Battle of Volturnus (1860)
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The Battle of Volturnus or Volturno refers to a series of military clashes between Giuseppe Garibaldi's volunteers known as the Matese Legion and the troops of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies occurring around the river Volturno, between the cities of Capua and Caserta in northern Campania, in September and October 1860. The main battle took place on the 1 October 1860 between 30,000 Garibaldines (mostly defected Sicilians, including from Calabria) and 25,000 Bourbon troops (Neapolitans).
|Battle of the Volturnus|
|Part of The Expedition of the Thousand|
Scene from the battle.
|Southern Army||Two Sicilies|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Giuseppe Garibaldi||Giosuè Ritucci|
|20,000 [nb 1]||28,000 |
|Casualties and losses|
After Garibaldi's Expedition of Thousand had conquered Sicily and much of southern Italy with a startling speed, entering in Naples on the 7 September while the King Francis II of Two Sicilies took refuge in the powerful fortress of Gaeta, midway from Rome to Naples. In the meantime the Neapolitan army was rebuilt in Capua under marshal Giosuè Ritucci, the first skirmishes with Garibaldi's volunteers occurring on the 26 and 29 September.
On the 30 September a Neapolitan corps crossed the river Volturno at Triflisco, marching towards Santa Maria a Vologno, but was halted by two Garibaldine brigades. The following day Ritucci then decided a frontal attack with two divisions against Garibaldi's centre, which occupied a line running from Sant'Angelo in Formis and Santa Maria a Vico. After defeating the enemy, Ritucci was to reach Caserta and then Naples itself.
The two armies met on the western front on the 1 October, in which the Neapolitans, spurred by the presence of Francis himself, forced the Garibaldines to retreat. Garibaldi and his fellow Giacomo Medici intervened, re-establishing the situation. Harsh fights were taking place in the meantime at Santa Maria, but at 6:00pm the Neapolitans were pushed back; the Garibaldines were however defeated on the hills neat Monte Tifata, Monte Vito and Castel Morrone.
Nino Bixio, who defended the road to Maddaloni, was initially defeated by the attack of the Bavarian and Swiss brigade of General Giovan Luca von Mechel. In his support arrived colonel Giuseppe Dezza with two Bersaglieri battalions, which pushed back von Mechel northwards, up to Ducenta.
At that point the only undefeated Bourbon column was that of colonel Perrone, who was in Capua with 3,000 troops. The city was attacked on 2:00am by the Garibaldines and one Piedmontese regular Bersaglieri battalion, and captured.
After this battle, the largest by Garibaldi's expedition, both sides seemed exhausted. In the immediate aftermath, the battle was a defeat for Garibaldi, but in the longer term, it proved to their advantage. The cost for Garibaldi in men was higher: 506 killed and 1,389 taken prisoner, but the Neapolitan forces had lost 308 and 2,507 taken prisoners. The Bourbon army was unable to use their victory to capture Caserta. Both armies showed bravery, except perhaps for the Royal Guards and troops of Ruiz de Ballesteros, who were the largest cause of the defeat.
Garibaldi was forced to request troops from the Piedmontese. Yet while Francesco II wished to use the impasse for the Garibaldi forces, to attack again, his generals recommended that the troops be reorganised. Thus he left Capua for Gaeta, and was unable to retake his throne. Soon Piedmontese reinforcements arrived, defeating the Royal troops at Gaeta, and causing the King to flee.
- Cerino Badone Giovanni, Volturno 1860. L'ultima battaglia, in Commissione Italiana di Storia Militare, Società Italiana di Storia Militare, L'anno di Teano, Atti del Convegno Nazione CISM-SISM su il Risorgimento e l'Europa, Roma 2011, pp. 273–307. Volume degli atti , testo dell'articolo , tavole ed illustrazioni .
- Cesari, Cesare (1928). La campagna di Garibaldi nell'Italia Meridionale. (1860). Rome: Libreria dello Stato..