Calabria, Italy and its Genealogy, History, Culture and Language

The Bourbon Era (1734-1860) - Page 2

Insurrection and the Second Bourbon Restoration

Among the institutions created by General Championet, who commanded the Army of Naples from the first day of the Partenopean Republic were the Constitutions of the Departments of Crati and those of the Sagra which were comprised of 10 Cantons each.

The first article of the constitution of the Sagra (note: a word signifying the 7 year anniversary of the Republic i.e. 1806) assigns 10 cantons: Catanzaro, Cotrone, Nicastro, Monteleone, Tropea, Seminara, Reggio,Bova, La Rocella, Satriano. To each Canton was assigned a fixed number of communes. According to Article 3, the Canton of Crotone was composed of the following: Cotrone, Villa Carbonara, Papaniceforo, Rocca di Neto, Belevedere, Spinello, Cropescia, Savelli, Calamedia, Pescoserrata, Colle degli Schiavi, Pietra di Carlo Magno, Rodali, Copoli, Verderano, Arenosa, Pollaca Pietravita, Mesoraca, Policastro, Cotronei, Borganegra Caccuri, Cerenzia, Campodimanna (upper and lower) San Giovanni in Fiore, Frascineto, Porzio, Roccabernarda, Montemario, Curto Isola and Torre d'Annibale 1 They of course, were not long lived due to the brief life of the Partenopean Republic. Equally brief was the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy following the reconquest of the kingdom by Cardinal Ruffo, first due to the election of Napoleon Bonaparte as Consul for life and then as Emperor of France and King of Italy which resulted in the creation of the Third Coalition against France. England, Russia, Austria, The Kingdom of Naples, Sweden and Turkey were allied against France.

The clamorous [sic] victory obtained by Napoleon at Austerlitz, December 2 1805 over the powerful army of the Austrian- Russian alliance led by Franz I and Alexander I respectively, forcing them both to sign the Peace of Presburg. This pact, aside from deciding new arrangements for Europe and Italy, decided the destiny of the Kingdom of Naples and Calabria. Ferdinand IV, seeing the impossibility of confronting the French, abandoned Naples for the second time on January 23, 1806. Together with his queen and the entire court, again under the protection of the British fleet, he fled to Palermo.

On February 8th. 1806,the General Massena commanding 50,000 soldiers entered the confines of the Kingdom of Ceprano (Province of Frosinone). On the 14th of the same month, together with Giuseppe Bonaparte, supreme commander of the forces of occupation entered Naples. The Bourbon army, under the Count of Damascus and two French princes, Francois and Leopold, decided not to engage the army of Massena in Naples but instead would do so in Calabria. The role of the occupation of our region was entrusted to General Reynier, With 11,628 men, 6 cannons, overwhelmed the Bourbons at Lagonegro to rout them completely on the 9th of March 1806 at Campotenese. Occupying Cosenza on the 13th of March 1806 which had been abandoned by its princes to join their parents in Palermo. On the 15th of March, Reynier conquered Nicastro, on the 20th of March without firing a shot he entered Reggio, on the 29th day of the campaign, except for Amantea, Maratea and Scilla, Calabria was conquered.

These events so aroused the pride and enthusiasm of the French that Giuseppe Bonaparte in a letter to his brother Napoleon affirms: "The more I advance in Calabria, the more I am satisfied with its inhabitants. I can do no better than compare them to the mountain people of Corsica. They grasp each novelty, are extremely passionate clerics, nobleman and commoners alike." 2

No less was the presumptuous bragging of the French officer and author Paul-Louios Courier following the army wrote, (from Reggio in a letter to a friend dated April 15th 1806) "We have a running triumph!" It is the most gracious of conquests that one can have when leisurely advancing!" 3

Soon, however, the ease by which the French triumphed bolstered by their enthusiasm, was met by the tragic reality of the ferocious backlash of the indomitable Calabrians.

It began in Soveria Manelli on March 22, 1806. A resident, Carmine Caligiuri, killed a French officer who had seduced his wife. After the murder, Caligiuri ran into the countryside and gathered a troop around him. This was the inspiration for a general insurrection against the invading French. The same motives of honor were causative of the Sicilian Vespers (I Vespri Siciliani ) against the Anjous, ancestors of the modern French, were mirrored here, in Calabria.

The French did nothing to alleviate the already difficult times in the region. Rather, they aggravated an already bad situation by adding new taxes, sequestering church and civil properties, persecuting the Bourbons and partisans, abusing Calabrian women and ordering barbarous executions.

Submitted and translated by Dr. Tom Lucente