Review of ‘The Second War of Italian Unification’ (Osprey)

Paul Le Long takes a look at one of Osprey’s “Essential Histories” series, this one titled “The Second War of Italian Unification 1859-61.”

It’s on the Ospreys at a Glance page.

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1 Response to Review of ‘The Second War of Italian Unification’ (Osprey)

  1. George Arnold says:

    ((Rob Morgan submits the following comment:))

    The short review of the Risorgimento Osprey reminded me of my only serious foray into the world of Italy’s wars. Back in June 1982, Military Modelling carried a rare and very interesting four-page illustrated article by Andrea Viotti, an Italian historian. It was entitled “English Volunteers in Garibaldi’s Army,” an inadequate title given the contents. Following the landings at Marsala in Sicily in May 1860, volunteers from across Europe flocked to his standard. Frenchmen, Germans, and Hungarians among them formed small “legions” which fought across Sicily and took part in several battles, in most of which Garibaldi’s men were seriously outnumbered by the Neapolitans.

    There’s obviously an Osprey title in these diverse units alone, and the contingents at the siege of Rome were even more astonishing.

    However, the British volunteers formed two distinct units, the short-lived “English Battalion,” which later became “Dunne’s Brigade,” and the “British Legion,” A Scottish Company also briefly served, but of that little seems known. However, “The Illustrated London News,” that splendid source of 19th century military and colonial background, lauded the British support for Garibaldi, and the uniforms and activities of these men, some 1,500 in all, were well recorded. Dunne’s Brigade fought for much of the Sicilian Campaign, with bravery at the battles of Milazzo and Volturno, while the British Legion joined towards the end, again acquitting itself well at the Battle of Capua.

    The British Legion and Dunne’s Brigade can easily be made from the Airfix HO/OO American Civil War Infantry and Artillery sets. That was my initial reason for interest. Andrea Viotti provided colour plates for both units, which wore red shirt-length tunics and the kepi. Some wore straw hats during the campaign which allowed use of the Confederate figures. In the case of the British Legion, it was red tunics, red kepis with a green band, black peak, and green cuffs and collars. Brass buttons, British rank chevrons and white trousers. Black shoes or boots, all sorts of belts and pouches. Officers wore a green stripe down the button front of the tunic, gold epaulettes. They were equipped with all sorts of muskets and personal weapons.

    The other, much larger unit, Dunne’s Brigade, were dressed all in white, with green collar and cuffs, but also wore the red kepi with green band, or sometimes with a havelock, or a straw hat. Officers again had a green stripe down the tunic front.
    The only serious information on the Scots Company is that they wore the red shirt “smock” type of tunic, tartan trousers and a tartan scarf. Hm? If they carried a flag, no not the Union Flag in any circumstances, then it’s not recorded. But, the Cross of St. George, red on a white field, is also known in Italian heraldry (Genoa) and might have been suitable.

    I don’t think I’ve ever converted an easier wargames force. Simply a different paint job from the blue and grey of North America! The Garibaldini were irregulars of course, so codes of dress were of little importance.

    Incidentally, there was a British naval contingent too, seamen gunners who fought at the Volturno, I used a few of the Airfix Cowboys on foot for these. For an officer of Dunne’s or the British Legion, mounted, the officer from the Airfix Foreign Legion set with cap and havelock, just trim the cap into a kepi. Easy enough. There was at least one British nurse with them, and the walking woman from the Airfix Wagon Train’s set, with red dress and white apron served there. The same set provided a few additional civilian volunteers.

    Earlier, I mentioned the Siege of Rome, during the Defence of the Roman Republic in1849; and there was a marvellous and equally convertible unit serving under Garibaldi there. The Volunteers of the University of Rome, made with ease from the Confederate Infantry and hatted gunners. The Confederate officer’s well suited to command this group. They wore deep brown uniforms, tunics and trousers (a few wore white or black gaiters — you can trim these), all with a large red cross on the left breast, and a black hat with a few feathers added on the left, in many but not all cases. Green collars and cuffs, with often red-white-green belts or sashes around the waist. Brass buttons in a single row, but officers wore gold lace epaulettes and cuff lace halfway up the arm. Some of the students had packs, or haversacks.

    ‘Avanti!’ As they say.

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