The Bourbon Era (1734-1860) - Page 4
The Continued Insurrection and the Involvement of England in Calabria.
An event destined to give rise to squabbles all through Europe capable of breaking down the invincibility of the French, was evident from the early days of July 1806--The Battle of Maida.
After the tragic death of Lord Nelson in the victorious naval battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon Oct. 21, 1805, Sir John Stuart was made commander of the English fleet in the Mediterranean. On the 1st of July 1806, an English naval squadron dropped anchor in the Gulf of S. Eufemia and disembarked 6,000 men between the deltas of the rivers Lamato and Angitola. This event emboldened the rebel bands who were in the surrounding mountains.
The people of Nicastro rose up against the French even killing those who were hospitalized, fighting ferociously and destroying the homes of the nobles.
General Reynier, on the 3rd. of July, on his balcony in the house which he occupied in Maida watched Nicastro illuminate the night. Turning to his military officers he is quoted as saying: "Tomorrow we defeat the English, the day after we burn Nicastro to the ground!" The battle between the French army of 4,000 led by Reynier and the English led by Sir John Stuart took place on the plains of Maida.
On July 4th 1806, it ended with the defeat of the French who suffered terrible losses from the Naval guns of the English off shore, and the ground troops as well.
The defeat of Reynier had grave repercussions for the French in our region. Tired, they retreated toward Catanzaro. Fortunately for them, Stuart decided not to give chase but instead armed the Calabrese rebels under Major Gualtieri, called "Pano di grano" 14 and then set sail. England received the news of the Victory of Maida with indescribable joy. They considered the victory one of the greatest of their national history. The King, George III, conferred the title Duke of Maida on Sir John Stuart. His officers received 12 gold medals, one silver and the name Maida was given to two London streets.
The European literary world clamored for news of Calabria. They wanted to know the modus vivendi of the people, particularly brigands. Some writers, wanting to experience our region fist hand, voyaged to Calabria.
Lacking good roads, the donkey and mule were the ideal mode of transport. It was necessary to overcome the many difficulties least of which was not the flooding of the rivers and arroyos, impassable in the autumn-winter months. A French writer, Benjamin Constant author of "Adolphe" opens his book with the following passage: "Je percourais l'Italie il y bien des annees, je fus arrrete dans un auberge de Cerenzia petit village de la Calabre, por un bordiment du Neto" ( I had traveled through Italy years ago, I was obliged to stay at a hotel in Cerenzia, a small village in Calabria, caused by the flooding of the river Neto."
The defeat of Reynier resulted in a violent resurgence of the insurrectionist cause. They made his retreat to Crotone extremely difficult suffering many losses along the way. Isola and Cutro were the first to feel the French backlash.
The Administrator of the region, Palumbo, spoke of the fierceness of the rebels writing to General Miot: "We found among the attacking bands many gentlemen, among whom the most illustrious was the Prince of Cerenzia, many of them were far from their homes, many recently arrived from Naples, all ardently patriotic and pious exaggerated by the distance from home."
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Submitted and translated by Dr. Tom Lucente