Second Italian War of Independence 1859

(Italian War of Unification)

[ 1859 ]
Battle of Solferino, (June 24, 1859), last engagement of the second War of Italian Independence. It was fought in Lombardy between an Austrian army and a Franco-Piedmontese army and resulted in the annexation of most of Lombardy by Sardinia-Piedmont, thus contributing to the unification of Italy.
After its defeat at the Battle of Magenta on June 4, the Austrian army of about 120,000 men had retreated eastward and Emperor Francis Joseph I had arrived to dismiss General Count Franz von Gyulai and take personal command. The Franco-Piedmontese army, of approximately equal size, under the command of Napoleon III of France and Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia-Piedmont, pursued the Austrians. Neither side had accurate information about the other's troop movements, and on June 24 they unexpectedly clashed, in and around Solferino, four miles southeast of Castiglione della Stiviere, in Lombardy, 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 and piecemeal fashion until midday. After extremely costly fighting, the French broke the Austrian centre in midafternoon. Smaller actions, including a vigorous delaying action by the Austrian general Ludwig von Benedek, continued until dark, leaving the French and Piedmontese too exhausted to pursue the defeated Austrians. The Austrians lost 14,000 men killed and wounded and more than 8,000 missing or prisoners; the Franco-Piedmontese lost 15,000 killed and wounded and more than 2,000 missing or prisoners. These heavy casualties contributed to Napoleon III's decision to seek the truce with Austria (see Villafranca, Conference of) that effectively ended the second War of Italian Independence. The bloodshed also inspired Henri Dunant to lead the movement to establish the International Red Cross.
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Ironically, it was an attempt on his life by Felice Orsini, an Italian revolutionary (January 1858), that reminded him of his wish "to do something for Italy." Together with Piedmont-Sardinia, he went to war against Austria in order to expel it from Italy. A promoter of technical warfare, he witnessed the success of his modernized artillery and of the military use of the captive balloon. The fact that at the victorious Battle of Solferino in June 1859 he had been in command convinced him of his military genius. Yet, frightened by the possibility of intervention by the German Confederation, he suddenly made peace. Outmanoeuvred by Count Cavour, who confronted him with a unified Italy instead of the weak federation he had intended, he received Nice and Savoy as a reward. His activities in Italy displeased the British. 
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Conference of Villafranca, meeting between French emperor Napoleon III and Emperor Francis Joseph I of Austria, resulted in a preliminary peace (July 11, 1859) ending the Franco-Piedmontese war against Austria (1859); it marked the beginning of Italy's unification under Piedmontese leadership. Napoleon made peace without consulting the Piedmontese, not wishing them to become too powerful by acquiring all of northern Italy from Austria. He also feared that France would be open to a Prussian attack along the Rhine if he remained engaged in a long war with the Austrians in Italy. Sixteen days after the bloody Battle of Solferino, the preliminary peace was signed at Villafranca 10 miles (16 kilometres) southwest of Verona in northeastern Italy. Austria gave up Lombardy, excluding Mantua and Peschiera, to France; an Italian Confederation was to be formed under the presidency of the Pope; Austria would be a member of the confederation by virtue of its Italian territories; and the dukes of Parma, Modena, and Tuscany were to be restored peacefully to their thrones after having been deposed by nationalist forces. It was understood that Lombardy would be ceded by France to its ally Piedmont. Piedmontese king Victor Emmanuel II accepted these terms, but his prime minister, Count Cavour, resigned over the compromise with Italian nationalist aims. The terms of Villafranca were confirmed in a formal treaty at Zurich (Nov. 10, 1859). Italian nationalists reacted very strongly against its terms, and by January 1860 Cavour could return to office without feeling bound in any way by them. 
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France took advantage of the estrangement between Austria and Russia to set up a military confrontation between Austrian and Italian nationalist forces. This opened the door to French military intervention in support of the Italians in 1859. Because Franz Joseph was unwilling to make the concessions that were Prussia's price for assistance from the German Confederation and because he feared the French might stir up trouble in Hungary, Franz Joseph surrendered Lombardy in July 1859.
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It was the Austro-Italian war of 1859 that humiliated Austria and ended Bach's system. First securing support from Napoleon III of France, Sardinia provoked a woefully unprepared Austria into war and then invited France to come to the Italian kingdom's assistance. The Austrians suffered two major defeats at Magenta and Solferino and concluded peace. The monarchy gave up Lombardy and kept Venetia, but, more importantly, it lost its influence in Italy. The Habsburgs had no say in the events of 1860 and 1861 that led to the proclamation of a unified Italy under the rule of the kings of Sardinia.
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Although not outlawing conspiratorial movements, Cavour was determined to solve the Italian question by international politics rather than by revolution. At a secret conference held at Plombières, Fr., in July 1858 he arranged with Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (now Emperor Napoleon III) for French military intervention in the event of Austrian aggression against Piedmont. Cavour's goal was the complete expulsion of Austrian troops from the peninsula. The price for this help was the cession of Savoy and Nice to France and the outlawing of the Mazzinian movement; wrongly, Napoleon III held Mazzini's followers responsible for an attempt on his life made by the anarchist Felice Orsini in Paris on Jan. 14, 1859. Despite that event, a Franco-Piedmontese alliance was sealed in January 1859. With Napoleon's approval, Victor Emmanuel II made a speech from his throne in which he declared himself ready to hear "il grido di dolore" ("the cry of woe") against Austrian oppression that arose from every part of Italy.
Meanwhile, the Austrian military leadership and its sympathizers at court urged Francis Joseph to declare war on Piedmont. On April 23 an insulting and unacceptable ultimatum demanded the demobilization of Piedmontese troops. Piedmont rejected the ultimatum, and Austria declared war three days later. As Cavour had hoped and planned, France honoured its alliance with Piedmont. In June 1859 the allies won bloody battles at Magenta, Solferino, and San Martino. But, with the Austrian army in retreat, Napoleon III suddenly signed an armistice with the Austrians at Villafranca. This sudden change of policy was prompted partly by the outcry of French public opinion against the loss of life in the Italian campaign and partly by events in Italy itself, where political unification seemed imminent. On April 27 Leopold II of Tuscany had been overthrown by insurgents, and moderate political leaders headed by Baron Bettino Ricasoli had formed a provisional government. In June Parma, Modena, and the Papal Legations (the northern Papal States) had rebelled. Only in the Marche and Umbria were papal troops able to suppress the insurgents. Plebiscites in the liberated states urged unification with Piedmont, but France opposed this outcome.
At Villafranca Napoleon III agreed to accept the cession of Lombardy from Austria, which he passed, in turn, to Piedmont. He also agreed that the legitimate rulers of Modena and Tuscany would be restored to power and permitted to join an Italian confederation. These events marked a serious political defeat for Cavour, who resigned in July 1859 and was replaced by Urbano Rattazzi. England, however, was opposed to the restoration of conservative governments in Modena and Tuscany, and Napoleon III, with his position at home strengthened by the acquisition of Savoy and Nice, reconsidered his position. As a result, Cavour's policy prevailed, and he was returned to office on Jan. 21, 1860. New plebiscites in the duchies and the Papal Legations reconfirmed popular sentiment in favour of union with Piedmont. It was fear of a democratic revolution, the need to weaken Austria, and England's desire to set up a strong Italian state as a counterweight to French influence that induced the European powers to assist the Piedmontese monarchy in obtaining this great success.
<table class='table table-bordered col-lg-12 col-md-12 col-sm-12 col-xs-12 margin20 row-30' border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><tbody><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">State</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Entry</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Exit</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Combat Forces</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Population</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Losses</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Austria</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1859</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1859</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">600000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">37000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">13000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">France</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1859</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1859</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">400000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">38000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">8000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Italy</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1859</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1859</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">250000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">28000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">3000</font></td></tr></tbody></table>

Total Casualties 24000 Killed and Wounded
Casualties Killed / Wounded
Military Casualties Killed 24000 /Wounded
Civilian Casualties Killed / Wounded
Note
Belligerents Initiation Date Termination Date
Second French Empire and Austrian Empire 1859 / 4 / 29 1859 / 7 / 11 View
Kingdom of Sardinia and Austrian Empire 1859 / 4 / 29 1859 / 7 / 11 View
Weapon Name Weapon Class Weapon Class Type
Lorenz rifle Manportable Rifles