BR09 Palermo (27-30 May 1860)
After the skirmish of Caltafimi Garibaldi's Thousand (Redshirts) advanced straight towards Palermo. Neapolitan General Landi retired to Palermo suffering many losses during the retreat and he found soon a new Governor of Island: Ferdinando Lanza, a man with confused ideas and plans. At the same time he wanted to defend Palermo and also wanted to retreat east to Messina. This was despite his having 20,000 men of the Neapolitan garrison under his command, supported by artillery and by the Neapolitan fleet. Garibaldi in contrast had just over 3,000 men.
Garibaldi decided to take a calculated gamble. He would move his men through the mountains south of Palermo and attack from an unexpected direction. His plan was to attack Palermo from the south east, while a diversionary force approached from the west. Once inside the city he expected the people to join the revolt, restoring the balance of numbers.
Garibaldi's first move was to move along the road that leads to Monreale and then onto Palermo. He camped and prepared to force the Neapolitans out of Monreale. For once the Neapolitan's took the initiative, and a lively attack early on 21 May dispersed the Sicilian bands of volunteers under command of La Masa and forced Garibaldi to move further south, onto the road that led from Corleone to Palermo. He took up a new position on a mountain above Altofonte (at the time named Parco). Then Redshirts moved east to Piana degli Albanesi but Garibaldi sent his five old guns, one hundred od sick and wounded men up along the road to Corleone. So the Neapolitans assumed that Garibaldi was going to retreat south away from the city and four best Neapolitan battallions, under command of Von Michel and Colonel Beneventano del Bosco, left Monreale, turned south and began to chase the believed Garibaldi's little Army on the run. In the meantime the Thousand, under cover of darkness, moved south and turned east, reaching first Marineo and then Misilmeri, south-east of Palermo just before midnight on 25 May. The day after Garibaldi joined up with a force of Sicilian rebels ('Picciotti') who had been raised in the eastern area of Palermo. Lanza believed that he was safe and that Garibaldi was retreating south, so the attack caught him unprepared. Infact most of the Neapolitan troops were deployed in the west and north of the city. The heart of Palermo was undefended, and the south-eastern gates were only weakly unattended.
Garibaldi decided to attack with 750 of his original Thousand, still armed with their old muskets and bayonets. They were supported by up to 3,000 local rebels, armed with a mix of weapons. Against them Lanza had around at least 17,000 men (with 4,000 on their way south to Corleone). However Lanza did not know exactly when and where Garibaldi would attack!
The first part of the attack started at the Porta Termini and began badly for Garibaldi: he had to force his way across the Ponte dell' Ammiraglio, a medieval stone bridge over the Oreto River. His troops were badly organised, with a small advance guard from the Thousand, followed by the Sicilian force, and the main part of the Thousand at the back. The defenders of the bridge opened fire as this column approached them and the Sicilians dispersed into the fields beside the road. This left the advance guard isolated and under heavy fire, but Garibaldi was able to get the rest of his men into the battle quickly enough to rescue the situation. Garibaldi was now near Porta Termini: the old gate itself was defended by a barricade but very few soldiers; also the Thousand came under fire from the Ponta S. Antonino while they attempted to get past the barricade.
Once they were through Garibaldi left them to the Fiera Vecchia (ancient market place). From the market the Thousand were sent out into the city to try and raise a revolt. The bells heard in the flock to call the people down to the streets. Large parts of the population came out to join Garibaldi, but they lacked any real weapons and Garibaldi had none to offer them. Lanza's response was to bombard the city, using guns at the Palace and on the Fleet. A more effective plan would have been to send his strong infantry force against Garibaldi, who was still very badly outnumbered. After a couple of hours even this bombardment stopped, and the rebels were given the time they needed to seize key points and build barricades. By midday the Neapolitans only controlled the area around the ancient Royal Palace, and the northern side of the town.
On the afternoon of 27 May Lanza decided to concentrate most of his troops at the palace, and ordered all the troops to move to the medieval Palace, while the troops heading south were also recalled. On 28 May Lanza realised he had isolated himself at the Palace. On 29 May Garibaldi's men made some real progress. The Cathedral area was captured, and the Neapolitans were forced to retreat and abandon the Archbishop's ancient Palace. Garibaldi's men now controlled several buildings facing onto the square outside the Royal Palace, but the Neapolitans launched a determined counterattack, and the front line was stabilised at the eastern end of the cathedral. Both sides were starting to run short supplies - Lanza's decision to concentrate most of his men at the Palace meant they were running out of food, while Garibaldi's men were beginning to run out of ammunition, but they were saved once again by Lanza, and by the Royal Navy! There was in the harbor bay the HMS Hannibal and Admiral Mundy had offered his flagship as a venue for peace negotiations. On the morning of 29 May he sent a letter to Garibaldi offering to arrange for negotiations and for a ceasefire. Garibaldi agreed to this offer, and a armistice was arranged to begin at noon. The peace negotiations were nearly sabotaged by Von Mechel, the commander of Swiss mercenary troops, thought élite units in the Neapolitan Army. After his first useless and poorly coordinated victories against Sicilian rebels in the country, his detachment came back from the south just after noon on 30 May and he attempted to fight his way into the city through the the same gate recently passed by Redshirts (Porta Termini). Von Mechel's men were forced to stop fighting by the combined efforts of a British officer and Neapolitan officers.
During the truce Garibaldi managed to buy some guns and stronger barricades were built around the Neapolitan positions. At the same time the Borbonici began to plan for an all out attack on the rebel positions, to be carried out at noon on the following day, but the plans were cancelled. The armistice was extended by three days and messengers were sent to Naples. But from the Court didn't arrive any encouragement and on 6 June Lanza signed a surrender document and the evacuation Neapolitan troops started on following day until 19 June..
The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.
Giuseppe Bandi, I Mille da Genova a Capua, Firenze 1903
Marco Scardigli, Le grandi battaglie del Risorgimento, Milano 2010
Rickard, J (1 February 2013), Battle of Palermo, 27-30 May 1860, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_palermo_1860.html
Regione Siciliana - Sito Ufficiale
Camicie Rosse (Redshirts)
General Giuseppe Garibaldi
Command Cards - 6
Regio esercito borbonico
General Beneventano del Bosco
Command Cards - 4
All the hexes of the town of Palermo are Temporary Medal Objectives for the Redshirts Forces.
Condition of Victory for 'Garibaldino' Player: at least one victory flag must be one hex of Palermo town!
The river Oreto is fordable.
When General Garibaldi is attached to a unit will add one battle dice when this unit is battling.
All the Palermo's garrison Infantry units are “green” units. Green units must retreat 2 hexes when forced to retreat.
Two Neapolitan Infantry units represent the Von Mechel's Swiss mercenary brigades: these units can move two hexes but may not move and battle in the same turn.
Four Garibaldi's Infantry units are special Forces (Redshirts) and, unlike regular Infantry, may move 2 hexes and still battle.
Because of low quality of military experience and for poor quality of individual weapons, all the Sicilian 'Picciotti' infantry units of Garibaldi's Army always start with 3 figures per unit, in lieu of the standard 4. 'Picciotti' units benefited from a superior knowledge of the countryside and increasing support of the population. As such, Sicilian Rebel forces may disappear in the countryside, retreating up to 3 hexes instead of the standard 1 on any retreat flag rolled.
Optional: using a Neapolitan War Ship (must see 'Destroyers rules' of Memoir'44).
War Ship may move 1 or 2 hexes in Sea, but can never move onto Sea hexes adjacent to a Beach hex. A War Ship provides long-range, offshore artillery support, firing over a range of eight hexes at 3,3,2,2, 1,1,1,1 respectively. Place a War Ship on the map and three Targeting markers next to it. When a War Ship scores a hit on a targeted enemy unit, if the unit is not eliminated or forced to retreat, place a Targeting marker on its hex. The War Ship's guns have now zeroed-in on this target, and will fire +1 Battle die at it from then on. Note that markers are not cumulative in their effect. If the target moves or is eliminated, the benefit of zeroing-in on the target is lost, and the Targeting marker removed and placed back next to the War Ship. The War Ship may be targeted during combat. One hit is scored for each Sabers rolled against the ship. Place a marker on the War Ship to keep track of the damage inflicted. When a 3rd marker is placed on the Ship, remove the War Ship from the board, and give it to your opponent for him to place on his Medal Stand. It counts as 1 Victory point. The War Ship may ignore the first Flag rolled against it. If a War Ship must retreat, it retreats 1 Ocean hex for each flag rolled. If it cannot retreat, add a damage marker onto the War Ship instead.