chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >
THE BATTLES OF PIACERE AND
WE must now request our readers to accompany us once
more to Castelcicala.
In an incredibly short time, and by dint of a forced
march which put the mettle of his troops to a severe test, at
which, however, they did not repine, for they were animated by the dauntless
courage and perseverance of their commander. Richard Markham
arrived beneath the walls of Villabella.
During his progress towards the town, he had been joined
by upwards of four hundred volunteers, all [-166-]
belonging to the national militia, and armed and equipped ready for active
The daring exploit which had made him master of Estella,
had created an enthusiasm in his favour which he himself and all his followers
considered to be an augury of the final success of the Constitutional Cause; and
in every village - in every hamlet through which his army had passed, was he
welcomed with the most lively demonstration of joy.
When, early on the morning of the 1st of January, his
advanced guard emerged from the woods which skirted the southern suburb of
Villabella, the arrival of the Constitutional Army was saluted by the roar of
artillery from the ramparts; and almost at time same moment the tri-coloured
flag was hoisted on every pinnacle and every tower of the great manufacturing
"We have none but friends there!" exclaimed
Richard, as he pointed towards Villabella. "God grant that we may have no
blood to shed elsewhere."
The army halted beneath the walls of Villabella, for
Richard did not deem it proper to enter those precincts until formally invited
to do so by the corporation.
He, however, immediately despatched a messenger to the
mayor, with certain credentials which had been supplied him by the Committee of
Administration at Estella; and in the course of an hour the municipal
authorities of Villabella came forth in procession to welcome him.
The mayor was a venerable man of eighty years of age,
but with unimpaired intellects, and a mind still young and vigorous.
Alighting from his horse, Richard hastened forward to
"Let me embrace you, noble young man!"
exclaimed the mayor. "Your fame has preceded you and within
those walls," he added, turning and pointing towards Villabella,
"there breathes not a soul opposed to the sacred cause which heaven has
sent you to direct."
Then the mayor embraced Richard in presence of the
corporation in presence of the Constitutional Army; and the welkin
rang with shouts of enthusiastic joy.
The formal invitation to enter Villabella was now given;
and Markham issued the necessary orders.
The corporation led the way: next came the General,
attended by his staff; and after him proceeded the long lines of troops, their
martial weapons gleaming in the morning sun.
The moment our hero passed the inner drawbridge, the
roar of cannon was renewed upon the ramparts; and the bells in all the towers
commenced a merry peal.
As at Estella, the windows were thronged with
faces the streets were crowded with spectators and
every testimonial of an enthusiastic welcome awaited the champion of
Then resounded, too, myriads of voices, exclaiming.
"Long live Alberto!" "Long live the
General!" "Down with the Tyrant!" "Death
to the Austrians!"
In this manner the corporation, Markham, and his staff,
proceeded to the Town-Hall, while the troops defiled off to the barracks, where
the garrison a thousand in number welcomed them as
All the officers of the troops in Villabella,
moreover with the exception of the colonel-commandant, declared
in favour of the Constitutionalists. and even that superior functionary
manifested no particular hostility to the movement, but simply declared that
"although he could never again bear, arms in favour of the Grand Duke, he
would not fight against him."
When he had transacted business at the Town-Hall, and
countersigned a proclamation which the municipality drew up, recognising the
Committee of Administration of Estella, and constituting itself a permanent body
invested with similar functions, Markham repaired to the barracks.
Thence he immediately despatched couriers to the
excellent banker at Pinalla, to the mayor of Estella. and to the Committee of
Government at Montoni.
He then issued an address to his army, complimenting it
upon the spirit and resolution with which the forced march to Villabella had
been accomplished; reminding it that every thing depended upon the celerity of
its movements, so as to prevent a concentration of any great number of adverse
troops, before the Constitutional force could be augmented sufficiently to cope
with them; and finally ordering it to prepare to resume the march that afternoon
at three o'clock.
By means of new volunteers and a portion of the garrison
of Villabella, Richard found his army increased to nearly four thousand men.
At the head of this imposing force he set out once more,
at the time indicated, and commenced another rapid march in the direction of
On the ensuing evening the 2d of
January the towers of that important city broke upon the view of
the vanguard of the Constitutionalists.
The commandant of the garrison of Piacere was an old and
famous officer General Giustiniani, devoted to the
cause of the Grand Duke, and holding in abhorrence every thing savouring of
Markham was aware of this fact; and he felt convinced
that Piacere would not fall into his hands without bloodshed. At the same time,
he determined not to pass it by, because it would serve as a point of
centralisation for the troops of Veronezzi and Terano (both being seats of the
military administration of Captains-General), and moreover afford the enemy a
means of cutting off all communication between himself on the one hand, and
Villabella and Estella on the other.
Certain of being attacked, Markham lost no time in
making the necessary arrangements. He ordered the vanguard to halt, until the
troops in the rear could come up, and take their proper places; and he planted
his artillery upon a hill which commanded almost the entire interval between his
army and the city.
Nor were his precautions vainly taken; for in a short
time a large force was seen moving towards him from Piacere, the rays of the
setting sun irradiating their glittering bayonets and the steel helmets of a
corps of cuirassiers.
In another quarter of an hour the enemy was so near as
to induce Richard to order his artillery to open a fire upon them: but General
Giustiniani, who commanded in person, led his forces on with such rapidity, that
the engagement speedily commenced.
Giustiniani had about three thousand five hundred men
under his orders; but although this force was numerically inferior to the
Constitutionalists, it was [-167-] superior in
other respects for it comprised a large body of cuirassiers, a
regiment of grenadiers, a corps of rifles, and twenty field-pieces: it was,
moreover fresh and unwearied, whereas the Constitutionalists were fatigued with
a long march.
For a few minutes a murderous fire was kept up on both
sides; but Richard led his troops to close quarters, and charged the cuirassiers
at the head of his cavalry.
At the same time the Cingani, in obedience to an order
which he had sent their chiefs, turned the right flank of the rifles by a rapid
and skilful manoeuvre, and so isolated them from their main body as to expose
them to the artillery upon the hill.
Excited, as it were to desperation, by the conduct of
our hero, the Constitutional cavalry performed prodigies of valour; and after an
hour's hard fighting in the grey twilight, succeeded in breaking the hitherto
compact body of cuirassiers.
Leaving his cavalry to accomplish the rout of the
enemy's horse-guards, Richard flew to the aid of his right wing, which was
sorely pressed by the grenadiers, and was breaking into disorder.
"Constitutionalists!" he cried: "your
brethren are victorious elsewhere: abandon not the field! Follow me - to
conquest or to death!"
These words operated with electrical effect; and the
Constitutional infantry immediately rallied under the guidance of their youthful
Then the battle was renewed: darkness fell upon the
scene; but still the murderous conflict was prolonged. At length Richard engaged
hand to hand with the colonel of the grenadiers, who was well mounted on a steed
of enormous size. But this combat was short; the officer's sword was dashed from
his hand; and he became our hero's prisoner.
These tidings spread like wild-fire; and the enemy fell
into confusion. Their retreat became general: Richard followed up his advantage;
and Giustiniani's army was completely routed.
The Constitutionalists pressed close upon them; and
Richard, once more putting himself at the head of his cavalry, pursued the
fugitives up to the very walls of Piacere not with the murderous
intention of exterminating them, but with a view to secure as many prisoners as
possible, and prevent the enemy from taking refuge in the city.
At the very gates of Piacere he overtook General
Giustiniani, and, after a short conflict, made him captive.
He then retraced his steps to the scene of his victory,
and took the necessary steps for concentrating his forces once more.
That night, the Constitutionalists bivouacked in the
plains about a mile from Piacere.
Early in the morning of the 3d of January, the results
of the brilliant triumph of the preceding evening were known. Eight hundred of
the enemy lay dead upon the field; and fifteen hundred had been taken prisoners.
The Constitutionalists had lost three hundred men, and had nearly as many
Scarcely had the sun risen on the scene of carnage, when
messengers arrived from Piacere, stating that the Corporation had declared in
favour of the Constitutionalists, and bearing letters from the municipal
authorities to Markham. Those documents assured our hero that the sympathies of
the great majority of the inhabitants were in favour of his cause; and that deep
regret was experienced at the waste of life which had been occasioned by the
obstinacy and self-will of General Giustiniani. Those letters also contained an
invitation for him to enter the city, where the tri-coloured flag was already
These welcome tidings were soon made known to the whole
army, and were received with shouts of joy and triumph.
Richard returned a suitable answer to the delegates, and
then sought General Giustiniani. To this commander he offered immediate liberty,
on condition that he would not again bear arms against the Constitutionalists.
The offer was spurned with contempt. Markham accordingly despatched him, under a
strong escort, to Villabella.
At nine o'clock Markham entered Piacere, amidst the
ringing of bells, the thunder of cannon, and the welcome of the inhabitants. The
corporation presented him with the keys, which he immediately returned to the
mayor, saying, "I am the servant, sir, and not the master of the
This reply was speedily circulated through Piacere, and
increased the enthusiasm of the inhabitants in his favour.
Richard determined to remain until the following morning
in this city. Having seen his troops comfortably lodged in the barracks, he
adopted his usual course of despatching couriers, with accounts of his
proceedings, to Villabella. Estella, Pinalla, and Montoni. Need we say that
every letter which he addressed to the worthy banker contained brief notes necessarily
brief to be sent by way of Naples, to Mr. Monroe and Isabella!
Having performed these duties, Richard repaired to the
Town-Hall, where he countersigned a decree appointing the municipal body a
Committee of Administration; and a proclamation to that effect was speedily
He next, with the most unwearied diligence, adopted
measures to increase his army, for he resolved to march with as little delay as
possible towards Abrantani; where a strong Austrian and Castelcicalan force was
lying, under the command of the Captain-General of that province. At that point
Richard well knew an important struggle must take place - a struggle in
comparison with which all that he had hitherto done was as nothing.
But his endeavours in obtaining recruits were attended
with great success. Volunteers flocked to the barracks; and the city-arsenal was
well provided with all the uniforms, arms, ammunition, and stores that were
On the west of Piacere was a vast plain, on which
Richard determined to review his troops at daybreak, and thence march direct
The order was accordingly issued; and half an hour
before the sun rose, the army defiled through the western gates. Nearly all the
inhabitants repaired to the plain, to witness the martial spectacle; and many
were the bright eyes that glanced with admiration and even a
softer feeling at the handsome countenance of that young man whose
name now belonged to history.
Colonel Cossario, the second in command, directed the
evolutions. The army was drawn up in divisions four deep, and mustered five
And now, on the 4th of January, a morning golden with
sun-beams, the review began. Each regiment had its brass band and its gay
colours, [-168-] and the joyous beams of the orb of
day sported on the points of bayonets, flashed on naked swords, and played on
the steel helmets of four hundred cuirassiers whom Richard had organised on the
Stationed on an eminence, attended by his staff, and by
his faithful Morcar, who had comported himself gallantly in the battle of the
2d, Markham surveyed, with feelings of indescribable enthusiasm, that armament
which owned him as its chief.
Cossario gave the word it was passed on
from division to division; and now all these sections are wheeling into line.
The line is formed the bands are stationed
in front of their respective corps: and all is as still as death.
Again the Colonel gives the word of command "General
salute! Present arms!" and a long din of hands clapping
against the muskets echoes around.
The bands strike up the glorious French air of the Parisienne;
and Markham gracefully raises his plumed hat from his brow, in acknowledgment of
the salute of his army.
The music ceases the word, "Shoulder
arms! is passed from division to division, along that line of half a mile from
flank to flank.
Then Markham gallops towards the troops, followed by his
staff; the ranks take open order; he passes along, inspecting the different
corps, addressing them encouraging them.
Again he returns to the eminence: the line is once more
broken into divisions; close columns are formed; and the whole army is put in
motion, to march past its General, the bands playing a lively air.
From the plain the troops defiled towards the road
leading to Abrantani.
But scarcely had Markham taken leave of the mayor and
the municipal authorities, in order to rejoin his army, when a courier, covered
with dust, galloped up to him. He was the bearer of letters from Signor Viviani.
Those documents afforded our hero the welcome intelligence that Pinalla had
hoisted the tri-colour, declared in favour of the cause of liberty, recognised
Markham as the General-in-Chief of the Constitutional Armies of Castelcicala,
and had despatched a reinforcement of two thousand men to fight under his
Richard hastily communicated these tidings to the
corporation of Piacere, and then joined his annoy, throughout the ranks of which
the news of the adhesion of so important a city as Pinalla to the great cause
diffused the utmost joy.
"Every thing favours me!" thought Richard, his
heart heaping within him. "Oh! for success at Abrantani; and such will be
its moral effect upon my troops that I shall fear nothing for the result of the
grand and final struggle that must take place beneath the walls of Montoni! And,
then, Isabella, even your father will acknowledge that I have some claim to your
hand as a reward for placing him upon the ducal throne!"
The road that the army now pursued was most favourable
for the rapid march which Richard urged. It was wide and even, and afforded an
easy passage to the artillery.
Shortly after mid-day the van-guard entered the
beautiful province of Abrantani; and there the troops were received by the
inhabitants with an enthusiasm of the most grateful description. For it was in
this district that the tyranny of the Grand Duke's rιgime, under the
auspices of Count Santa-Croce, had been most severely felt.
No wonder, then, that the Constitutional Army was
greeted with rapture and delight; no wonder that blessings were
invoked upon the head of its General! The old men went down upon their knees by
the road-sides, to implore heaven to accord success to his mission; mothers
held up their children to catch a glimpse of the youthful hero and
young maidens threw garlands of flowers in his path.
Volunteers poured in from all sides; and the army
increased in its progress, like the snowball rolling along the ground.
At sunset the entire force halted in the precincts of a
large town, the inhabitants of which hastened to supply the soldiers with
provisions and wine.
During that pause, couriers arrived from Veronezzi, with
the joyful tidings that it had declared in favour of the Constitutional cause,
and was sending reinforcements. Thus the whole of the south of Castelcicala was
now devoted to the movement of which Markham was the head and chief.
For two hours was the army permitted to rest: it then
continued its march until midnight, when it bivouacked in a wide plain, a wood
protecting its right wing, and a hill, whereon the artillery was planted,
defending its left.
Richard adopted every precaution to avoid a surprise;
for he was well aware that the Count of Santa-Croce was not a man to slumber at
such a crisis. But it afterwards appeared that the Captain-General did not dare
to quit the neighbourhood of the city of Abrantani, for fear that it should
pronounce in favour of the Constitutionalists.
It was, therefore, under the walls of Abrantani itself
that the contest was to take place.
There was a flat eminence to the east of the city; and
on this had Santa-Croce taken up his position at the head of seven thousand
men three thousand Castelcicalans, and four thousand Austrians.
Against this force was Richard to contend, at the head
of six thousand soldiers, the volunteers who had joined him since he left
Piacere amounting to a thousand.
But to return to our narrative in the consecutive order
At five o' clock in the morning of the 6th, the
Constitutionalists quitted their position where they had bivouacked, and pursued
their way towards the city of Abrantani.
The day passed night came once more and
the troops bivouacked in the immediate vicinity of a
The morning of the 6th saw them again in motion; but
Richard allowed them to proceed with diminished celerity, as he had already
enough chances against him to warn him not to increase them by over-fatiguing
It was not, therefore, until the evening that he came in
sight of the tall spire on the Cathedral of Abrantani.
"By this time tomorrow," exclaimed Richard,
pointing in the direction of the city, "the tower on which yon spire stands
shall echo with the sounds of its bells to celebrate our triumph!"
"Amen!"' ejaculated Morcar, who was close
Constitutionalists took up a strong position, with a village on their right and
a range of extensive farm-buildings on their left. They were all animated by an
enthusiasm worthy of the great cause in which they were embarked; and their
ardour was manifested by singing martial songs as they crowded round the fires
of the bivouac.
Richard never closed his eyes during the night.
Confident that his want of experience in military tactics must be compensated
for by unceasing exercise of that intelligence and keenness of perception which
had enabled him to direct the movements of his troops so as to achieve the
victory of Piacere, he reconnoitred all the positions adjacent to his own marked
those where troops would be advantageously placed, and observed others where
they would be endangered visited the outposts studied
the maps of that part of the country and held consultations with
his most skilful officers. These subordinates were astonished at the soundness
of his views, the excellence of his arrangements, and the admirable nature of
Markham was resolved to effect two objects, which, he
felt convinced, would lessen the chances that were now against him. The first
was to throw up a small redoubt, where he might place a portion of his
artillery, so as to command the flat eminence on which the Austro-Castelcicalan
army was stationed. The second was to send off a small detachment before
day-break, to gain a wood about two miles distant, whence it might debouch at
the proper time, and fall upon the left flank of the enemy.
The redoubt was commenced, and proceeded rapidly; and an
hour before sun-rise the corps of Cingani departed on the important service
which the General-in-Chief confided to it, with strict orders not to move from
the wood until the enemy should have left the eminence and descended to the
Thus, by the time the sun rose on the morning of the
7th, the Cingani were safely concealed in the wood; a redoubt, bristling with
artillery, commanded the enemy's position; and the Constitutionalists were
formed in order of battle.
Richard commanded the right wing; and Colonel Cossario
[-170-] The engagement
began on the part of the Constitutionalists, with a cannonade from the redoubt,
and so well did this battery perform its part, that as Richard had
foreseen the Captain-General was compelled to descend into the
plain, and endeavour to surround the right wing of the Constitutionalists, in
order to terminate the carnage occasioned by that dreadful cannonade.
Meantime, Cossario, with his division, advanced to meet
three battalions which the Captain-General had detached to attack the range of
farm-buildings; and for an hour the combat raged in that point with
inconceivable fury. The Austrians precipitated themselves with a desperate
ardour upon Cossario's troops, who were at length compelled to retreat and
occupy the farm.
On the right, Markham sustained a fearful contest with
the force opposed to him. The fire of the musketry was at point-blank distance;
and the firmness with which the action was maintained on both sides, rendered
the result highly dubious.
But now the Cingani debouched from the wood, and fell
upon the left wing of the enemy. The impetuosity of their attack was
irresistible: the wing was turned by them; and the Austro-Castelcicalans were
thrown into disorder. Then Richard, at the head of his cuirassiers, charged upon
the centre of the enemy, and decided the fortune of the day.
In the meantime Cossario had completely rallied his
division, and had succeeded in repulsing the battalions that were opposed to
The Captain-General endeavoured to effect a retreat in
an orderly manner towards the eminence which he had originally occupied; but
Richard, perceiving his intention, was enabled to out-flank him, and to gain
possession of the height. For an hour this important position was disputed with
all the vigour and ardour of military combat; but, though the Austro-Castelcicalans
manifested a vehemence bordering on rage, and a perseverance approaching to
desperation, all their attempts to recover their lost ground were ineffectual.
And equally vain were the endeavours of Santa-Croce to
secure an orderly retreat; his columns were shattered his
battalions broken; the flight of his troops became general; but they were
closely pursued by their conquerors.
The Cathedral of Abrantani proclaimed the hour of three
in the afternoon, when Richard, on the eminence commanding the city, sate down
to pen hasty dispatches, announcing this great victory to the Committees of
Montoni, Piacere, Villabella, Veronezzi, Pinalla, and Estella. Nor did he forget
to enclose, in his letters to Signor Viviani, brief notes addressed to his
friend Monroe and the Princess Isabella.
The results of the battle of Abrantani were most
glorious to the Constitutional arms. While Richard's loss was small, that of the
enemy had been enormous. Two thousand men chiefly Austrians lay
dead upon the plain; and nearly as many were taken prisoners. Two of the
Castelcicalan regiments rallied at a short distance from the scene of the
conflict, and placing themselves at the disposal of Colonel Cossario, who had
pursued them, joined the Constitutional cause.
The Captain-General, Count Santa-Croce, succeeded in
effecting his escape, with several of his superior officers; and, hastening to
join the Grand Duke, who was still besieging Montoni, the vanquished chief was
the first to communicate to that Prince the fatal result of the battle.
That same evening Richard Markham entered the city of
Abrantani, which joyfully opened its gates to receive him; and, as in the other
towns which he had occupied, the thunders of artillery, the ringing of bells,
and the plaudits of admiring crowds testified the enthusiasm which was inspired
by the presence of the youthful General.
Richard determined to remain some days in the city of
Abrantani. Montoni was besieged by a force nearly twenty-five thousand strong;
and our hero felt the necessity of waiting for the reinforcements promised him,
and of raising as many volunteers as possible, ere he could venture to cope with
so formidable a force. But in every despatch which he had sent to the Committee
of Government at Montoni, he had given the most solemn assurances of his
resolution to march to the relief of the capital with as little delay as
possible; and it was now, at Abrantani, that he anxiously expected official
tidings from the besieged city.
Nor was he kept long in suspense. On the morning of the
10th a courier arrived with despatches from the Committee of Government. These
documents are so important, that we do not hesitate to lay them before our
The first was conceived thus: -
"Montoni, January 9th, 1841.
The Committee of Government of the State of Castelcicala
have received the various despatches which the General-in-Chief of the
Constitutional Army has addressed to them respectively from Villabella, Piacere,
and Abrantani. The Committee must reserve for a future occasion the pleasing
duty of expressing how deeply they rejoice at the General-in-Chief's various
successes, and how anxiously they watch the progress of that cause of which he
has become the guide and champion.
"The Committee cannot, however, omit one duty which
they now perform by virtue of the full powers of administration and government
that have been vested in them by the Inhabitants of the capital, and which
powers are recognised by all faithful Castelcicalans who have declared in favour
of the Constitutional cause.
"This duty is rendered imperious [-sic-]
on the Committee by the eminent and unequalled services of the General-In-Chief.
"The Committee of Government have therefore
ordained, and do ordain, that the style and title of Marquis of Estella
be conferred upon the General-in-Chief, the most Excellent Signor Richard
"And a copy of this decree shall be forwarded to
every city or town which has pronounced in favour of the Constitutional cause.
"By order of the Committee of Government.
"TERLIZZI, Vice President"
The second despatch ran thus:
"TO THE MARQUIS OF ESTELLA, GENERAL-IN-CHIEF OF THE
CONSTITUTIONAL ARMIES OF CASTELCICALA.
"We, the members of the Committee of Government of
Castelcicala, have the honour to lay before your lordship a few particulars
relative to the condition of the capital city of that State. Closely besieged by
the foreign force whom the traitor Angelo has invited into the country, and
blockaded at sea by the fleet of the Lord High Admiral, Montoni already enters
upon the dread phase of famine. The garrison performs its duty nobly in
defending the capital from the attacks daily directed against it by the insolent
Austrian invaders; but it is impossible that we can hold out for any length of
time We are, however, happy to be enabled to assure your lordship that the
inhabitants endure their lamentable condition with exemplary fortitude and
patience, the bril-[-171-]liant achievements of
your lordship and the Constitutional Army having inspired them with the most
lively hopes of a speedy deliverance. So sorely are we pressed, that it has been
only with the greatest difficulty that your lordship's couriers have been able
to pass the lines of the besiegers, and gain entrance into the city.
"We feel convinced that these brief statements will
be sufficient to induce your lordship to lose no time in marching to the
deliverance of the capital.
"We have the honour to remain, My Lord,
"Your lordship's obedient servants,
"For the Members of the Committee } GAETANO, President;
"Montoni, January 9th, 1841. (Six o'clock in the
Most welcome, in one sense, to our hero were these
documents. Although he deeply deplored the condition to which Montoni was
reduced, he could not do otherwise than experience the most thrilling and
rapturous delight at the impression which his conduct had produced upon the
Provisional Government of the State, and of the inhabitants of the capital.
Nor shall we depreciate the merits of Richard Markham,
if we admit that he received, with the most heartfelt joy, that title of
nobility which, he felt convinced, must lead him nearer to the grand aim of all
his exertions the hand of Isabella!
And as he looked back upon the events of the last
fortnight, when he reflected that at the commencement of that
short interval he had issued from Pinalla on a desperate undertaking, and that
these fourteen days had shed glory on his name, and placed the coronet of a
Marquis upon his brow, he was lost in admiration of the
inscrutable ways of that Providence to whom he had never ceased to pray, morning
and evening as well when crowned with success as in the hour of
But as we do not wish to dwell too much upon this grand
and remarkable episode in our hero's history, we shall continue our narrative of
these events in their proper order.
The Marquis of Estella each day saw his army increasing.
The promised reinforcements arrived from Pinalla and Veronezzi: Lipari and
Ossore declared for his cause, and furnished their contingents to the
Constitutional forces; and each hour brought to Richard's head-quarters at
Abrantani tidings of fresh movements in his favour. Troops poured in; and he was
compelled to muster his forces in an encampment on the northern side of the
Indeed, the battles of Piacere and Abrantani had
electrified Castelcicala; and the tri-coloured banner already floated on the
walls of the principal cities and towns of the state. Addresses of confidence
and congratulation were sent to our hero from all parts; and large sums of money
were raised and forwarded to him, to enable him to reward his troops and equip
It was on the 20th of January that Markham put his army
in motion. He was now at the head of sixteen thousand men, with a formidable
train of artillery. Although the numerical odds were fearfully against him, he
reposed the most perfect confidence in the valour of his troops elated
as they were by previous successes, and glorying in a cause which they deemed
holy and sacred. Moreover, he knew that the moral strength of his army was
incomparably superior to that of the mere drilled Austrian troops, who were
trained under a soul crushing system of discipline, and who regarded their
chiefs rather as tyrants and oppressors than as generous superiors exercising a
species of paternal influence over them.
On the morning of the 22d, the Constitutional Army
reached Ossore, all the inhabitants of which town came out to behold the
glorious procession, and testify their admiration of the young General.
It was during a brief halt near this place, that a
courier, travel-soiled and sinking with fatigue, arrived from Montoni, with a
letter addressed to the Marquis of Estella and containing only this laconic but
"Hasten, my lord delay not! in
forty-eight hours it will be too late!
Richard instantly despatched a messenger, on whose
prudence and daring he could rely, with an answer equally brief and impressive
"Fear not, signor! By to-morrow night Montoni shall
be delivered, or the army which I am leading to your rescue will be annihilated.
The city was indeed sore pressed. The inhabitants were
reduced to the utmost extremities in respect to provision; and the Austrians,
headed by the Grand Duke in person and Marshal Herbertstein, were pushing the
siege with a vigour that was almost irresistible.
But on the 22d of January those commanders were
compelled to concentrate nearly all their troops on the southern side of Montoni:
for they were well aware that the Constitutional Army was now approaching.
In the afternoon of the same day, the light cavalry of
Richard's force entered upon the broad plain through which the Ferretti rolls
its silver way; and at a distance of three miles the tower of Saint Theodosia
reared its summit far above the white buildings of Montoni.
By nine o'clock on that night the entire Constitutional
Army had taken up a strong position, its left being protected by high sand-banks
which overlooked the sea, and its right defended by a large village.
Oh! it was a great cause which was so soon to be
justified and that was a glorious army which was now preparing for
the final struggle!
A discharge of cannon from the walls of Montoni
announced that the capital awaited its deliverance; and the Committee of
Government issued orders that the bells of every church should ring for mass at
daybreak, in order that the inhabitants might offer up prayers for the success
of the Constitutional Army.
As on the eve of the glorious fight of Abrantani, the
Marquis of Estella was actively employed during the whole night in making the
various dispositions for the great battle which, on the following day, must
decide the fate of Castelcicala.
And most solemnly and sublimely interesting was that
night! So close were the two armies to each other only half a
cannon shot distant that every sound on either side could be
mutually heard. The very outposts and sentinels were almost within speaking
range; and the lights of the two positions were plainly visible. Watchfulness
and keen observation characterised both sides.
An hour before sunrise - and by the lurid gleam of the
bivouac fire in the grove of Legino Richard addressed a letter,
full of tenderness and hope, to [-172-] the
Princess Isabella; and this he despatched in another epistle to his excellent
friend, the banker at Pinalla.
Then, when the first gleam of twilight heralded the
advent of the sun, and while the bells were ringing in every tower of Montoni,
the hero mounted his horse and prepared for the conflict that was now at hand.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
| > next chapter >