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The Battle of Calatafimi, May 15, 1860

The Neapolitans face Garibaldi and the "Thousand" shortly after their landing at Marsala, on the road to Palermo. This battle was considered by Garibaldi to be one of his crowning glories - not only did he beat a force twice the size of his own, thus giving his troops the spirit to prevail elsewhere (notably at Palermo), but the ferocity of the troops on both sides proved conclusively for him that Italians could fight.

Orders of Battle


Commander: Giuseppe Garibaldi


Commander: Brigadier-General Francisco Landi

Sub-Commander: Major Sforza

Notes: The Garibaldini Guides were without horses at the time of this battle. The Picciotti were Sicilians who were poorly armed, often with a type of local blunderbuss that, although fitted to take percussion caps, was not tremendously effective. Landi held three companies of the Royal Carabiniers, three companies of the 10th Line battalion, and two of the four guns in reserve - these units did not see action. (Neapolitan battalions had 6 companies.) The Royal Carabiniers were the elite infantry formation of the Neapolitan army.

The Garibaldini had smoothbore percussion muskets - mostly converted flintlocks; only the Genoese Carabiniers had percussion rifles. All of the Neapolitan infantry are armed with percussion rifles, except for the Cacciatori and the Horse Chasseurs, who have rifled percussion carbines. Note that Sforza commanded the active half of the Neapolitan force during the battle - Landi stood in reserve. For tabletop representation, you may wish to field the half-battalions as separate units, since that is how they functioned during the battle.

For uniform information, you may wish to see the article "The Kingdom of Naples Army Organisation and Uniforms 1853-1860" by Keith Fry, which can be accessed by members at http://www.magweb.com. This is largely a reprint of information presented in one of the Freikorps 15s/Ulster Imports booklets by Luigi Casale, "Red Shirts, Garibaldi's Campaign in Southern Italy - 1860". This booklet also provides a wealth of information about the Garibaldini.

Notes on the Terrain

Although, with some exceptions, the slopes of the hills in the area were fairly smooth, they had been terraced for cultivation, and were quite steep. These terraces offered the Gardibaldini cover as they charged up the Pianto dei Romani at the Neapolitans, and probably would impede the progress of troops moving in close-order line formations through them. Consequently, the terrain can probably be considered "rough" on the hills. The streams would be fordable at all points.

Description of the Battle

The battle began around noon, the Garibaldini charging the approaching Neapolitans under Sforza (8th Cacciatori, half of the 10th Line, half of the Royal Carabiniers, half of the artillery and the cavalry). While the Genoese Carabiniers kept up a covering fire, the other infantry charged forward with the bayonet, pushing the first line of Neapolitan troops back. For two hours the Garibaldini hid behind terraced walls of the Pianto dei Romani, moving forward in short rushes under the blazing sun. Finally, Garibaldi led his men forward in a final charge, shouting that the Neapolitans were out of ammunition. The charge carried the Neapolitan line away, leaving the field to the Garibaldini. The Garibaldini artillery was forced to hide behind a hastily-constructed barricade by the Neapolitan Horse Chasseurs, which moved forwad on the road, and consequently did not get into the main part of the action until late in the day. The Neapolitan reserve under Landi took no part in the action, for the commander decided that Sforza needed no help. Had Garibaldi lost this battle, it is unlikely that he would have conquered Sicily (at least not in 1860 - he was a very determined man).

Scenario Notes

This is one of the battles in which Garibaldi displayed incredible force of personality. It is realistic to give him the highest leadership ratings possible (twice as good as the opposing Neapolitan commanders). The Picciotti could have helped in greater numbers, or possibly not at all. These forces can be used to balance out the scenario, along with the Neapolitan reserve. Generally speaking, the Neapolitan troops were not highly motivated, whereas the Garibaldini "Thousand" were fired with great enthusiasm for their cause. This scenario is good for those who are building armies for other Risorgimento scenarios: Neapolitans are good for refights of Milazzo and the Volturno, and the Garibaldini can be used for those battles, as well as Menatana (and even the Franco-Prussian War). Figures in 25mm can be obtained from Mirliton, an Italian manufacturer.

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