BR05 Volturno (1st October 1860) revised
On 6 September Francis II and his queen left Naples for the last time, on their way to the fortress of Gaeta. The Royal army followed, heading towards Capua. Garibaldi arrived in Naples in the next day.
The Royal army held a position along the Volturno River, a deep river that could only be forded at a limited number of places. Francis II held the northern bank and the strongly fortified city of Capua, which straddled the river. Capua had been fortified so was well beyond Garibaldi's abilities to capture. Francis II was now in quite a strong position; he still commanded around 40,000-50,000 men, the private soldiers were fiercely loyal, and the Neapolitan army would finally perform with some spirit. Francis II's presence on the battlefield also played a part in this, helping raise the morale and determination of his men.
Garibaldi was also starting to reach areas where the local population largely supported the Bourbons and were opposed to the ideals of Liberalism or to a union with Piedmont. By late September Garibaldi had around 20,000 men at his disposal. About 6,000 of them were southern volunteers, half from the mainland and half from Sicily. The other 14,000 were volunteers from northern Italy. He was well aware that he wasn't strong enough to attack Capua, and instead attempted to distract the Royalists by sending a small raiding party into the area behind their lines. His headquarters were at Caserta, just over six miles to the east/ south-east of Capua and four and half miles south of the Volturno. On 16 September Garibaldi had to return to Sicily for a few days, leaving Türr, one of his Hungarian supports, in temporary command. Türr decided to take Cajazzo, a town on the north bank of the river, Cajazzo was taken, but it fell soon on 21 September.
Garibaldi alerted by the possibility of an attack, so he ordered to build a number of gun batteries. All of the main batteries were posted on Garibaldi's left, facing towards Capua. One was at Santa Maria, a village about half way between Capua and Caserta. Another was in the village of Sant'Angelo and near the river. A third was on the road between Sant'Angelo and Capua and a fourth on the heights of San Jorio, from where they could fire over the river.
These minor clashes greatly encouraged the Royalists, who now began to plan a more ambitious counterattack: the King decided to launch a pincer attack on Garibaldi's position. From the area of Capua two divisions have to move, at first one, under General Tabacchi's command, was ordered to attack and advance via Santa Maria, another one, under General Afan De Rivera, was to attack against Redshirts in Sant'Angelo. General Von Mechel, a Swiss officer, was to attack on the left, advancing from Ducenta towards Maddaloni, and then towards Caserta. This plan contained the seeds of Garibaldi's eventually victory. Ritucci and Von Mechel didn't cooperate well, so the two attacks wouldn’t be coordinated. It also allowed Garibaldi to use the second railway in Naples, which at this point ran across the battlefield from Maddaloni to Caserta to Santa Maria.
On the morning of 1 October Garibaldi's right was commanded by Bixio, and was at Maddaloni. His left, at Santa Maria, was commanded by Milbitz. The centre-left, at Sant' Angelo and M. Tifata was commanded by Medici. Türr commanded the reserves at Caserta. The Royalist attack began before dawn on 1 October. Their movements were hidden by a thick fog, and one force took advantage of the fog and some sunken lanes to get into the gap between Santa Maria and Sant'Angelo. Another column, under Tabacchi, captured San Tammaro (just over a mile and a half to the west of Santa Maria). The Royalists moved some cannon up to their advanced position and began a long artillery duel with two of Garibaldi's guns, positioned under a Roman archway at Santa Maria. Garibaldi was at Santa Maria as the fighting developed, and ordered some of his reserves to move to the village. He then moved north into the middle of the Royalist troops in the gap, and for a moment Garibaldi was in real danger. The gun battery on the road to Capua had fallen early, and a large Neapolitan force, under the command of General De Rivera, made repeated attacks on Sant'Angelo itself.
Garibaldi responded with a series of bayonet charges, each designed to repulse a particular Royalist attack.
By mid-afternoon Garibaldi's men still held both villages, but the Royalists held much of the ground between them, and the villages were almost under siege. Garibaldi decided to use his last reserves to launch an attack north from Santa Maria towards Sant'Angelo. This was the decisive moment on the western part of the battlefield. Garibaldi's bayonet charges broke a series of Royalist units. After clearing the way between the two villages he then turned left and attacked the Royalist troops west of Santa Maria. This attack lifted the pressure off the defenders of both villages and they joined in a general offensive. The Royalists, who had made little progress after a long day in the field, finally abandoned their efforts and retreated back into Capua.
In the east Von Mechel managed to waste his own numerical advantage. He split his force of 8,000 into two columns.
He led 3,000 German speaking troops down the road from Ducenta to Maddaloni, while his 5,000 Neapolitan troops were sent on a long flanking march, under command of General Ruiz which was meant to bring them out on Bixio's left-rear. Unfortunately his orders to Ruiz didn't make that at all clear, and so Von Mechel had to fight with 3,000 men instead of 8,000. The flanking force column did reach Old Caserta, where it caused a panic at Garibaldi's headquarters, but came no further. Von Mechel's one advantage was that at least half of his troops were excellent Swiss soldiers who had carried out exercises in the same area. Bixio had 5,600 men in a good defensive position at Maddaloni. The valley that Von Mechel was advancing down narrowed into a gorge just to the north of Maddaloni. At this point it was crossed by the impressive 'Arches of the Valley' aqueduct, which had been built to bring water to the Royal palace at Caserta.
Bixio was able to use the viaduct on top of this massive structure to link the two flanks of his force. Despite some limited successes Von Mechel's attack was defeated, and he was forced to retreat. The Von Mechel's lost flanking column try to arrive in Caserta early on 2 October. Garibaldi was able to rally enough troops to repulse this raid, amongst them some Piedmontese regulars who had arrived from Naples just in time to rake hundreds of prisoners.
The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.
- Rickard, J (1 February 2013),
- Giuseppe Bandi, I Mille da Genova a Capua, Firenze 1903
- Marco Scardigli, Le grandi battaglie del Risorgimento, Milano 2010
- Andrea Marrone, I Mille. La battaglia finale, Roma 2012
- Battle of the Volturno, 1 October 1860
Regio esercito borbonico
• Giosuè Ritucci
• 5 command cards
• You move first.
Camicie Rosse (Redshirts)
• Giuseppe Garibaldi
• 6 command cards
A Neapolitan unit that occupies a Caserta, Sant'Angelo, S.Maria or Maddaloni hex counts as one victory flag. When a Neapolitan unit occupies one of those hexes, place a flag token on the Neapolitans victory stand. As long as the Neapolitan unit remains on the hill hex, it continues to count toward Neapolitan victory. If the unit moves off or is eliminated, remove the flag token from the victory stand.
- Volturno river can be crossed only at the bridge. No units may move or retreat onto a river hex tile.
- Field hexes do not block line of sight, but all other field hex rules apply.
- All the Neapolitan infantry units are “green” units. Green units must retreat 2 hexes when forced to retreat.
- When General Garibaldi is attached to a unit will add one battle dice when this unit is battling.