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February 18, 2011     Post-Gazette
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February 18, 2011

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Page 8 • . . - °- -,- j . . . . . POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 18, 2011 The first test came quickly, on April 30. Rome's defenders numbered around -7,000 men: 2500 defecting Papal troops and Carabinieri; Garibaldi's First Italian Legion, about 1300 men; some 1400 men from Roman volunteer regi- ments; and an assortment of inexperienced National Guards, citizens and stu- dents, armed with whatever they could Find. Garibaldi had been put in charge of defend- ing the Janiculum -- Rome's 'eighth' hill and its highest, most crucial point, being west of" the Tiber bordering the Trastevere district, but inside the city walls• Should it fall, the French attackers could bombard the city below at their leisure. Finally, un- armed citizens built ramparts and aided the wounded, par- ticularly the revolutionary Princess Cristina Bel-gioioso, who took charge of the hospi- tals. One of her first acts was to put Margaret Fuller, whom she had met previously, in charge of the Fate Bene Fratelli hospital sited on an island in the Tiber River. On the other side were the French -- also with about 7,000 fully-equipped troops, confident that with their first cannonade, Rome's defenses would melt like so much but- ter. So cocky were the invad- ers that they brought field artillery but no siege-guns or scaling ladders. Their plan was to enter by the Porta Pertusa, unaware that that gate no longer existed. Gari- baldi, meantime, saw that, due to the high ground out- side the wails, batteries there could easily bombard defend- ers below, so he set his de- fenders outside the critical San Pancrazio gate, on the high ground of the Villa Corsini and the Pamfili Villa behind it. Thus, when Gen- eral Oudinot's forces reached the non-existent Pertusa gate, they had to change plans and attack the Porta Cavalleggieri farther south. This meant they had to move downhill and over a thousand yards of open country- eas- ily fired upon by troops on the wall and batteries near St, Peter's. By around noon, the initial French attack was stalled, though not driven away. Now it was Garibaldi's turn. Watching from the Corsini The Roman Republic of 1849 PART TWO: We are Again Romans by Lawrence DiStasi The Post-Gazette is glad to present its readers with a four-part series written by Lawrence DiStasi and originally published in L'Italo-Americano. The series covers the history behind Italy's •unification, which marks its 150  anniversary this year. ROME, la@ Drawing of the Villa, he never hesitated, but ordered an offensive to turn the initial stall of the French into a defeat in the open field. To do so, his soldiers had to charge down from the Pamfili Gardens and cross a wailed lane connecting the Porta San Pancrazio with the main road to Civitavecchia. Up this lane marched about 1,000 French infantry. Garibaldi's students and artists suddenly found themselves combating an army of veterans, and soon had to retreat. The situ- ation quickly grew perilous: both Corsini and Pamfili were being overrun, and their loss would be devastating. Garibaldi sent for reinforce- ments -- about 800 volun- teers under Colonel Galletti, who, alongside Garibaldi, led the Italian Legion's charge to recapture the two villas. Here is how Trevelyan describes it: Swarming over the Corsini hill, and across the little stream and valley that divide it from the Pamfili grounds, the Legionaries came crash- ing through the groves. The Garibaldian officers, 'the ti- gers of Montevideo,' with long beards and hair that curled over their shoulders, were singled out to the enemy's marksmen by red blouses, falling almost to the knees. This was the day that they had waited for so long in ex- ile, this the place towards which they had sailed so far across the ocean. Behind them Italy came following on. And above the tide of shout- Corsini battle. ing youths, drunk with their first hot draught of war, raised Garibaldi on his horse, majestic and calm as he al- ways looked, but most of all in the fury of battle, the folds of his white American pon- cho floating off his shoulders for a flag of onset. (132) The Italians dislodged the French from Corsini and pur- sued them down into nearby vineyards, where "after fierce struggling, body to body, with guns, and hands, and bayo- nets" they put the French to flight• Nor was that all. The main body of the French was so slow in retreating that nearly 400 were taken pris- oner. Coupled with the 500 French soldiers killed that day, this capture of prisoners made the rout -- Oudinot and his 'invincible' army were fleeing towards Civitavecchia -- both complete and sweet. And the people of Rome knew it. That night the city was il- luminated, the streets were filled with shouting.and tri- umphant crowds, and there was scarcely a window in the poorest and narrowest alley of the mediaeval slums that did not show its candle. It was no vulgar conquest which they celebrated. After long centu- ries of disgrace, this people had recovered its self-respect, and from the highest to the lowest ranks men felt; "We are again Romans." (Trevelyan, 134) Sadly, Garibaldi's superiors did not understand, or did not BY LAWaEKE DISTASI Mal Occhio: The Underside of Vision "..a classic of Italian American literature." Robert Viscusi, Wolfe Institute, Brooklyn College THE BIG BOOK OF ITALIAN AMERICAN CULTURE $14.95 (save$5.) "...a book to give everyone on your list: turning each page is like opening a series of small nested boxes, each containing a small jewel." Maria Gloria, L'Italo Americano $15.95 il Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment During World War I $21.95 "DiStasi is one of our most precious public intellectuals... This is the part of the Italian American story you won't see on The Sopranos." Ishmael Reed, University of California at Berkeley TO ORDER: send book price plus $3.50 S&H to: Sanniti Publications P.O. Box 533, Bolinas, CA 94924 or email: Rome in 1849 wish to understand the situ- ation he had presented them. Retreating on unfamiliar ground, the French should be pursued, .he argued, and driven into the sea; the whole of Italy. could be aroused. But Mazzini gave greater weight to two considerations. First, imposing total defeat on "the French might be satisfying, but it would further alienate Louis Napoleon, and Mazzini still hoped the French would come to their senses and aid a fellow republic fighting for liberty. Second, Rvme's lead- ers worried about the other armies closing in on them -- King Ferdinand's Neapolitan army advancing from the south, and Austrian forces driving down from the north. If Garibaldi were to march forty miles to Civitavecchia, Rome would be left without her most capable defender. It was the first, but not the last quarrel that would divide the two titans of Italian unifica- tion. In the end, the soldier had to yield to the statesman. Now the Roman forces had to face the threat from the south. King Ferdinand, with an army of 10,000 men, was camped a mere 20 miles from Rome near two cities in the Alban Hills, Frascati and Albano. Still worried about another French attack, Rome's military leadership under General Avezzana de- cided it could spare only 2300 soldiers, mostly Garibaldi's Legion, some students, and one experienced troop, • Luciano Manara's Lombard Bersaglieri. The latter had fought the previous year in the famous "five days" of Milan, suffered the loss to the Austrians, and then headed to Rome. Blocked at Civitavecchia by the French, they were only able to gain passage by promising not to fight. Though they honored their pledge by staying out of the April 30 battle, they were now eager to show what they were made of. Garibaldi saw that it was foolhardy to make a frontal attack on such a large force, so he chose to employ his guerrilla tactics -- to harass Ferdinand's army so it could not move on Rome. Marching at night, Garibaldi feinted north from Tivoli before he turned south to his real tar- get, Palestrina, where he set up headquarters on May 7. When" they saw what 'they faced, the Neapolitans sent General Lanza and Colonel Novi to dislodge this "bandit" hampering their advance. But Garibaldi did not wait to be attacked, sending Manara's Bersaglieri to at- tack first. So shocked were the Neapolitans by Garibaldi's offensive that the battle was over in three hours, with the enemy in full flight -- Lanza's right wing abandoning towns right and left and not stopping till they reached Ferdinand's headquarters on the Alban lake; Novi's left wing retreat- ing first to Colonna and then to Frascati. Once again, however, Rome's leaders stopped Garibaldi's advance and recalled him, fearing a new move by General Oudinot. They were mistaken. Oudinot was awaiting rin- forcements. To disguise this, Louis Napoleon sent Ferdinand de Lesseps (of later Suez Canal fame) as an en- voy, allegedly to try to arrange a peace between Roman lead- ers and Pius IX. On May 17, the Assembly and the Trium- virate agreed to halt hostili- • ties to give de Lesseps time; but what they really did was give the French time -- first for Oudinot to be reinforced; then for elections that would increase the power of French Catholics in Paris fa- voring the invasion. Both would prove fatal to Rome's survival. For the moment, though, a truce reigned and Garibaldi took advantage of it by hav- ing .red shirts -- to become a sacred symbol of Italian uni- fication -- made for all of his legionnaires (previously, only his officers had th.em). The triumvirate also took advan- tage of the truce to again try to drive Ferdinand's army out of Roman territory. They pro- moted Garibaldi to Division General, but still kept him under General Roselli, the Commander-in-Chief. This, too, would have disastrous consequences because Roselli, though decent, was a conventional, timid com- mander. Thus the Roman army moving south now com- bined mismatched elements. As Trevelyan notes: The army moved with the uncomfortable and jerky mo- tion of a man with an excit- able dog on a leash; Garibaldi dashed about in front locating and engaging the enemy, and then was forced to wait till Roselli came sulkily lumber- ing up with the bulk of the troops. (153) So though he had a force five times the one Garibaldi had led earlier, Roselli still chose to avoid a direct attack, harassing the enemy's flank instead. Impatient with the lumbering army's pace, Garibaldi raced ahead to see what the enemy were up to. It turned out that, intimi- dated, "King Bomba" was in full retreat. To Garibaldi, the only danger was that the en= emy would escape, so he moved to cut them off by at- tacking with an advance guard, simultaneously calling for Roselli to rush up to fin- ish the job. It was a breach of discipline, but absolutely jus- tified in his mind: by disrupt- ing the Neapolitan retreat, he could, once joined by Roselli, strike a decisive blow for Rome, and, possibly, all of Italy. Garibaldi placed his ad- vanced force outside Velletri (Continued on Page 10}