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Thursday, 3 May 2018

Battle of Tolentino

Murat is defeated but ignites desire for Risorgimento


Joachim Murat led an army of 50,000 men into battle against the Austrians
Joachim Murat led an army of 50,000 men
into battle against the Austrians
Neapolitan troops were defeated by Austrian forces on this day in 1815 near Tolentino in what is now the Marche region of Italy.

It was the decisive battle in the Neapolitan War fought by the Napoleonic King of Naples, Joachim Murat, in a bid to keep the throne after the Congress of Vienna had ruled that the Bourbon Ferdinand IV, King of Sicily, should be restored.

The conflict was similar to the Battle of Waterloo, in that it occurred during the 100 days following Napoleon’s return from exile.

Murat had declared war on Austria in March 1815 after learning about Napoleon’s return to France and he advanced north with about 50,000 troops, establishing his headquarters at Ancona.

By the end of March, Murat’s army had arrived in Rimini, where he incited all Italian nationalists to go to war with him against the Austrians.

But his attempts to cross the River Po into Austrian-dominated northern Italy were unsuccessful and the Neapolitan army suffered heavy casualties.

The United Kingdom then declared war on Murat and sent a fleet to Italy. Murat retreated to Ancona to regroup his forces, with two Austrian armies pursuing him.

Vincenzo Milizia's representation of the Battle of  Tolentino, in which the Neapolitan forces were defeated
Vincenzo Milizia's representation of the Battle of
Tolentino, in which the Neapolitan forces were defeated
Murat sent a division north, commanded by General Michele Carrascosa, to stall one of the armies, while his main force headed west to deal with the other.

By the end of April the Austrians had driven out the small Neapolitan garrison based at Tolentino and Murat was forced to face their forces on a battlefield near the town on 2 May.

After two days of inconclusive fighting, Murat learned that the Austrians had defeated Carrascosa’s troops at the Battle of Scapezzano and were advancing towards him, so he ordered a retreat. Murat fled to Corsica disguised as a sailor on board a Danish ship.

A few months later he returned to Italy, landing in Pizzo in Calabria with a small force to try to retake Naples. But he was soon captured and sentenced to death.

His execution by firing squad in the town’s castle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars and Naples and Sicily were united to create the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

However, it is considered that Murat had given impetus to the movement for Italian unification and the Battle of Tolentino later became regarded as the first conflict of the Risorgimento.

The Piazza della Libertà in Tolentino
Travel tip:

Tolentino is a town in the province of Macerata in the Marche region. From the end of the 14th century it was ruled by the Da Varano family and then the Sforza family before becoming part of the Papal States. After the arrival of Napoleon’s forces in Italy, the Treaty of Tolentino was signed between Napoleon and Pope Pius VI in 1797, imposing territorial and economic restrictions on the papacy. After the 1815 Battle of Tolentino, the town returned to papal control until Italy became a unified kingdom in 1861.

The Castle of La Rancia just outside Tolentino  stages re-enactments of the battle annually
The Castle of La Rancia just outside Tolentino
stages re-enactments of the battle annually
Travel tip:

The medieval Castle of La Rancia, which is seven kilometres (4 miles) from Tolentino, was at the centre of the battle in 1815 and the countryside around it is still used for re-enactments. It has been claimed many of the dead from the battle were buried in a tank below the courtyard of the castle. The 2018 re-enactment takes place between May 5 and 6. The castle is open to the public between Tuesday and Sunday from 10.30 to 18.30 from May to September and for limited hours during the winter. For more information visit www.tolentinomusei.it

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