Wednesday, 3 November 2010


To complete the deception of the enemy the Garibaldian artillery, under Colonel Orsini, was ordered to make a retrograde march on Corleone previous to joining the main force at Misilmeri. Orsini narrowly escaped getting caught while executing this movement, and for  the sake of celerity was obliged to throw his five cannon (including one taken at Calatafimi) down deep water courses. He returned to pull them out again when the immediate danger was past. General Colonna, who followed him closely, was convinced that the whole of the Garibaldians were in disorderly retreat as witnessed by the mules and waggons purposely abandoned by Orsini along the route. For four days Colonna believed that he had Garibaldi flying before him, and sent intelligence to that effect to Naples, whence it was published through the world. On the fifth day he was immeasurably surprised by hearing that Garibaldi had entered Palermo!

It was at early dawn on Whitsunday, the 27th of May, that Garibaldi reached the threshold of the capital, and after overcoming the guard at Ponte dell' Ammiraglio, pushed on to Porta Termini, the strategic key to the city. The royalists, though taken by surprise in the first instance, had time to dispose a strong force behind walls and barricades before Garibaldi could reach the gate, and it required two hours of severe fighting to take the position.
Many Red-shirts were killed, and Benedetto Cairoli received the severe wound from which he never wholly recovered. Success, however, was complete, and the Palermitans got up to find, to their frantic joy, the Liberator within their gates. According to the old usage their first impulse was to run to the belfries in order to sound the tocsin, but they found that the royalists had removed the clappers of the bells. Nothing daunted, they beat the bells all day with hammers and other implements, and so produced an indescribable noise which had a material influence on the nerves of the terrified Neapolitan troops. Being disarmed, the only other help which the inhabitants could render to their deliverers was the erection of barricades.cairoli

 Even after Garibaldi's entry, it is thought that General Lanza could have crushed him in the streets by sheer force of superiority in numbers and artillery had he made proper use of his means. However, at about three p.m., he chose the less heroic plan of ordering the castle and the Neapolitan fleet to bombard the city.
 Most of his staff opposed the decision, and one officer broke his sword, but Lanza was inexorable.
 The measure so exasperated the Palermitans that even had it achieved its end for the moment, never after would they have proved governable from Naples. Thirteen hundred shells were thrown into the city. Lord Palmerston denounced the bombardment and its attendant horrors as 'unworthy of our time and of our civilisation.' The soldiers helped the work by setting fire to some quarters of the city. Among the spots where the shells fell in most abundance was the convent of the Sette Angeli. The Garibaldians escorted the nuns to a place of safety and carried their more valuable possessions after them. The good sisters were charmed by the courtesy with which the young Italians performed these duties.

bavarian regiment at palermo

Fighting in the streets went on more or less continuously, and the liberators kept their ground, but every hour brought fresh perils. A Bavarian regiment arrived to reinforce General Lanza, and the return of the Neapolitan column from Corleone was momentarily expected. The Garibaldians, and this was the gravest fact of all, had used almost their last cartridge. The issue of the struggle was awaited with varying sentiments on board the English, French, Austrian, Spanish and Sardinian warships at anchor in the bay. Admiral Mundy had placed his squadron so close to the land that the ships were in danger of suffering from the bombardment, a course attributed to the humane desire to afford a refuge for non-combatants, and in fact, the officers were soon engaged in entertaining a frightened crowd of ladies and children. The Intrepid in particular, was so near the Marina that a fair swimmer could have reached it in a few minutes; nobody guessed, least of all Garibaldi, that her mission in the mind of the British admiral was to save the chiefs own life in what seemed the likely case of its being placed in peril.
garibaldi Garibaldi and Munday

Admiral Mundy begged the authorities to stop the bombardment before the city was destroyed, but Lanza appeared to have no intention of yielding to his counsels, and it is still uncertain what at last induced him on the 30th of May to sue the Filibuster, hastily transformed into his Excellency, for an armistice of twenty-four hours. 'God knows,' writes Garibaldi, 'if we had want of it!' The royalists had lost nearly the whole city except the palace and its surroundings, and, cut off from the sea, they began to feel a scarcity of food, but not to a severe extent. It seems most probable that with his men panic-stricken and constantly driven back in spite of the bombardment, Lanza looked upon the game as lost, when had he known the straits to which the Garibaldians were reduced for ammunition, he might have considered it as won.

porta termini
An unforeseen incident now occurred; the royalist column, recalled from Corleone, which was largely composed of Bavarians, reached Porta Termini and opened a furious fire on the weak Garibaldian detachment stationed there. Was it ignorance or bad faith? Lieutenant Wilmot, who happened to be passing by, energetically waved his handkerchief and shouted that a truce was concluded; the assailants continued the attack till an officer of the Neapolitan staff who was in conference with Garibaldi at the time hurried to the spot, at his indignant  request, and ordered them to desist. A few minutes later, Garibaldi himself rode up in a wrathful mood, and while he was renewing his protests, a shell fell close by him, thrown from a ship which re-opened the bombardment on its own account. Lieutenant Wilmot, who witnessed the whole affair, was convinced that there was a deliberate plan to surprise and capture the Italian chief after he had granted the armistice.

At a quarter past two on this eventful day, the 30th of May 1860, Garibaldi and the Neapolitan generals, Letizia and Chretien, stepped on board the flag-ship Hannibal which Admiral Mundy offered as neutral ground for their meeting. Curiously enough, both parties, reaching the mole simultaneously, were rowed out in the same ship's boat, which was waiting in readiness. The Neapolitans insisted that Garibaldi should go on board first, either from courtesy or, as the admiral suspected, out of desire to find out whether he would be received with military honours. Bosco A great bourbon leader
With instinctive tact he had donned his old and rather shabby uniform of a major-general in the Sardinian army; the admiral's course was, therefore, marked out, and Garibaldi received the same salute as the two generals who followed him. After a foolish attempt on the part of the Neapolitan officers to make themselves disagreeable, which was repressed with dignified decision by Admiral Mundy, business began, and things went smoothly till the fifth article of the proposed convention came under discussion: 'That the municipality should direct a humble petition to his Majesty the King expressing the real wants of the city.' 'No,' cried Garibaldi, starting to his feet, 'the time for humble petitions to the King, or to anyone else, is past; I am the municipality, and I refuse.' General Letizia grew excited at this declaration, but afterwards he agreed to  submit the question of quashing the fifth article to his chief, General Lanza. The armistice was prolonged till nine the next morning.

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