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Durando, Giovanni

As the Piedmontese general who led papal troops during the first war of Italian unification (March-August 1848) against the Austrians, Giovanni Durando bec ame one of the most controversial figures of the revolutionary period. Vilified by conservatives as a traitor to the wishes of Pius IX, who never actually ordered his troops to cross the Po and engage the Austrians, he was also heavily criticized by fellow patriots for his military blunders which allowed general Radetsky to consolidate his forces and eventually defeat the Piedmontese army of Charles Albert. Born in Mondov in 1804, Durando trained to become an officer, but like his brother Giacomo he soon left to fight for liberal causes throughout Europe. Having returned to Piedmont in 1842, he was sent in January of 1848 to help reorganize Pius IX's army so as to help the Papal States withstand Austrian pressure to halt the ongoing reform movement. As war approached he took a large contingent of troops north to protect the frontier. In April 1848 he exceeded his orders and crossed the Po to join in the early campaign against the Austrians. He then refused to obey the Pope's April 29 allocution against the war, and continued the fight under the auspices and the orders of Piedmont's Charles Albert.

Durando was thus a symbol of Italy's chaotic military allegiances in 1848 which combined regular troops, national guardsmen, and untrained volunteers, all from different states with varying degrees of commitment to the cause. His poor military record testified to the limitations of such an army, and political divisions within his troops often compounded his worst defeats. Nevertheless, those defeat s have generally been attributed to his own tactical errors, especially when he failed to concentrate his forces at the battles of Belluno and Cornuda which opened both Venetia and Lombardy to a unified Austrian army. Durando and his men partially redeemed themselves by their heroic defense of Vicenza, but were eventually forced by superior firepower to capitulate and withdraw from further conflict for three months. By that time the war was over. He was assailed by the radical press for his supposed "tr eason" on the battlefield, but he successfully accounted for his actions before a special commission in Rome. Durando eventually returned to the Piedmontese army and distinguished himself in later campaigns for Italian independence. After unity he was made a senator of the kingdom of Italy and died in Florence in 1869.

Steven Hughes


Luigi Chiala. Ricordi della vita di due generali Italiani. Roma: 1879.

Giovanni Durando, Cenni biografici. Firenze: 1869.

_______. Schiarimenti sula condottta del generale Durando comandante le truppe Pontificie nel Veneto. Roma: 1848.

Mattia Montecchi. Fatti e documenti risguardanti la divisione civica e volontari mobilizatta sotto gli ordinid del generale Ferrari. Venezia: Andreola, 1848.

Giovanni Sforza. "Il generale Giovanni Durando e la Campagna nel Veneto del 1848" Archivio Veneto, 1916, pp. 195-211, & 1918, pp. 159-16 8.

G.M. Trevelyan. Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848. London: Longman, 1923.

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