The Kingdom of Two Sicilies and the Italian unification

We shall not describe in detail all the events of 1860 and 1861, however some points need to be clarified: we can not really believe that Garibaldi has conquered a whole kingdom with an army of a thousand men, winning an army of 93,000 men plus 4 auxiliary foreign regiments as well as the most powerful fleet in the Mediterranean. Something must have gone differently.

The first question is: how many were the so called “thousand”? The first group, led by Giuseppe Garibaldi and his lieutenant Nino Bixio, started the journey from Quarto on the of May 1860 with two steamships that officially were stormed (in realty, they were  purchased from the Kingdom of Sardinia as per notary act Baldioli, May 4, 1860). This group  was actually formed by about one thousand people, mostly from northern Italy with a clear predominance of Lombardy (435 persons), about 40 were not Italians, including a discrete group of Hungarian officers, the duo-Sicilians were little more than 80.

They were joined in Sicily by about 1,200 private guards immediately commanded by La Masa and Acerbi, and, after the battle of Calatafimi, by additional bands of “campieri”(rural guards) sent by the Baron of St. Anne and others, up to a total of  3500 men.

Sicilian recruits did not follow Garibaldi outside Sicily, however he was reinforced by volunteers organized by the Kingdom of Sardinia, a little more than twenty thousand men. Still mysterious is the number of British volunteers in black uniform, commanded by Dunn, according to Del Boca about a thousand. The Italian documents do not have trace about them, but traces can be found in the Proceedings of the House of Commons. A strong support was given by the British Navy.

The second question is: why the Neapolitan army did not react adequately, at least until Volturno when it was too late, albeit they had the power to react?  The causes are many and quitter difficult to define, in fact in the Two Sicilies occurred a phenomenon of dissolution of the state, with events similar to those were in Italy between 25 July and 8 September 1943.

We simply list some of the main factors:

• Inexperience and weakness of the young King, unprepared for the task and only partly offset by the determination and energy of his young wife Maria Sofia, who was still a young girl of not yet twenty years old.

• Weakness and unreliability of the government, made up of people that were, at least in some cases, on the payroll of the Kingdom of Sardinia (that is to say, of the Piedmont).

• Excess of seniority in the Armed Forces, in many cases up to the limits of senility;  the Generals were not in control of the Army, in several documented cases due to treachery and corruption, in other cases due to mere opportunism.

• Desertion of the majority of the fleet.

• Strong support given to Garibaldi directly from the Kingdom of Sardinia  and indirectly by France and England.

A significant satirical cartoon published by a French newspaper shows three characters of the Duo Sicilian army: a soldier with a lion’s head, a non-commissioned officer with the head of a donkey and an officer completely headless.

After the unification of Italy, there were years of revolt in the South, passed into history with the name of “banditry”, in reality  a civil war.

The revolt had already begun at the time of the dictatorship of Garibaldi, but became widespread in the following years.

The phenomenon had many components, there was certainly an element of social unrest, caused by heavy government’s fiscal policy together with military conscription as well as by the increase in the cost of living (from 1861 to 1863 the increase was from 50% to 100%).  There was also the willingness to defend the religion and an important legitimist component.

The repression was very tough, especially after the so called law Pica of 15/08/1863: entire populations were dissolved , 51 municipalities fully destroyed (among them Pontelandolfo and Casalduni – 1862). The spirit of the repression can be summed up with a quote from a famous proclamation of General Pinelli, “against these enemies pity is a crime.”

The forces at work in 1862 were 120,000 men of the Italian army, which in the South was still called Piedmont Army, while the southern guerrillas were divided into 488 bands ill-equipped and uncoordinated with each other.

The losses for the Italian Army were 23,013 men, dead or missing, more than the losses of all the wars of the Risorgimento put together; more difficult to calculate the number of deaths from the southern part of the guerrillas, killed in combat, shot or died in prison: according to  the research of Alessandro Romano  266,370 died, the historian Roberto Martucci limits the amount of a minimum of 20,075 and a maximum 73 875, plus the deaths among the civilian population.

The state of war, albeit with ups and downs, lasted until 1872.

The Italian unity government then decided that land reform that had become necessary, indeed aggravating the situation rather than improving it. Before the land reform, a lot of land considered as property of the State, directly or through the  feudal lord, or property of the Church was in reality available to the public free of charge or for a very modest fee.

After 1860, the state-owned territories and ecclesiastical goods were sold, in full ownership, to wealthy bourgeois “no compromise with the Bourbons”, throwing entire families into poverty.

Depression in agricultural prices in the international markets in the 80s of the nineteenth century did the rest: the southern people reacted with emigration, painful choice that resulted in further impoverishment of the territory. In year 1900 the Italian emigration had reached the total figure of 8 million people, of which 5 million from the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies: more than 30% of the population.

The mass migration is always a cause of impoverishment of the territory, there is a definite correlation between population and economic development: remittances do not solve the problem. In the Italian case, in particular, as far as the remittances are concerned, we should distinguish the economic consequences from the financial ones.  On the economic point of view they were intended for the maintenance and improvement of the standard of living of the families, on the financial side they contributed, in considerable part, to the creation of the reserves that were used for the purchase of technology and equipment for the development of the North.


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