Saturday, 16 October 2010

Macmahon's days of triumph


At mid-day on the 5th, Milan, which was trembling on the verge of revolution, made the pleasurable discovery that there were no Austrians left in the town. The municipality sent out delegates with the keys of the city to Victor Emmanuel. At ten a.m. on the 7th, MacMahon's corps began to file down the streets. Words cannot describe the welcome given to them. How MacMahon lifted to his saddle-bow a child that was in danger of being crushed by the crowd will be  remembered from the pretty incident having passed into English poetry.
On the 8th, the King and the Emperor made their entry amidst a new paroxysm of enthusiasm. Napoleon is reported to have exclaimed: 'How this people must have suffered!' In his proclamation 'to the Italian people,' which bears the same date as his entry into Milan, he renewed the assurance of the disinterested motives which had brought him to Italy: 'Your enemies, who are also mine, have endeavoured to diminish the universal sympathy felt in Europe for your cause, by causing it to be believed that I am making war for personal ambition, or to increase French territory.
 If there are men who fail to comprehend their epoch, I am not one of them. In the enlightened state of public opinion now prevailing, true greatness lies in the moral influence which we exercise rather than in sterile conquests.' The proclamation ended with the words: 'To-morrow you will be the citizens of a great country.' Not the least effusive demonstrations were reserved for Cavour, who joined his Sovereign a few days after the battle of Magenta.

Leaving the Milanese to put their faith in princes while yet there was time, a glance must be taken at what had been going on in the rest of Italy, which was becoming a great nation far more rapidly, and in a much fuller sense than Napoleon III. expected or wished.
When Austria sent her ultimatum to Turin, the Sardinian minister at the Court of Tuscany invited the Grand Duke's Government to take part in the war of liberation. This they refused to do. On perceiving, however, that he could not depend on his troops, the Grand Duke promised to co-operate with Piedmont, but his advisers did not now think it possible to save the grand ducal throne, unless Leopold II. abdicated in favour of his  son, who was not burdened with the fatal associations of the reaction of ten years before.
On the 27th, around four, before a large crowd  on the streets of Florence and in open rebellion of the host, Leopold II departed in a coach from Palazzo Pitti,  towards  Bologna.
Leopold probably thought that even his abdication would not keep out the deluge, and he took the more dignified course of declining to yield to force. On the 27th of April, accompanied by the Corps Diplomatique as far as the frontier, he left Tuscany. A Provisional Government was formed with Peruzzi at its head, which hastily raised 8000 men for immediate service under the command of General Ulloa (below)

 Before long Prince Napoleon, with the fifth corps of the French army, landed, for no reason that could be avowed, at Leghorn. The real motive was to prepare the way for the fabrication of a new kingdom of Etruria, which existed already in Napoleon's brain.
 This masterpiece of folly had but a lukewarm supporter in Prince Napoleon, who was the only Napoleon and about the only Frenchman (if he could be called one) who grasped the idea of the unity of Italy and sincerely applauded it. Had Jérôme Napoleon been born with the least comprehension of self-respect and personal dignity, his strong political intelligence and clear logical discernment must have produced something better than the most ineffectual career of the century.

On the 8th of May, Baron Ricasoli took office under the Provisional Government as Minister of the Interior, and for nearly twelve months he was the real ruler of Tuscany. He had an ally of great strength, though of humble origin, in Giuseppe Dolfi, the baker, of whom it was currently said that any day he could summon 10,000 men to the Piazza della Signoria, who would obey him to the death.
  great expert of wine as well . Below his vineyards.Ricasoli, defined for honesty and moral intransigence "iron Baron", with Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi is considered one of the architects of the unity of Italy.

After having ruled Florence, on the death of Cavour he became President of the Council (' 61-62 and ' 67-68) facing various problems with determination: from that of the recognition by the major European powers, to difficult relations with the Papacy and southern brigands and nationalists stirred up by the former Court Borbonica. Because he was  inflexible soon he was forced to resign, and this event was a real turning point for the  Italian Agriculture of the 1800's. Baron, returning to the castle of Brolio Chianti senese, thanks to its belief that agriculture was done "with the head and the heart", he labored to enhance family vineyards.

The Ricasoli, unlike other nobles who lived in the country for several months or less inhabited year-round their lands between Siena and Florence, and since ' 500 produced they had produced wine. Trusted Documents confirm that in the 1600s, Brolio Chianti wine supplied Amsterdam and that of  the English nobility who called for considerable supplies of it. Then from 1716 the Ricasoli family, perhaps  the first in Europe, with the Grand Ducal Decree gave birth to the "Congregation of wine", which imposed very strict rules on production and trade of the drink. With a historical tradition as the Baron of iron, and as an expert farmer he brought a number of transformations on corks, the shape of vineyards and wine-making method and  the mixture of grapes for the preparation of wines. The grape called Chianti today is a result of the Baron, who established what was to be produced with Sangiovese 7/10, 2/10 of Canaiolo, 1/10 of malmsey or Trebbiano.

With Ricasoli  Chianti acquired prestige, authority, awards and medals, entering gloriously  into international gastronomy. 

 To Dolfi it was due that there were no disorders after the Grand Duke left. What Italy owes to the Lord of Brolio, history will never adequately state, because it is well-nigh impossible fully to realise how critical was  her position during all that year, from causes external and internal, and how disastrous would have been the slightest mistake or wavering in the direction of Tuscan affairs, which formed the central hinge of the whole complicated situation.
 Fortunate, indeed, was it that there was a man like the Iron Baron, who, by simple force of will, outwitted the enemies of Italy more thoroughly than even Cavour could do with all his astuteness. Austere, aristocratic, immovable from his purpose, indifferent to praise or blame, Ricasoli aimed at one point—the unity of the whole country; and neither Cavour's impatience for annexation to Piedmont, nor the scheme of Farini and Minghetti for averting the wrath of the French Emperor by a temporary and preparatory union of the central states, drew him one inch from the straight road, which was the only one he had ever learnt to walk in.

In June, the Duke of Modena and the Duchess-Regent of Parma found it impossible to remain in their states, now that Austrian protection was withdrawn. The latter had done what she could to preserve the duchy for her young son, but the tide was too strong. These revolutions were accomplished quietly; but, some months after, on the incautious return to Parma of a man deeply implicated in the abuses of Charles III.'s government—Colonel Anviti—he was cruelly murdered; an act of vengeance which happily remained alone.

After the battle of Magenta, when the Austrian troops were recalled from the Marches and Romagna, those districts rose and demanded the dictatorship of Piedmont. Napoleon foresaw that this would happen as far back as the Plombières interview, and at that date it did not appear that he meant to oppose it. But now, in Paris, the Clerical party were seized with panic, and the Empress-Regent, then, as always, completely under their control, did all in her power to arouse the Emperor's opposition.
The Pope , on his part, knowing that he was secure in Rome—thanks to the French garrison, which, though it hated its office, as the French writer Ampère and others bore witness, was sure to perform it faithfully—had the idea of sending his Swiss troops to put down the growing revolution.
"There was done a massacre of women;we  invaded a monastery, two churches, a hospital and an orphan Conservatory, where under the eyes of teachers and two young girls were violated. The magnitude of looting was immense but after even so  honours were bestowed on him and his men  by the Pope "Schmidt.
With these, and a few Roman troops of the line, Colonel Schmidt marched against Perugia, where, in restoring the Papal authority, he used a ferocity which, though denied by clerical writers, was attested by all contemporary accounts, and was called 'atrocious' by Sir James Hudson in a despatch to Lord John Russell. The significance of such facts, wrote the English minister at Turin, could only be the coming fall of the Pope's Temporal Power.

L.C. Farini was sent by Victor Emmanuel to administer the provinces of Modena and Parma, and Massimo d'Azeglio was charged with the same mission in Romagna. The Marches of Ancona had been recovered by the Papal troops, which were concentrated in the district called La Cattolica, near Rimini. A volunteer corps, under the Piedmontese General Mezzacapo(below), was entrusted with the task of preventing them from crossing into the Legations.

In the month of May, when the allies were reaping their first successes, an event occurred at Caserta which precipitated crisis in the South Italy. Ferdinand II. died at forty-eight years of age of a terrible complaint which had attacked him a few months earlier, when he went to meet his son's bride,  sister of the Empress of Austria. The news from Upper Italy hastened his end; he is said to have exclaimed not long before he died: 'They have won the cause!'

The accession of a youth, of whom nothing bad was known, to a throne  that had been occupied by a sovereign so out of place in modern civilisation as Ferdinand, would appear at first sight a fortunate circumstance for the chances of the dynasty; but it was not so. In an eastern country it matters little whether the best of the inhabitants loathe and detest their ruler; but it matters much whether he knows how to cajole and frighten the masses, and especially the army, into obedience.
Naples, more Oriental than western, possessed in Ferdinand a monarch consummately expert in this side of the art of government. Though without the higher military virtues, his army was his favourite plaything; he always wore uniform, never forgot a face he had once seen, and treated the officers with a rather vulgar familiarity, guessing at their weaknesses and making use of them on occasion. The rank and file regarded him as a sort of supernatural being.
Francis II., who succeeded him, could scarcely appear in this light even to the most ignorant. Popular opinion considered him not quite sound in his mind. Probably his timorous, awkward ways and his seeming stupidity were simply the result of an education conducted by bigoted priests in a home that was no home: populated as it was by the offspring of a stepmother who hated him. His own mother, the charming Princess Cristina of Savoy, died while the city was rejoicing at his birth. The story is well known of how, shortly after the marriage, Ferdinand thought it diverting to draw a music-stool from under his wife, causing her to fall heavily. It gives a sample of the sufferings of her brief married life. An inheritance of sorrow descended from her to her child. (Francis the Second right)

If Francis II. was not popular, neither was the new queen. Far more virile in character and in tastes than her husband, her high spirit was not what the Neapolitans admire in women, and those who were  devoted to the late King accused her of having shown impatience during his illness for the moment when the crown would fall to Francis. Malicious gossip of this kind, however false, serves its end. Thus, from one cause or another, the young King exercised a power sensibly weaker than that of his father, while, besides other enemies, he had an inveterate one in his stepmother, who began weaving a conspiracy to oust him from the throne and place on it the eldest of his half-brothers. This plot received, however, very little popular support.

The Sardinian Government sought to persuade Francis to join in the war against Austria; disinterested counsel, as in taking it lay his only hope, but it was opposed by England, Russia and France. In July two of the Swiss regiments at Naples mutinied.
 The Swiss Government, becoming alive to the discredit cast on the country by mercenary service, had decided that Swiss subjects serving abroad should lose their rights as citizens of the Confederation whilst so employed, and that they should no longer introduce the arms of their respective cantons into their regimental colours. This was the immediate cause of their insubordination.
The mutineers, most of whom were unarmed, were ruthlessly shot down in the Campo di Marte to the terror of the population, and the two Swiss regiments which remained quiet were dissolved; by which the monarchy lost the troops that were chiefly to be depended on in emergencies.
 The Austrians and Bavarians imported in their stead did not form separate regiments, but were incorporated among the native troops, though the regiments that contained them were commonly called 'Bavarian.' They only partially filled the place of the Swiss.torture was common in Naples

He served as Governor-General of Algeria from 1 September 1864, returning at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, during which he led an Alsatian army unit (although attrition throughout the war led to men from other areas being added to this).

In the Franco-Prussian War MacMahon commanded the I and V French Corps on the Rhine Army's Southern line. On 4 August 1870 the Prussian 3rd Army attacked the Southern line, and immediately won the border city of Wissembourg from the French; quickly moving onto capture the city of Woerth two days later.

After less than a week of fighting, the entire French Rhine Army's Southern line could not withstand the Prussian aggression and retreated West, further into French territory. The Prussians were relentless. The Prussian 3rd Army was capturing town after town, while their defeated opponents I and V Corps hastily retreated to Chalon-s.-Marne making sure to stay out of the way of the advancing Prussians by heading southwest while the Prussians drove West.

Mac-Mahon left his Corps and led the 120,000 strong remnants of the French Rhine army (I, VII, XII Corps) with Napoleon III. They began marching from Châlons-sur-Marne North/Northeast, in an attempt to rally the besieged army at Metz over 130 km to the East. But the Prussian 3rd Army advance was incredible; in less than 3 weeks the army covered over 325 km, and intercepted the French army along the Meuse River, and for three days battled it (29 August to 31 August), forcing the French to fall to Sedan. Meanwhile, the Prussians had created a 4th Army, and marched it to the southern flank of Sedan, while the 3rd Army dug in North of Sedan.

On 1 September 1870, the Prussians thus laid siege to the city of Sedan. Standing at the gates was a powerful force of 200,000 Prussian soldiers under the command of General Helmuth von Moltke. Mac-Mahon was highly indecisive, allowing the Germans to move in reinforcements to completely encircle Sedan.

Mac-Mahon was wounded and command passed to General De Wimpffen who announced the surrender of the French army. On 2 September Napoleon III surrendered, along with his remaining 83,000 French troops (Battle of Sedan).

Last Cartridge House is one of the most symbolic locations of the Franco-Prussian War. This former inn, now a small museum, is situated on the edge of Bazeilles where about 60 French infantry under Commandant Lambert were surrounded by troops of the 15th Bavarian Regiment. Unwilling to surrender, the French fought to the last remaining cartridge.

Last Cartridge House

The museum displays a good collection of artefacts collected from the surrounded battlefields; just down the road within the grounds of the communal cemetery is a large ossuary with the remains of 3,000 French and German troops.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great accounting of my great, great, great grand uncle, Marèshal Patrice, Marquis de MacMahon, 1st. Duc du Magenta