26 August 2018

Carlo Camillo Di Rudio - soldier

Italian aristocrat who survived Battle of the Little Bighorn

Carlo Camillo Di Rudio spent 32 years in the United States Army
Carlo Camillo Di Rudio spent 32 years
in the United States Army
Carlo Camillo Di Rudio, a military officer who became known as Charles Camillus DeRudio and gave 32 years’ service to the United States Army in the late 19th century, was born in Belluno in northern Italy on this day in 1832.

Having arrived in New York City as an immigrant from England in 1860, he served as a volunteer in the American Civil War (1861-65) before joining the Regular Army in 1867 as a 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd Infantry, an appointment which was cancelled when he failed a medical. Undeterred, he was readmitted and joined the 7th Cavalry in 1869, eventually attaining the rank of Major.

He participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which the US Army suffered a defeat to the combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribesmen. The battle was part of the Great Sioux Wars of 1876, fought for possession of the Black Hills in South Dakota, where gold had been found.

DeRudio was thrown from his horse as the American forces under Major Marcus Reno were driven back across the Little Bighorn River to regroup on the eastern side. He was left stranded on the western side and hid for 36 hours with a private, Thomas O’Neill. They were twice almost captured but eventually managed to cross the river to safety.

DeRudio had led an eventful life even before his experiences in the US military, during which he also took part in the Nez Perce War on 1877, another conflict with Native Americans.

A scene from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, as depicted by the artist Charles Marion Russell
A scene from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, as depicted
by the artist Charles Marion Russell
Born the son of Count and Countess Aquila di Rudio, he attended an Austrian military academy in Milan before leaving at the age of 15 to join the Italian patriots during 1848 uprising known as the Five Days of Milan. Later, he fought in Rome and Venice against the Austrians.

Soon afterwards, he tried to sail to America but was shipwrecked off Spain. By 1855, he was living in east London and had married Eliza, the 15-year-old daughter of a confectioner from Nottingham, with whom he eventually had six children.

In 1858 he took part in a failed attempt to assassinate the Emperor of France, Napoleon III, at the Paris Opera.  The attempt, led by another Italian revolutionary, the Carbonari leader Felice Orsini, involved three bombs and killed eight people, wounding another 150, but missed its intended target.

Orsini and his co-conspirator, Giuseppe Pieri, were executed but DeRudio’s sentence was commuted to a life sentence to be served on Île Royale, a neighbour of Devil’s Island in the western Atlantic off French Guiana.  But he and 12 others escaped from the island and landed in what was then British Guiana, more than 800km (500 miles) along the northern coast of South America.

From there he returned to England but his taste for action would not be contained and he emigrated to the United States, specifically to fight on the Union side in the Civil War.  Once commissioned to serve in the Regular Army, he was never entirely trusted by his superiors, including the then Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who tended to disbelieve his accounts of his own military service career.

He retired on his 64th birthday and spent his final years in California, where he died in 1910 at the age of 78, while living in Pasadena.

Belluno sits in the shadow of the Dolomites
Belluno sits in the shadow of the Dolomites
Travel tip:

Belluno, where DeRudio was born, is a beautiful town in the Dolomites, situated just over 100km (62 miles) north of Venice. The town sits in an elevated position above the Piave river surrounded by rocky slopes and dense woods that make for an outstanding scenic background. The architecture of the historic centre has echoes of the town's Roman and medieval past. Around the picturesque Piazza Duomo can be found several fine buildings, such as the Palazzo dei Rettori, the Cathedral of Belluno and Palazzo dei Giuristi, which contains the Civic Museum.

The Scuola Militare "Teulie" is in Corso Italia in Milan
The Scuola Militare "Teulie" is in Corso Italia in Milan
Travel tip:

The military academy in Milan attended by DeRudio is known today as the Scuola Militare "Teulié", a highly selective institution attached to the Italian Army and, having been founded in 1802, one of the oldest military academies in the world. It was closed by the Austrians in 1848 after the cadets, of which DeRudio was one, took part in the Five Days of Milan, the uprising against the Austrians. It became a military hospital. During the early part of the 20th century it was a military barracks, becoming the headquarters of the III Corps of the Italian Army, before reverting to its former status as a military academy in 1996.

More reading:

How the citizens of Milan rose up to throw out the Austrians

The story of fighter pilot Silvio Scaroni

The pope from Belluno who was in office just 33 days

Also on this day:

303: The martyrdom of Sant'Alessandro of Bergamo

1498: Michelangelo accepts the commission to sculpt his masterpiece, La Pietà


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