Garibaldi and his Red Shirts - F. J. Snell

Master of Naples

On September 7 Garibaldi's first act on awaking was to telegraph to Don Liborio Romano, Minister of the Interior and Police at Naples, expressing his willingness to proceed to the capital on the arrival of the Mayor and the Commander of the National Guard. The flattering answer was returned—"Naples awaits your coming with the greatest impatience to salute you as the redeemer of Italy, and to place in your hands the power of the State and her destinies."

Two officers of the National Guard had been sent to Salerno overnight—within an hour, indeed, of the King's flight—to announce that fact; and also to convey the message that the Mayor and the Commander of the National Guard would present themselves at an early hour the following day. These important persons did not fail to appear, and were immediately ushered into the presence of Garibaldi. They deemed it unwise for the General to go on to Naples at once, and Bertani dissuaded him from accepting Romano's invitation until some portion of his army had come up and the King's Bavarian mercenaries had all departed for Capua.

Nothing could induce Garibaldi to reconsider his decision. At half-past nine he drove off, amid a storm of cheering from the people of Salerno, to the railway terminus at Vietri; and thence a special train conveyed him to Naples. The carriages were packed inside and out by eager partisans, among them Cosenz, who was happy in the thought that he would once more see his mother, from whom he had been separated for twelve long years. Other occupants of the train were Ashley in his red shirt, W. G. Clark, Public Orator of the University of Cambridge, Captain Forbes, and Edwin James, all as merry as crickets. At a point beyond Portici there was a signal to the train to stop, and a naval officer forced his way into Garibaldi's compartment in a state of painful excitement. "Where are you going?" he demanded. "The Bourbon troops have trained their cannon on the Naples station."

"Bother their cannon!" replied the General. "When the people are receiving us like this, there are no cannon."

On the morning of the same day Colonel Ricciardi drove along the Toledo at Naples. Standing erect in his carriage and waving the Italian flag he announced to the citizens the expected arrival of Garibaldi at midday, and called upon them to go to the station and greet him. The statement, however, seems to have been received with doubt; and, when the train steamed in, a relatively small crowd had assembled. Those present included Don Liborio Romano and the National Guard; and the former proceeded to read an address of welcome. By that time the news had spread like wildfire, and a vast concourse swept on to the platform, broke through the National Guard, and interrupting Don Liborio, bore off the General, who eventually found himself Bertani, and half a dozen others who had scrambled after him. A lady spectator commented approvingly on the appearance of the group of heroes.

"Such fine old heads with whitened beards, and all with their red shirts covered with purple stains, like English hunting-coats that have been through sundry squire-traps," was her way of describing them.

Clinging to the back of the carriage, a Neapolitan artist named Salazaro held over the heads of the occupants a huge standard, one side of it showing the horse of Naples and the other the lion of Venice.

It had been Liborio's ambition to seat himself in the carriage beside Garibaldi, but he had found it impossible to cleave a passage through the crowd; and Cosenz, torn from his chief by the torrent of enthusiasts, had been fain to mount himself on a horse and ride off to his mother. Garibaldi's triumph, therefore, was a purely personal and popular affair.

"Accompanied," he says, "by a few of his friends who called themselves his aides-de-camp, a son of the people entered the proud capital, acclaimed by its five hundred thousand inhabitants, whose fierce and irresistible will paralyzed an entire army."

It had been arranged that Garibaldi should enter the city by a route not too exposed to the fire of the forts, but the surging multitude turned in a direction that brought him right under the muzzles of the cannon of the Carmine—which were loaded. For a moment there was imminent risk of a catastrophe. Garibaldi rose, and with folded arms gazed steadfastly at the soldiers, some of whom saluted. Not a shot was fired.

On reaching the quay, which was a mile long and crammed in every part with clamorous Neapolitans, Garibaldi stood up and bared his head. His face betrayed deep emotion. "Did you ever see such a triumph?" Bertani said to Zasio, one of the Thousand. "No," replied the warrior, "I have never seen it, but I have often dreamed of it for the chief." At the Castel Nuovo the enemy's sentinels saluted, and the guard turned out in testimony of respect. At the Forestiera, an annex of the palace, the Bourbon regiment did not stir a finger. From a window of that building Garibaldi addressed a vast throng in what is now the Piazza del Plebiscito. "You have a right," he said, "to exult in this day, which is the beginning of a new epoch, not only for you, but for all Italy, of which Naples forms the fairest portion. It is indeed a glorious day and holy—that on which a people passes from the yoke of servitude to the rank of a free nation. I thank you for this welcome, not only for myself, but in the name of Italy, which your aid will render free and united." One of those who heard Garibaldi's speech on this occasion was W. G. Clark, and to him this report is primarily due.

Garibaldi was next conveyed to the Cathedral, where the service was conducted by his fighting Sicilian friar, Pantaleo; and the canons, with some perturbation, showed him the relics of St Januarius. Garibaldi's Catholicism was not fervid, and when the blood of St Januarius was liquefied on September 19) ?> for the good of the new government, he did not see fit to be present.

The General fixed his headquarters at a mansion halfway up the Toledo, and from one of the topmost balconies presented himself to the ceaseless stream of admirers filing along the two streets which, at that point, meet at right angles. After he had withdrawn, the cheering was kept up till a Red-Shirt appeared on the balcony and rested his cheek on his hand, as a sign that Garibaldi was reposing. From mouth to mouth passed the words, "Egli dorme" ("He's sleeping "). Thereupon the great crowd became silent, and gradually melted away.

Once installed at Naples Garibaldi turned his thoughts to Rome, and declared his intention of marching to the Eternal City. The project was opposed by Cavour as likely to involve Italy in a war with France or in civil conflict. Nearly all Garibaldi's friends were against him in this matter—Kossuth, Lord Shaftesbury, Admiral Persano; and the last-mentioned implored Sir Rodney Mundy to exert his influence with the General and restrain him, if possible, from the rash enterprise. Lord John Russell, also, instructed Mr. (afterward Sir) Henry Elliot, the former British Minister at the Neapolitan court, to prevent Garibaldi from attempting the liberation of Venice, which was likewise part of his scheme. Elliot induced Garibaldi to meet him and Mundy on board H.M.S. Hannibal on September 10, but the interview produced no result. Garibaldi would not listen to their arguments and entreaties, and reiterated that he would crown Victor Emmanuel at Rome; and that his Majesty, as crowned King of Italy, would take upon himself the task of freeing Venice from the tyranny of Austria.

This talk was decidedly premature. Garibaldi had still to complete the conquest of the Neapolitan kingdom, in which there was left a large and compact body of the enemy. Moreover, his autobiography shows that he was harassed by insidious efforts on the part of supporters of Cavour to sow dissensions at Palermo, while there were signs that that minister was bent on obstructing the General's victorious march on the mainland. In consequence of these intrigues Garibaldi was compelled to return to Palermo; and when he came back on September 19, it was to witness on the left bank of the Volturno the deplorable spectacle of his Red-Shirts running like hares from a hail of Bourbon bullets On the following day they were driven, with terrible losses, from the village of Caiazzo, which had been occupied with the view of cutting off the enemy's communications. The Bourbon troops, being overwhelmingly superior in numbers, had no great reason to plume themselves on this success; nevertheless, it had the effect of improving their morale.