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Frank Leward: Memorials

Frank to Bampton

Frank to Bampton.

Varese, May 24,1859.

Dear old B. I take the first opportunity I have had to let you know where I am and what Ive been doing lately. It would be difficult for me to tell you of all that has happened since I wrote last. Im fighting again harder than ever this time in a cause Ive no doubt about at all and Im serving under one of the most splendid men there ever was its a pleasure to help in any way. I had heard a lot about Garibaldi when I was up about here before but I never saw him then. They all told me what a wonderful man he was and about his life and extraordinary adventures and travels in South America and all over. Then when I was in Florence at the beginning of this year I got quiet hints something was up but it was kept awfully dark. I met one or two men dressed up as pedlars in the rooms of some of my Italian page 279friends they were going about enlisting people who wished to join a rising against the Austrians and giving them tickets sort of passports and sending them up one by one to the North. I got one and soon went off to Turin. There I first saw Garibaldi. He was coming out of the Kings Palace with the Marchese Pallavicino who was in prison at Spielburg goodness knows how long with Silvio Pellico you know who wrote the book about his different prisons under the Austrians. Garibaldi had got a loose pair of bags on like a sailors and his red shirt and a sort of Spanish poncio and a big hat like the South Americans wear you never saw such a difference as there was between him and the dressed up swells who were round him. Theres something in his face I cant describe a sort of calm determination mixture of modesty and self reliance quickness and restlessness and repose about it and strong will with a simple kind sort of look as though he wouldnt hurt anything if he could help it. Hes not a big man rather short about 5 foot 8 but awfully wiry and strong looking you seem to be before a giant although hes not big. Every day you get to respect him more and more its more than liking him its a sort of trust and devotion all his men and officers and every one who is with him feels.

I was taken to see him afterwards by Bixio who was in the Crimea as a lot of the men who are with him here were. I believe a lot of them went there to see a little fighting first Bixio was for a long time on board an English man of war and hes a regular sailor so is the general as they all call Garibaldi. He seemed awfully page 280pleased to see me and almost shy and said hed heard about me what it could be I dont know. He said he was awfully glad molto contento he said to see Englishmen come to help but he was afraid some of them would find it rather a rough kind of fighting and the food not very good but he supposed I shouldnt mind as Id been in the Crimea and a lot of other places. He has a most polite way of saying things. I dont mean fashionable sort of compliments but a natural kind of way of making people feel all right. He said he was particularly glad I talked Italian because so few English did and the thing he regretted most of all was he hadnt learnt to talk English properly and it was too late to begin now. I think hes the most perfect gentleman natural sort of gentleman I mean I ever saw.

While he was at Torino his volunteers Cacciatori delle Alpi they are called were collecting about Cuneo. There was a tremendous excitement all over and every young Italian whod got any pluck in him was going either with Garibaldi or volunteering under the Piemontese government at Turin. An old priest came all the way from Venice while we were there with a lot of young Italians of his parish as volunteers the old man had the greatest difficulty in getting there and I was awfully glad to see the priests taking it up because they can do a lot if they will.

Garibaldi asked me to go to Cuneo with him and from there we all set out for Casale. On the way we met the priest from Balzola a tremendous patriot ready to fight himself if necessary. An awfully learned man he wrote page 281Don Mandrino you know and a lot of historical books you should read Don Mandrino if you havnt and he told us all the priests in Lombardy were with us in heart only they couldnt do much till Garibaldi got there and he said we must be good boys and not too Mazzinian. He meant we musnt keep away from Church and do all we could to stop private assassination but as long as we fought honestly and openly all the priests and a lot of the Bishops in Lombardy would be with us. We had a slight brush with the enemy near Casale but it wasnt much and only a few were wounded. It was beastly wet and it was amusing to see the General on the way he had got on for the first time his uniform as an officer in the Piemontese army it kept bothering him all day especially the silver mounted thing on his head kept going from one side to the other at last in a rage he shied it away and put on his old broad hat and his Montevidean Poncio.

It was so beastly wet it had been raining five days we went by train to Biella and got there on the 18th the general was received by the Bishop who would like to have done a little fighting himself. It was rum to see Garibaldi having breakfast with the Bishop next morning. We stopt there two days to get the men in order nearly 3000 of them and went through a lot of exercises and on the 20th marched on Gattinara and found fifty horses there. The enemy might easily have stopped us if they had tried. At Gattinara there was a great supper given to the officers by a tremendous clerical swell called the Archpriest it was an awfully grand supper the best I ever page 282saw I think and splendid wine. The general wouldnt come he goes to bed early and gets up at four so we had a festive time the Italians are awfully good fellows but it didnt make us inclined to turn out early next morning. However we had to and we crossed the river the Sessia. Garibaldi is the most temperate man you ever saw eats precious little and the simplest things and can go without for as long as you like nearly and never drinks anything but water. He often sleeps on the ground in pouring rain in his poncio and hangs his red shirt and it out to dry in the morning and sits looking at them thinking while he smokes cigars thats his only luxury and he does smoke a lot of them turning them round and round in his mouth like a sailor chewing his quid.

The Austrians had bolted over the Sessia and the beggars had broken down the bridge after them which stuck us up for a bit but the country people made a sort of flying bridge so we managed to get over to Borgomanero. Weve got to travel light and the general sets the example we shied away everything except what we could put up in a small bag.

The day before yesterday we got up to Arona and at last crossed the Ticino at Castelleto where Simonetta one of Garibaldis best friends had got a lot of boats ready for us and we crossed over into Lombardy. It was a jolly night with a full moon and we went over as quietly as possibly you could hear nothing but the splash of the oars and jolly nightingales singing I couldnt help thinking of other things. We got to Sesto Calende you know it where the railway is at this end of the Lago page 283Maggiore. The enemy was swarming all over the place and had the railways and might easily have stopped us if they had been up to much.

We are getting recruits in all over. We should do ever so much more only this Piemontese government which doesent seem much better than others is suspicious and jealous of Garibaldi and swells in the army say in a supercilious sort of way "Chi é Garibaldi" as if they didnt know he was worth fifty of them. They promised to have some cannon and a lot of horses to meet us there but neither came and we cant possibly do much without them. However the go of the people makes up for a good deal. We got here last night about 10 o'clock it was a dark wet night again but you should have seen the people. The whole place seemed alive and to turn out to come and meet us. Some on foot and a lot in carriages the rummest looking carriages you ever saw with lights and flowers and the devils own row. Hugging kissing every one especially Garibaldi who didnt seem to care much about it. A lot more recruits have been coming in but theres no guns for them. The people here know what it is to have lived under the Austrians. We expect to have a fight to-morrow so I must conclude this.

We are well off here Im staying in the big house where Garibaldi is the first dry bed Ive had for some time or chance of writing.

Ill write again soon if everything goes right. I should like to see this campaign out and the Austrians kicked out of Italy. Yours old man

Frank Leward