The Battle of Mentana was fought on November 3, 1867 near the village of Mentana, just outside Rome, [about three miles] between French-Papal troops and the Italian volunteers led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, who were attempting to capture Rome, which was not unified to Kingdom of Italy until three years later.
— We have received the following from our Roman Correspondent, under date of Rome, November 15.—
The entry of the Pontifical troops after their victory at Mentana took place last Wednesday. Nothing could be more imposing than the spectacle, and it offered the most convincing proof possible that the Roman population considered the triumph of the army as their own, and was resolved to show their feeling on the matter. The Porta Pia was the gate by which the troops were to arrive, and long before the hour fixed every window was filled, every balcony draped, and stores of autumn flowers laid up, to shower on the victorious troops.
They entered with banners displayed, trumpets sounding and the Commander-in-Chief, General Kanzler, who had gone outside the gate to meet them, at their head. His Excellency was accompanied by the French General de Failly, and on reaching the Piazza Pia they drew up, surrounded by their respective staffs, and the long line of troops defiled before them. The Zouaves came first and were cheered again and again by the crowd. The great Roman families joined heartily in the demonstration, and the French General appeared as much excited as any one, and repeatedly turned to General Kanzler and pressed his hand, as company after company of the flower of the French Catholic youth passed, victorious, before them. The Legion, too, were admirably received, and so were the gallant Swiss Chasseurs, whose conduct at Mentana under Colonel Jeannerot and Major Castella was beyond praise.
Madame Kanzler’s carriage driving up at the same moment, her Excellency was received with a very warm demonstration, and no wonder, for, from the first arrival of the wounded of Bagnorea and Monte Libretti, she has consecrated herself with unwearied energy to the care of the hospitals, and has devoted her entire time to the consolation and nursing of our brave soldiers. A Roman by birth, her danger, in case of a reverse, would, from the courageous and active part she has taken in the cause, and from her husband’s position, have been greater than that of any other person, but this consideration, fully weighed and met, has never deterred her from her noble task.
It is one of the most curious signs of the present time the military enthusiasm which has seized on the Roman people and the pride it feels in its army. The lists of subscriptions for the wounded, for the soldiers and their families, are rapidly filling, each offering being in the Italian fashion generally accompanied by a sentence in praise of the Pontifical troops.
It is only now we are beginning to realise what we have escaped from. The recent perquisitions made have brought to light some terrible revelations of the intentions of the sect. Five hours’ pillage was to have been allowed by the Garibaldian army. The churches and convents were to have been sacked, the priests massacred, the nuns insulted. Hundreds of barrels loaded with shot were found ; and ” pour comble ” [to cap it all] a well made guillotine, with axe, rollers, pulley, and all, “en regle”, [ready for use] was among the moral forces discovered in the search for arms.
Five cases of guns addressed to Mr. Odo Russell [ From 1858 until August 1870, the real, though unofficial, representative of Britain at the Vatican. He was the nephew of Lord John Russell, Prime Minister between 1846 – 1852, and again 1865 -1866 ] were recently seized by the police, a circumstance at least awkward for a diplomatic agent, and of which it is to be hoped some satisfactory explanation will be afforded.
It was arranged that on a certain day, the 30th of October or 1st of November, the column of Garibaldi, numbering 15,000, the column of Acerti, 15,000, the column of Pincigiacci, 15,000, were to concentrate their collective force of nearly 60,000 men on Rome from ten different points of Monte Rotondo, Viterbo, Velletri, and Froeinone. The Finanziere or custom-house officers of the Porta San Paolo had been bought over, and all was prepared for the supreme attack. Had not the French landed in time, it is difficult to realise what would have been the end. It was-resolved, in case of the worst, that all who wished to share the fate of the Holy Father and his defenders should cross the Tiber, and St.Spirito and the bridge of St. Angelo being blown up, the Leonine city was to have been defended to the very last, all being ready to have died on the very staircases of the Vatican, if need were,, round the throne of Pius IX. The fort could have held out eight days at least, and in that interval help might arrive from France. The army numbered 10,000, and was ready to fight à l’outrence under the conduct of its heroic and devoted general. Surrender under any circumstances was not spoken of. It was a word erased from the vocabulary while a single Garibaldian remained on the Pontifical territory, and had the French delayed their arrival, Europe would have heard of a wholesale martyrdom, but not of a capitulation.
His Holiness celebrated Mass in the Sixtine Chapel on Friday, the 8th, for the repose of the souls of those who fell in battle since the beginning of the campaign. He was so deeply moved that he could scarcely continue the concluding prayers.
On Saturday, the 9th, we celebrated the obsequies of Julian Watts Russell at the English College. I can add nothing to the beautiful notice by Padre Cardella, his confessor, which I enclose, and which I feel sure you will give a place to in your columns. It was to all present a source of hope and trust for England, that she has given two glorious martyrs to the Temporal Power since the beginning of the present campaign, and the names of Alfred Collingridge and Julian Russell will never be forgotten by English Catholics, when they recall the memory of Monte Libretti and Mentana.
At the same hour as the requiem in the English College another on a far larger scale was performed at San Lorenzo, for the souls of MM. De Veaux and Deodat Dufournel. As your readers will remember, his younger brother, Emmanuel Dufournel, was killed in battle at Farnese. Deodat, who was attached to the staff of the Zouaves, was shot down at Villa Cecchina, while conducting a perquisition in one of the houses filled with Garibaldians, and died, after linger-ing a week, in the hospital of St. Spirito. He was universally beloved and deplored, and the entire corps of officers followed his remains and those of the gallant De Veaux to the grave.
The Zouaves, I am happy to say,are daily increasing, and the certainty which exists in the minds of all classes here that the meeting of the Chambers in Florence will hurry on the catastrophe in which the Pontifical army must again be called into action, is acting as a spur to the recruitment in every country and to the movement in favour of the increase and armament of the Pontifical forces. The third battalion of’ Zouaves will be formed to-day under the conduct of Captain D’Albions, one of the oldest and most experienced officers in the regiment, and who previously served in the French army. The recruits at the depot were 1,100 yesterday, and among them are the Baron De Farelle, the Comte De Montmorin, Mr. Vavasour, of Hazelwood, Mr. Hansom, M. Henri de Riancey (son of the Catholic journalist), and an immense number of young men belonging to the first French and Belgian families. It is considered impossible that the status quo can be maintained in Italy. It is most uncertain whether the French will remain – if they do it will only be to make an end of the Italian kingdom, whose state is a perpetual menace to the cause of order in Europe; and it is more than probable that in such a case the Pope’s troops would be called on to reoccupy Umbria and the Marches. At all events, the Papal army must be rendered sufficiently strong to occupy the territory of the Pope as it stands at present, and this cannot be done save by the united action of Catholics in every country.
The points most important are the enrolment of volunteers and the purchase of the very beat arms of precision. The Meyer rifle, with an improvement firing eighteen shots per minute, has been accepted, and the funds are now being raised as fast as possible in France and Belgium. “Bis dat qui cito dat “ [he gives twice, who gives promptly,] was never so completely exemplified as in the present case. We cannot wait for arms, for the attack will be renewed in the spring, and breechloaders are essential. Had the Pontifical army been armed with them at Mentana, not a Garibaldian could have escaped. The Chassepot, too, far from the best rifle invented, did wonders in the hands of the French reserve ; but the Zouaves had only the Minie of 1856 and the bayonet to rely on, and what they did with them proves what they would have done had they been properly armed.
I enclose General Kanzler’s official report of the battle, from which you will see what a decisive action Mentana was.
The police of Florence are, it appears, in jubilation since Mentana. There are neither thefts nor murders in the city, which has been emptied of its dangerous elements since the battle. The Pope, who received the French officers in audience on Wednesday, told them that Italy, of all countries, ought to be grateful to them for having rid her of a revolution more dangerous to her than to any other.
It is uncertain what dispositions will be taken in regard of the Garibaldian prisoners, and the opinion that the French Government will charge itself with their deportation to Cayenne is that most in favour. It would be the most prudent, as, in spite of the kindness with, which they have been treated, the antecedents and characters of the greatest proportion are such as to forbid any hope of honour or gratitude, and they would return to their life of pillage and rapine at the first opportunity.
The above text was found on p.1, 23rd November 1867 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .