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Introduction 
1859
French Army
Austrian Army
Sardinian Army
Theatre of War
Opening Moves
Battlefield
The Battle
Sardinian OOB
French OOB
Austrian OOB
Solferino Today
San Martino Tower
The Spy of Italy

 

 

 

The Battle of Solferino, 

24th June 1859

Napoleon III at the Battle of Solferino by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier. 
Oil on canvas, 1863.

Introduction.

Of all the insurrections, campaigns and battles for the unification, or Risorgimento of Italy, the great battle that took place around the small village of Solferino, just south of Lake Garda, was the most decisive and bloody. Its outcome not only set the seal on the eventual independence of Italy, but also saw the formation of the Red Cross, which in turn would not only provide better care for the sick and wounded engaged in armed conflicts, but also for all who were involved in natural disasters around the world.

 

Previous campaigns in Italy had not differed much since the days of Napoleon I. The Austrian field marshal, Josef Graf von Radetzky had out - manoeuvred the Sardinian [1] army under King Charles Albert in 1848 and 1849 by using interior lines and turning movements that either defeated each portion of their army in detail, or drove them away from their lines of communication. The problem in 1859 was that neither the Austrians, nor the French and Piedmontese were capable of producing a commander who fully understood military science, as well as the proper handling of large bodies of troops over an extended area and during a battle. At Solferino all three armies were led by their respective monarchs with no experienced chief of general staff to assist them in their decision making, unlike the Prussians who were developing a highly trained staff capable of planning their armies movements with great precision. Thus the battle of Solferino became a soldiers’ battle, with hardly any inspiration filtering down to the ranks from their leaders, none of whom at the outset of the engagement were aware of the proximity of the others forces until they were virtually on top of each other.

 



[1] The dukes of Savoy became kings of Sardinia in 1720; thereafter they acquired Piedmont in 1748. A central government was set up in Turin.

 

Copyright © 2004  Graham Morris. 
All rights reserved.

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