Siege of Capua, October -2 November 1860

The siege of Capua (October-2 November 1860) was the first major contribution that the Piedmontese regular army made to the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, after Garibaldi and his army had conquered Sicily, occupied Naples and defeated the last major Bourbon counterattack on the Volturno, 1 October 1860 (Second War of Italian Independence).

The war against the Kingdom of Naples began as a private adventure led by Garibaldi, although with hidden support from Piedmont. Garibaldi landed on Sicily at the head of his Thousand in May 1860 and quickly captured Palermo (27 May 1860). The Royalists retreated to the eastern end of the island, but after suffering a defeat at Milazzo (20 July 1860) they were unable to prevent Garibaldi and his now much larger army from crossing to the mainland. There was very little opposition in the first few weeks after he landed, and on 7 September 1860 Naples fell without a struggle.

Francis II of Naples still had a powerful army and he attempted to make a stand on the Volturno River. The morale of his army recovered to the point where they were capable of launching a counterattack, but this ended in failure (battle of the Volturno, 1 October 1860).

Despite this defeat Francis II still held the strong fortresses of Gaeta and Capua. Garibaldi didn't have any siege artillery, and both places could have resisted for quite some time if it hadn't been for the intervention of Piedmont. The Piedmontese had managed to convince Napoleon III of France, a key protector of the Papacy, that the only way to prevent either a revolution or a Garibaldian invasion of the Papal States was for Piedmont to intervene. Although the Papal army attempted to resist, it was defeated at Castelfidardo (18 September 1860). Some of the survivors of that battle took refuge in Ancona, but that place fell on 29 September.

Victor Emmanuel and the Piedmontese army now moved south, crossing into Neapolitian territory on 15 October. Six days later the people of the Kingdom of Naples voted overwhelming in favour of union with Piedmont. In the meantime Victor Emmanuel and Garibaldi met and shook hands. Garibaldi prepared to return to private life, while his army was slowly replaced by the Piedmontese army.

At first the two armies shared in the blockade of Capua, but by the end of October the Piedmontese army had taken full control and work was well underway on a regular siege. Gun batteries were built, and the bombardment began on 1 November. The defenders of the city returned fire, but they didn't have the support of the inhabitants. On the night of 1-2 November the garrison came under pressure to surrender and prevent any more suffering in the city. On the morning of 2 November the garrison of 10,000 men surrendered to their Piedmontese opponents. Francis II's kingdom was now reduced to Gaeta and Messina. Both of these fortresses held on into 1861, but Gaeta finally surrendered on 13 February and Messina on 12 March.  

The Second War of Italian Unification 1859-61, Frederick C. Schneid. Focuses on the three separate conflicts that made up the Second War of Italian Unification (the Franco-Austrian War, Garibaldi's invasion of the kingdom of Naples and the invasion of the Papal State), the conflict that saw the creation of the Kingdom of Italy. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 March 2013), Siege of Capua, October -2 November 1860 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_capua_1860.html

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