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Italo-Sicilian War - 1860-1861

June 1860 - the same month which witnessed the annexation of Central Italy - saw the outburst of a revolution in the south. Bomba was dead; but his son, Francis II, by continued acts of cruelty to state prisoners, and by cowardly oppression of his subjects, had merited the nickname of Bombino. Refugees from Naples spread the tale of Bourbon tyranny all over Europe. Even London trembled with rage at Poerio's sufferings. The insurrection broke out at Palermo, Messina, and Catania. Garibaldi determined to support it. On May 5th he set out from Genoa with his volunteers, the famous Mille, each of whom became for Italy a hero. Cavour knew of the expedition and secretly favored it, though he openly expressed the regret of the Sardinian Government to Europe. It was his policy to wait and see what happened, trusting that the gain of the venture would accrue to the new kingdom.

Garibaldi landed at Marsala, and proclaimed nimself dictator in the name of Vittorio Emmanuele, king of Italy. The conquest of Sicily was the matter of a few days. In August the general crossed to Spartivento, defeated the royal army, drove Francis II to Gaeta, and entered Naples on September 7th. There Mazzini joined him, and the difficulties of the situation began to disclose themselves. Garibaldi had no capacity for administration; yet he was unwilling to resign his dictatorship. He had proclaimed Vittorio Emmanuele; yet he lent an ear to the republicans, who hated Piedmont. Moreover, he hardly concealed his intention of marching on Rome. Had he taken this step, success would have involved reactionary interference on the part of Europe, while failure might have involved the loss of Lower Italy.

Meanwhile the natives of the Two Sicilies were slow to accept annexation. They dispensed with the Bourbons gladly; but they were ready to fulfill the prophecy of Bomba, that " whosoever turned the Bourbons out would have enough to do in Lower Italy for the next century." Anarchy began to reign, and the Bourbon party lifted up its head again at Gaeta. In these circumstances, Cavour, after ascertaining that he had the sanction of Napoleon, resolved on sending troops into the papal states. This seemed the only means of preventing Garibaldi's march on Rome, and securing his acquisitions for United Italy.

General Cialdini accordingly occupied Urbino and Perugia, defeated the pope's general Lamriciere, at Castelfidardo, joined Garibaldi, and helped him to gain a victory over the Bourbon troops on the Volturno. On October 2d Cavour defined the situation for the parliament at Turin: "Garibaldi wishes to perpetuate the revolution; we wish to terminate it." Soon after this, Vittorio Emmanuele himself entered the Abruzzi. Garibaldi, with the loyalty which never deserted him, resigned his dictatorship, and returned to Caprera. In November Cavour was able to write to Berlin: "We are Italy; we work in her name; but at the same time it is our policy to moderate the national movement and maintain the monarchical principle."

In February, 1861, Gaeta fell, after a resistance ennobled by the courage of Francesco's German consort. The kingdom was annexed by plebiscite, and Vittorio Emmanuele was proclaimed king of Italy at Turin. Europe tacitly assented to Italian independence. Only Rome and Venice now remained to be liberated.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:15 ZULU