Garibaldi altered in nothing his South American modes of warfare.
Continuing Garibaldi and the Roman Republic,
our selection from The Birth of Modern Italy by Jessie White Mario published in 1909. The selection is presented in five easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Garibaldi and the Roman Republic.
Now, they had committed no “disorders” save that of carrying off the mules and horses of the convents; but when we think of the wild, free, peril-scorning life led in the backwoods of America, of how they recognized no law save their commander’s orders, how little used he had been to receive command from any, it will be easily understood how this wild, tanned, quaintly dressed band filled the inhabitants of the towns through which they passed with terror and dismay. Garibaldi’s violent tirades against priests and priestcraft; the liberation of a gang of miscreants arrested by order of the Roman Government, had not prepossessed men of order and of discipline in his favor; and although personal contact dispelled all unfavorable prepossessions, one sees how impossible it was for Mazzini to place him in the position which he would himself have assigned to him.
Garibaldi altered in nothing his South American modes of warfare. He and his staff, in red shirts and ponchos, with hats of every form and color, no distinctions of rank or military accoutrements, rode on their American saddles, which when unrolled served each as a small tent. When their troops halted and the soldiers piled their arms, the General and all his staff attended each to the wants of his own horse, then to securing provisions for their men. When these were not at hand, the officers, springing on their barebacked horses, lasso on wrists, dashed full speed along the Campagna, till oxen, sheep, pigs, kids, or poultry in sufficient quantities were secured and paid for; then, dividing their spoil among the companies, officers and men fell to killing, quartering, and roasting before huge fires in the open air.
Garibaldi, when no battle was raging or danger near — if in the city, selected some lofty belfry-tower; if in the country, climbed the loftiest peak; and, with brief minutes of repose under his saddle-tent, literally lived on horseback, posting his own pickets, making his own observations, sometimes passing hours in perfect silence, scanning the most distant and minute objects through his telescope. Ever a man of the fewest words, a look, a gesture, a brief sentence sufficed to convey his orders to his officers. When his trumpet signaled departure, the lassos served to catch the horses grazing in the fields, the men fell into order and marched, none knowing nor caring whither, save to follow their chief. Councils of war he never held; he ordered, and was implicitly obeyed. To his original legion were added some of the finest and bravest of the Lombard volunteers, who had learned his worth “after the armistice”; while boys from ten to fourteen, who were his pride and delight, formed his “band of hope.”
Today for an act of courage a man would be raised from the ranks, and, sword in hand, command his company; but woe to him if he failed in shouldering a musket or brandishing a bayonet at need. To onlookers this legion, composed at first of but one thousand men, seemed a wild, unruly set; but this was not the case. Drunkenness and insubordination were unknown among the ranks. Woe to a soldier who wronged a civilian. Three were shot for petty theft during the brief Roman campaign. Still, while Garibaldi felt within himself his own superiority to those around, Mazzini, who also felt it, might as well have proposed an Indian chief to command the Roman Army as this man, whom, in later years, no soldier in Europe but would have been proud to call dux.
Again, it must not be forgotten that the grounds on which France explained her interference was the imposition by “foreigners” of a republic on the Roman people, desirous only to receive the Pope with open arms; that Austria, Piedmont, and the Ultramontane faction in England represented the Roman States as handed over to the demagogues, to the riffraff of European revolutionists. Hence the absolute necessity that presented itself to the minds of the Triumvirs for filling the civil and military offices as far as possible with citizens of Rome or the Roman States. Unfortunately, no capable Roman commander-in-chief existed. Rosselli was chosen as the least incapable; but throughout, Garibaldi was regarded as the soul, the genius of the defense.
A very short time had sufficed for Mazzini and the Romans to come to so perfect an understanding that no exercise of authority, no police force, was necessary to keep order in the city, as the French, English, and American residents, and as the respective consuls repeatedly affirmed in public and in private letters. Oudinot too had warning from his own consul, from his own friends within the city, of all the preparations, of the resolute determination of the inhabitants, of the known valor of many of the combatants in past campaigns; yet to all such remonstrances he answered with French impertinence, “Les Italiens ne se battent pas,” and clearly he had imbued his officers with this belief. At dawn on April 30th, starting from Castel di Guido, leaving their knapsacks at Magnianella, the officers in white gloves and sheathed swords advanced on Rome, taking the road to Porta Cavallaggieri, sending sharpshooters through the woodlands on the right, the Chasseurs de Vincennes on the heights to the left. Avezzana, war minister, from the top of the cupola of San Pietro in Montori, on seeing the first sentinel advance, gave the signal for the ringing of the tocsin, which brought the entire populace to the walls, the Roman matrons clustering there to encourage their husbands, sons, and brothers to the fight.
When the army arrived within a hundred seventy yards from the wall, the artillerymen from the bastions of San Marto fired their first salute, to which the Chasseurs de Vincennes responded so well that the Roman Narducci, Major Pallini, and several of his men fell mortally wounded at their guns. Finding themselves under a cross-fire from the walls and from the Vatican, the enemy placed a counter-battery, which did deadly mischief to the besieged, who lost at once six officers, numerous soldiers, and had a cannon dismounted to boot. Not the slightest confusion occurred; women and boys carried off the wounded; fresh soldiers took the place of the fallen; compelling Oudinot to summon both his brigades and plant two other pieces of cannon. But he now had to cope with an enemy whom Frenchmen in Montevideo envied and calumniated; who to himself and his followers was as yet an unknown quantity.
Garibaldi, who had had but two days to organize his men and take up position, had at once perceived the importance of the scattered buildings outside the gates, and occupied them all — villas, woods, and the walls surrounding them. As the enemy fell back from the first assault, he flung his men upon them as stones from a sling. At the head of the first company was Captain Montaldi, who in a short time was crippled with nineteen bullets, yet still fought on his knees with his broken sword; and only when the French retreated did his men carry him dead from the field. As fought his company, so fought all under the eyes of Garibaldi, who directed the fight from Villa Pamphilli. Then summoning his reserve, himself heading the students who had never seen fire but who had given each to the other the consign, “If I attempt to run away, shoot me through the head,” he led them into the open field, and there gave them their first lesson to the cry of, “To the bayonet! to the bayonet!” — a lesson oft repeated since, a cry never after raised in vain. Numbers of his best officers and soldiers fell, but never a halt or panic made a pause in that eventful charge, until in full open fight the French were compelled to retreat, leaving Garibaldi absolute master of the field.
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