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Chapter LIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8


The Battle of Milazzo - Imminent Danger of Garibaldi - Saved by Colonel Missori - Capitulation of the Garrison - The Victor washing his Shirt- Messina surrenders to the Garibaldians - Syracuse and Augusta evacuated - Garibaldi Master of Sicily - Alarm and Concessions of Francis II - Letter of Victor Emmanuel to the General, dissuading him from the Invasion of Naples - He refuses Compliance - His Magical Influence over the Sicilians - The Civil Administration - The Dictator's Wardrobe - Picture of his Army - The Albion Club - Invasion of Naples - Precursory Descent on the Calabrian Shore - Its Wanderings among the Mountains - Attempt of the King of Naples to bribe Garibaldi, and to have him assassinated - Garibaldi lands with his Army in Calabria - Capitulation of Reggio - A romantic Scene - Enthusiasm of the Calabrians - Demoralised State of the Neapolitan Army - Surrender of Scylla - Joy of the Population - Progress of the Invaders - Tiriolo and Savonia evacuated - The Liberator at Salerno - Intrigues of Count Cavour - The Committee of Order - Annexation of Naples and Piedmont - Garibaldi resists, but professes unbounded Loyalty to Victor Emmanuel - Alexandre Dumas, a Revolutionary Agent at Naples - Don Liberio Romano - Departure of the King - His parting Proclamation- Invitation to the Dictator - His Triumphal Entry into the City - His Proclamation to the People - Rejoicings at Naples - Garibaldi's Reforms - His Interview with the English Ambassador on board the Hannibal - Lamoricierč and the Volunteers-Invasion of the Papal States by Victor Emmanuel - Its Result - Skirmishing between the Royal Troops and the Garibaldians - Battle of the Volturno - Treatment of the Garibaldian Prisoners - Victor Emmanuel's Progress through Southern Italy - Garibaldi's Address to the People - Meeting between Victor Emmanuel and Garibaldi at Teano - Surrender of Capua - Garibaldi's Address to the Volunteers - Triumphal Entry of the King into Naples - Garibaldi's Reception at the Royal Palace - His Farewell Address to the Volunteers - His Departure for Caprera.
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The next step in Garibaldi's liberating progress was to dislodge the enemy from Milazzo. The garrison was commanded by General Bosco, who had under him four regiments of rifles, numbering 4,800 men; the 15th Regiment of the line, 1,000 strong; two squadrons of dragoons, five pieces of artillery, and twelve field pieces, all remarkably well mounted. He had, besides, every advantage in point of position. Garibaldi's forces were greatly inferior in point of numbers, amounting to only about 4,400 men, with three guns, two of them old ship twelve-pounders, and a six-pounder, cast in the seventeenth century. But his little army was enthusiastic and daring, having unbounded confidence in its chivalrous leader. The town is situated on a promontory, forming a peninsula, and was commanded by a strong castle. In this castle, and in the gardens and houses, Bosco had posted his forces. On the 20th of July, at seven o'clock in the morning, Garibaldi commenced the attack along the whole line. The fighting continued for two hours without any marked result. The Neapolitan sharpshooters, screened by the hedges and shrubs, stood their ground well. Garibaldi had brought up all his reserves, and the issue still seemed doubtful. The day would probably have been lost, but for the extraordinary resources of Garibaldi's military genius. Taking with him two of his aides-de-camp, Captains Missori and Statella, with, about fifty Sicilians, he turned the right of Bosco's line, passing along the road which skirts the sea in the direction of Messina. This movement was near proving fatal to him and to the Italian cause. At the turning of a garden wall he met a troop of Neapolitan horsemen, who at once fell upon his small band. Belying on the magic of his name, he drew his sword, and seizing the bridle of the commanding officer, cried - "Surrender! I am Garibaldi." "It is for you to surrender," replied the other, aiming a blow with his sabre at the General's head. Evading the blow, Garibaldi struck his adversary on the face, and caused him to fall from his horse. He was then attacked by two dragoons, who would, no doubt, have killed him, but for Missori, who rushed forward at the critical moment, and shot both the assailants with his revolver. The Neapolitans, seeing the fate of their officer, turned and fled. Garibaldi's forces succeeded in getting possession of a bridge which connected the town with the mainland. He then went on board the Veloce, a man-of-war which had passed over to the national cause, and ordered the gunners to throw some shells into the town and the fortress. This had the desired effect. The Neapolitan troops became demoralised, and Bosco was compelled to retire into the fortress, where he capitulated the next day. He was allowed to embark with his troops for Naples, having given his word of honour, not to take up arms against the national forces for three months. Thus the general who had boasted that he would annihilate Garibaldi, was seen on the 22nd of July, walking through a double row of those ragged volunteers he had so often despised, leaving to the conqueror forty- four guns, half a field battery, large quantities of ammunition, ninety-four mules, and forty-five horses. The victory, however, was dearly bought. Such was the heroism of Garibaldi's soldiers, that the extraordinary proportion of twenty-five per cent., or more than 800 of the men engaged, were put hors de combat "More than once during the fight," says Colonel Chambers, "the fate of Italy hung in the balance, and it was without doubt Garibaldi's hardest fought battle in Sicily. For it was Universally allowed that Bosco's troops made a more determined resistance, and fought with greater resolution, than the Austrians had ever displayed in Lombardy against the Cacciatori." "Garibaldi being requested after the battle to write a bulletin, answered, 'No, if I write an account, I shall be compelled to say that some did better than others. You are at liberty to write if you please; but the best thing you can say is, that the action commenced at daylight, and in the evening we had possession of the town.' During the action the General had been slightly wounded; and finding his red shirt soiled, he took it off, and washed it himself in a neighbouring brook, and hung it upon the bushes to dry, while he partook of his frugal repast of bread, fruit, and water. Then sitting down on the ground, barebacked, he smoked his cigar, and, wrapt in thought, contemplated the drying of his garment. Thus in war and in repose did he share alike danger and hard ship with the humblest of his followers."

The Dictator had now learned, from an intercepted letter, that the King of Naples, despairing of Sicily, had ordered his troops to evacuate the island. He therefore resolved to prevent the departure of the troops, and to force the garrison of Messina to come to terms, to which the general agreed without difficulty, signing a convention, by which he surrendered the town and all the forts, except the citadel. Messina and the harbour were to be respected, and no bombardment was to take place with' out provocation on the part of the Garibaldians; the towns of Syracuse and Augusta were also to be evacuated by the royal troops; thus Garibaldi became master of Sicily, and had obtained from the enemy large supplies of war material to enable him to effect the liberation of Naples.

In the meantime the King, alarmed at the progress of revolution, and fearing the loss of his throne, supplicated the interposition of the French Emperor, promising a constitution and all sorts of reforms. Napoleon, therefore, wrote in very urgent terms to Victor Emmanuel, deprecating the invasion of Naples. In consequence of this interposition, Count Litta was sent with the following letter to Garibaldi: -

"General, - You know that I did not approve of your expedition, and that I was entirely foreign to it; but to-day the very grave circumstances in which Italy is placed, make it a duty to enter into direct communication with you. In the event of the King of Naples consenting to evacuate the whole of Sicily, voluntarily abandoning all sort of action, and formally pledging himself to exercise no pressure whatsoever upon the Sicilians, so that the latter may freely pronounce their will, and choose the mode of government, which they may prefer, I believe it will be wise in you to renounce altogether any further enterprise against the kingdom of Naples. In the contrary event, I expressly reserve my entire liberty of action, and relieve myself from making any comment in regard to your projects. Your affectionate, "Victor Emmanuel."

Garibaldi, well aware of the pressure under which this letter was written, resolved to disobey the royal injunctions. He wrote a reply full of devotion and affection, in which he declared nothing on earth should influence him to swerve from his mission till it was accomplished - until he made His Majesty King of United Italy. It was observed by all the officers about Garibaldi that he exercised a magnetic influence over the people, which made them regard him as a kind of link connecting them with the Deity - as a being with a nature almost divine. When the inhabitants of Messina found the Liberator in possession of the royal palace, which he had quietly entered, they thronged round to do him homage with an idolatrous devotion. This continued during the day, and he was obliged to rise several times from his dinner, and show himself at the window, in answer to the incessant cheering that rose from the street beneath, which was so densely thronged, that it seemed paved with human heads instead of stones, " Resting his elbows on the balcony, his noble weather- beaten countenance radiant with goodness, he realised the idea of an apostle of old, half human, half divine." He was now at the head of 25,000 regular troops, whose morale was excellent, and whose faith in their General was unbounded. They were supplied with 40,000 Enfield rifles, and seventeen mountain howitzers and field guns. He had appointed a pro-dictator for the administration of the civil affairs of Sicily, whom he caused, with all the other officers, to take the oath of allegiance to Victor Emmanuel. The taxes were well paid, property was respected, and law and order fully maintained. In the royal palaces Garibaldi retained all the servants of the old viceroy's, but reduced the expenditure to the lowest possible standard compatible with his dignity as Dictator. All that he allowed himself out of the public treasury was eight francs a day. Colonel Chambers gives the following description of his wardrobe at this time: - "One old Piedmontese general's uniform - a relic of his campaign in the lakes - two pairs of grey trousers, an old felt hat, two red shirts, a few pocket-handkerchiefs, and two neckties; his arms consisted of a sabre and a revolver - a kit which his daily allowance of eight francs did not do much to improve, owing to the simple fact that, after an early hour in the morning there was never by any chance a single carlino to be found in the pocket of His Excellency." Count Arrivabene presents a graphic picture of the army destined to conquer the kingdom of Naples: - "How strange a spectacle did that army present! What a variety of uniforms did it exhibit! flannel shirts of every colour, white tournouses, and feathered puritan hats! Here comes by a well-known countess in a half huzzar, half amazonian dress; there the sharpshooters of Colonel Peard are parading in their brown blouses. Down below, several of Danne's regiment are being drilled by their English officers, the elegance of whose red jackets contrasts with the rougher costume of their commander. On the left of a dirty road, towards the beach, a hut has been constructed, and a large inscription tells the passer-by that the 'Albion Club' has been established there. British activity is never at fault; where there are ten Englishmen there must be a club. It is true that the Albion Club at Faro was only a poor hut, the floor of which was covered with a mat, while two rough wooden benches served for divans. But there was always a glass of wine to be had there, and a sausage and a crust of bread were never wanting." As to the General himself, Alexandre Dumas states that he found him, after the battle, slumbering with his staff in the porch of a church, exhausted with fatigue, his head upon his saddle. Near him lay his scanty supper, a small loaf of bread and a jug of water.

The hour for the invasion of Naples had now arrived. On the 8th of August the Dictator dispatched a body of 200 men to the Calabrian shore, with instructions to surprise and capture, if possible, a strong fort stationed upon the coast, directly opposite to Cape Faro. Majors Missori and Nullo were entrusted with the command of this perilous expedition. Owing to the darkness, or the force of a current, the boats were unable to approach the coast at the point intended. The men then marched along the rocky paths, where they met a patrol of Neapolitans, who at once opened fire, and put the garrison on the alert. The expedition then retired, and spent many days wandering through the mountains, rousing the disaffected population, and preparing the way for the triumphant march of Garibaldi through Calabria. For this the General was energetically preparing day and night. An infamous attempt was made by the ministers of Francis II. to buy him off by the offer of a bribe of 50,000,000 francs, and the use of the Neapolitan navy for the liberation of Venice, if he would consent not to cross the Straits. Attempts still more infamous were made for the same object by hiring persons to assassinate the Liberator. Happily, all those schemes proved abortive, and on the 18th of August he embarked, with an expedition of 4,000 men, for the conquest of a kingdom defended by a well-organised army of at least 80,000. One of the two ships which bore his troops, the Farrino, was run upon a sandbank, and abandoned to the Neapolitans, who subsequently boarded and burnt her. The other ship, the Franklin, being an American vessel, was allowed to retire unmolested to Messina. Garibaldi was the first to land. All means of retreat being cut off, the General had to trust Providence for the issue. He surprised Reggio, whose garrison capitulated, and was placed on board the Neapolitan ships. The spoils consisted of twenty-six heavy guns and field pieces, 500 stand of arms, and a large quantity of coals, ammunition, provisions, horses, and mules. The inhabitants of Reggio hailed their deliverers with rapture, and vied with one another in affording hospitality to the officers and men. As the liberating army advanced, Garibaldi and his officers everywhere out-manoeuvred the Neapolitans, giving them to understand that a small reconnoitring band was but the advanced guard of a powerful army, and inducing them to retire or surrender. The scenery through which they passed was wild and picturesque. Captain Forbes, on one occasion, had left Garibaldi sleeping in the stubble of a cornfield, wrapt in his blanket, and had gone to procure a bed and some food, with the intention of returning before dawn. "A more romantic scene," he said, "than that I left behind it would be difficult to conceive; and as I rode through the cordon of Calabrians, clustering round their watch- fires, in their quaint velveteen breeches and jackets, their jaunty and fantastic sugarloaf hats, with a superabundance of riband, their weapons of every shape and make - numerous priests, too, mingling with them, like ghosts stalking abroad in the night - the dark sea murmuring in the abyss - formed a picture more like a fairy tale than an incident of real life."

It the mainspring of Garibaldi's life had been personal, ambition, the uninterrupted series of splendid victories, and the sudden acquisition of unlimited power and popularity, might have turned his head. But it has been truly remarked that with him the thought of glory always comes after that of duty. He, therefore, did not stop to enjoy the illumination of Reggio and of the opposite Sicilian coast, which from Messina to Faro was one uninterrupted line of coloured lights. He was always marching on the heels of the enemy to whom he allowed no respite. It must be confessed that in the Neapolitan troops he did not encounter very formidable enemies. Count Arrivabene has remarked that, during the Southern Italian campaign, he scarcely met with a Neapolitan general whose appearance conveyed the idea of a soldier. "The greater number were fat, heavy, embarrassed, and looked more like priests or monks who had assumed the military uniform than followers of the profession of arms. Arrogant and overbearing towards the people, they were humble as slaves when brought into contact with their superiors, or when they thought themselves in danger." The Neapolitan soldiers were worthy of their officers. When General Melendes, at the head of a brigade, surrendered to Garibaldi on his peremptory summons, after being allowed four hours for deliberation, the announcement of the fact was the signal for the breaking up of his ranks. The Neapolitans at once threw down their arms, and ran up to the Italian lines to fraternise with the soldiers of liberty, impelled it was supposed by fear rather than love. But the Garibaldians did not inquire too curiously about motives. It was enough for them that 2,500 men had been forced to lay down their arms before a corps of the so-called fillibusters. " Kissing, screeching, and hugging then began, with the usual obbligata of excellenza and signorino." After witnessing this disgraceful scene, continues Count Arrivabene, "I could understand how, with soldiers who had not the slightest notion of the dignity of men, it was impossible to maintain a position against the impetuous onslaughts of Garibaldi. Not only did the soldiers try to kiss our hands, but even some of the officers did so too; there was, in truth, no humiliation they would not have undergone. Had our excellencies, as they called us, desired to have our shoes kissed, they would have satisfied such a wish without much difficulty. No doubt their servile habits will disappear with the progress of education, and the influence of liberal institutions; but it will take years before the lower classes of the Neapolitan provinces will be brought up to the level of their more manly brethren of the North. In Southern Italy, the children generally receive, at a very early age, the impression of numberless superstitious stories, which fill them with a sort of mysterious fear. They contract the habit of trembling at the least manifestation of authority, till pusillanimity and fear become the fixed condition of their minds." While the Neapolitan troops which had held Villa San Giovanni were embarking, amidst the enthusiasm of the townspeople, news arrived that the garrison stationed at the fort of Pezzo had also capitulated. At ten o'clock the next day, the town of Scylla was in the power of the invaders, a part of the garrison having disbanded, and the rest having embarked for Naples. Although this was a formidable stronghold, it was surrendered without firing a shot. "The wonders Garibaldi had achieved in so short a time, had excited such dread amongst the mercenary and demoralised instruments of Francis II., that generals and soldiers forgot all military rules except those which are laid down in the treatises on capitulation." While the victors were breakfasting next morning, groups of beautiful girls were standing at the fountain opposite, singing hymns of liberty, or shouting out their vivas with wild enthusiasm; the only disappointment they felt was, that their oppressors had been permitted to depart in peace, instead of being all killed.

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Pictures for Chapter LIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8

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