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Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 919 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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THE ITALIAN WAR OF 1859 The campaign of Magenta and Solferino took place ten years later. Napoleon III., himself an ex-carbonaro, and the apostle of the theory of " nationalities," had had his attention and his ambitions drawn towards the Italian problem by the attempt upon his life by Orsini. The general political horizon was by no means clear at the end of 1858, and on the 1st of January 1859 the emperor of the French publicly expressed to the Austrian ambassador his regret that " our relations are not 'so good as heretofore." This was regarded by all concerned as a prelude to war, and within a short time a treaty and a marriage-contract allied Sardinia with the leading European power: In the smaller Italian states, as before, the governments were on the side of Austria and the " settlement of 1815, " and the peoples on that of United Italy. The French still maintained it garrison in Rome to support the pope. The thorny question of the temporal power versus the national movement was not yet in the foreground, and though Napoleon's support of the former was later to prove his undoing, in 1859 the main enemy was Austria and the paramount factor was the assistance of 200,000 French regulars in solving the immediate problem. The Sardinian army, reconstituted by La Marinora with the definite object of a war for union and rehabilitated by its conduct in the Crimea, was eager and willing. The French army, proud of its reputation as the premier army in the world, and composed, three-fourths of it, of professional soldiers whose gospel was the " Legend," welcomed a return to the first Napoleon's battle-grounds, while the emperor's ambitions coincided with his sentiments. Austria, on the other hand, did not desire war. Her only motive of resistance was that it was impossible to cede her Italian possessions in face of a mere threat. To her, even more than to France and infinitely more than to Italy, the war was a political war, a " war with a limited aim " or " stronger form of diplomatic note "; it entirely lacked the national and personal spirit of resistance which makes even a passive defence so powerful. Events during the period of tension that preceded the actual declaration of war were practically governed by these moral conditions. Such advantages as Austria possessed at the outset could only be turned to account, as will presently appear, by prompt action. But her army system was a combination of conscription and the " nation in arms," which for the diplomatic war on hand proved to be quite inadequate. Whereas the French army was permanently on a two-thirds war footing (4o0,000 peace, 6o0,000 war), that of Austria required to be more than doubled on mobilization by calling in reservists. Now, the value of reservists is always conditioned by the temper of the population from which they come, and it is more than probable that the indecision of the Austrian government between January and April 1859 was due not only to its desire on general grounds to avoid war, but also, and perhaps still more, to its hopes of averting' it by firmness, without having recourse to the possibly dangerous expedient of a real mobilization. A few years before the method of " bluffing " had been completely successful against Prussia. But the Prussian reservist of 1850 did not want to fight, whereas the French soldier of 1859 desired nothing more ardently. In these conditions the Austrian preparations were made sparingly, but with ostentation. The three corps constituting the Army of Italy (commanded since Radetzky's death in 1858 by Feldzeugmeister Count Franz Gyulai (1798-1863)), were maintained at war efficiency, but not at war strength (corps averaging 15,000). Instead, however, of mobilizing them, the Vienna government sent an army corps (III.) from Vienna at peace strength in January. This was followed by the II. corps, also at peace strength, in February, and the available field force, from that point, could have invaded Piedmont at once.' The initial military situation was indeed all in favour of Austria. Her mobilization was calculated to take ten weeks, it is true, but her concentration by rail could be much more speedily effected than that of the French, who had either to cross the Alps on foot Or to proceed to Genoa by sea and thence by one line of railway to the interior. Further, the demands of Algeria, Rome and other garrisons, the complicated political situation and the consequent necessity of protecting the French, coasts against an English attack,' and still more the Rhine frontier against Prussia and other German states (a task to which the greatest general in the French army, Pelissier, was assigned), materially reduced the size of the army to be sent to Italy. But the Austrian government held its hand, and the Austrian commander, apparently nonplussed by the alternation of quiescence and boldness at Vienna, asked for full mobilization and turned his thoughts to the Quadrilateral that had served Radetzky so well in gaining time for the reserves to come up. March passed away without an advance, and it was not until the 5th of April that the long-deferred order was issued from Vienna to the reservists to join the II., III., V., VII. and VIII. corps in Italy. And, after all, Gyulai took the field, at the end of April, with most of his units at three-quarters of their war strength.3 On the side of the allies the Sardinians mobilized 5 infantry and r cavalry divisions, totalling 64,000, by the third week in April. A few days later Austria sent an ultimatum to Turin. This was rejected on the 26th, war being thereupon declared. As for the French, the emperor's policy was considerably in advance of his war minister's preparations. The total of about 130,000 men (all that could be spared out of 500,000) for the Italian army was not reached until operations were in progress; and the first troops only entered Savoy or disembarked in Genoa on the 25th and 26th of April. Thus, long as the opening had been delayed, there was still a period after both sides had resolved on and prepared for war, during which the Austrians were free to take the Austrian offensive. Had the Austrians crossed the frontier move- meats. instead of writing an ultimatum on the 19th of April, they would have had from a week to a fortnight to deal with the Sardinians. But even the three or four days that elapsed between the declaration and the arrival of the first French soldiers were wasted. Vienna ordered Gyulai to take the offensive on the 27th, but it was not until the 3oth that the Austrian general crossed the Ticino. His movements were unopposed, the whole of the Sardinian army having concentrated (by arrangement between La Marmora and Marshal Canrobert) in a flank position between Casale and Alessandria, where it covered Turin indirectly and Genoa, the French disembarkation ' The Sardinians, at peace strength, had some 50,000 men, and during January and February the government busied itself chiefly with preparations of supplies and armament. Here the delay in calling out the reserves was due not to their possible ill-will, but to the necessity of waiting on the political situation. ' The Volunteer movement in England was the result of this crisis in the relations of England and France. ' As far as possible Italian conscripts had been sent elsewhere and replaced by Austrians. WARS 915 port, directly. Gyulai's left was on the 2nd of May opposite the allied centre, and his right stretched as far as Vercelli.' On the 3rd he planned a concentric attack on King Victor Emmanuel's position, and parts of his scheme were actually put into execution, but he suspended it owing to news of the approach of the French from Genoa, supply difficulties (Radetzky, the inheritor of the 18th-century traditions, had laid it down that the soldier. must be well fed and that the civilian must not be plundered, conditions which were unfavourable to mobility) and the heavy weather and the dangerous state of the rivers. Gyulai then turned his attention to the Sardinian capital. Three more days were spent in a careful flank march to the right, and on the 8th of May the army (III., V. and VII.) was grouped about Vercelli, with outposts 10-14 M. beyond the Sesia towards Turin, reserves (II. and VIII.) round Mortara, and a flank-guard detached from Benedek's VIII, corps watching the Po. The 4 t ! 1 • f 'Plira" RaUways in 1859.1.64.. Main Roads--L— Canals extreme right of the main body skirmished with Garibaldi's volunteers on the edge of the Alpine country. The Turin scheme was, however, soon given up. Bivouacs, cancelled orders and crossings of marching columns all contributed to exhaust the troops needlessly. On the 9th one corps (the V.) had its direction and disposition altered four times, without any change in the general situation to justify this. In fact, the Austrians grouped at Austrian headquarters were full of able soldiers, each ,yiortara. of whom had his own views on the measures to be taken and a certain measure of support from Vienna—Gyulai, Colonel Kuhn his chief of staff, and Feldzeugmeister Hess, who had formerly played Gneisenau to Radetzky's Blucher. But what emerges most clearly from the movements of these days is that Gyulai himself distrusted the offensive projects he had .been ordered to execute, and catching apparently at some expression of approval given by the emperor, had determined to imitate Radetzky in " a defensive based on the Quadrilateral." His immediate intention, on abandoning the advance on Turin was to group his army around Mortara and to strike out as opportunity offered against the heads of the allied columns wherever they appeared. Meantime, the IX. corps had been sent to Italy, and the I. and XI. were mobilizing. These were to form the I. Army, Gyulai's the II. The latter was by the 13th of May grouped in the Lomellina, one third (chiefly VII. corps) spread ' The movements of the division employed-in policing Lombardy (Urban's) are not included here, unless specially mentioned. Mobiiization. 4y brigades fanwise from Vercelli along the Sesia and Po to Vaccarizza, two thirds massed in a central position about Mortara. There was still no information of the enemy's distribution, except what was forwarded from Vienna or gathered by the indefatigable Urban's division, which moved from Milan to Biella, thence to Brescia and Parma, and back to Lombardy in search of revolutionary bands, and the latter's doings in the nature of things could not afford any certain inferences as to the enemy's regular armies. On the side of the allies, the Piedmontese were grouped on the 1st of May in the fortified positions selected for them by Canrobert about Valenza-Casale-Alessandria. The French III. corps arrived on the 2nd and 3rd and the IV. corps on the 7th at Alessandria from Genoa. Unhampered by Gyulai's offensive, though at times and places disquieted by his minor reconnaissances, the allies assembled until on the 16th the French were stationed as follows: I. corps, Voghera and Pontecurone, II., Sale and Bassignana, III., Tortona, IV., Valenza, Guard, Alessandria, and the king's army between Valenza and Casale. The V. French corps under Prince Napoleon had a political mission in the duchies of middle Italy; one division of this corps, however, followed the main army. On the eve of the first collision the emperor Napoleon, commanding in chief, had in hand about ioo,000 French and about 6o,000 Sardinian troops (not including Garibaldi's enlisted volunteers or the national guard). Gyulai's II. Army was nominally of nearly equal force to that of the allies, but in reality it was only about 106,000 strong in combatants. The first battle had no relation to the strategy contemplated by the emperor, and was still less a part of the defence scheme framed by Gyulai. The latter, still pivoting on Mortara, Monte- be es. had between the 14th and 19th drawn his army some- what to the left, in proportion as more and more of the French came up from Genoa. He had further ordered a reconnaissance in force in the direction of Voghera by a mixed corps drawn from the V., Urban's division and the IX. (the last belonging to the I. Army). The saying that " he who does not know what he wants, yet feels that he must do something, appeases his conscience by a reconnaissance in force," applies to no episode more forcibly than to the action of Montebello (20th May) where Count Stadion, the commander of the V. corps, not knowing what to reconnoitre, engaged disconnected fractions of his available 24,000 against the French division of Forey (I. corps), 8000 strong, and was boldly attacked and beaten, with a loss of 1400 men against Forey's 700. Montebello had, however, one singular result: both sides fell back and took defensive measures. The French head- quarters were already meditating, if they had not Flank actually resolved upon, a transfer of all their forces march of the Allies. from right to left, to be followed by a march on Milan (a scheme inspired by Jomini). But the opening of the movement was suspended until it became quite certain that Stadion's advance meant nothing, while Gyulai (impressed by Forey's aggressive tactics) continued to stand fast, and thus it was not until the 28th that the French offensive really began.' The infantry of the French III. corps was sent by rail from Ponte- curone to Casale, followed by the rest of the army, which marched by road. To cover the movement D'Autemarre's division of Prince Napoleon's corps (V.) was posted at Voghera and one division of the king's army remained at Valenza. The rest of the Piedmontese were pushed northward to join Cialdini's division which was already at Vercelli. The emperor's orders were for Victor Emmanuel to push across the Sesia and to take ' The advantages and dangers of the flank march are well summarized in Colonel H. C. Wylly's Magenta and Solferino, p. 65, where the doctrinaire objections of Hamley and Rustow are set in parallel with the common-sense views of a much-neglected English writer (Major Adams, Great Campaigns) and with the clear and simpie doctrine of Moltke, that rested on the principle that strategy does not exist to avoid but to give effect to tactics. The waste of time in execution, rather than the scheme, is condemned by General at Palestro on the 3oth to cover the crossing of the French at Vercelli. This the king carried out, driving back outlying bodies of the enemy in spite of a stubborn resistance and the close and difficult character of the country. Hearing of the fighting, Gyulai ordered the recapture of Palestro by the II. corps, but the Sardinians during the night strengthened their positions and the attack (31st) was repulsed with heavy loss. These two initial successes of the allies, the failures in Austrian tactics and leadership which they revealed, and the fatigues and privation to which indifferent staff work had exposed his troops, combined to confirm Gyulai in his now openly expressed intention of " basing his defensive on the Quadrilateral." And indeed his only alternatives were now to fall back or to concentrate on the heads of the French columns as soon as they had passed the Sesia about Vercelli. Faithful to his view of the situation he adopted the former course (1st June). The retreat began on the 2nd, while the French were still busied in closing up. Equally with the Austrians, the French were the victims of a system of marching and camping that, by requiring the tail of the columns to close up on the head every evening, reduced the day's net progress to 6 or 7 m., although the troops were often under arms for fourteen or fifteen hours. The difference between the supreme commands of the rival armies lay not in the superior generalship of one or the other, but in the fact that Napoleon III. as sovereign knew what he wanted and as general pursued this object with much energy, whereas Gyulai neither knew how far his government would go nor was entire " master in his own house." The latter became very evident in his retreat. Kuhn, the chief of staff, who was understood to represent the views of the general staff in Vienna, had already protested against Gyulai's retrograde movement, and on the 3rd Hess retreat appeared from Vienna as the emperor's direct repre- sentative and stopped the movement. It was destined to be resumed after a short interval, but meanwhile the troops suffered from the orders and counter-orders that had marked every stage in the Austrian movements and were now intensified instead of being removed by higher intervention. Meanwhile (June 1-2) the allies had regrouped themselves east of the Sesia for the movement on Milan. The IV. corps, driving out an Austrian detachment at Novara, established itself there, and was joined by the II. and Guard. The king's army, supported by the I. and III. corps, was about Vercelli, with cavalry far out to the front towards Vespolate. From Novara, the emperor, who desired to give his troops a rest-day on the 2nd, pushed out first a mixed reconnaissance and then in the afternoon two divisions to seize the crossing of the Ticino, Camou's of the French Guard on Turbigo, Espinasse's of the II. corps on advance San Martino. Further the whole of the Vercelli to the group was ordered to advance on the 3rd to Novara T/clno. and Galliate, where Napoleon would on the 4th have all his forces, except one division, beyond Gyulai's right and in hand for the move on Milan. The division sent to Turbigo bridged the river and crossed in the night of the 2nd/3rd, that at San Martino (on the main road) occupied the bridge-head and also the river bridge itself, though the latter was damaged. Espinasse's division here was during the night replaced by a Guard division and went to join a growing assembly of troops under General MacMahon, which established itself at Turbigo and Robecchetto on the morning of the 3rd. Lastly, in order to make sure that no attack was impending from the direction of Mortara, Napoleon sent General Niel with a mixed reconnoitring force thither, which returned without meeting any Austrian force—fortunately for itself, if the fate of the " reconnaissance in force " at Montebello proves anything. The centre of gravity was now at Buffalora, a village on the main Milan road at the point where it crosses the Naviglio Grande. Here, on the night of the 1st, Count Clam-Gallas, commanding the Austrian I. corps (which had just arrived in Italy and was to form part of the future I. Army) had posted a division, with a view to occupying the bridge-head of San Martino. On inspecting the latter Clam-Gallas concluded that it was indefensible, and, ordering the San Martino road and railway bridges to be destroyed (an order which was only partially executed), he called on Gyulai for support, sent out detachments to the right against the French troops re-ported at Turbigo, and %prepared to hold his ground at Buffalora. On receipt of Clam-Gallas's report at the Austrian headquarters, Hess ordered the resumption of the retreat that he had countermanded, but it was already late and many of the troops did not halt for the night till midnight, June 3rd/4th. Gyulai promised them the 4th as a rest-day, but fortune ordered it otherwise. This much at least was in favour of the Austrians, that when the troops at last reached their assigned positions four-fifths of them were within 12 M. of the battlefield. But, as before, the greater part of the army was destined to be chained to " supporting positions " well back from the battlefield. When day broke on the 4th, the emperor of the French was still uncertain as to Gyulai's whereabouts, and his intention was there-Battle of fore no more than to secure the passage of the Ticino and magenta. to place his army on both sides of the river, in sufficient strength to make head against Gyulai, whether the latter advanced from Mortara and Vigevano or from Abbiategrasso. He therefore kept back part of the French army and the whole of the Sardinian. But during the morning it became known that Gyulai had passed the Ticino on the evening of the 3rd; and Napoleon then ordered up all his forces to San Martino and Turbigo. The battlefield of Magenta is easily described. It consists of two level plateaux, wholly covered with vineyards, and between them the broad and low-lying valley of the Ticino. This, sharply defined by the bluffs of the adjoining plateaux, is made up of backwaters, channels, water meadows and swampy woods. At Turbigo the band of low ground is 1; m. wide, at Buffalora 21. Along the foot of the eastern or Austrian bluffs between Turbigo and Buffalora runs the Grand Canal (Naviglio Grande) ; this, however, cuts into the plateau itself at the latter place and trending gradually inwards leaves a tongue of high ground separate from the main plateau. The Novara-Milan road and railway, crossing the Ticino by the bridge of San Martino, pass the second obstacle presented by the canal by the New Bridges of Magenta, the Old Bridge being moo yards south of these. The canal is bridged at several points between Turbigo and Buffalora, and also at Robecco, m. to the (Austrian) left of the Old Bridge. Clam-Gallas's main line of defence was the canal between Turbigo and the Old Bridge, skirmishers being posted on ccros, under the general command of Marshal Baraguay d'Hilliers, the tongue of high ground in front of the New Bridges, which wear- ' kept open for their retreat. He had been joined by the II. corps attacked an Austrian rearguard (part of VIII. corps, Benedek) and disposed of 40,000 men, 27,000 more being at Abbiategrasso (24 m. S. of Robecco). Of his immediate command, he disposed about 12,000 for the defence of the New Bridges, 12,000 for that of Buffalora, 8000 at Magenta and 8000 at Robecco; all bridges, except the New Bridges, were broken. Cavalry played no part whatever, and artillery was only used in small force to fire along roads and paths. Napoleon, as has been mentioned, spent the morning of the 4th in ascertaining that Gyulai had repassed the Ticino. Being desirous merely of securing the passage and having only a small force avail-able for the moment at San Martino, he kept this back in the hope that MacMahon's advance from Turbigo on Magenta and Buffalora would dislodge the Austrians. MacMahon advanced in two columns, 2 divisions through Cuggiono and 1 through Inveruno. The former drove back the Austrian outposts with ease, but on approaching Buffalora found so serious a resistance that MacMahon broke off the fight in order to close up and deploy his full force. Meantime, however, on hearing the cannonade Napoleon had ordered forward Mellinet's division of the Guard on the New Bridges and Buffalora. The bold advance of this corps d'elite carried both points at once, but the masses of the allies who had been retained to meet a possible attack from Mortara and Vigevano were still far distant and Mellinet was practically unsupported. Thus the French, turning towards the Old Bridge, found themselves (3.30 P.M.) involved in a close fight with some 18,000 Austrians, and meantime Gyulai had begun to bring up his III. and VII. corps towards Robecco and (with Hess) had arrived on the field himself. The VII. corps, on its arrival, drove Mellinet back to and over the New Bridges, but the French, now broken up into dense swarms of individual fighters, held on to the tongue of high ground and prevented the Austrians from destroying the bridges, while, the occupants of Buffalora similarly held their own, and beyond them MacMahon, advancing through orchards and vineyards in a line of battle 2 M. long, slowly gained ground towards Magenta. The III. Austrian corps, mean-while, arriving at Robecco spread out on both sides of the canal and advanced to take the defenders of the New Bridges in rear, but were checked by fresh French troops which arrived from San Martino (4 P.M.). The struggle for the New and Old Bridges continued till 6 P.M., more and more troops being drawn into the vortex, but at last the Austrians, stubbornly defending each vineyard, fell back on Magenta. Bit while nearly all the Austrian reinforcements from the lower Ticino had successively been directed on the bridges, MacMahon had only had to deal with the 8000 men who had originally formed the garrison of Magenta. The small part of the reinforcing troops that had been directed thither by Gyulai before he was aware of the situation, had in consequence no active role defined in their orders and (initiative being then regarded as a vice) they stood fast while their comrades were beaten. But it was not until after sunset that the thronging French troops at last broke into Magenta and the victory was won. The splendid Austrian cavalry (always at a disadvantage in Italy) found no opportunity to redress the balance, and their slow-moving and over-loaded infantry, in spite of its devotion, was no match in broken country for the swift and eager French. The forces engaged were 54,000 French (one-third of the allied army) to 58,000 Austrians (about half of Gyulai's total force). Thus the fears of Napoleon as regards an Austrian attack from Mortara-Vigevano neutralized the bad distribution of his opponent's force, and Magenta was a fair contest of equal numbers. The victory of the French was palpably the consequence not of luck or generalship but of specific superiority in the soldier. The great result of the battle was therefore a conviction, shared by both sides, that in future encounters nothing but exceptional good fortune or skilful generalship could give the Austrians victory. The respective losses were: French 4000 killed and wounded and boo missing, Austrians 5700 killed and wounded, 4500 missing. While the fighting was prolonged to nightfall, the various corps of the Austrian army had approached, and it was Gyulai's intention to resume the battle next day with 100,000 men. But Clam-Gallas reported that the I. and II. corps were fought out, and thereupon Gyulai resolved to retreat on Cremona and Mantua, leaving the great road Milan-Brescia unused, for the townsmen's patriotism was sharpened by the remembrance of Haynau, " the Hyena of Brescia." Milan and Pavia were evacuated on the 5th, Hess departed to meet the emperor Francis Joseph (who was coming to take command of the united I. and II. Armies), and although Kuhn was still in favour of the offensive Gyulai decided that the best service he could render was to deliver up the army intact to his sovereign on the Mincio. On the 8th of June Napoleon and Victor Emmanuel made their triumphal entry into Milan, while their corps followed up rather than pursued the retreating enemy along the Lodi and Cremona roads. On the same day, the 8th of June, the I. and II. French at the village of Melegnano. MacMahon with the Me%g- II. corps was to turn the right flank, the IV. the left nano. of the defenders, while Baraguay attacked in front. But MacMahon, as at Magenta, deployed into a formal line of battle before closing on the village, and his progress through the vineyards was correspondingly slow. The IV. corps was similarly involved in intricate country, but Baraguay, whose corps had not been present at Magenta, was burning to attack, and being a man aussi dur a ses soldats qu'a lui-meme, he delivered the frontal attack about 6 P.M. without waiting for the others. This attack, as straightforward, as brusque, and as destitute of tactical refinements as that of the Swiss on that very ground in 1515 (Marignan), was carried out, without " preparation," by Bazaine's division a la balonnette. Benedek was dislodged, but retreated safely, having inflicted a loss of over rood men on the French, as against 36o in his own command. After Melegnano, as after Magenta, contact with the retiring enemy was lost, and for a fortnight the story of the war is simply that of a triumphal advance of the allies and a quiet retirement and reorganization of the Austrians. Up to Magenta Napoleon had a well-defined scheme and executed it with vigour. But the fierceness of the battle itself had not a little effect on his strange dreamy character, and although it was proved beyond doubt that under reasonable conditions the French must win in every encounter, their emperor turned his attention to dislodging rather than to destroying the enemy. War clouds were gathering elsewhere—on the Rhine above all. The simple brave promise to free Italy " from the Alps to the Adriatic " became complicated by many minor issues, and the emperor was well content to let his enemy retire and to accelerate that retirement by manoeuvre as far as might be necessary. He therefore kept on the left of his adversary's routes as before, and about the 20th of June the whole allied army (less Cialdini's Sardinian division, detached to operate on the fringe of the mountain country) was closely grouped around Montechiaro on the Chiese. It now consisted of 107,000 French and 48,000 Sardinians (combatants only). The Austrians had disappeared into the Quadrilateral, where the emperor Francis Joseph assumed personal command, with Hess as his chief of staff. Gyulai had resigned the command of the II. Army to Count Schlick, a cavalry general of 70 years of age. The I. Army was under Count Wimpffen. But this partition produced nothing but evil. The imperial headquarters still issued voluminous detailed orders for each corps, and the intervening army staff was a cause not of initiative or of simplification, but of un- necessary delay. The direction of several armies, in fact, is only feasible when general directions (directives as they are technically called) take the place of orders. All the necessary conditions for working such a system—uniformity of training, methods and doctrine in the recipients, abstention from inter- ference in details by the supreme command—were wanting in the Austrian army of 1859. The I. Army consisted of the III., Iii. and XI. corps with one cavalry division and details, 67,000 t&aari>raAu in all; the II. Army of the I., V., VII. and VIII. corps, one cavalry division and details or 90,000 combatants—total 160,000, or practically the same force as the allies. The emperor had made several salutary changes in the administration, notably an order to the infantry to send their heavy equipment and parade full-dress into the fortresses, which enormously lightened the hitherto overburdened infantryman. At this moment the political omens were favourable, and gathering the impression from his outpost reports that the French were in two halves, separated by the river Chiese, the young emperor at last accepted Hess's advice to resume the offensive, in view of which Gyulai had left strong outposts west of the Mincio, when the main armies retired over that river, and had maintained and supplemented the available bridges. The possibility of such a finale to the campaign had been considered but dismissed at the allied headquarters, where it was thought that if the Austrians took the offensive it would be on their own side, not the enemy's, of the Mincio and in the midst of the Quadrilateral. Thus the advance of the French army on the 24th was simply to be a general move to the line of the Mincio, preparatory to forcing the crossings, coupled with the destruction of the strong outpost bodies that had been left by the Austrians at Solferino, Guidizzolo, &c. The Austrians, who advanced over the Mincio on the 23rd, also thought that the decisive battle would take place on the third or fourth day of their advance. Thus, although both armies moved with all precautions as if a battle was the immediate object, neitherexpected a collision, and Solferino was consequently a pure encounter-battle. Speaking generally, the battlefield falls into two distinct halves, the hilly undulating country, of which the edge (almost everywhere cliff-like) is defined by Lonato, Castiglione, Cavriana and Battle of Volta, and the plain of Medole and Guidizzolo. The Solferino. village of Solferino is within the elevated ground, but close to the edge. Almost in the centre of the plateau is Pozzolengo, and from Solferino and Pozzolengo roads lead to crossing places of the Mincio above Volta (Monzambano-Salionze and Valeggio). These routes were assigned to the Piedmontese (44,000) and the French left wing (I., II. and Guard, 57,000), the plain to the III. and IV. corps and 2 cavalry divisions (50,000). On the other side the Austrians, trusting to the defensive facilities of the plateau, had directed the II. Army and part of the I. (86,000) into the plain, 2 corps of the I. Army (V. and I.) on Solferino-Cavriana (40,000), and only the VIII. corps (Benedek), 25,000 strong, into the heart of the undulating ground. One division was sent from Mantua towards Marcaria. Thus both armies, though disposed in parallel lines, were grouped in very unequal density at different points in these lines. The French orders for the 24th were—Sardinian army on Pozzolengo, I. corps Esenta to Solferino, II. Castiglione to Cavriana, IV. with two cavalry divisions, Carpenedolo to Guidizzolo, III. Mezzane to Medole by Castel Goffredo; Imperial Guard in reserve at Castiglione. On the other side the VIII. corps from Itlonzambano was to reach Lonato, the remainder of the II. Army from Cavriana, Solferino and Guidizzolo to Esenta and Castiglione, and the I. Army from Medole, Robecco and Castel Grimaldo towards Carpenedolo. At 8 A.M. the head of the French I. corps encountered several brigades of the I. Army in advance of Solferino. The fighting was severe, but the French made no progress. MacMahon advancing on Guidizzolo came upon a force of the Austrians at Casa Morino and (as on former occasions) immediately set about deploying his whole corps in line of battle. Meanwhile masses of Austrian infantry became visible on the edge of the heights near Cavriana and the firing in the hills grew in intensity. Marshal MacMahon therefore called upon General Niel on his right rear to hasten his march. The latter had already expelled a small body of the Austrians from Medole and had moved forward to Robecco, but there more Austrian masses were found, and Niel, like MacMahon, held his hand until Canrobert (III. corps) should come up on his right. But the latter, after seizing Castel Goffredo, judged it prudent to collect his corps there before actively intervening. Meantime, however, MacMahon had completed his preparations, and capturing Casa Morino with ease, he drove forward to a large open field called the Campo di Medole; this, aided by a heavy cross fire from his artillery and part of Niel's, he carried without great loss, Niel meantime attacking Casa Nuova and Robecco. But the Austrians had not yet developed their full strength, and the initial successes of the French, won against isolated brigades and battalions, were a mere prelude to the real struggle. Meanwhile the stern Baraguay d'Hil. Tiers had made ceaseless attacks on the V. corps at Solferino, where, on a steep hill surmounted by a tower, the Austrian guns fired with great effect on the attacking masses. It was not until after mid-day, and then only because it attacked at the moment when, in accordance with an often fatal practice of those days, the Austrian V. corps was being relieved and replaced by the I., that Forey's division of the I. corps, assisted by part of the Imperial Guard, succeeded in reaching the hill, whereupon Baraguay stormed the village and cemetery of Solferino with the masses of infantry that had gradually gathered opposite this point. By 2 P.M. Solferino was definitively lost to the Austrians. During this time MacMahon had taken, as ordered, the direction of Cavriana, and was by degrees drawn into the fighting on the' heights. Pending the arrival of Canrobert—who had been alarmed by the reported movement of an Austrian force on his rear (the division from Mantua above mentioned) and having given up his cavalry to Niel was unable to explore for himself—Niel alone was left to face the I. Army. But Count Wimpffen, having been ordered at 11 to change direction towards Castiglione, employed the morning in redistributing his intact troops in various " mutually supporting positions," and thus the forces opposing Niel at Robecco never outnumbered him by more than 3 to 2. Niel, therefore, attacking again and again and from time to time supported by a brigade or a regiment sent by Canrobert, not only held his own but actually captured Robecco. About the same time MacMahon gained a foothold on the heights between Solferino and Cavriana, and ,as above mentioned, Baraguay had stormed Solferino and the tower hill. The greater part of the I1. Austrian Army was beaten and in retreat on Valeggio before 3 P.M. But the Austrian emperor had not lost hope, and it was only a despairing message from Wimpffen, who had suffered least in the battle, that finally induced him to order the retreat over the Mincio. On the extreme right Benedek and the VIII. corps had fought successfully all day against the Sardinians, this engagement being often known by the separate name of the battle of San Martino. On the left Wimpffen, after sending his despondent message, plucked up heart afresh and, for a moment, took the offensive against Niel, who at last, supported by the most part of Canrobert's corps, had reached Guidizzolo. Austrians on the Mincio. In the centre the Austrian rearguard held out for two hours in several successive positions against the attacks of MacMahon and the Guard. But the battle was decided. A violent storm, the exhaustion of the assailants, and the firm countenance of Benedek, who, retiring front; San Martino, covered the retreat of the rest of the II. Army over th'e Mincio, precluded an effective pursuit. The losses on .eit'hg side had been: Allies, 14,415 killed and wounded and 2976 iftlasing, total 17,191; Austrians, 13,317 killed and wounded, 9220 missing, total 2'21537. The heaviest losses in the French army were in Niel's corps (IV.), which lost 4483, and in Baraguay d'Hilliers' (I.), which lost 4431. Of the total of 17,191, 5521 was the share of the Sardinian army, which in the battle of San Martino had had as resolute an enemy, and as formidable a position to attack, as had Baraguay at Solferino. On the Austrian side the IX. corps, which bore the brunt of the fighting on the plain, lost 4349 and the V. corps, that had defended Solferino, 4442. Solferino, in the first instance an encounter-battle in which each corps fought whatever enemy it found in its path, became after a time a decisive trial of strength. In the true sense of the word, it was a soldier's battle, and the now doubly-proved superiority of the French soldier being reinforced by the conviction that the Austrian leaders were incapable of neutralizing it by superior strategy, the war ended without further fighting. The peace of Villafranca was signed on the 11th of July.
End of Article: THE ITALIAN WAR OF

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