Garibaldi and his Red Shirts - F. J. Snell

A Bold Retreat

The French made their triumphal entry into Rome on July 3, but when they marched in, Garibaldi was not there. His proposal had been rejected by his colleagues in the Assembly, but he did not feel bound by their resolutions. What had become of him? and what did he intend to do? His plan was a bold one. It was to cut his way, with such troops as would follow him, to Venice, which had revolted against Austria and was still unsubdued. No fewer than four thousand men volunteered for the expedition, and Anita, though implored to remain behind, insisted on accompanying her husband.

Garibaldi had to fear not only French, Spanish, and Neapolitan pursuers, but the Austrians, who were in effective possession of the Romagna; and his northward march resembles nothing so much as the doublings of a wily stag. At first he was much hampered by his baggage-wagons; when horses were substituted, his movements became freer. Ever, as he advanced, his force dwindled and there were narrow escapes. At Terni, however, it received a welcome addition of nine hundred men commanded by an English ex-guardsman, Colonel Hugh Forbes, whose son was serving with him. Forbes was, on Garibaldi's testimony, a "most courageous and honorable soldier," but a casual observer would not have thought him a soldier at all. He always wore a summer suit and a white chimney-pot hat, which gave him the look of a tourist. Other companions of Garibaldi were Father Bassi and Ciceruacchio, whose lives, especially that of the latter, would not have been safe had they remained in Rome.

In executing this daring retreat Garibaldi had reckoned, to some extent, on raising the population of Central Italy, but the fall of Rome was what may be termed a bad advertisement. He and his men were virtually in the position of outlaws, and the efforts of nearly all the organized governments in the peninsula were directed to their capture. At Orvieto the French were so close on their heels that the Garibaldians enjoyed the provisions that General Morris had ordered to be got ready in that town. After that, nothing was seen of the French, but Garibaldi, to reach the Adriatic and join Manin at Venice, had to break through the Austrian cordon extending from Florence to Ancona. The contadini or peasants, far from being sympathetic, sang hymns in honor of the Austrian monarch. Sad indeed was the lot of those who lost their way in the night-marches or were taken prisoners. Many of them, on being interrogated at a drum-head court-martial, bravely confessed Garibaldi as their "chief and father," and were either shot or brutally flogged. At Sant' Angelo the Hungarian hussars surprised a party of republican soldiers, and massacred them to a man.

At length Garibaldi took refuge in the territory of the little republic of San Marino. Unattended, he entered the town at daylight on July 31, and during his absence his column, several miles away, was attacked by Hahne's vanguard. There were indications of panic, but Anita and Forbes rekindled the courage of the men and the Austrian pursuit was checked. Garibaldi left the bulk of his army at San Marino, and urged his wife, whose health was beginning to fail, to stay there also. As before, at Rome, she refused to be parted from him. The General must have come to the conclusion that the surrender of his army was inevitable, and it was not his fault that the Austrians behaved with inhuman cruelty to those who made their submission, flogging them unmercifully or confining them in noisome prisons.

As regards Garibaldi himself, Father Bassi, and Ciceruacchio, if once they fell into the hands of their foes, whether Austrians or Papalists, their fate was sealed, and the small republic of San Marino, though friendly, was in no position to afford them protection. Accordingly, on the following night the three leaders, with Anita and two hundred followers, turned their steps seaward. Many lost touch with the main body, among them being the gallant Swiss, Hoffstetter, who, having sold his horse and changed his clothes, made the best of his way back to his native Alps.

After marching twenty-two miles the Garibaldians arrived at Cesenatico, where they requisitioned thirteen fishing smacks lying in the broad canal. A barricade was hastily thrown up at the entrance of the town, and there Hugh Forbes, with a rearguard, remained posted while the embarkation was proceeding. Just before his departure Garibaldi gave his horse to a patriotic inhabitant, kissing the animal's forehead and saying to his new owner, "Do what you like with him, but never let him pass into the hands of the Austrians." An hour after all were aboard the Austrians came up, to find that their quarry had escaped.

Unfortunately an Austrian squadron was cruising off the mouth of the Po, and about midnight the flotilla of fishing smacks was intercepted. Three of them ran aground, the rest were captured. Hugh Forbes and one hundred and sixty-two others, who were taken prisoners, were conveyed to Pola, but all were eventually released, Forbes rather sooner than the rest. His son, who appears to have been left behind at San Marino, was eagerly sought for, but baffled his pursuers.

Garibaldi, Anita, Ugo Bassi and Ciceruacchio were among those who got safely ashore; and, as it would have been madness for the outlaws to keep together; the two last and certain others set off across the dunes, after Garibaldi had taken affectionate leave of them, with the feeling in his heart that they would never in this world meet each other again. He kept with him only one of his comrades, Captain Culiolo.

During his march from San Marino to the coast Garibaldi had been deeply indebted to a workman of the town, named Zani, who had served him as guide, and ten years later was to welcome him to the Romagna in the character of a conqueror. He owed, however, much more to Nino Bonnet, a citizen of Comacchio, who advised him as to the best route in a country honeycombed with Austrians and Papalists. These enemies were totally devoid of decent sentiments. Sereni, the Papal brigadier, had been spared at Cesenatico at Bassi's entreaty, but the same evening he informed against his deliverer. As the result, the good priest was arrested in an inn at Comacchio, and, having been taken to Bologna, his native city, was tried by a council of secular priests and sentenced to be shot. The officer in command of the firing party had not the heart to give the fatal order; another stepped into his place, and the sentence was carried out. Ciceruacchio was equally unlucky. He was betrayed, and shot, together with his two sons—the younger a mere lad—in the market-square of San Nicolo.

Garibaldi's prospects were as black as black could be. Anita was desperately ill, and could not bear the thought of separation, which, however, in one form or another, was bound to come, and that before many days. After being marooned by terrified boatmen on an islet in a land-locked lagoon called the Valli di Comacchio, she was rescued and conveyed to a dairy-f arm at Mandriole. There she died. Garibaldi, whose calm strength had for months borne up against a sea of troubles, now broke down utterly and wept like a child. He had to leave the burial of his wife to the good people of the place, for the Austrians were not likely to overlook a house bordering the main road; and in his next shelter, an artisan's cottage at Sant' Alberto, he peeped out of the window and saw the White Coats parading the street, full of insolent confidence.

Thence he moved to the pine-forest of Ravenna, the luscious beauty and rich associations of which could appeal but faintly to the hunted, sorrow-stricken fugitive. But Garibaldi did not lack friends. Young Romagnols conducted him to a thatched hut standing on a marsh midway between forest and sea, and at a distance from human habitations. His next move—made, like the rest, about nightfall—was to the suburb of San Rocco, just south of Ravenna. There he overheard some peasants recounting his escape and adding thereto the awful story, which, alas! was only too true, that unclean animals had grubbed up and gnawed the body of his beloved Anita. It had been buried in great haste for fear of the police, and covered only by a thin layer of sand.

From Ravenna, Garibaldi and Leggiero were smuggled by Nino Bonnet's Liberals to Forli, where a good angel awaited them in the person of Don Giovanni Verita, the parish-priest of Modigliana, who set out with them over the mountains.

Garibaldi's adventures in Tuscany would fill a whole chapter. He was recognized more than once. Near Filigari a Tuscan cavalry officer, it is said, was perfectly aware of his identity, but without giving a sign that he knew him, ordered his troop to mount and ride on. Again, at the wayside inn of Santa Lucia, Teresa, the fair daughter of the landlady, divined who he was, and engaged the attention of some Austrian soldiers occupying the very room in which Garibaldi and Leggiero were seated in semi-darkness. The next day the truth became known, and the enraged White Coats insulted and threatened to shoot the heroine. On August 26 Garibaldi and his friend were descending the hill from Montecuccoli in the early morning when they fell in with a young sportsman named Enrico Sequi, who proved to be a sympathizer and made himself chargeable for their safety. In nearly every place there seem to have been Liberals able and willing to help the fugitives, and it was due to their co-operation and local knowledge that the travelers eluded the ubiquitous White Coats.



At Prato, Garibaldi was received by Antonio Martini, who gave him a cautiously-worded letter of introduction to his cousin, Girolamo, at Bagno al Morbo. The old Girolamo spoke words of prophetic encouragement. "Courage, General," he said, "all will come right again." A young Liberal of the Maremma named Pina, with three companions, managed the final stroke. They, as well as Garibaldi and Leggiero, attired themselves as sportsmen, and quitting the last refuge of the future Liberator, the Casa Guelfi, crossed the fen and the forest to Cala Martina. There a fishing boat appeared, and at ten o'clock on the morning of September 2, Garibaldi and Leggiero, having thanked and embraced their friends, embarked for Genoa. At Pina's request the General bestowed on each member of the party a piece of his handkerchief as a memento of the occasion and an heirloom for their children. Then, as the boat pushed off, Garibaldi, standing erect in the stern, called out in vibrant tones: "Viva l'Italia!" ("Long live Italy!").