Cavour conspired with Napoleon III to secretly orcestrate a war with Austria. Sardinia-Piedmont did not have the military strength to take on Austria, but Francedid, especially supported by Piedmont-Ssardinia. Prussian prime minister Bismarck played a key back stage role. Cavour provoked the Austrians who sent an ultimatum demanding that the Piedmontese disarm. Cavour rejected the Austrian demands. The Austrians declared war and attacked. As was arranged beforehand, the French then declared war in Austria. The French and Piedmontese defeated the Austrians at Magenta and Solferino. As a result, the Austrians were forced to ceed Lombardy with the important city of Milan to Napoleon. Napoleon then transferred Lombardy to Victor Emmanuel II. The Italians held referendums, a novel approach to teritorial questions 1859-60). The population of the former Austrian territories voted overwealingly to join the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. This only left Venice in Austrian hands.
This was more than Napoleon had anticipated. The cration of a powerful new nation state on France's southrn border was not seen as in the country's best interest. Cavour managed to asage Napoleon's concerns by ceeding Savoy and Nice (1860). This in essence fixed the modern boundary between Italy and Spain.
King Carlos-Albert joined the Italian revolutionaries attempting to eject Austria from Lombardy.
The Austrians prevailed and demanded the abdication of Carlos-Albert. He was suceeded by his son Victor Emanuel.
While conservative regimes were restored in Italy, Piedmont-Sardinia survived as a constitutional monarchy. King Victor Emanuel appointed Count Camillo di Cavour prime minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia (1852). Cavour was to play a major role in the unification. Under his leadership Italy would be unified under monarchial rule rather than the republic Mazzini so desired. Cavour was no revolutionary, he was, however, a swreud politican.
Sardinia-Piedmont did not have the military strength to take on Austria, but France did, especially supported by Piedmont-Ssardinia. Victor Emanuel and Cavour fully realised that Sardinia-Piedmont did not have themilitry capability to defeat Austria. Atthe time Austriawas still a major European power. Austrian military prowess had declined, but this was not yet generally recognized in Europe. Standards in the Austrian Army had deteriorated since the Napoleonic era. The Austrians had been the backbone of the resistance to Napoleon. While suffering defeat after defeat, The Austrians gradually learned how to wage war. Since the defeat of Napoleon, the Austrain Army had not faced a major foreign army and had been used mostly to quell domestic disturbances where it gaced poorly armed civilians. Emperor Franz Josef appears to have been most concerned with loyalty and social standing with miliyary competence of lesser concer. As a result, the Austrian Army while looking effective on the parade ground, was not a force ready to engage in a major European war.
Cavour persued a policy of acquiring allies. Aftr the Crinean War broke out, Cavour supported Britain and France. Playing on French Emperor Napoleon III's ambitions, he managed to persuade him to sign a Treaty of Defensive Alliance against the Austrians. This required considerable skill on Cavour's part and showed the limited foresight of Napoleon III. The unificatin of Italy and Germany was not in France's best interest, but the Franco-Austrian War woul lea to both. Cavour with the French alliance safely in hand began to provoke the Austrians.
Prussian prime minister Bismarck played a key back stage role.
Cavour provoked the Austrians who sent an ultimatum demanding that the Piedmontese disarm.
This proved easy. Cavour put Piedmont on a war footing and called for volunteers to enlist in a new war of Italian liberation. The Austrians demanded that the Sardinians stand down and, when they refused, declared war on April 26th. Cavour rejected the Austrian demands.
The Austrians declared war and attacked. As was arranged beforehand, the French then declared war on Austria.
The Austrians planned to defeat the Piedontese before the French could join forces with them. Austrian termerity gave the French time to move into Piedmont and join forces. Napoleon III assumed personal control of the Allied army. He had little military experience, but considered himself to be in the familt traditin a great commande. The French and Piedmontese defeated the Austrians at Magenta and Solferino. Napoleon was shocked at the blood letting, especially at Solferino and decided to end the War.
The Austrian war plan was to attack Piedmont and use their greatly superior force to defeat Piedmont before the French could intervene. The Austrians commited their 2nd Army which was a force of about 140,000 men. The entire Piedmontese Army was only 70,000 men. The Austrians did not executetheir war plan effectively. Field Marshall Count von Ferenc Gyulai was given command of the 2nd Army, but upon entering Piedmont showed no
urgency in striking the Piedmontese Army and seizing Turin, the capital. A swift attack on Turin would have brought the Piedmontese to battle without the French. And then upon nearing the capital withdrew when he received reports that the Piedmontese reinfoced by the French were massing south of Turin.
The first important skirmish of the War occurred at Montebello (May 20). This convinced Gyulai that the Allies were trying to drive around his southern flank and cut his supply lines. This was not what th Allies were attempting. Napoleon III saw himself as a military commander in the mold of his great uncle. Napoleon III had joined the Allied army and assumed personal command (early May). He decided to to tncircle the Austrians from the north. He set ababout using the new railways to execute this maneuver, moving the army across the Austrian front and attemp a crossing of the Ticino River close to Novarro. Here they would pose a threat to the Austrians.
Napoleon III had the Piedmomtese distract the Austrians by moving a small force toward Palestro. An an engagemebnt occurred there (late May). The Austrians attacked with a small force of 14,000 Austrians supported by 40 guns. The Allied force had about 10,700 men with 18 artlillery pieces. The larger Austrian force was mauled and forced to retreat. King Vittorio Emanuele was observing the battle nd impulsively at a key point charged forth to lead a charge, as if this was a medieval engagement. It is believed that he was the last European monarch to acutally do so.
The fighting at Palestro had confused Gyulai as to the Allied intentions. He concluded that the prudebt step was to retreat across the Ticino River and establish a defesive position. Napoleon had moved much of his force northb and was now ready to to force a crossing of the River. He took a force of 30,000 men across the River to create a bridgehead near the village of Magenta. He encountered more Austrians than he anticipated. Both sides began commiting reinforcements. The Austrians had the chance of cutting off Napoleon and his lead force, but again moved to slowly. Magenta proved to be one of the two major battles of the War, The Allies were able to sucessfully cross the River. This breeched the Austrian defensive lines and Gyulai ordered a full retreat. They abandoned Milan (June 6) giving the Allies control of Lombardy.
TheAllies persued the retreating Austrians. The Austrauns attempted to stop the Allies at Melegnano, but the Allies prevailed at the Austrians were forced back to the Quadrilaterals.
The famed revolutionary Garibaldi played a small role in the War. He commanded 3,000-4,000 volunteers who fought in the Alps--the Cacciatori delle Alpi. He led the Piedmont move into Lombardy and then moved north into the Alps. There hedefeated a series of Autrian units and not only secured the Allid northern flank as well occupying a substantial Austrian force. After the Armistice, Garibaldi moved south to continue the process of unification.
The Austrians had a strong defensive position in the Quadrilaterals. The Emperor rushed reinforcements south. Gyulai felt that an immediate counterattack was in order. He believed that the Allies were vulnerable because the forces that had persued him would be strung out all over Lombardy. He thus struck at the Allies from his base at Solferino. The Allies had, however, moved much faster that the Austrians felt possible. The Allies did not at first correctly assess the opening stage of the battle, thinking that it was another rear-guard action. The battle rapidly developed into the major engagement of the War. Alied and Austrian units attacked, retreated, and counrt attack over an emense battlefield, encompasing 60 square miles. THe Austrians focused on turning the French right flank. The Allies directed their major effort to taking Solferino which anchored the center of the Austrian lines.
The Austrians at first had a larger force on the battlefield, but the tide began to turn as more and more Allied units raeched the battle. Finally Napoleon through the Imperial Guard at Solferino forceing theAustrains back into the Quadrilaterals. Battlefied losses were staggering. The Allied force of 137,000 men suffered 17,000 casualties. The Austrain force of 128.000 men took 21,000 casualties.
An account by a Swiss tourist, Henri Dunant, who happened to be at Solferino resulted in the founding of the Red Cross.
Napoleon was shocked at the bloodletting in a way his great uncle never was. He negotiated an armistice with the Austrians without even consulting Victor Emanuel and Cavour. This effectively ended the War. Piedmont coul not fight the Austrians without the French. The Piedmontese were outraged, but were placated by obtaining Lombardy.
The Austrians were forced to ceed Lombardy with the important city of Milan to Napoleon. Napoleon then transferred Lombardy to Victor Emmanuel II. The Italians held referendums, a novel approach to teritorial questions (1859-60). The population of the former Austrian territories voted overwealingly voted to join the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. In addition, the Duchies of Parma and Magenta also joined Piedmomt. The ruler of both duchies had been maintained by the Austrians. With the Austrians now gone, popular uprisings ejected the rulers and noved to join Piedmont. This only left Venice in Austrian hands. This was more than Napoleon had anticipated. The cration of a powerful new nation state on France's southrn border was not seen as in the country's best interest. Cavour managed to asage Napoleon's concerns by ceeding Savoy and Nice (1860). This in essence fixed the modern boundary between Italy and Spain.
Following the Congress of Vienna, the major question in Germany was unification and both Prussia and Austria vied as to who would unify the Germans. The encuing decades were a thiblt veiled competition betweem Austria and Prussia. The Franco-Austran War (1859) had in part been orcestrated by German Premier Bismarck as part of his plan to unify Germany. The first step was to weaken and defeat Austria. The Franco-Austrian War did just that. The casualties and cost of the War hurt the Austrian Army. Perhaps more importantly, having just fought a war, Austrian and French diplomats were less able to make coomon vause to keep the Prussians from dominatingthe Germam condeeration. When war finally came between Prussia and Austria, the new Italian Kingdom sided with Prussia. The War lasted 7 weeks. Prussia rewarded Italy with Venice.
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