagerdorf (Serbian: Straža, Hungarian: Strázsa) in Banat, Kingdom of Hungary (today in Serbia) or in Staza in Banija (today in Croatia). He entered the army as an officer in the 61st regiment, and on the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 was promoted to be a major in the third Honvéd battalion at Szeged. Although an Orthodox Serb, he was from the beginning a devoted adherent of the Hungarian liberals.
His ability and valour at the battles of Alisbrunn (Serbian: Alibunar, Hungarian: Alibunár) and Lagerdorf in 1848 led to his promotion to colonel. In early 1849, he was appointed commander of the 3rd Army Corps in the middle Tisza, and quickly gained the reputation of being the bravest man in the Hungarian army.
In March 1849 he annihilated an Austrian brigade at Szolnok, which was perhaps his greatest exploit. He was elected deputy for Szolnok to the Diet of Hungary, but declined the honour. Damjanich played a leading role in the general advance upon the Hungarian capital of Buda under Artúr Görgey.
The engagements of Hort and Hatvan, along with the bloody battle of Isaszeg turned Damjanich into a national hero. At the ensuing review at Gödöllő, Lajos Kossuth expressed the sentiments of the whole nation when he doffed his hat as Damjanich's battalions passed by.
Damjanich uncompromisingly supported the views of Kossuth, and was appointed commander of one of the three divisions which, under Görgey, entered Vác in April 1849. His fame reached its height when, on April 19, he won the battle of Nagysalló, which led to the relief of the fortress of Komárom.
At this juncture Damjanich broke his leg, an accident which prevented him from taking part in field operations at the most critical period of the war, when the Hungarians had to abandon the capital for the second time. He recovered sufficiently, however, to accept the post of commandant of the fortress of Arad.
After the Surrender at Világos (now Şiria, Romania), Damjanich, on being summoned to surrender, declared he would give up the fortress to a single company of Cossacks, but would defend it to the last drop of his blood against the whole Austrian army. He accordingly surrendered to the Russian general Dmitry Buturlin, by whom he was handed over to the Austrians, and he became one of the 13 Martyrs of Arad on October 6, 1849. He was last in line to be executed, where he said his famous last words: I believed I would be the last, because I was always the first in battle. My poor Emily! Long live Hungary!
Damjanich is a controversial historical figure. Hungarians consider Damjanich a national hero who led the Hungarian revolutionary army against the Habsburg Monarchy, while Serbs consider him a national traitor, who despite the fact that he was ethnic Serb by origin, fought on the Hungarian side against his own people, i.e. against the Vojvodinian Serb army that was on the side of the Habsburgs during the revolution. Therefore, the Serbs gave him a nickname "ljuta guja, srpski izdajica" ("furious snake, Serbian traitor"). The following quote is allegedly accredited to him, "Serbs shouldn't exist; I won't be still until the last Serb on this earth is dead and once that is done, I shall kill myself."
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This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Bain, Robert Nisbet (1911). "Damjanich, János". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 789. This cites Ödön Hamvay, Life of János Damjanich (Hung.), (Budapest, 1904).