The Dawn of Italian Independence: Italy from the Congress of Vienna, 1814, to the Fall of Venice, 1849 - Vol. 2

By William Roscoe Thayer | Go to book overview

strained except by the representation of the Cabinet that a discussion in open Parliament of the military situation might precipitate disaster. Negotiations for an armistice were still languidly carried on by English and French diplomacy, and Mamiani, the leader of the Roman ministry, was trying to take up the broken thread of the league between Rome and Piedmont.

Over against all these uncertainties stood one reality: Radetzky, with an army already larger than that of the Piedmontese, held the Quadrilateral and Venetia. Verona confronted Charles Albert on the left, Mantua on the right, -- two huge obstacles which could not be overcome by soldiers' chatter or deputies' vote, and which, until they had been overcome, must bar the road to victory. After contemplating them for a month, and measuring their strength, Charles Albert might well write to his Minister of War that it would be wise to accept the terms offered by Austria, -- to take Lombardy, abandon Venetia, and make peace.1 But his honor was involved, and obeying that, he was willing to risk everything. Neither he, nor the Northern Italians had forgotten the Peace of Campo Formio, and he would not be a party to a similar compact of shame. After spasmodic and ineffectual manœuvres against Verona, he at last, on July 13, resolved to lay siege to Mantua, -- an undertaking which might require four months' perseverance, so strong was that fortress. Accordingly the main body of the Piedmontese army was concentrated round Mantua, where the mephitic exhalations from the marshes combined with the torrid heat and the inadequate supplies to sap the vigor of the troops. Not long, however, were they allowed to remain unmolested among the malaria and mosquitoes.

Radetzky, whose army now numbered nearly 90,000 men, deemed the time had come to take the offensive.

____________________
1
See quotation on p. 195.

-210-

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