An international intrigue, thousand patriots, a general, betrayal of militaries, politicals and noble Bourbons determined the most modern Italian Army defeat against of a handful of men and the unification of the peninsula under the banner of Savoy.
From 1859 a raising funds began throughout Italy to provide one million rifles Giuseppe Garibaldi; this collection, organized in various locations by municipalities and public and private institutions, managed to put together nearly 8 million liras which did then part of Finance of the Kingdom of Italy. Garibaldi, with the experience of the Hunters of the Alps, the Piedmontese army detachment formed by volunteers who had defeated the Austrian army, he gathered 1162 volunteers from Italy and from foreign countries for the expedition to the South, many of them were veterans of the Hunters of the Alps.
The Rubattino company was contacted for the transport to Palermo, who had already made available the steamship Cagliari to Pisacane and his men to reach Sapri in 1848. Garibaldi asked the general manager of the company, Giovanni Battista Fouchè, the steamer Piemonte and later even the steamer Lombardo, the two most modern ships of the fleet, offering a reward of 100,000 francs. The Fouchè made available the two ships but declined the reward, which, he said, was better allocate for the enterprise of the general. Later, due to the charter of two vessels, the Fouchè was dismissed by the company with a retinue of controversy as who was the most patriotic between the former general manager and majority shareholder of company Raffaele Rubattino. After the unification of Italy the Rubattino company received a reasonable compensation from the state, even including the cost of the vessel used for the ill-fated expedition to Sapri.
On the night of May 5, 1860, the 1162 Garibaldi soldiers including Nino Bixio and the writers Ippolito Nievo and Giuseppe Cesare Abba, with few weapons, embarked on two ships in the small port of Quarto, four Roman miles from Genoa, for this reason named “Quartum Milium” then “Quarto a Mare”, now it is a district of the Genoa with the name “Quarto dei Mille“. The ships were to meet in the night with some boats loaded with weapons for the soldiers but, for reasons still obscure, the meeting did not take place. On May 7 the ships made a stop in Talamone where Garibaldi was able to take delivery of gunpowder, three cannons and a hundred good rifles from the Piedmontese garrison with the his authority of Piedmontese army General.
A group of 64 partisans commanding Zambianchi landed in Talamone to make a diversion and distract the Bourbon troops into believing that the invasion would take place through Abruzzo. Zambianchi and his men were confronted by the papal troops when entered the papal territories. The small group retreated quickly to the Tuscan coast where Zambianchi was arrested by the Piedmontese who did not want the Papal States were involved in the clashes. Garibaldi did also stop in Porto Santo Stefano, where the shps were supplied coal and foodstuffs.
The two steamers pointed to Tunisia after stopping and then turn towards Sicily. After learning from a fishing boat that were not present in Marsala Bourbon ships, Garibaldi headed for the port of the Marsala after learning from a fishing boat that were not present Bourbon ships; two British warships were in Marsala harbor, sent by the command of the fleet to oversee the operation. These hindered the operation of marine Bourbon intimidated by the presence of the British who, however, remained neutral. On May 11, the Garibaldi soldiers landed undisturbed at Marsala and quickly moved toward the island’s interior. The local Bourbon garrison the day before had been called in Palermo city to quell any riots.
The most complete confusion reigned in Naples. Francesco II and Maria Sofia tried in every way to counter the invasion of Sicily, which everyone knew would happen. Carlo Mezzacapo had reached Naples in secret, he was accomodated in Mezzacapo Palace in Materdei quarter and he went every afternoon to the embassy of the Kingdom of Sardinia in the Toledo street, where he received the highest military Bourbon officers, all his comrades of the military college Nunziatella he had attended with his brother Luigi. In these meetings, he negotiates the passage of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in a unified Italy under the Savoy dynasty, trying to avoid or minimize clashes between the fearsome Neapolitan army and the Garibaldi partisans who wore the legendary red shirt, so it explained the strange timidity of Bourbon in clashes in Sicily with the troops of Garibaldi.
These talks took place with the financial support of the brothers De Gas, French-Neapolitan bankers, uncles of the impressionist painter Edgar Degas. Bankers De Gas had secretly received a transfer of 1,000,000 liras from Piedmont to be used to facilitate the campaign to the south of Garibaldi. This money were distributed by creating alliances with senior army officers. Ministers did not fail to be received in the embassy. The police minister Liborio Romano, appointed a few days ago by Francesco II, was a supporter of liberal ideas; he took part in meetings of Mezzacapo, also having political aspirations for after unification of Italy, he considered inevitable. Even some members of the nobility, close to the royal house Bourbon, were neutral in this situation not wanting to appear as defenders of a cause that they considered already lost.
In Turin it consumed the clash between two political visions, the more refined and prudent politician of Cavour and the most reckless of Vittorio Emanuele II. Cavour desired the annexation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies without to arouse the opposition of Napoleon III, who came to the defense of the State of Church, but that probably aspired to obtain, from the unification of Italy, consistent territorial advantages, such as the transfer of Sardinia and Liguria to France. Vittorio Emanuele wanted to unify Italy under his reign, paying little attention to the reservations of France and leveraging a substantial agreement of the British, who now saw the Bourbons as enemies of their considerable economic interests in Sicily and regarded the powerful Bourbon fleet too competitive with their Mediterranean fleet in the south Tyrrhenian Sea.
On May 14, Garibaldi’s troops had moved in Salemi, in the hinterland, where Garibaldi proclaimed himself dictator of Sicily, with a government led by Francesco Crispi. The first Sicilian volunteers joined the red shirts; the first clash between Garibaldi and his troops, about 1,500 men with Sicilian volunteers, and the regular Bourbon army, stronger than 4000 soldiers, took place near Calatafimi. General risked his life, he managed to save thanks to the sacrifice of one of his soldiers who was seriously injured. The Bourbon regular troops withdrew was defeated and withdrew.
The voice of Garibaldi’s victory spread throughout the island. The retreating troops were targeted by gunfire and throwing objects from the houses in the return to Palermo. A Partinico there was a popular uprising against the soldiers who wanted to seize the civil provisions. The advance of Garibaldi, on contrary, was received with great celebration by all strata of the Sicilian population, including landowners and nobles who, quoting “Il Gattopardo” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, were faithful to the saying “to change all so nothing changes “. Many Sicilian volunteers joined by the red shirts in the march towards Palermo.
Francesco II, learned of the defeat of Calatafimi, invited the senior General Carlo Filangieri, son of Gaetano, to take command of operations in Sicily. Filangieri conveyed to the king to be seriously ill, from his villa in the Sorrento coast. Really he had no intention of fighting a war against Garibaldi, inevitably, it would also become a bloody crackdown against civilians who now actively participated in the fighting. Carlo Filangieri had been prime minister until a few months before and had advised unnecessarily Francesco II to forge an alliance with the French and with Piedmont to prevent Garibaldi’s military campaign to the south.
The partisans arrived at Palermo on May 27. The Bourbon troops were deployed near the “Ponte dell’Ammiraglio”; after brief fighting they retreated into the city after brief fighting. The partisans came in the city through the doors of the “Termini” and “sant’Antonio”Anthony. The clashes in the streets of Palermo between the army and the red shirts lasted several days. The city was bombed the Bourbon navy ships in port; there were Benedetto Cairoli and Nino Bixio among the wounded in the fighting. On May 30 regular troops took refuge in the forts of the city and asked for a truce. On June 6 the same troops left the city after an armistice which included the honor the defeated adversary.
During the entire month of June other detachments of volunteers landed in Palermo, the second arrival of volunteers was commanded by Giacomo Medici, who had resigned from the army to rush from the Piedmont to the Sicily, the third was led by Enrico Cosenz. Also envoys of newspapers came from all over Europe and even Alexander Dumas arrived in Palermo with his yacht to tell Garibaldi’s adventure.
In late June Garibaldi started to conquer the rest of the island by organizing his troops into three columns. The first, led by Medici, he headed for Messina along the northern coastal road; the second, commanded by Bixio, marched to Catania via Agrigento; the third, commanded by Türr, marched toward the island’s interior. Peasant revolts broke out against the landowners and the local nobles during the march in the centers unreached by partisans. The arrival of the Red Shirts restored order at the cost of summary trials against rioters; many of them were executed.
On July 20, the column of Medici, reached by Garibaldi, collided in Milazzo with regular army troops, who were defeated easily. On 27 July Garibaldi reached Messina when already a part of the Bourbon garrison had left the city. The remaining troops demanded an armistice to embark for Naples. Just an army platoon remained in Messina in defense of the fortified citadel but made no offensive action against partisans. They surrendered to the Piedmontese troops without a fight in February 1861. In late July Garibaldi was reached in Messina from the other two columns guided by Bixio and Türr.
Francesco II met the State Counsil in Naples to decide on moves to do to counter the Red Shirts. Prince Luigi of Bourbon proposed an attack with the entire Bourbon fleet against ships of Garibaldi in the port of Messina to destroy them and prevent the crossing of Messina strait to Garibaldi’s troops which at that time numbered 20,000 men, after the reinforcements were arrived by sea and Sicilian volunteers had joined Garibaldi’s forces. The proposal was vehemently rejected by all present, and Luigi di Bourbon, suspected of wanting to replace Francesco II, was turned away from the kingdom.
Garibaldi set about crossing the strait, having appointed Agostino Depetris his replacement as the highest authority in Sicily. On August 19 he made the first landing on the continent in Melito Porto Salvo and August 22 a second landing was made in Palmi; Garibaldi’s forces encountered only weak resistance by the Bourbon troops in Calabria, entire detachments of Bourbon army crossed the lines and joined the Red Shirts.
While Garibaldi was advancing unopposed through Calabria and Basilicata, Francesco II, noted that he had been abandoned by all, including a large part of his army, on September 6 he embarked himself with the queen Maria Sofia moving on Messeggero ship in the fortress of Gaeta where he organized the last line of resistance between the Volturno River and Gaeta with faithful troops.
A group of Neapolitan members to circles of sympathizers of Murat went to Paris to offer the crown of the kingdom of the two Sicilies to Luciano Murat, son of Joachim, cousin of Napoleon III. The answer was evasive and was interpreted as a refusal, although with a letter next Luciano Murat wanted to specify with a next letter that his coronation would be possible only in the presence of a plebiscite in his favor.
On September 7 Garibaldi moved from Torre Annunziata in Naples on a train of Bayard railway, who ran the Naples-Portici line extended to Nocera Inferiore. Garibaldi was greeted by a huge crowd at the Bayard railway station of Porta Nolana. The station was located on the right, watching today’s Circumvesuviana railway station, it was later the railway recreational club and the cinema Italia, actually it looks like a ruin, while the right wing houses municipal offices.
Garibaldi crossed the city in a coach, surrounded by cheering crowds. He came to Spirito Santo place where he was housed in the Palazzo Doria D’Angri, from whose balcony he gave a speech to the people of Naples, after a stop at the guest house and the chapel of San Gennaro in the Cathedral. The first acts of Garibaldi in Naples was the release of political prisoners including Giovanni Nicotera and the few other survivors of the expedition Pisacane.
The well received of Garibaldi in Naples was organized and sponsored by the Bourbon Police Minister Liborio Romano, office that was confirmed by Garibaldi. Minister Romano personally contacted the bosses of the Camorra to get the best result of his action in favor of Garibaldi, the bosses used their influence on the people to avoid hostile gestures to the General, considering the Bourbon feeling of some areas of the city: Santa Lucia and the so-called “Quartieri Spagnoli” near the central via Toledo.
Vittorio Emanuele II didn’t take into account the doubts and fears of causing a reaction of Austrian Empire and France with his direct intervention, he puts himself at the head of his army, assisted by the General Manfredo Fanti, Enrico Cialdini and Luigi Mezzacapo to reach and take hold southern Italy, even subtracting the Marche and Umbria to the Papal State, to give territorial continuity to the new united Italy; so he would also stopped Garibaldi that intended to continue his march towards Rome. In fact Austria was about to intervene, but it was shut by the reluctance of Napoleon III who, at the crucial moment, while officially he showed disagreement with the action of Piedmont, privately recommended to Vittorio Emanuele to do early to unite Italy under his banner, of course excluding the Lazio that was to remain with the Pope. England always saw with sympathy this solution, also because of Masonic ties that shared Victor Emmanuel, Cavour, Napoleon III and Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Minister.
The march of Vittorio Emanuele along the Adriatic coast brought to the conquest of the Marches and Umbria, after the battles of Castelfidardo and Ancona, where the papal army, formed by 10,000 volunteer soldiers, was finally defeated. Piedmont’s forces clashed with the few Bourbon troops in the various local garrisons and had easily the best in Abruzzo and Molise. Only the fortress of Civitella del Tronto resisted the attacks until the first months of 1861, when the last surviving defenders surrendered to the besieger Piedmontese troops.
Garibaldi and his troops, who were about 25,000 volunteers, faced the last battle against the Bourbon army remains with about 50,000 men deployed to defend the line of the Volturno between the fortress of Capua and the fortress of Gaeta. The clash took place during the last days of September and 1 October. The defeated Bourbon took refuge, for the last desperate resistance, inside the fortress of Gaeta with King Francesco and Queen Maria Sofia.
On October 26, Vittorio Emanuele, from the Molise, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, who came from Naples, met in Taverna Catena, today Vairano Scalo, on the road to Venafro, 100 meters after the bifurcation of Vairano. The two rode together to the town of Teano. Garibaldi entrusted to the king the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and obtained that his partisans were classified into the regular army with degrees acquired as volunteers. The Piedmontese troops replaced the partisans in the siege of Gaeta which ended February 14, 1861, with the capitulation of the fortress and military honors to the defeated; the same day Francesco e Maria Sofia left Gaeta on board the French warship “Muette” to go to Rome guests of Pius IX.
In October of 1860 the plebiscites took place in several southern cities for the annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia, which would take the name of the kingdom of Italy. On November 6 Garibaldi lined all his army in front of the Royal Palace of Caserta waiting to Vittorio Emanuele for a formal handover. The king, not to recognize the merits of Garibaldi in the unification of Italy, did not go to Caserta by going the following day directly to Naples. Garibaldi left to retire to his Caprera, embittered for the snub, who certainly he did not deserve, and as the things went in Naples, where he had been ousted in all decisions.
On June 6, 1861 Camillo Benso di Cavour died in Turin for a malaria attack. Recently some historians, based on the documents, had believed that Cavour was probably poisoned by order of Napoleon III; he had felt betrayed by the occupation of part of the Papal State. The poisoning was occurred at the hands of a young woman, agent of the French secret service, which made a close friendship with Bianca Ronzani, Cavour’s lover. Cavour went every afternoon at the lover’s house where he used to have coffee; one day, the friend of Bianca was “accidentally” present at a visit of Cavour, she poured secretly the poison into the cup intended for the Count, determining death after six days.
Giuseppe Cesare Abba, Da Quarto al Volturno. Noterelle di uno dei Mille, Zanichelli, 1880
George Macauley Trevelyan, Garibaldi e i mille, Bologna, Zanichelli, 1909
Ippolito Nievo, Diario della spedizione dei Mille, Milano, Mursia, 2010
Mino Milani, Giuseppe Garibaldi (Storia, biografie, diari), Mursia, 2006
Indro Montanelli, Marco Nozza, Giuseppe Garibaldi, BUR, 2007