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Italians in Austrian Army

Italians in Austrian Army, 1848-49 By 1848, Lombardy and Venetia were providing the Habsburg army with eight of its fifty -eight line infantry regiments: a total of twenty-four battalions, another seven independent infantry battalions, and one regiment of cavalry, a total of between thirty and thirty-five thousand men. After 1830 over half of the Italian infantry could be found in northern Italy in any given year, mainly because it was more expensive to garrison troops away from home. By the mid-1840s, twenty-one of the thirty-one infantry battalions (around twenty-five thousand men) were stationed with Radetzky's army. At the time of the revolution, they accounted for one-third of the manpower at his disposal.

During 1848 around fifteen thousand Italians deserted the Habsburg army, most of them in northern Italy. But Radetzky managed to retain just over half of his Italian manpower, and these troops saw action at Santa Lucia (May 6, 1848), Custozza (July 25, 1848) and Novara (March 25, 1849), the decisive battles of the campaign. Other Italians fought for Austria against revolutionaries in Hungary and in the streets of Vienna. In all, well over one-half of the Lombard and Venetian troops remained loyal to Austria, and if a regiment from Trieste (mostly Italian) and the Alpine troops of the Tyrol (around 40% Italian) are also counted, the overall proportion of "loyal" Italians becomes even greater.

During the 1850s the quota of troops conscripted from Lombardy and Venetia was doubled to nearly seventy-five thousand. In a departure from pre-1848 policy, almost all were stationed outside of northern Italy.
Lawrence Sondhaus


Sked, Alan. The Survival of the Habsburg Empire: Radetzky, the Imperial Army, and the Class War, 1848. London: Longman, 1979.

Sondhaus, Lawrence. In the Service of the Emperor: Italians in the Austrian Armed Forces, 1814-1918. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1990.

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