. . . the small forces at the disposal of the Republic should be husbanded for the repulse of others besides France, who claimed to be defenders of the Pope — Austria, the King of Naples, and even Spain!
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.
Numbers of the French were killed and wounded, others hid themselves in the woods and vineyards round; a general retreat ensued, while a portion continued the fire to protect it. The guns had to be carried off by hand, as four horses had been killed; and at this retreat up to Castel di Guido, General Oudinot was forced to assist in person. Summing up his losses, he found that he had left four hundred dead upon the field; five hundred thirty wounded, and two hundred sixty prisoners. He had, besides, the glory of depriving the Roman Republic of two hundred fourteen killed and wounded, twenty-five officers among them, and of carrying off one prisoner, Ugo Bassi, the chaplain, who had remained behind to assist a dying man, his only weapon being the cross, of which the French were the knightly protectors.
Garibaldi’s first thought was naturally to pursue the fugitives to Castel di Guido, to Pali, and Civita Vecchia; “To drive them,” in his own forcible language, “back to their ships or into the sea.” For this he demanded strong reinforcements of fresh troops. But the Government of Rome — believing that it sufficed for Republican France to know that Republican Rome did not desire the return of the Pope; that it was not governed by a faction — was resolved unanimously to resist all invasion; decided against pursuit; sent back the French prisoners to the French camp; accorded Oudinot’s demand for an armistice, and entered into negotiations with the French plenipotentiary, Ferdinand de Lesseps, for the evacuation of the Roman territory.
The refusal was never forgotten, never forgiven by Garibaldi, and has always been a “burning question” between the exclusive partisans of Mazzini and Garibaldi, in whose eyes to scotch and not to kill the snake was the essence of unwisdom. It is also maintained by many Garibaldians that an out-and-out victory could not have been concealed from the French Assembly as the President and his accomplices did manage to conceal the affair of April 30th, and that had the people and the army in France known what a humiliation had been inflicted on their comrades they would have insisted on the recall of Oudinot, and that thus the President’s own position would have been endangered. On the other hand, Mazzini’s partisans say, granting — what remains unproven — that Garibaldi could have succeeded in driving every Frenchman back to his ships or into the sea, there can be no doubt that Louis Napoleon, bent on restoring the Pope and thus gaining the clergy to his side, would have sent reinforcements upon reinforcements, until Rome should be vanquished.
The disputants must agree to differ on this point, though all surely must allow that it was necessary that the small forces at the disposal of the Republic should be husbanded for the repulse of others besides France, who claimed to be defenders of the Pope — Austria, the King of Naples, and even Spain! And, in fact, a Neapolitan army, with the King at their head, had crossed the Roman frontier, and had taken up positions at Albano and Frascati, whence Garibaldi was sent to oust them, the Lombard brigade being added to his legion. This Neapolitan king-hunt formed one of the characteristic episodes of the Roman campaign. Garibaldi usually lodged his men in convents, to the terror and horror of their inmates, sending them thence to reconnoiter the enemy’s positions, and harass them by deeds of daredevil courage.
The King was indeed at Albano, whence from Palestrina Garibaldi marched to the attack; which would probably have been successful had he not been suddenly summoned back to Rome, as the movements of the French were by no means reassuring. However, a fresh truce being proclaimed, General Rosselli, with Garibaldi under his orders, was sent out again in full force against the Neapolitans. Not a wise arrangement this, as the volunteers and the regulars — unless at different posts within the city — had not yet united in harmonious action. Garibaldi, sent by Rosselli merely to explore the enemy’s movements, finding that they were retreating from Albano, gave battle to a strong column about two miles from Velletri without giving time to Rosselli to come up with the main body.
So the Neapolitans got into Velletri, barricaded themselves there, and, escaping during the night by the southern gate, recrossed the Neapolitan frontier, the King foremost in the van. Rosselli and the regulars complained loudly that this disobedience to orders had prevented them from making the King of Naples prisoner, the Garibaldians maintaining on their side that this would have been effected had the regulars thought less about their rations and come to the rescue when first they heard the distant shots. Messengers sent by the generals to the Triumvirate bore the complaints of each. Rosselli was recalled, and Garibaldi left with full liberty of action. But when the French Government disavowed their envoy-extraordinary–the patriotic, able, straightforward De Lesseps–instructing Oudinot to enter Rome by fair means or by foul, sending enormous reÃ«nforcements, promising to follow up with the entire French army if necessary, what could they do but recall Garibaldi with all possible despatch? Was it not a proof of their confidence in him? Moreover, on Garibaldi’s return to Rome, Mazzini made a last effort to induce him to unburden his mind, at least to himself, by asking him in writing to tell him frankly what were his wishes. Here is the laconic answer, characteristic of the writer; frank and unabashed as the round, clear handwriting of the original, from which we copy:
ROME, June 2d, 1849.
MAZZINI: Since you ask me what I wish, I will tell you. Here I cannot avail anything for the good of the Republic, save in two ways: as dictator with unlimited plenary powers, or as a simple soldier. Choose!
Again, Garibaldi disapproved the conduct of Mazzini and the Triumvirate because they refused to allow any acts of violence against religion or the professors of religion. They had abolished the Inquisition, and used the edifice to house the people driven from their homes by the siege; had invited and aided monks and nuns to return to their homes and to lead the life of citizens. But they had not allowed the confessionals to be burned in the public market-place. A wretch named Zambianchi, who ill-treated some inoffending priests, was severely punished “for thus dishonoring the Republic and humanity.” Moreover, the Easter ceremonies were celebrated as usual; the Triumvirate and the Assembly stood among the people in the church and in the square to receive the blessing from the outer balcony of St. Peter’s.
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