The 1848 revolution, or the “spring of peoples” as it was otherwise known, was strongly connected in Transylvania to events in Vienna and Buda and Pest (these were two different cities until their unification in 1873), especially through the manifestations of liberalism. The proclamation of the democratic government led by the poet Sándor Petőfi in Pest had a great impact upon those Transylvanian Romanian intellectuals who envisioned a time when a Transylvanian Romanian nation would be officially recognized. Nevertheless, the liberal political ideas of Hungarian revolutionaries were only one aspect of their aspirations; the national claims were even stronger. The incorporation of Transylvania, Croatia, and other territories which had belonged to the Hungarian medieval kingdom in what was envisioned as a national Magyar state brought Hungarian revolutionaries into opposition with the aspirations of other peoples of the Habsburg monarchy. Because of this, events evolved into the strange situation whereby the Romanian revolution in Transylvania sided with Vienna’s imperial authorities in combating the Hungarian revolution.
Enjoying Austrian support, starting from September 1848, Transylvanian Romanians began the political and military organization of Transylvania on new foundations. The province was divided into 15 prefectures and the National Romanian Committee with its seat in Sibiu had the role of government. Confronted with this situation, the government in Pest appealed to Polish General Józef Bem, commander of the revolutionary Hungarian army in Transylvania, in order to recover the province, which they largely succeeded in doing except for the area of Apuseni mountains.
It was in this context that the battle of Simeria took place, at the bridge over Strei River, on the morning of 9 February 1849 where troops led by the Polish general clashed with a Habsburg force led by Austrian Lieutenant-Colonel Ludwig von Losenau. Bem’s army consisted of 7,000 infantrymen, 1,000 Hussars, and 28 canon. The Austrian forces were sensibly less numerous. Both sides suffered heavy losses and the result of the battle was indecisive. General Anton von Puchner, supreme commander of the Austrian army in Transylvania, withdrew to Alba Iulia, while Józef Bem stopped in Deva and afterwards advanced to Sibiu. The “heroic Vice-Colonel” von Losenau, as George Bariţ called him, was hit by a rifle bullet as he led the vanguard of the Austrian army. He was gravely wounded and died after four days.
The intervention of the Russian army at the request of Emperor Franz Ferdinand contributed to the definitive defeat of the Hungarian revolutionary forces in Transylvania and the restoration of Austrian rule in the province. Four years later, in 1853, the officers of the Habsburg army of the city garrison decided on the construction of a monument to the memory of Lieutenant-Colonel Ludwig von Losenau, who died in the attempt to stop the advancement of the Hungarian troops of General Bem. The place chosen for the erection of the monument was what today is the Fortress Square, which at that time was a space of promenade for the citizens of Alba Iulia.
The monument, built in the neo-Gothic style with flamboyant touches, has the shape of a small quadrilateral tower covered by a pyramidal helmet with a fleuron on top. On each of the four sides are niches in which there were four statues. Nowadays only two of them exist. The niches have the shape of Gothic windows. Above them were mounted four metallic plaques with information in German about the biography of the Austrian lieutenant-colonel.
Today little is known about von Losenau apart from the actions of this courageous officer in the military events of 1848-1849 revolution and his death in the battle of Simeria. These facts lead to Alba Iulia’s enrichment with one more monument. For a long time the monument was neglected, which led to the deterioration of some decorative elements. However, it was recently restored during major works to repair the Habsburg era fortress. (S.A.)