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February 25, 2011

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Page 8 POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 25, 2011 ;t Oudinot began his siege with deception• He wrote General Roselli on June 1 that, though the armistice was over, he was deferring the attack cm 'the place' ('pi- azza~ until Monday, June 4. The gullible Roselli believed him, and, countering Gari- baldi's plans to fortify the outer defenses to high alert, toured the outposts of the Villa Pamfili assuring the troops that they could relax until Monday morning. With Garibaldi too ill on the night of June 2-3 (he had been wounded in the side on April 30 but swore his doc- tor to secret treatment) to urge vigilance, the defend- ers manning the Pamfili/ Corsini outposts slept that night, the main point Oudinot targeted. At 3 AM, therefore, French troops penetrated the walls of the two villas with hardly a fight, and by the time Italian sen- tries fired their muskets, were pouring, wave after wave, into the Pamfili grounds. Half the 400" Ital- ians there were captured quickly, while the other half tried to set a defense at Villa Corsini, closer to Rome's walls. Reinforcements from the city helped them hold on, but French artillery and su- perior numbers soon drove the defenders down the hill to the Vascello, a villa shaped like the prow of a ship• By morning light, the critical Villa Corsini, with- out which Rome could barely be defended, was in enemy hands• When he heard that Rome was under attack, Garibaldi rushed from his sick bed with his ~cveral offlcero many in their twenties, most to lose their lives that day -- to join his troops. Gathering his forces in the Piazza of St. Peter's, he led them to the Porta Caval- leggieri, contemplating where, with Corsini now swarming with the French, he could make a stand. All the bells of Rome were clanging the alarm, soldiers and their equipment flying everywhere, most headed for the Janiculum. Garibaldi with his Legion made it to the Porta San Pancrazio about five in the morning. Inside the walls, the Italian regiments were gathering to The Roman Republic o PART THREE: The Seige Begins, June 3 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. Goffredo Mameli prepare for the attack; out- side the walls, and opposite San Pancrazio stood the key to the entire battle -- the Villa Corsini, four stories high, perched like a fortress commanding the entrance to the city -- now held by the French. Garibaldi judged that it had to be retaken, n6 matter what the cost. The cost would be great that day, June 3, when so many mar- tyrs of the siege of Rome would die. This was due in part to the way in which the Corsini had to be attacked -- through a narrow gate and uphill 300 yards to a long staircase that allowed only a few soldiers at a time to run, and during which they were oFen tar0ets for F .... h sharpshooters. Even if the French had to yield the Corsini Villa, as they did several times that day, they could retire to the Pamfili grounds where a hollow pro- vided cover for a new attack. With a force approaching 30,000 troops, they had ample reserves to do so. The Ital- ian defenders under Colonel Galletti, meantime, had pos- session of the Vascello, at the bottom of the hill• They also had a battery at the Casa Merluzzo, left of the San Pancrazio gate, from which they could shell the Villa Corsini.- This became the crux of Villa Corsini, Gianicolo BY LAWaENCE DISTASI the pivotal battle on June 3, 1849. The Corsini windows, balconies and walls sprouted French soldiers firing at detachment after detach- ment of Garibaldi's legion- naires dashing for the nar- row, deadly entrance gate, pouring through, and rush- ing up the narrow way to the villa. Then, the survivors of that murderous fire, if any, would storm up the double staircase, gain the balcony, bayonet the French in the drawing-room, and stand for a few minutes masters of the villa. Often the charge failed half-way up, from sheer want of numbers. But several times the Corsini was carried, and held for awhile, against the ...... trated ~re oi a whole army in the woods of the Pamfili beyond. On one of these occasions the Gari- baldians piled up their dead comrades in the open log~lias on the west side of the villa, and repulsed the French attacks from behind that bdr- ricade. (Trevelyan, 175) At 7:30 that morning, Garibaldi made his first an- nouncement of several that day that the Corsini had been retaken• But it was soon lost again, and a new attack would begin. The losses on the Italian side were terrible: Garibaldi's thief of staff, Daverio, was killed early. Angelo Masina $15.95 Mal Occhio: The Underside of Vision li /! ..a classic of Italian American literature. Robert Viscusi, Wolfe Institute, Brooklyn College t ii i iJ: ii I:: 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 THE BIG BOOK OF ITALIAN AMERICAN CULTURE $14.95 (saveS5.) "...a book to give everyone on your list: turning each page is like opening a series of sr all nested boxes, each containing a small jewel." Maria Gloria, L'Italo Americmw TO ORDER: send book price plus $3.50 S&H to: Sanniti Publications P O. Box 533, Bolinas, CA 94924 or !wd tasi@ giolrakrlet was wounded and refused to go to the hospital until Garibaldi ordered him to; he was back in an hour with his arm in bandages. When the 900 Lombard Bersaglieri finally arrived (they had been held, against Gari- baldi's plea for assistance, inside Rome by an order from the feckless General Roselli), Garibaldi sent one company to occupy the near- by Casa Giacometti, from which they could fire into the Corsini villa. Then he ordered most of the rest to capture the Corsini. Led by Luciano Manara and Enrico Dandolo, the Bersaglieri stormed the villa, only to be mowed down by the French firin~ from inside windows IJ and behind protective walls. Rather than retreat, they took up positions and sought to trade fire in what was be- coming a massacre. Enrico Dandolo was among the first to be killed. When Manara saw how hopeless his situa- tion was, he ordered the re- treat, but that turned out to "be more fatal than the at- tack.-As the Swiss volunteer Gustav Hoffstetter later re- corded it: And now as these de-fence- less men poured out of the garden, the deadly harvest began in earnest. At first I imagined that the numbers of men falling on their faces had merely stumbled in their haste over the roots of the vines. But their motionless bodies soon showed me the truth ... (Trevelyan, 179) Having lost some of his best soldiers, Garibaldi prob- ably should have fallen back for an artillery bombardment (indeed, many criticized him for not having softened the French position before ordering the Bersaglieri to attack). In part he did. But then he indulged in what has been called a 'piece of madness.' Finding a reserve of BersagiieN inside the walls, he asked for a small party to engage in a "diffi- cult undertaking." Though Emilio Dandolo, in charge, had just heard a rumor that his brother had been slain, he volunteered to lead. He later wrote: "Go," said Garibaldi to me, "with twenty of your bravest men, and take Villa Corsini at Involuntarily I remained trans- fixed with astonishment -- with twenty men to hurry for- ward to attack a position which two of our companies and the whole of Garibaldi's Legion, after unheard-of exer- • tions, had failed to carry ... But the 19-year-old Dan- dolo obeyed the order and charged towards the Corsini Villa. By the time his little band reached the entrance, only twelve men remained. His account, continues: would twe/ve men do against a place occupied by several hundreds of the enemy? I had nothing left but to stoop to that which more numerous forces had already done -- give the signal to fire, and then retreat. When we had got half-way down the road, S and I were both struck in the thigh by the same ball. We returned to the Vascello, six in number, in a deplorable condition, and with the conviction that the really extraordinary courage which had just been so conspicuously and recklessly displayed would have no effect, beyond that of showing the French that Italians were still capable of fighting with temerity, what- ever the fortune of war might be. Dandolo, severely wounded and out of action, dragged himself from post to post that afternoon, seeking his older brother. No one had the courage to tell him the truth until he entered the Casa Giacometti and found Luciano Manara and Hoff- stetter beside the dead body of his brother, Enrico. Hoff- stetter stepped away, while the Colonel grasped Emilio's hand: "Do not seek ~our brother any more---it is now too late; I will be a brother to you." The young man, sick with wounds and grief fell fainting against Manara, who carried him out of the room in his arms. (Trevelyan, 181-82) The afternoon then pro- ceeded with a fierce cannon- ade by the Italians from the Casa Merluzzo and the walls. The effect was to make an uninhabitable ruin of the Villa Corsini, its floors collapsing, the French trying to hold on. When fire from the French side slowed, Garibaldi ordered his last attack, with Masina's lanc- ers in the vanguard, followed by now-General Galletti and Masina himself with ban- daged arm. The horsemen made it up the slope and fol- lowed Masina galloping up the steps of the Corsini. Behind them, Manara and Garibaldi led the infantry in clearing the last of the French from the Villa, and occupied it. Cheers erupted at the gate below, and a mad rush by citizens, artists, gunners, and stray infantry- men charged the villa in a race to glory. A defense was has~iiy prepared in expecta- tion of the inevitable French counterattack, which was not long in coming. And though the mob defended the Viila d~c~aed~v before long the overwhehning numbers of French broke through the defenses, and the retreat was called. The Villa Corsini could be taken by the Ital- ians, but it could not be held.