|Franz Joseph, Wilhelm I, Vittorio Emanuele II|
The scheme he had in mind was nothing short of the conquest of the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies, ruled, at that time, by the cadet branch of the Spanish Royal Family. In May of 1860, with only a thousand volunteers, Garibaldi sailed out to take on the Bourbon monarchy which possessed a large army and a bigger navy than Piedmont-Sardinia. He and his little force of men, garishly dressed in red shirts, landed in Sicily, the garrison of which had been reinforced from 21,000 to 40,000 men when word of Garibaldi’s plan reached Naples. Garibaldi should have had no chance at all, however, he was a master at misdirection and the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies proved far less formidable in fact than it appeared on paper. Particularly in Sicily, the repeated rebellions of the previous decades had taken their toll and the King, Francesco II, had wiped out his Swiss mercenaries, his best troops, when they went on strike over better pay and conditions.
|Battle of Calatafimi|
|Garibaldi & the King meet at Teano|
After 100 days of resistance, Francesco II surrendered and went into exile, the south was reunited with the north for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire and Vittorio Emanuele II was proclaimed King of Italy. Of the major Italian territories, only Rome and Venice remained out of reach. Rome was occupied by the French and Venice by the Austrians. Peaceful efforts to gain these came to nothing. The new King of Italy offered to purchase Venice from Emperor Franz Joseph, but was refused. Likewise, Pope Pius IX refused to hear of the offer of Cavour for absolute sovereign immunity for the pope and total power for him in all Church matters. The status quo, however, could not endure as the nationalist movement which had taken hold in Italy would never abide separation from Venice and Rome. Not long after, Count Cavour suddenly died and though the King had never liked him much, the two had learned how to work together and a period of some political instability ensued. Garibaldi, seeing his work still unfinished, recruited some more volunteers and made to attack Rome. The French and Austrians both threatened war if he was not stopped and so the Italian army did the job, halting the nationalist volunteers at the Battle of Aspromonte in August of 1862, even wounding Garibaldi himself in the process.
|King Wilhelm I & Bismarck|
Conflict began to bubble up over disagreements between Austria and Prussia over the administration of the lands taken in the war with Denmark. Among German nationalists, there had also been a long standing division over whether or not the united Germany would include Austria due to the fact that Austria also ruled over so many non-German peoples that German nationalists cared nothing about. With the Austro-Prussian dispute, that matter was settled; Austria would be excluded and, as far as Bismarck was concerned, could go on having fun in her ‘majority minority’ empire. If Prussia were to take on Austria, there would be no better time as Habsburg foreign policy had managed to alienate just about everyone by this stage. Austria was sore at the French for allowing the incorporation of the central Italian states into the Kingdom of Italy and so, naturally, the French were sore at Austria in return. The Italians, naturally, wanted Venice back and so were certainly not going to take the side of Austria and, most importantly, the Russians were still furious at Emperor Franz Joseph for threatening to side against them in the Crimean War, effectively forcing them to concede defeat. The Prussians had also stood by the Russians in a recent rebellion in Poland, whereas the Austrians had not. The British, for their part, had no great love for either side and had no reason to care who won.
|Bismarck, von Roon & von Moltke|
In any event, on June 14, 1866 the war began with Prussian troops marching into Saxony and Bohemia. The Prussian army had mobilized rapidly thanks to the adept leadership of war minister Graf von Roon and the army commander Graf von Moltke. The Italian Royal Army was less well prepared, with elements of the north and south still not having coalesced very well. Some of this was due to personality issues, some due to organizational differences and sometimes simply the differences between the dialects of Turin and Naples. The Italian war plan was for the army of General Alfonso La Marmora to strike while the army of General Enrico Cialdini remained on the defensive. They would have superior numbers but the Austrians, with their powerful fortress cities of the Quadrilateral, would be able to concentrate their troops against any threat. The Italians, in typical fashion, came straight on with a bold offensive by the troops of La Marmora, accompanied by King Vittorio Emanuele II himself, who loved nothing better than being on campaign.
|The Battle of Custozza|
|Battle of Bezzecca|
|Battle of Lissa|
The outcome of the war had, for all intents and purposes, mostly been decided at the Battle of Sadowa with the Prussians crushing the Austrian army there. However, the Austrian reinforcements on their way to Italy, combined with the stunning loss at Lissa, prompted Italy to come to the peace table too, in spite of the advances of Garibaldi and Cialdini and the hopes riding on them to make good on the loss at Custoza. It was not the glorious victory that had been hoped for, nor would the resulting peace treaty be easy for anyone. Italy was on the winning side but Prussia had been the ones to force Austria to the negotiating table. Even then, it was only thanks to the intransigence of Bismarck as most of the Prussian officers wanted to carry on and capture Vienna and perhaps more. Bismarck would not hear of it. All he wanted was a war to shove Austria out of the way so that Prussia could create a united Germany. He had no desire to see Austria humiliated or destroyed.
|King Vittorio Emanuele II enters Venice|
An unfortunate result of the Austrian intransigence during the peace process was to perpetuate the false impression that Italy had accomplished nothing during the war. The Italians had won battles and the naval engagement of Lissa was the only truly embarrassing loss. The battle of Custoza was two armies that basically fought each other to exhaustion, both thought they had lost and the Italians were simply the first to do anything about it and as they began to pull back the Austrians pounced. Garibaldi had won a hard fought victory in the north, the Italians had not been destroyed and were in the process of counter-attacking, were advancing back into Venetia, when the crushing victory of the Prussians brought the war to a close. The Austrians had not ‘run away with it’ so to speak. In any event, Italy had at least regained Venice, leaving only Rome still under foreign occupation. Prussia was clearly established as the leading German state, only one further step away from unification whereas the Austrian Empire had been humbled and was soon thereafter forced to make vast concessions to the Hungarians, leading to the compromise which turned the Austrian Empire into the “Dual Monarchy” of Austria-Hungary.