Battle of Calatafimi

The Battle of Calatafimi was fought on the 15 May 1860 between Giuseppe Garibaldi's volunteers and the troops of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies at Calatafimi, Sicily, as part of the Expedition of the Thousand (Italian: I Mille). The battle was the first of Garibaldi's victory during his invasion of Sicily in 1860 and saw his 'Thousand' defeat a larger Neapolitan army sent from Palermo to block the roads to the Sicilian capital.

Battle of Calatafimi
Part of The Expedition of the Thousand
Battle of Calatafimi.jpg
Skirmish at Calatafimi
Date15 May 1860
Result Two Sicilies forces retreat [1][2][3]
Garibaldi takes Calatafimi [1][2][3]
Italy Red Shirts Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Two Sicilies
Commanders and leaders
Giuseppe Garibaldi [4] Francesco Landi[4]
1,200[2][3] 2,000[1][2]
Casualties and losses
32 killed[5][6]
160-182 wounded
36 killed [2][5][7]
148 wounded [5][7]
6 captured
1 gun captured[4][7]


Four days prior to the battle, the Mille had landed at Marsala, on board the ships Il Piemonte and Il Lombardo. Francesco Crispi, among others, landed before the Mille on Sicily to raise support among the locals for the Mille. On the 14 May at Salemi, Garibaldi announced that he was assuming dictatorship over Sicily in the name of King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia.


The Battle of Calatafimi took place on the hill Pianto Romano, near the namesake town. The battle was inconclusive, but served to boost the morale of the Mille and, at the same time, depress the Neapolitans, who, ill guided with their often corrupted officers, started to feel themselves abandoned. During the battle, Garibaldi is said to have uttered the famous battle cry "Qui si fa l'Italia o si muore" ("Here we make Italy, or we die").

Due to the battle, the ranks of the Mille enlarged to 1,200 with local men joining.


With the help of a popular insurrection, on the 27 May they laid siege to Palermo, the island's capital. The city was defended by some 16,000 men, but they were under the confused and timid direction of general Ferdinando Lanza, aged 75.

While two columns of Garibaldines attacked the external perimeter, part of the population, strengthened by 2,000 prisoners liberated from the local jails, rose against the garrison. When his troops were driven back from most of their positions, Lanza ordered them to bombard the city for three days, provoking the deaths of 600 civilians. By the 28 May Garibaldi controlled much of the city and declared the Bourbon authority deposed. The following day, a desperate Neapolitan counteroffensive was driven back, and Lanza asked for a truce. However, when a reinforcement party of well equipped and well-trained troops arrived in the city, the situation became very serious for Garibaldi, who was saved only by Lanza's decision to surrender. Through the mediation of a British admiral, an armistice was signed and the Neapolitan fleet abandoned the port.


  1. ^ a b c Rüstow, Wilhelm (1867). Die Feldherrnkunst des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Zurich.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hartwig, Otto (1869). Aus Sicilien: Vol.II. Kassel.
  3. ^ a b c Trevelyan, George Macaulay (1912). Garibaldi and the Thousand. London.
  4. ^ a b c von Meerheimb, Richard (1865). Von Palermo bis Gaëta. Dresden.
  5. ^ a b c Esercito. Corpo di stato maggiore. Ufficio storico. (1982). Il Generale Giuseppe Garibaldi. Rome.
  6. ^ Deutsche Revue (1900). Deutsche Revue: Vol.XXV. Deutschland.
  7. ^ a b c Forbes, Charles Stuart (1861). The campaign of Garibaldi in the Two Sicilies. Edinburgh.

See alsoEdit

  Media related to Battle of Calatafimi at Wikimedia Commons