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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

Radetzky flung his army in between


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seconded by Alexander La Marmora.

Another Pole, or half Pole, Ramorino, who had figured in the unfortunate rising of 1833, commanded the legion of Lombardy. On March 12, the pending termination of the truce was officially announced. At noon on March 20, hostilities were to be resumed. The campaign that followed lasted but five days. Radetzky, by his preliminary feint, made the Italians believe that he would evacuate Lombardy as heretofore; but at the last moment he quickly concentrated his five army corps at Pavia. At the stroke of noon, on March 20, he threw his army across the Tessino on three bridges. While the Italians believed that Radetzky was retreating on the Adda, the Austrians were already bivouacking on the flank of the Piedmontese army. Three bloody engagements at Mortara, Gambola and Sforzesca, on March 21, ended in a retreat of the Italians all along the line. Ramorino had received orders to move northward and to destroy the bridges behind him. Out of accord with his countryman, Chrzanovsky, he disobeyed his orders and lingered at Stradella. Radetzky flung his army in between, and cut off the Italian line of retreat upon Turin and Alessandria. It was then that Benedek, an Austrian colonel, distinguished himself by leading his troops far in advance of the Austrian army, and cutting his way through an Italian brigade, under the cover of night. At midnight of March 21, Charles Albert had to order a general retreat on Novara. There Chrzanovsky determined to make a stand with his main column of about
50,000 men. Radetzky was in doubt whether the Italians had fallen back on Novara or Vercelli. To make sure he sent his troops in either direction. He himself remained at his headquarters, so as to be ready to ride either way. The roar of artillery from Novara, on the morning of March 23, told him where the battle was to be fought. There General D'Aspre, commanding the second Austrian army corps, undertook to win some laurels on his own account by a bold attack on the superior position of the Italians. As Charles Albert rode out of the gate of Novara he received the last cheers of his devoted Bersaglieri. After a three hours' fight the scale turned against the Austrians. Count D'Aspre repented of his rashness, and sent for help to Count Thurn at Vercelli. Fortunately for him, Radetzky and Thurn had marched in that direction as soon as they heard the sound of the cannon. It was a race between the two divisions. As Radetzky, at the head of the first army corps, galloped through Nebola, the aged marshal met the retreating columns of D'Aspre's second corps. Both the first and the third Austrian corps rushed into the battle almost simultaneously. The Italian advance was checked. At last, when Thurn's fourth corps arrived at sundown, the Austrian bugles sounded for a general charge. The Italian line of battle was overthrown. The Austrian cavalry circled around the flank. While the Italians fled into Novara they suffered from the fire of their own artillery. Charles Albert was one of the last who left the Bicocca to seek refuge in Novara. The town itself was bombarded by the Austrian artillery far into the night. Standing on the ramparts of Novara, Charles Albert realized the disastrous nature of his defeat. His losses aggregated more than seven thousand, of whom three thousand had been taken captive. Of the Austrian losses of 3,158 men, five-sevenths fell to D'Aspre's corps. The other Austrian divisions were practically intact. The Italians were in confusion. Charles Albert, who throughout the day had exposed his person with the utmost gallantry, had to be dragged from the ramparts by General Durando. As the Austrian shells struck all around them he exclaimed, "Leave me, General. Let it be the last day of my life. I wish to die." At last he consented to send his Minister, Cadorna, to Radetzky's headquarters to sue for an armistice. Cadorna was received in an insulting manner. Charles Albert came to the conclusion that his own person was an obstacle in the way of peace. That night he resigned his crown. In the presence of his generals he pronounced his eldest son, Victor Emmanuel, King of Sardinia. Accompanied by but one attendant he left Novara, and passed unrecognized through the enemy's lines. Sending a farewell letter to his wife, he went into exile. A few months later he died at Oporto in Portugal.


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