Sunday, February 19, 2012
General Giovanni Durando
For a time this seemed a real possibility as the Pope reprimanded an overzealous Austrian commander for an incursion on Papal territory and organized forces to show them the temporal power of the Papacy would not be violated by anyone. The Austrians backed down and it seemed that the Pope was on the side of the nationalists who went to war with Austria in 1848 when the outbreak of revolution in Vienna seemed to offer a golden opportunity. Pope Pius IX excited many more liberal hearts when he ordered Papal forces to march to the frontier of Romagna when hostilities broke out to ensure that the Austrians did not violate his territory. He chose two men to command that gave the liberals even more encouragement; General Giovanni Durando to command the majority (a Piedmontese monarchist known to favor unification) and Colonel Andrea Ferrari to command the Roman volunteers who was a liberal republican. Most took this as a sign that the Pope might have been, if anything, even more to the left than Durando.
However, this expedition led to a great controversy when General Durando actually engaged the Austrian army in cooperation with the forces of Piedmont-Sardinia (whose army also included many deserters from the Papal service). The Pope angrily denounced the affair saying that he had never ordered his army to cross the Po and fight the Austrians; he had only intended them to stand watch and rebuff any incursion of Papal territory. Neither the Pope nor his general emerged well from the affair. General Durando was defeated by the Austrians and his actions were later blamed for allowed the Austrians to concentrate their forces to overwhelm the main Piedmontese army under King Charles Albert. The Pope, likewise, came off looking either foolish or duplicitous for sending an army to a battlefront under the command of men ardently in favor of fighting the Austrians only to order them not to do so. Some in the army even believed the order was meant to be ignored and had been issued only to provide cover for the Pope if his troops were defeated by the Austrians. Obviously the Pope would never have acted so dishonestly, however his image was still sullied by those who believed him. Given his attitude it seemed incredible to have appointed a Piedmontese general known for his nationalist sympathies and support for Italian unity to organize, train and then command the Papal Army.