Glimpses of Garibaldi
IT is a sultry morning in October, and we are steaming in a small Sardinian boat from Leghorn towards Naples. This city has fallen into the power of Garibaldi, who is concentrating his forces before Capua, while the King of Sardinia bears down with a goodly army from the North.
The first object of special interest which comes into view, after we pass the island of Elba, is Gaeta. Though care is taken not to run near enough to invite a chase from the Neapolitan frigates, we are yet able to obtain a distinct view of the last stronghold — the jumping-off place, as we hope it will prove — of Francis II. The white walls of the fortress rise grimly out of the sea, touching the land only upon one side, and looking as though they might task well the resources of modern warfare to reduce them. We soon make out the smoke of four of five steamers, which we suppose to be armed vessels, heading towards Gaeta.
About two o'clock we glide into the far-famed Bay of Naples, in company with the cool sea-breeze which there each afternoon sends to refresh the heated shore. As we swing round to our moorings, we pass numerous line-of-baltie-ships and frigates bearing the flags of England, France, and Sardinia, but look in vain and with disappointment for the starspangled banner. A single floating representative of American nationality is obliged to divide the favor of her presence between the ports of both the Two Sicilies, and at this time she is at the island portion of the kingdom.
Our craft is at once beset by boats, their owners pushing, vociferating, and chaffering for fares, as though Mammon, and not Moloch, were the ruling spirit. Together with a chance companion of the voyage, Signor Alvigini, Intendente of Genoa, and his party, we are soon in the hands of the commissionaire of the Hôtel de Rome. As we land, our passports are received by the police of Victor Emmanuel, who have replaced those of the late régime.
As we enter our carriage, we expect to see streets filled with crowds of turbulent people, or dotted with knots of persons conversing ominously in suppressed tones; and streets deserted, with shops closed; and streets barricaded. But in this matter we are agreeably disappointed. The shops are all open, the street venders are quietly tending their tables, people go about their ordinary affairs, and wear their Commonplace, every-day look. The only difference apparent to the eye between the existing state of things and that which formerly obtained is, that there are few street brawls and robberies, though every one goes armed, — that the uniform of the soldiers of Francis II. is replaced by the dark gray dress of the National Guard, — and that the flag of the Tyrant King no longer waves over the castle-prison of Sant’ Elmo. Garibaldi, on leaving Naples, had formally confided the city to the National Guard; and they had nobly sustained the trust reposed in them.
A letter of introduction to General Orsini, brought safely with us, though not without adventure, through the Austrian dominions, gains a courteous reception from General Turr, chief aide-de-camp to the "Dictator,” and a pass to the camp. General Turr, an Hungarian refugee, is a person of distinguished appearance, not a little heightened by his peculiar dress, which consists of the usual Garibaldian uniform partially covered with a white military cloak, which hangs gracefully over his elegant figure.
After a brief, but pleasant, interview with this gentleman, we climb to the Castle of Sant’ Elmo, built on a high eminence commanding the town, and with its guns mounted, not so as to defend it against an invading enemy, but to hurl destruction on the devoted subjects of the Bourbon. We are told that the people had set their hearts on seeing this fortress, which they look upon as a standing menace, razed to the ground, and its site covered with peaceful dwellings. And it is not without regret that we have since learned that Victor Emmanuel has thought it inexpedient to comply with this wish. Nor, in our ignorance, can we divest ourselves entirely of the belief that it would have been a wise as well as conciliatory policy to do so.
We are politely shown over the castle by one of the National Guard, who hold it in charge, and see lounging upon one of its terraces, carefully guarded, but kindly allowed all practicable liberty, several officers of the late power, prisoners where they had formerly held despotic sway.
We descend into the now empty dungeons, dark and noisome as they have been described, where victims of political accusation or suspicion have pined for years in dreary solitude. It produces a marked sensation in the minds of our Italian companions in this sad tour of inspection, when we tell them, through our guide Antonio, that these cells are the counterpart of the dungeons of the condemned in the prison of the Doges of Venice, as we had seen them a few days before,— save that the latter were better, in their day, in so far as in them the cold stone was originally lined and concealed by wooden casings, while in those before us the helpless prisoner in his gropings could touch only the hard rock, significant of the relentless despotism which enchained him. The walls are covered with the inscriptions of former tenants. In one place we discover a long line of marks in groups of fives, — like the tallies of our boyish sports, — but here used for how different a purpose ! Were these the records of days, or weeks, or months ? The only furniture of the cells is a raised platform of wood, the sole bed of the miserable inmate. The Italian visitors, before leaving, childishly vent their useless rage at the sight of these places of confinement, by breaking to pieces the windows and shutters, and scattering their fragments on the floor.
We have returned from Sant’ Elmo, and, evening having arrived, are sitting in the smoking-room of the Hôtel de Grande Bretagne, conversing with one of the English Volunteers, when our friend General J-----n of the British Army, one of the lookers-on in Naples, comes in, having just returned from “ the front.” He brings the news of a smart skirmish which has taken place during the day; of the English “ Excursionists ” being ordered out in advance ; of their rushing with alacrity into the thickest of the fight, and bravely sustaining the conflict, — being, indeed, with difficulty withheld by their officers from needlessly exposing themselves. But this inspiring news is tinged with sadness. One of their number, well known and much beloved, had fallen, killed instantly by a bullet through the head. Military ardor, aroused by the report of brave deeds, is for a few moments held in abeyance by grief, and then rekindled by the desire of vengeance. Hot blood is up, and the prevailing feeling is a longing for a renewal of the fight. We are told, if we wish to see an action, to go to “ the front ” tomorrow. Accordingly we decide to be there.
The following day, our faithful commissionnaire, Antonio, places us in a carriage drawn by a powerful pair of horses, and headed for the Garibaldian camp. A hamper of provisions is not forgotten, and before starting we cause Antonio to double the supplies : we have a presentiment that we may find with whom to share them.
There are twelve miles before us to the nearest point in the camp, which is Caserta. Our chief object being to see the hero of Italy, if we do not find him at Caserta, we shall push on four miles farther, to Santa Maria; and, missing him there, ride still another four miles to Sant’ Angelo, where rests the extreme right of the army over against Capua.
As we ride over the broad and level road from Naples to Caserta, bordered with lines of trees through its entire length, we are surprised to see not only husbandmen quietly tilling the fields, but laborers engaged in public works upon the highway, as if in the employ of a long established authority, and making it difficult to believe that we are in the midst of civil war, and under a provisional government of a few weeks’ standing. But this and kindred wonders are fruits of the spell wrought by Garibaldi, who wove the most discordant elements into harmony, and made hostile factions work together for the common good, for the sake of the love they bore to him.
About mid-day we arrive at a redoubt which covers a part of the road, leaving barely enough space for one vehicle to pass. We are of course stopped, but are courteously received by the officer of the guard. We show our pass from General Turr, giving us permission “freely to traverse all parts of the camp,” and being told to drive on, find ourselves within the lines. As we proceed, we see laborers busily engaged throwing up breastworks, soldiers reposing beneath the trees, and on every side the paraphernalia of war.
Garibaldi is not here, nor do we find him at Santa Maria. So we prolong our ride to the twentieth mile by driving our reeking, but still vigorous horses to Sant’ Angelo.
We are now in sight of Capua, where Francis II. is shut up with a strong garrison. The place is a compact walled town, crowned by the dome of a large and handsome church, and situated in a plain by the side of the Volturno. Though, contrary to expectation, there is no firing to-day, we see all about us the havoc of previous cannonadings. The houses we pass are riddled with round shot thrown by the besieged, and the ground is strewn with the limbs of trees severed by iron missiles. But where is Garibaldi ? No one knows. Yonder, however, is a lofty hill, and upon its summit we descry three or four persons. It is there, we are told, that the Commander-in-Chief goes to observe the enemy, and among the forms we see is very probably the one we seek.
We have just got into our carriage again, and are debating as to whither we shall go next, when we are addressed from the road-side in English. There, dressed in the red shirt, are three young men, all not far from twenty years of age, members of the British regiment of “Excursionists.” They are out foraging for their mess, and ask a ride with us to Santa Maria. We are only too glad of their company ; and off we start, a carriage-full. Then commences a running fire of question and response. We find the society of our companions a valuable acquisition. They are from London,— young men of education, and full of enthusiasm for the cause of Italian liberty. One of them is a connection of our distinguished countrywoman, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Before going to Santa Maria, they insist on doing the honors, and showing the objects of interest in the vicinity. So they take us to their barrack, a large farm-house, and thence to “ the front.” To the latter spot our coachman declines driving, as his horses are not bullet-proof, and the enemy is not warranted to abstain from firing during our visit. So, proceeding on foot, we reach a low breastwork of sand-bags, with an orchard in advance of it. Here, our companions tell us, was the scene of yesterday’s skirmish, in which they took an active part. The enemy had thrown out a detachment of sharp-shooters, who had entered the wood, and approached the breastwork. A battalion of the English Volunteers was ordered up. As they marched eagerly forwards, a body of Piedmontese, stationed a little from the road, shouted, “Vivano gl’ Inglesi ! Vivano gl’ Inglesi ! ” At the breastworks where we are standing, the word was given to break ranks, and skirmish. Instantly they sprang over the wall, and took position behind the trees, to shoot “ wherever they saw a head.” Each soldier had his “covering man,”—a comrade stationed about ten feet behind him, whose duty it was to keep his own piece charged ready to kill any of the enemy who might attempt to pick off the leading man while the latter was loading. One of my young friends had the hammer of his rifle shot off in his hand. He kept his position till another weapon was passed out to him. The action lasted till evening, when the enemy drew off, there being various and uncertain reports as to their loss. Our British cousins had some ten wounded, besides the one killed. Fighting royalists, we will mention here, was no fancy-work about that time, as the Neapolitans had an ugly trick of extinguishing the eyes of their prisoners, and then putting their victims to death.
We return to our carriage, drive into a sheltered spot, and give the word of command to Antonio to open the hamper and deploy his supplies, when hungry soldiers vie with the ravenous traveller in a knife-and-fork skirmish. No fault was found with the cuisine of the Hotel de Grande Bretagne.
The rations disposed of, we set off again for Santa Maria. Arrived at the village, at the request of our companions, we visit with them a hospital, to see one of their comrades, wounded in the action of the preceding day, and, as we are known to profess the healing art, to give our opinion as to his condition. We enter a large court-yard surrounded with farm-buildings, one wing of which is devoted to hospital purposes. We find the wards clean and well ventilated, and wearing the look of being well attended. This favorable condition is owing in great measure to the interposition, and supervision of several ladies, among whom are specially mentioned the two daughters of an English clergyman, without omitting the name of the Countess della Torres. The wounded comrade of our friends had been struck by a ball, which had not been reached by the probe, and was supposed to have entered the lung. The poor young fellow draws his rapid breath with much pain, but is full of pluck, and meets the encouraging assurances of his friends with a smile and words of fortitude. Some time afterwards we learn that he is convalescent, though in a disabled state.
It now becomes necessary to say our mutual farewells, which we do as cordially as though we had been old friends. We go our respective ways, to meet once more in Italy, and to renew our acquaintance again in London, where we subsequently spend a pleasant evening together by a cheerful English fireside.
Scarcely have we parted with these new-found friends of kindred blood and common language, when we are provided with another companion. An Italian officer asks a seat with us to Caserta. Our letter of introduction to General Orsini being shown to him, he volunteers to assist us in attaining our object, that of seeing the hero of Italy. At five, we are before the palace of Caserta, now a barrack, and the head-quarters of the Commander-in-Chief. The building is one of great size and beauty of architecture. A lofty arch, sustained by elegant and massive marble pillars, bisects the structure, and on either side one may pass from the archway into open areas of spacious dimensions, from which lead passages to the various offices. We approach a very splendid marble staircase leading to the state apartments.
A sentinel forbids us to pass. This is, then, perhaps, the part of the building occupied by the Commander-in-Chief. Not so. The state apartments are unoccupied, and are kept sacred from intrusion, as the property of the nation to which they are to belong. Garibaldi’s apartments are among the humblest in the palace. We go on to the end of the archway, and see, stretching as far as the eye can reach, the Royal Drive, leading through a fine avenue of trees, and reminding us of the “ Long Walk ” at Windsor Castle. Retracing our steps, and crossing one of the court-yards, we ascend a modest staircase, and are in the antechamber of the apartments of the Commander-in-Chief. There are sentinels at the outer door, others at the first landing, and a guard of honor, armed with halberds, in the antechamber. Our courteous companion, by virtue of his official rank, has passed us without difficulty by the sentries, and quits us to discharge the duty which brought him to Caserta.
We are now eagerly expectant of the arrival of him whose face we have so long sought. The hour is at hand when he joins his military family at an unostentatious and very frugal dinner. In about half an hour there is a sudden cessation in the hum of conversation, the guard is ordered to stand to arms, and in a moment more, amid profound silence, Garibaldi has passed through the antechamber, leaving the place, as it were, pervaded by his presence. We had beheld an erect form, of rather low stature, but broad and compact, a lofty brow, a composed and thoughtful face, with decision and reserved force depicted on every line of it. In the mien and carriage we had seen realized all that we had read and heard of the air of one born to command.
Our hero wore the characteristic red shirt and gray trousers, and, thrown over them, a short gray cloak faced with red. When without the cloak, there might be seen, hanging upon the hack, and fastened around the throat, the party-colored kerchief usually appertaining to priestly vestments.
Returning to Naples, and sitting that night at our window, with the most beautiful of bays before us, we treasure up for perpetual recollection the picture of Garibaldi at head-quarters.
GARIBALDI AT POMPEII.
IT is Sunday, the 21st of October. We have to-day observed the people, in the worst quarters of the city as well as in the best, casting their ballots in an orderly and quiet manner, under the supervision of the National Guard, for Victor Emmanuel as their ruler. To-morrow we have set apart for exploring Pompeii, little dreaming what awaits us there. Our friend, General J-----n, of the British Army, learning that there is no likelihood of active operations at “the front,” proposes to join us in our excursion.
We are seated in the restaurant at the foot of the acclivity which leads to the exhumed city, when suddenly Antonio appears and exclaims, “ Garibaldi! ” We look in the direction he indicates, and, in an avenue leading from the railway, we behold the Patriot-Soldier of Italy advancing toward us, accompanied by the Countess Pallavicini, the wife of the Prodictator of Naples, and attended by General Turr, with several others of his staff.
We go out to meet them. General J-----n, a warm admirer of Garibaldi, gives him a cordial greeting, and presents us as an American. We say a few words expressive of the sympathy entertained by the American people for the cause of Italy and its apostle. He whom we thus address, in his reply, professes his happiness in enjoying the good wishes of Americans, and, gracefully turning to our friend, adds, “ I am grateful also for the sympathy of the English.” The party then pass on, and we are left with the glowing thought that we have grasped the hand of Garibaldi.
Half an hour later, we are absorbed in examining one of the structures of what was once Pompeii, when suddenly we hear martial music. We follow the direction of the sound, and presently find ourselves in the ancient forum. In the centre of the inclosure is a military band playing the “ Hymn of Garibaldi”; while at its northern extremity, standing, facing us, between the columns of the temple of Jupiter, with full effect given to the majesty of his bearing, is Garibaldi. Moved by the strikingly contrasting associations of the time and the place, we turn to
General J—n, saying, “ Behold around us the symbols of the death of Italy, and there the harbinger of its resurrection.” Our companion, fired with a like enthusiasm. immediately advances to the base of the temple, and, removing his hat, repeats the words in the presence of those there assembled.
GARIBALDI AT “ THE FRONT.”
ONCE again we look in the eye of this wonderful man, and take him by the hand. This time it is at “the front.” On Saturday, the 27th of October, we are preparing to leave Naples for Rome by the afternoon boat, when we receive a message from General J—n that the bombardment of Capua is to begin on the following day at ten o’clock, and inviting us to join his party to the camp. Accordingly, postponing our departure for the North, we get together a few surgical instruments, and take a military train upon the railway in the afternoon for the field of action.
Our party consists of General J—n, General W., of Virginia, Captain G., a Scotch officer serving in Italy, and ourself. Arrived at Caserta, Captain G., showing military despatches, is provided with a carriage, in which we all drive to the advanced post at Sant’ Angelo. We reach this place at about eight o’clock, when we ride and walk through the camp, which presents a most picturesque aspect, illuminated as it is by a brilliant moon. We see clusters of white tents, with now and then the general silence broken by the sound of singing wafted to us from among them,—here and there tired soldiers lying asleep on the ground, covered with their cloaks,— horses picketed in the fields,—camp-fires burning brightly in various directions; while all seems to indicate the profound repose of men preparing for serious work on the morrow. We pass and repass a bridge, a short time before thrown across the Volturno. A portion of the structure has broken down ; but our English friends congratulate themselves that the part built by their compatriots has stood firm. We exchange greetings with Colonel Bourdonné, who is on duty here for the night, superintending the repairs of the bridge, and who kindly consigns us to his quarters.
Arrived at the farm-house where Colonel Bourdonné has established himself, and using his name, we are received with the utmost attention by the servants. The only room at their disposal, fortunately a large one, they soon arrange for our accommodation. To General J-----n, the senior of the party, is assigned the only bed; an Italian officer occupies a sofa; while General W., Captain G., and ourself are ranged, “ all in a row,” on bags of straw placed upon the floor. Of the merriment, prolonged far into the night, and making the house resound with peals of laughter, — not at all to the benefit, we fear, of several wounded officers in a neighboring room, — we may not write.
Sunday is a warm, clear, summer-like day, and our party climb the principal eminence of Sant’ Angelo to witness the expected bombardment. We reach the summit at ten minutes before ten, the hour announced for opening fire. We find several officers assembled there,—among them General H., of Virginia. Low tone of conversation and a restrained demeanor are impressed on all; for, a few paces off, conferring with two or three confidential aids, is the man whose very presence is dignity, — Garibaldi.
Casting our eye over the field, we cannot realize that there are such hosts of men under arms about us, till a military guide by our side points out their distribution to us.
“ Look there ! ” says General H., pointing to an orchard beneath. “ Under those trees they are swarming thick as bees. There are ten thousand men, at least, in that spot alone.”
With an opera-glass we can distinctly scan the walls of Capua, and observe that they are not yet manned. But the besieged are throwing out troops by thousands into the field before our lines. We remark one large body drawn up in the shelter of the shadow cast by a large building. Every now and then, from out this shadow, a piercing ray of light is shot, reflected from the helm or sword-case of the commanding officer, who is gallantly riding up and down before his men, and probably haranguing them in preparation for the expected conflict. All these things Strike the attention with a force and meaning far different from the impression produced by the holiday pageantry of mimic war.
The Commander-in-Chief is now disengaged, and our party approach him to pay their respects. By the advice of General J-----n, we proffer our medical services for the day; and we receive a pressure of the hand, a genial look, and a kind acknowledgment of the offer. But we are told there will be no general action to-day. Our report of these words, as we rejoin our companions, is the first intimation given that the bombardment is deferred. But, though there is some disappointment, their surprise is not extreme. For Garibaldi never informs even his nearest aide-de-camp what he is about to do. In fact, he quaintly says, "If his shirt knew his plans, he would take it off and burn it.”
Some half-hour later, having descended from the eminence, we take our last look of Garibaldi. He has retired with a single servant to a sequestered place upon the mount, whither he daily resorts, and where his mid-day repast is brought to him. Here he spends an hour or two secure from interruption. What thoughts he ponders in his solitude the reader may perhaps conjecture as well as his most intimate friend. But for us, with the holy associations of a very high mountain before our mind, we can but trust that a prayer, “ uttered or unexpressed,” invokes the divine blessing upon the work to which Garibaldi devotes himself, — the political salvation of his country.