The story

Battle of Solferino, 24 June 1859

Battle of Solferino, 24 June 1859


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Battle of Solferino, 24 June 1859

Background and the Advance to Battle
Terrain
The Fight at Solferino
The Fight in the South
The Fight in the North - San Martino and Madonna della Scoperta
Defeat and Retreat
Books

The battle of Solferino (24 June 1859) was the decisive battle of the first phase of the Second War of Italian Unification and was a hard fought French and Piedmontese victory that defeated an Austrian counterattack and forced Franz Josef to retreat back into the Quadrilateral fortresses of north-eastern Italy. The carnage of the battle also helped convinced Napoleon III that there was little advantage to be gaining from continuing with the war and he began peace negotiations.

Background and the Advance to Battle

The war began with an Austrian invasion of Piedmont, but they failed to take advantage of their early superiority in numbers to defeat the Piedmontese before the French could arrive. By 12 May the French were present in large numbers, and the two armies faced each other in the area north of Alessandria. The first battle of the war, at Montebello (20 May 1859) encouraged the Austrians to look south, and the Allies took advantage of this by moving their army left (27-29 May), to attack the weaker Austrian right wing around Vercelli and Novara. The Piedmontese launched a covering attack at Palestro (30-31 May 1859), and repulsed a weak Austrian counterattack. Feldzeugmeister Franz Count Gyulai, the Austrian commander, finally realised what had happened, and after spending 1 June planning to attack towards Novara realised that he had been outmanoeuvred and ordered a retreat to the Ticino and Lombardy. The Allies followed, and on 3 June, while the Austrians were deciding which side of the river to defend, the French captured a river crossing (battle of Turbigo, 3 June 1859). By the end of the day MacMahon's II Corps was already across the river.

The first truly decisive battle of the war came on 4 June (battle of Magenta, 4 June 1859). This was a badly handled encounter battle in which neither high command played any significant role. The higher quality of the French soldiers was decisive and the Austrians suffered a defeat that forced them to begin a retreat out of Lombardy and back towards the Quadrilateral, their network of fortifications in Venetia. The Austrians also reorganised their army. Gyulai resigned on 16 June, and on 18 June Franz Josef took personal command of the army. This was a bold step - he would win the credit for any victories, but a defeat could lower the prestige of the monarchy across his unwieldy empire. Gyulai's large 2nd Army was split into two four corps armies. Feldzeugmeister Count Wimpffen was given command of the 1st Army (II, III, IX and XI Korps), and General der Kavallerie Count Schlick was given 2nd Army (I, V, VII and VIII Korps). The reorganised army pulled back to the Mincio on 20-21 June 1859, while the Allies advanced to the Chiese. The Piedmontese army made up the left wing of the Allied force, with the French in the centre and right.

As the allies advanced towards the Mincio they expected the Austrians to try and defend the river. What they didn't realise was that Franz Josef and his advisors had decided to launch a counterattack. Franz Josef wanted to catch the Allies while they were crossing the Chiese. The Emperor and some of his advisors believed that the Allies were still around Montechiaro, on the Chiese. The Austrians planned to use the 2nd Army to pin the Allies in front while the 1st Army crossed the plains and attacked from the south. The result of these respective misapprehensions was that the two armies unexpectedly ran into each other almost half way between the Chiese and the Mincio.

At the end of 23 June the Austrians had advanced to the positions they would occupy when the battle started. VIII Korps was on the right, at Pozzolengo. V Korps was next in line, at Solferino. I Korps was just to the south at Cavriana. First Army formed the Austrian left and was strung out from west to east, with IX Korps close to Medole, III Korps next at Guidizzolo and XI Korps a bit further to the south-east. The Austrians had around 130,000 men engaged at Solferino, with slightly more men on their left.

The Allies moved east on the morning of 24 June. Four Piedmontese divisions were on the left, in the area between the ridge and Lake Garda. I Corps (Baraguey) was in the centre, advancing along the ridge towards Solferino. II Corps (MacMahon) was to his right, heading for Cavriana. On the right IV Corps (Niel) was advancing from Medole towards Carpenedole-Guidizzolo, with III Corps (Canrobert) following begin. The Imperial Guard was in reserve.

As a result of these movements the Piedmontese ran into VIII Korps and part of V Korps. I Corps clashed with V Korps at Solferino. II Corps fought I Korps. In the south Niel's IV Corps found it self up against IX, III and XI Korps. Canrobert's III Corps was further to the south and many of his men missed the battle.

The overall course of the battle was quite simple. In the north the Piedmontese made a number of piecemeal attacks on the Austrians, each of which failed. The Austrians only retreated when the battle had been lost elsewhere. In the south the situation was reversed, and Niel held off a much larger Austrian force. The key part of the fight came in the centre, where after a day of hard fighting the French broke the Austrian centre around Solferino. This defeat forced the entire Austrian army to retreat.

The French had around 90,000 men at Solferino, the Piedmontese had around 40,000, for a total of 130,000. The two sides were thus very equally balanced.

Terrain

The battlefield was split into three. In the centre, running across from west to east was a ridge of higher ground. Solferino itself was close to the highest point on the ridge, and sits at the eastern foot of a hill, with a walled building complex on the hill top, as well as a tower known as the Spia d'Italia. To the north is an area of rolling hills that run up to Lake Garda, to the south is a large level plain, the Campo di Medole. Solferino village was a very strong defensive position.

The Fight at Solferino

The most intense fighting took place in the middle of the field, around Solferino. Here some 55,000 French troops from Baraguey d'Hilliers' I Corps, MacMahon's II Corps and the Imperial Guard clashed with Stadion's V Korps, Clam Gallas's I Korps and Schwarzenberg's III Korps. This battle fell into two parts, with MacMahon and Schaafsgottsche fighting a separate battle just to the south of the Solferino ridge.

Baraguey d'Hilliers' I corps left Castiglione at 3am. At around 5am his leading division ran into Stadion's outposts on the heights west of Solferino. Ladmirault's Division, aided by Florey on his right, pushed the Austrians back to the ridges just to the west of Solferino. The Austrian Bils and Puchner Brigades held the French up just west of Solferino until around 10am, but were then forced back into the village. The Austrians now held Monte di Cipressi (the buildings on the top of the hill west of Solferino) and the cemetery on the lower ground to the north. Stadion also had a brigade deployed to the north.

A fierce battle now developed west of Solferino. Baraguey d'Hilliers' was an impatient commander, and committed his men before their artillery had arrived. A series of French attacks were repulsed at great cost. An attack by two divisions was repulsed before 11am, while a third division was repulsed around 11am.

While these attacks were being repulsed the French artillery reached the battlefield. The French finally made a properly organised attack with good artillery support at around 2pm, and this time both the cemetery and the high ground was captured. By 2.30 Stadion's men were retreating. They headed east, along the northern side of the ridge, allowing the French to advance along the southern edge of the high ground. Solferino town fell and Baraguey d'Hilliers' men continued to advance east, taking advantage of the collapse of the Austrian centre.

MacMahon's II Corps also began to move at 3am, moving parallel to Baraguey d'Hilliers. He also ran into the leading Austrian troops at around 5am, this time elements from Schwarzenberg's corps. The fighting here didn't start until around 8.30am, when Schönberger's Division attacked MacMahon's line. This attack was repulsed, as were a number of Austrian attacks to exploit the gap between MacMahon and Niel's IV Corps to the south.

At around 2pm MacMahon went onto the offensive, capturing San Cassiano, south of Solferino. They were held up just to the south east by the Prinz von Hesse. Hesse was only forced to retreat after the Imperial Guard joined the offensive. The French advanced towards the 1st' Army's Headquarters at Cavriana (also threatening Franz Josef, who was at the same village). Parts of Stadion's V Korps, Clam Gallas's V Korps and Zobel's VII Korps attempted to stem the French attack, but without any great determination. Hesse evacuated Cavriana at around 3.30pm, and the French captured the village at 4.30.

MacMahon's II Corps vs Austrian VII Korps at San Cassiano - hard battle, by 2pm La Motterouge's division and Guiard cavalry break Austrian line, threatene HQ of 1st Army at Cavriana, east of San Cassiano. The main fighting was ended by a heavy storm in the early evening, although the Austrians continued to suffer casualties as they came under fire from the new rifled French artillery.

The fighting around Solferino was very costly on both sides. The French lost 1,025 dead, 4,852 wounded and 997 missing, with 4,000 of those casualties in Baraguey d'Hilliers' corps. The Austrians lost 9,326 men, half of them in Stadion's corps.

The Fight in the South

In the south Niel's IV Corps, with some help from Canrobert's III Corps (21,000 men at the start, 36,768 eventually) faced three Austrian corps - III (Schwarzenberg), IX (Schaafsgottsche) and XI (Weigl), with 53,999 men. As was so often the case during this war, the Austrians wasted their numerical advantage and attacked piecemeal, allowing Niel to hold off much larger forces.

The fighting began at Medole, where Niel's leading troops forced ten Austrian infantry companies and their supporting cavalry to retreat. The Austrian infantry pulled back to Rebecco at around 7am, while the cavalry moved towards Ceresara. The Austrian cavalry commander found that the rest of his men had already left the area, and instead of staying to support the fight he headed off in an attempt to find them.

As Niel advanced east from Medole he ran into elements from three Austrian corps. Schaafsgottsche's IX Korps was present in strength. Schwarzenberg's III Korps was also involved, although part of this corps was engaged with MacMahon to the north. Finally four of the five brigades of Weigl's IX Corps arrived later in the morning. Niel was outnumbered by around two to one, but the Austrians failed to take advantage of their numerical advantage and didn’t launch a coordinated attack. Niel also made good use of his rifled artillery, forming a Grand Battery on his left flank, where it helped guard the gap between his corps and MacMahon. Although the Austrian attacks were uncoordinated, they came close to success on several occasions.

By mid-afternoon the Austrian attacks had been fought off and Niel had finally received more reinforcements from Canrobert. At the same time Solferino had fallen and the Austrian centre was in retreat. Franz Josef ordered Graf Wimpffen, the commander of First Army, to launch an attack north into the flank of the advancing French. Just as Wimpffen was preparing for this attack Niel launched an attack on his positions around Guidizzolo. Although this attack failed, it did disrupt Wimpffen's preparations and the Austrian counterattack never materialised. Soon after this the storm broke over the southern part of the battlefield, ending the battle.

The French lost 660 dead, 4,012 wounded and 566 missing on the right, most of them in Niel's corps, which lost 552 dead, 3,552 wounded and 501 missing. Perhaps unsurprisingly this triggered something of a feud between Canrobert and Niel which lasted well beyond the war. Austrian casualties on their left were higher, at 9,796.

The Fight in the North - San Martino and Madonna della Scoperta

In the north four Piedmontese divisions with nearly 39,000 men faced Benedek's VIII Korps and part of Stadion's V Korps, a total of 28,558 men. This time it was the Piedmontese who wasted their numerical advantage and launched a series of piecemeal attacks. On 23 June Victor Emmanuel had his own head quarters at Lonato, while his staff officers were with Napoleon III at Monitchiari. This split continued on 24 June.

The railway ran through Lonato, along the southern shore of Lake Garda and on to Peschiera. On the 24 June the Piedmontese advanced on the left of the French. Fanti's 2nd Division was on the right, closest to the French, but some way behind the other three divisions. Durando's 1st Division was next, advancing south-east towards Madonna della Scoperta (north-east of Solferino). Cucchiari's 5th Division and Mollard's 3rd Division moved east along Lake Garda following the railway, then turned south at Rivoltella and headed south towards San Martino and Pizzolengo. Mollard's division was in front, with Cucchiari some way behind and their scouts some way ahead.

Two separate but rather similar battles developed - one at Madonna della Scoperta and one at San Martino. In each case the Austrians held a strong position based around buildings on a hill and the Piedmontese attacked piecemeal, each attack being repulsed. Eventually they organised full strength attacks, which came after the Austrians had been defeated at Solferino, and the Austrians carried out a fighting retreat.

Madonna della Scoperta

Madoona della Scoperta was defended by two brigades from Stadion's V Korps. This was a similar position to San Martino, with the Austrians defending a hilltop settlement. The Piedmontese also attacked piecemeal. Durando's 1st Division arrived at around 5.30am. His first attacks were made by the Savoia Brigade, but all of these failed. The village finally fell to the Granatiere Brigade (the Royal Guard), but by this time Stadion had begun to withdraw in response to the Austrian defeat at Solferino. This threatened Benedek's position at San Martino, and helped contribute to his decision to withdraw.

San Martino

San Martino was defended by Benedek's strong VIII Korps. Benedek was one of the best Austrian corps commanders, with a rare ability to motivate the rank and file. He was also helped by the piecemeal nature of the Piedmontese attacks, with brigades thrown in as they arrived. The fighting began when Mollard's advance guard, commanded by Raffaele Cordorna (father of the First World War commander), ran into Brigade Lippert at Pontecello, a walled farm near to San Martino. Cadorna withdrew under Austrian pressure, and Benedek took up a strong position around San Martino church. Brigade Lippert formed the right and Brigade Reichlin the Austrian left.

Mollard decided to launch an attack with the Cuneo Brigade, the only troops then available to him, instead of waiting for the rest of his division to arrive. His aim was to drive the Austrians off before they could take a firm grip on the high ground. The attack, which began at around 9am, began well and the Piedmontese captured the lower parts of the hill. They were then pushed off by an Austrian counterattack led by Brigade Berger.

By around 10am Cucchiari's full division had arried, and launched a two-brigade attack. This too made some progress, but the Austrians had gathered massed gun battery on the ridge. The advancing Italians were hit by case fire from thirty guns. Cucchiari's division broke and fled, and couldn't be stopped until it reached Rivoltella.

Mollard's second brigade had now arrived, but he decided not to risk another attack until Cucchiara could restore the morale of his division. Reinforcements were also expected from Fanti's 2nd Division, which sent Brigade Aosta. The fighting resumged at around 4pm. This time Mollard's Brigade Pinerolo formed the right, and Brigade Aosta the left. Brigade Cuneo formed the reserve. At the same time the Austrian defeat around Solferino had forced Benedek to send Brigade Reichlin to cover his left. This attack also failed to take the hill, but this time the Piedmontese were able to secure a position half way up the hill.

The Austrians were finally forced to retreat around sunset. Benedek had received orderes to retreat, and he was now faced with a five brigade attack, with Pinerolo and Aosta attacking in the centre, Cucchiari's men on the Italian left and the Piemonte brigade, coming from Madonna della Scoperta, the right. Benedek carried out a skilful retreat, but his decision to head east towards Milan, instead of south-east towards the main Austrian army, had a big impact on the Austrian decision not to resume the battle on the following day.

The fighting around San Martino was very costly. The Piedmontese suffered 691 dead, 3,572 wounded and 1,258 missing. Benekek lost 2,615 men, making him the most successful Austrian commander on the day.

Defeat and Retreat

The loss of Solferino village and the collapse of their centre meant that the Austrians had lost the battle. The Allies were unable to mount a proper pursuit, and the Austrians were able to get back across the Mincio. The Austrians had lost 22,000 men in the fighting, but the Allies hadn't done much better, suffering around 17,000 casualties. Neither supreme commander had much impact on the battle, although Napoleon III had been more effective, making some effort to concentrate in the centre of the field. Franz Josef and the Austrian high command hardly ever appear in accounts of the battle and their few orders were unrealistic and could rarely be carried out. The higher quality of the French infantry was also an important contribution to their victory, helping them to hold on against superior forces in the south and push the Austrians out of their strong defensive positions in the centre.

Military operations continued for a couple of weeks after the battle of Solferino. The Piedmontese laid siege to Peschiera, while the French prepared to besiege Mantua. However the carnage at Solferino, combined with the increasing possibility of German intervention had convinced Napoleon III that there was little to be gained by a costly continuation of the war. His aide-de-camp visited the Austrians at Verona on 6 July, and an armistice was agreed on 8 July. Napoleon III and Franz Josef met at Villafranca on 11 July and agreed to a peace deal. France would get Lombardy, which it would then give to Piedmont. Austria would keep Venetia and the fortresses at Mantua and Peschiera. Victor Emmanuel understood the political reasons for this deal, although many Italians felt betrayed. By the time the armistice was turned into a full peace treaty early in 1860 Piedmont's gains had expanded to include part of the Papal States, Tuscany, Parma and Modena, and more was to come. In 1860 Garibaldi led his famous Thousand to Sicily, where they captured Palermo, and after receiving reinforcements seized the rest of the island. They then crossed to the mainland and took Naples. The Kingdom of Naples crumbled, and by the end of 1860 had become part of the soon to be proclaimed Kingdom of Italy.

Only Venetia and Rome were left outside Italy. Venetia was gained in 1866, during the Austro-Prussian War (Third War of Italian Liberation). Rome took a little longer. Garibaldi made two marches on the city, in 1862 and 1867, each one ending in defeat. Napoleon III was determined to keep Rome out of Italian hands, but the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 meant that he was no longer able to intervene. A short Fourth War of Italian Liberation followed and by the end of 1870 Rome had become the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.

The battle of Solferino had one other long lasting effect. Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman, saw the carnage and the plight of the wounded after the battle. This inspired him to call the Geneva Conference of 1863. This saw the foundation of the International Red Cross and the adoption in the following year of the first Geneva Convention, an attempt to limit the horrors of war.

Books


Solferino and the International Committee of the Red Cross

    The battle of Solferino was fought in northern Italy on 24 June 1859. It was a decisive e pisode in the struggle for Italian unification and also a pivotal moment in the evolution of modern humanitarianism. It is at the origins of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the Geneva Conventions.

Allied Franco-Sardinian troops, led by Emperor Napoleon III, faced off against Austrian soldiers at around three in the morning on the 24th. By six o'clock, the battle was in full swing. Bright sunshine bore down on the 300,000 soldiers, who shot, trampled, bayoneted and slit the throats of their enemies. After 15 hours of slaughter and bloodshed, around 6,000 men were dead and more than 35,000 were wounded or missing.

The medical services of the French and Sardinian armies were overwhelmed. Transportation for the wounded was practically non-existent, while food and water were scarce. In the church of Castiglione, the Chiesa Maggiore , a young Swiss man named Henry Dunant – who was in the area for business – did his best to care for the wounded and dying, helped by local women volunteers. They treated the men equally, regardless of what side they had fought on, inspiring the women to coin the phrase " tutti fratelli " (all brothers).

Considered by many as the father of modern humanitarianism, Henry Dunant was also arguably the first embedded war reporter and citizen journalist rolled into one. In 1862, he self-published a graphic account of the aftermath of the battle, called A Memory of Solferino

The battle of Solferino led Dunant to push for the creation of a neutral and impartial organization to protect and assist the war wounded (ICRC). He also suggested that voluntary relief societies should be established to care for the injured – an idea that would eventually lead to the formation of National R ed Cross and Red Crescent Societies. In addition, he proposed that an international principle be created to serve as the basis for these societies, an idea that developed into the Geneva Conventions, which turned 60 on 12 August 2009. 

In 1901, Henry Dunant was awarded the first-ever Nobel Peace Prize for what was described as the " supreme humanitarian achievement of the 19th century " . Now, 150 years later, his legacy lives on in the tens of thousands of staff and volunteers who continue to help others around the world each day.

  A few things you might not know about the ICRC  

  • Contrary to popular belief, the ICRC is neither a non-governmental organisation (NGO) nor an international organisation. It isn't an inter-state body either. It is a private agency, governed by a committee of between 15 and 25 exclusively Swiss members, who set policy and decide on strategy.
  • The German-Danish War of 1864 was the first to break out following the creation of the Red Cross. Two delegates were sent to the scene of the fighting to serve as neutral intermediaries. By the end of 1914, an initial team of ten Committee members had grown to 1,200 volunteers and paid staff, who sifted through thousands of requests for information about civilians who had gone missing in the chaos of World War I.
  • Today, the ICRC has roughly 11,500 employees worldwide, including 10,000 national staff and more than 1,300 expatriate delegates.
  • Up until the early 1990s, only Swiss citizens were allowed to serve as ICRC delegates abroad. Today, roughly half of the ICRC's international staff are non-Swiss.
  • Around 90 per cent of the ICRC's funding comes from States, yet the organisation is independent from any government.
  • The ICRC asked donors for more than 1.1 billion Swiss francs to fund its work in 2010, with an almost near-record level initial field budget of 983 million.
  • The ICRC works in 80 countries around the world and assists over 14.2 million people annually through water, sanitation and construction projects.
  • In 2009, the organisation visited almost half a million detainees in 78 countries and international courts to monitor their conditions of detention.
  • The ICRC reunited 1,025 children with their families last year, while almost 509,000 Red Cross messages were collected or distributed (including 143,000 messages exchanged between detainees and their families), enabling relatives separated by armed conflict to exchange news.
  • The number of patients treated at health facilities supported by the organization rose by over a third between 2008 and 2009 – from almost 3.5 million to close to 5.6 million.
  • More than four million people received food from the ICRC last year.
  • The ICRC is the custodian of the Geneva Conventions and the guardian of International Humanitarian Law, which outlines the rules of war.
  • The organisation's biggest operations include Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Pakistan, Somalia, Colombia, Yemen and Chad.
  • The ICRC's motto is Inter Arma Caritas (Amidst War, Charity). 


Battle of Solferino

Emperor Napoleon III of France gives orders to one of his subordinates during the battle of Solferino, 24 June 1859. The Battle of Solferino, 24th June 1859 (oil on canvas), by Adolphe Yvon (1817-93).

The allied army of Piedmont and France achieved a major victory over their Austrian opponents at the Battle of Solferino on 24 June 1859. In subsequent treaty negotiations, the Austrian emperor ceded Lombardy to the king of Piedmont. The battle was a bizarre mix of intention and blundering. Franz Josef II, the Austrian emperor, dismissed the defeated commander of the Battle of Magenta on 17 June and took titular command of his army in the field, whilst yielding actual authority to a council of generals. When the generals requested an offensive that the emperor was not happy about he conceded to their expert knowledge. The advancing allies, expecting no opposition, were surprised to find the Austrians crossing the Mincio River on 22 June 1859. The Austrians were able to occupy all the dominating high ground around Solferino before the allies could organize their attacks. The battle was effectively a savage melee across a front of about 5½ miles (9 km). A Swiss observer, Henri Dunant, remembered: “Austrians and allies trampled each other under foot, slaughtered each other on a carpet of bloody corpses, smashed each other with rifle butts, crushed each other’s skulls, disembowelled each other with sabre and bayonet.” By nightfall, the Austrians were in a retreat that was only saved from being a rout by the actions of General Count Von Benedek, whose rearguard action delayed the allied pursuit. Dunant’s published memoir of the battle and its aftermath, including the makeshift hospitals that tried to save as many wounded as they could, led to a Geneva conference and the founding of the International Red Cross in 1863.

One of the bloodiest battles of the 19th century, the Battle of Solferino on June 24, 1859, marked an important step forward in the unification of Italy. The Italian War of 1859 pitting the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia (Sardinia- Piedmont) against the Habsburg Empire resulted from the adroit diplomatic maneuvering of Premier Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, who was intent on unifying Italy under the Sardinian Crown. French emperor Napoleon III accepted the role assigned to him by Cavour because of his own interest in Italian affairs (as a youth he had participated in the Italian revolutions of 1830), his desire to supplant A. Austrian interest in Italy with that of France, and the lure of simple territorial aggrandizement.

In July 1858 Napoleon III and Cavour met at Plombieres in southeastern France and worked out the so-called Pact of Plombieres. Cavour would work to create a war with Austria in which the Habsburg monarchy appeared to be the aggressor. France would then join Sardinia to end Habsburg control over northern Italy. France would supply 200,000 troops, Sardinia would supply 100,000 troops, and the two would fight until Italy was freed “from sea to sea.” Sardinia was to receive Lombardy, Venetia, Parma, Modena, and Romagna, establishing a new Kingdom of Upper Italy. Sardinia would in turn cede Nice and Savoy to France. Napoleon III’s cousin Prince Jerome Bonaparte, who had married the daughter of Sardinian king Victor Emmanuel II, would receive Tuscany, Umbria, and the Marches as king of central Italy. The pope would retain the area around Rome known as the Patrimony. The Kingdom of Naples would be left intact. These four Italian kingdoms would then be formed into a loose confederation under the presidency of the pope.

In March 1859 Cavour mobilized the Sardinian Army, but his efforts to bait the Habsburgs into war appeared not to be working, and on April 19 he ordered the army demobilized. Had there been a telegraph connection between Turin and Vienna, there would have been no war. But unaware of Cavour’s action, on April 23 the Habsburg government dispatched an ultimatum to Turin demanding the demobilization. This made Austria appear to be the aggressor. Sardinia’s rejection of the ultimatum then brought the war, which both sides in fact desired.

Habsburg troops were in position to strike quickly and indeed invaded Piedmont on April 29, but Austrian commander General Franz Gyulai proved incompetent. The advance was slow, allowing French forces time to come to Sardinia’s assistance. On May 30 Sardinia won a victory over Habsburg forces at Palestro. Franco- Sardinian forces led by Napoleon III then invaded Lombardy.

On June 4 the French and Sardinians met the Habsburg forces at Magenta. Due to confusion in orders, Sardinian forces remained quiescent, and the French fought the Austrians alone. The elan of 54,000 French soldiers led them to prevail against 58,000 Austrians. French losses amounted to 5,000 killed or wounded and 600 missing Austrian casualties came to 5,700 killed or wounded and 4,500 missing.

Following Magenta, Gyulai withdrew his forces into the so-called Quadrilateral, the fortified cities of Magenta, Pershiera, Verona, and Legnago. On June 8 Napoleon III and Victor Emmanuel II entered Milan in triumph. Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph dismissed Gyulai and advanced with forces under General Ludwig von Benedek in an effort to reconquer Lombardy. The sides were of approximately equal strength: about 160,000 men each, the largest number of combatants in any European battle since Leipzig in 1813. As at Magenta, the two armies blundered into a fight without much central direction from their commanders.

On June 24 the advance guards stumbled on each other in the village of Solferino, south of Lake Garda in Lombardy. General Marie E. P. M. de MacMahon commanded the French forces. Napoleon III, Victor Emmanuel II, and Franz Joseph were all present. Fighting began at 4:00 a. m., and much of it was hand to hand. As at Magenta, the battle was decided not by generalship but by the fighting spirit of the French soldiers. Fighting ended at about 8:00 p. m. with the collapse of the Habsburg center. Their forces were able to withdraw, however, thanks to a hard-fought rear-guard effort led by Benedek. Casualties were heavy, with the French suffering nearly 12,000, the Sardinians 5,500, and the Austrians 22,000.

The Habsburg forces again withdrew in good order into the Quadrilateral. Dislodging them would have entailed many more French casualties. Napoleon III was deeply affected by the carnage of the battle and by his role in bringing it about. French military leaders were also unhappy with the level of Sardinian assistance in the Battle of Magenta, and French public opinion had turned against the war. The Prussians were mobilizing forces in northern Germany and appeared to be threatening France along the Rhine. Italian nationalists had seized control of Tuscany and demanded union with Sardinia. All of these factors now led the emperor to renege on his agreement with Cavour.

Napoleon III met with Franz Josef near Villafranca on July 11 and there concluded an armistice. Austria agreed to evacuate all Lombardy except the fortified towns of Peschiera and Mantua in the Quadrilateral. To save face, Austria turned over Lombardy to France, which then gave it to Sardinia. Austria retained Venetia.

The Battle of Solferino had another major effect. The suffering of the wounded there was all the more horrible because of totally inadequate ambulance services. Many of the wounded lay under a hot sun for three days until they were attended to, and a number were robbed of their possessions by local peasants. Swiss businessman Henri Dunant, who had traveled to Solferino to talk with Napoleon III, witnessed the battle and its aftermath. In 1862 he published a small book about his experiences. Titled Un Souvenir de Solférino (1862), it dealt principally with the efforts to tend to the wounded in the small town of Castilogne. Dunant suggested that each country form societies to care for those wounded in battle. This led to the formation, in Geneva, of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In August 1864, 12 nations signed an internationally treaty commonly known as the Geneva Convention. The powers agreed to guarantee neutrality to medical personnel, to expedite medical supplies for their use, and to adopt an identifying emblem of a red cross on a white field.

The armistice of Villafranca, which was confirmed in the subsequent Treaty of Zurich of November 10, 1859, did not end the movement for Italian unification. Most Italians were outraged by it. Cavour sought to continue the war, but the king wisely rejected this. Believing that he had been betrayed, Cavour berated Victor Emmanuel II and then resigned. Cavour soon returned to office to oversee the remaining territorial acquisitions that rounded out the unification of Italy. Parma, Modena, and Tuscany as well as the Romagna voted to join Sardinia. This violated the terms of the Treaty of Villafranca, but Napoleon III agreed to these acquisitions on the condition that France receive Nice and Savoy. These terms were confirmed in the Treaty of Turin of March 1860. Sicily, Naples, the Marches, and Umbria were acquired in 1860 through the efforts of Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi, and on March 17, 1861, the Kingdom of Italy came into being. Cavour died just at his moment of triumph, but Italy added to its territory Venice in 1866 and Rome in 1870.

References Beales, Derek. The Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971. Blumberg, Arnold. A Carefully Planned Accident: The Italian War of 1859. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 1990. Harder, Harry. Italy in the Age of the Risorgimento, 1790-1870. New York: Longman, 1983.


Aftermath [ edit | edit source ]

Napoleon III was moved by the losses, as he had argued back in 1852 "the French Empire is peace", and for reasons including the Prussian threat and domestic protests by the Roman Catholics, he decided to put an end to the war with the Armistice of Villafranca (12 July 1859). The Piedmontese won Lombardy but not Venetia. Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, resigned. Α] The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861.

This battle would have a long-term effect on the future conduct of military actions. Jean-Henri Dunant, who witnessed the aftermath of the battle in person, was motivated by the horrific suffering of wounded soldiers left on the battlefield to begin a campaign that would eventually result in the Geneva Conventions and the establishment of the International Red Cross. The Movement organized the 150th anniversary commemoration of the battle between the 23 and 27 June 2009. Β] The Presidency of the European Union adopted a declaration on the occasion stating that "This battle was also the grounds on which the international community of States has developed and adopted instruments of International Humanitarian Law, the international law rules relevant in times of armed conflict, in particular the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the 60th anniversary of which will be celebrated this year." Γ]


Battle of Solferino, June 1859

The Battle of Solferino (referred to in Italy as the Battle of Solferino and San Martino) on 24 June 1859 resulted in the victory of the allied French Army under Napoleon III and Sardinian Army under Victor Emmanuel II (together known as the Franco-Sardinian Alliance) against the Austrian Army under Emperor Franz Joseph I. It was the last major battle in world history where all the armies were under the personal command of their monarchs. Perhaps 300,000 soldiers fought in the important battle, the largest since the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. There were about 130,000 Austrian troops and a combined total of 140,000 French and allied Piedmontese troops. After the battle, the Austrian Emperor refrained from further direct command of the army.

The Battle of Solferino was a decisive engagement in the Second Italian War of Independence, a crucial step in the Italian Risorgimento. The war’s geopolitical context was the nationalist struggle to unify Italy, which had long been divided among France, Austria, Spain and numerous independent Italian states. The battle took place near the villages of Solferino and San Martino, Italy, south of Lake Garda between Milan and Verona.

The confrontation was between the Austrians, on one side, and the French and Piedmontese forces, who opposed their advance. In the morning of 23 June, after the arrival of emperor Franz Joseph, the Austrian army changed direction to counterattack along the river Chiese. At the same time, Napoleon III ordered his troops to advance, causing the battle to occur in an unpredicted location. While the Piedmontese fought the Austrian right wing near San Martino, the French battled to the south of them near Solferino against the main Austrian corps.

The battle was a particularly gruelling one, lasting over nine hours and resulting in over 2,386 Austrian troops killed with 10,807 wounded and 8,638 missing or captured. The Allied armies also suffered a total of 2,492 killed, 12,512 wounded and 2,922 captured or missing. Reports of wounded and dying soldiers being shot or bayonetted on both sides added to the horror. In the end, the Austrian forces were forced to yield their positions, and the Allied French-Piedmontese armies won a tactical, but costly, victory. The Austrians retreated to the four fortresses of the Quadrilateral, and the campaign essentially ended.

This month we thought we would get back to the 19th century Italian Wars and try playing the Battle of Solferino. We opted to start with the scenario in the Bloody Big Battles European Battles scenario book. However, we thought it would be more fun at a lower troop density than the scenario listed. We basically reduced the bases to 1,500 troops and battlefield ground scale to give a more grand feel to the game. Other than that, we followed the scenario as written.

The forces closed from the march, with each side reacting to the other. The Austrians were able to grab and or hold all the objectives early in the game, putting the French at a disadvantage. With a lot of effort, the French were able to get to their first town late in the game. However, things looked a little bleak, as their forces were stymied by massed artillery.

The Austrians started to concentrate on their left flank and this gave an opening in the center. The French saw this positioning and allowed a desperate late game attack to try to break through.

This put the French in a position on the last turn to take two towns. The first was by cavalry in the center and the other was by the Sardinians on the left. The first attack by the French cavalry was stopped short by a last minute Austrian reinforcement. However, Sardinians still tried their attack against poor odds. However, fortune favors the foolish and the the dice were on the side of the Italians this day! Solferino was seized and the Franco Italians managed to pull out the draw at the buzzer!


by Piero Bartoloni and Rocco Cassandri

“The battle is beautiful when described by the poets and painted by the painters because they only paint its heart one has to see the silent and scary field after the battle. When you fight, you are not thinking as you are inebriated with blood, and by the sight of so many dead and wounded around you, however after the battle, when compassion and pain take the place of indifference, then… hoi! Then if your eyes don’t cry, it’s your heart crying…“

The title of this article mentions two battles, apparently distinct, because they were fought on the same day and very close to each other.
Although history has always considered the one fought at Solferino as a Napoleon III and French battle, and that fought at San Martino as Piedmontese, we like to think of it as one single battle because it was fought against the same enemy, with the same objective and fought on the same day.

The peculiarity of this Battle, or rather of the combination of the two battles, is that it has always been considered as the bloodiest in the history of the Italian ‘Risorgimento’.

The sentence at the beginning of this article is from a letter (Fig. 1) written, on June 25, 1859, by Francesco Pistoia, a volunteer with the 1st Regiment of the Savoy Brigade.

The letter contains the true meaning of the suffering of a soldier who has seen first-hand the carnage of the struggle and the field strewn with the dead.


GEOLOGY OF THE SOLFERINO (ITALY 24 JUNE 1859) AND GETTYSBURG (PENNSYLVANIA 1-3 JULY 1863) BATTLEFIELDS: COMPARISONS, CONTRASTS, AND POSSIBLE CONNECTIONS

The 17-km-square Solferino battlefield is dominated by a narrow, steep-sided, 100-m-high ridge W of that village, with lower cultivated plains to N and S. Capped by a medieval tower furnishing views all around, this is an end/terminal moraine of late Riss (3 rd glacial

150 ka) age it is one of the outermost moraines concentrically rimming the S end of Lake Garda. It consists of compact massive silt with many floating cobbles - many volcanics, some carbonates, a few crystallines, all subrounded, water-worn in the ancestral lake before being picked up by the glacier filling its valley. The lowlands to the N are underlain by younger till (Würm, 4 th glacial 70-15 ka), and to the S by weathered older drift (mid-Pleistocene

300-600? ka). In contrast, Gettysburg's bedrock (diabase vs. redbeds) holds up 20-m-high Cemetery Ridge.

In mid-1859, the Austrian army moved W beyond Solferino ridge and unexpectedly met the on-coming French and Piedmontese at dawn on June 24 (start of Battle of Solferino). By mid-morning, many French cannons from Grole to Rebecco were bombarding that ridge. Later, French infantry assaulted the W slope, getting up on the ridge top's NW end by early afternoon. Simultaneously, more French infantry swept SE around the S end of Solferino ridge, N into Solferino village, and on SE into San Cassiano. Mid-afternoon, French infantry also attacked the NE slope of the ridge, and helped push SE along the ridge top to take the tower. Austrian troops pulled back into the lowlands to the E, their cavalry counter-attacked but failed to stop the advancing French, who went on SE into Cavriana. Then, a sudden heavy rainstorm (as after Gettysburg) halted the fighting. The Austrians exited the battlefield to the E, leaving the French in control of the area.

Meanwhile, to the N, through most of the day, the Piedmontese and another Austrian force were deadlocked in stalemate (Battle of San Martino).

Afterwards, the casualties and destruction so shocked the participants that they negotiated an end to the war in France's favor. This also led to the International Red Cross and Geneva Convention.


Battle of Solferino, 24 June 1859 - History

Wikimedia Commons The French infantry advances on Solferino, by Carlo Bossoli

The Battle of Solferino was the last major battle in the world where the armies were under the personal command of their monarchs and it changed the way that wars were fought forever after.

The fighting was between Napoleon III and Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and resulted in tens of thousands of casualties — with the wounded survivors scattered amongst the city’s ruins, where scarce food, water, and medical supplies led to agonizing and slow deaths.

Wikimedia Commons The army camp made at Solferino one day before the battle. June 23, 1859.

A Swiss businessman, Jean-Henri Dunant, traveled through the area after the fighting had settled and was horrified by what he saw. The experience prompted him to found the International Committee of the Red Cross and establish the Geneva Convention, the first forum that sought to provide basic humanitarian guidelines and international rules for war.

Wikimedia Commons The wounded of Solferino, by Henry Dunant, 1859

To this day, the Red Cross provides aid the world-over and the Geneva Conventions institute and uphold international law in times of armed conflict.

After this look at some of history’s most famous battles, read up on the most famous battles of ancient Greece. Then, have a look at World War 2 photos that bring history’s greatest cataclysm to life.


BR07 Solferino - The Battle of 3 Kings (24 June 1859)

Historical Overview
The battle of Solferino was the final engagement in the 1859 campaign which led to the end of Austrian dominance in northern Italy. After the defeats of Palestro and Magenta the Austrians reorganised their army and Emperor Franz Josef took personal command of the army. Feldzeugmeister Count Wimpffen was given command of the 1st Army and General der Kavallerie Count Schlick was given 2nd Army. The reorganised army pulled back to the Mincio on 20-21 June 1859, while the Allies advanced slowly. The Piedmontese army made up the left wing of the Allied force, with the French in the centre and right.
As the Allies advanced towards the Mincio they expected the Austrians to try and defend the river. What they didn't realise was that Franz Josef and his staff had decided to launch a general advance to the west. The result of these respective misapprehensions was that the two armies unexpectedly ran into each other almost half way between the Chiese and the Mincio.
At the end of 23 June the Austrians had advanced to the positions they would occupy when the battle started. VIII Korps was on the right, at Pozzolengo. V Korps was next in line, at Solferino. I Korps was just to the south at Cavriana. First Army formed the Austrian left and was strung out from west to east, with IX Korps close to Medole, III Korps next at Guidizzolo and XI Korps a bit further to the south-east. The Austrians had around 130,000 men engaged at Solferino, with slightly more men on their left. The French had around 90,000 men at Solferino, the Piedmontese Army had around 40,000, for a total of 130,000, same of the Austrians: the two sides were very equally balanced.
The Allies moved east on the morning of 24 June. Four Piedmontese divisions were on the left, in the area between the ridge and Lake Garda. French First Corps (Baraguey) was in the centre, advancing along the ridge towards Solferino. II Corps (MacMahon) was to his right, heading for Cavriana. On the right IV Corps (Niel) was advancing from Medole towards Guidizzolo, with III Corps (Canrobert) following begin. The Imperial Guard was in reserve. Neither side had accurate information about the other’s troop position and movements, and on June 24 they unexpectedly clashed, in and around Solferino, four miles southeast of Castiglione delle Stiviere, at a time when the French expected to engage only the Austrian rear guard and the Austrians expected to engage only the French advance units. The battle developed in a confused big melee. The battle was nothing more than the addition of a series of furious fightings for the possession of a farm, a hilltop, a village without a general starting plane and with little coordination. Only the order to attack or counterattack several times it was repeated incessantly by both sides that day. It was a bloody battle because it was conducted with military maneuvers of the Napoleonic era, without regard to the devastating precision of the new rifled guns.
The overall course of the battle was quite simple. In the north the Piedmontese made a number of piecemeal attacks on the Austrians, each of which bloody failed. In the south the situation was reversed, and Niel held off a much larger Austrian force. The key part of the fight came in the centre, where after a day of hard fighting the French broke the Austrian centre around Solferino. The loss of Solferino village and the collapse of their centre meant that the Austrians had lost the battle.
In the north four Piedmontese divisions with nearly 39,000 men faced Benedek's VIII Korps and part of Stadion's V Korps, a total of 28,558 men. On 23 and 24 June Victor Emmanuel had his own head quarters at Lonato, while his staff officers were with Napoleon III at Montichiari. Two separate but rather similar battles developed - one at Madonna della Scoperta and one at San Martino. In each case the Austrians held a strong position based around buildings on a hill and the Piedmontese attacked piecemeal, each attack being repulsed. The Piedmontese wasted their numerical advantage and launched a series of uncoordinated attacks. Madonna della Scoperta was defended by two brigades from Stadion's V Korps. This was a similar position to San Martino, with the Austrians defending a hilltop settlement. First attacks were made by the Savoia Brigade failed, the position finally fell to the Granatieri Brigade, but by this time Stadion had begun to withdraw in response to the Austrian defeat at Solferino. San Martino was defended by Benedek's VIII Korps. Benedek was one of the best Austrian commanders and he was also helped by the piecemeal nature of the Piedmontese attacks, with brigades thrown in as they arrived. The attack, which started at 9am, began well and the Piedmontese captured the lower parts of the hill. They were then pushed off by an Austrian counterattack led by Brigade Berger. Austrians had gathered massed gun battery on the ridge. The advancing Italians were hit by case fire from thirty guns. Reinforcements were also expected from Fanti's 2nd Division, which sent Brigade Aosta. The Austrians were finally forced to retreat around sunset. Benedek had received orderes to retreat, and he was now faced with a five brigade attack, with Pinerolo and Aosta attacking in the centre, Cucchiari's men on the Italian left and the Piemonte brigade, coming from Madonna della Scoperta, the right.
The most intense fighting took place in the middle of the field, around Solferino. This battle fell into two parts, with MacMahon and Schaafsgottsche fighting a separate battle just to the south of the Solferino ridge.
Baraguey d'Hilliers' I corps left Castiglione at 3am. At around 5am his leading division ran into Stadion's outposts on the heights west of Solferino. Ladmirault's Division, aided by Florey on his right, pushed the Austrians back to the ridges just to the west of Solferino. The Austrian Bils and Puchner Brigades held the French up just west of Solferino until around 10am, but were then forced back into the village. The Austrians now held Monte di Cipressi (the buildings on the top of the hill west of Solferino) and the cemetery on the lower ground to the north. Stadion also had a brigade deployed to the north.
Baraguey d'Hilliers' was an impatient commander, and committed his men before their artillery had arrived. A series of French attacks were repulsed at great cost. While these attacks were being repulsed the French artillery reached the battlefield. The French finally made a properly organised attack with good artillery support at around 2pm, and this time both the cemetery and the high ground was captured. By 2.30 Stadion's men were retreating.
MacMahon's II Corps also began to move at 3am, moving parallel to Baraguey d'Hilliers. At around 2pm MacMahon went onto the offensive, capturing San Cassiano, south of Solferino. They were held up just to the south east by the Prinz von Hesse. Hesse was only forced to retreat after the Imperial Guard joined the offensive. By 2pm La Motterouge's division and Guiard cavalry break Austrian line, threatened HQ of 1st Army at Cavriana. The French advanced towards the 1st' Army's Headquarters at Cavriana. Hesse evacuated Cavriana at around 3.30pm, and the French captured the village at 4.30. The main fighting was ended by a heavy storm in the early evening, although the Austrians continued to suffer casualties as they came under fire from the new rifled French artillery.
In the South, as the Italians in San Martino's area, the Austrians wasted their numerical advantage and attacked piecemeal, allowing Niel to hold off much larger forces. The fighting began at Medole, where Niel's leading troops forced ten Austrian infantry companies and their supporting cavalry to retreat. The Austrian infantry pulled back to Rebecco at around 7am. As Niel advanced east from Medole he ran into elements from three Austrian corps. Niel was outnumbered by around two to one, but the Austrians failed to take advantage of their numerical advantage and didn’t launch a coordinated attack. Niel also made good use of his rifled artillery, forming a Grand Battery on his left flank, where it helped guard the gap between his corps and MacMahon.
By mid-afternoon the Austrian attacks had been fought off and Niel had finally received more reinforcements from Canrobert. At the same time Solferino had fallen and the Austrian centre was in retreat. Franz Josef ordered Graf Wimpffen, the commander of First Army, to launch an attack north into the flank of the advancing French. Just as Wimpffen was preparing for this attack Niel launched an attack on his positions around Guidizzolo. Although this attack failed, it did disrupt Wimpffen's preparations and the Austrian counterattack never materialised. Soon after this the storm broke over the southern part of the battlefield, ending the battle.
When night fell, the battlefield was strewn with more than 6,000 dead and 40,000 wounded. A Swiss businessman, Jean-Henri Dunant was shocked by the terrible aftermath of the battle, the suffering of the wounded soldiers, and the near-total lack of medical attendance and basic care. He succeeded in organizing an overwhelming level of relief assistance by motivating the local villagers to aid without discrimination. After this experience he decided to found the Internationa Red Cross.
The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.

- Rickard, J (11 February 2013), Battle of Solferino, 24 June 1859 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_solferino.html
http://battlefieldanomalies.com/the-battle-of-solferino/
- Marco Scardigli, Le grandi battaglie del Risorgimento, Milano 2010

Austrian Army
Kaiser Franz Josef
Command Cards - 5

XX XX XX XX

French/Italian Army
Napoleon the Third / King Vittorio Emanuele II
Command Cards - 6
Move First

XX XX XX XX

Victory
8 Banners but 2 flags must be towns/villages hexes as temporany medal victories (so Austrian player starts with two victory flags).
The hexes grey bordered of San Martino, Solferino, Cavriana, Guidizzolo, Rebecco and Madonna della Scoperta are Temporary Medal Objectives for both players.

Special Rules
- The powerful French units with five miniatures at the bottom of French Army's side represent the divisions of the Imperial Guard: these infantry units can move two hexes but may not move and battle in the same turn. Player may use them only after his/her fourth "Draw a Command Card" phase.
- Solferino, San Martino and Cavriana hexes are hilltop villages: unit defending a hilltop village receive a double benefit.
- Cultivated areas don't block the line of sight.
- Repeated assaults by massed infantry for hours: to reproduce the prodigious amount of coordinated assaults on the formidable San Martino / Solferino / Cavriana strong positions in this scenario the "crossed-sword" dice result only scores one hit only if the attacking formation is adjacent to the enemy.


Aftermath

Napoleon III was moved by the losses, as he had argued back in 1852 "the French Empire is peace", and for reasons including the Prussian threat and domestic protests by the Roman Catholics, he decided to put an end to the war with the Armistice of Villafranca on 11 July 1859. The Piedmontese won Lombardy but not Venetia. Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, resigned. The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861.

This battle would have a long-term effect on the future conduct of military actions. Jean-Henri Dunant, who witnessed the aftermath of the battle in person, was motivated by the horrific suffering of wounded soldiers left on the battlefield to begin a campaign that would eventually result in the Geneva Conventions and the establishment of the International Red Cross. The Movement organized the 150th anniversary commemoration of the battle between the 23 and 27 June 2009. The Presidency of the European Union adopted a declaration on the occasion stating that "This battle was also the grounds on which the international community of States has developed and adopted instruments of International Humanitarian Law, the international law rules relevant in times of armed conflict, in particular the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the 60th anniversary of which will be celebrated this year."

SHARE THE PAGE!


Battle of Solferino (1859)

Battle of Solferino resulted in the victory of the allied French Army under Napoleon III and Sardinian Army under Victor Emmanuel II (together known as the Franco-Sardinian Alliance) against the Austrian Army under Emperor Franz Joseph I. It was the last major battle in world history where all the armies were under the personal command of their monarchs.



RESOURCES
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Battle of Solferino (1859)", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.


Watch the video: Battle of Magenta 1859 Italian Independence War (May 2022).