Nizza Cavalryman 1848

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One of the decisions of the Congress of Vienna (1815) was the creation of the kingdom of Sardinia (Piedmont), which also encompassed the former republic of Genoa. The House of Savoy soon lost independence and became Austrian vassals, and the desire for freedom put Piedmont at the forefront of the struggle for Italian unification. From 1848 to 1866, with short intervals of peace, there were three wars against Austria, from which the small states of northern Italy emerged free and united.

The revolution in France in 1830 gave great hopes to the Italian patriots of the Risorgimento. In Piedmont, a restructuring of the army resulted in great improvements in the quality of training, especially in the cavalry, and the organization, armament and uniforms of the cavalry were regulated by the rule-book of 1833. In 1835, six cavalry regiments were converted into two brigades: the 1st, consisting of the Nizza, Savoia and Novara Cavalleria, and the 2nd, consisting of the guard Piemonte Reale, Genoa and Aosta cavalry. The next year, the same six regiments were grouped into three brigades, and in 1841, each had six squadrons, one of which was armed with lances. The peacetime formation had 825 men and 633 horses, in wartime there were 1,128 men and 959 horses.

The beginning of the nineteenth century saw the rise of classicism in French art, which drew its inspiration from Ancient Greece, a free civil society which was also the model for the French Revolution. In the field of military equipment, classicism found distinguished expression in the cavalry helmet, which was a copy of the Ancient Greek model. In 1811, it was issued to French line lancers and carabiniers; in 1815 to the English life guards and Belgian carabiniers; soon after, it was worn by nearly all the heavy cavalry forces of Europe. The Piedmont Rules of 1833 envisaged the use of such a helmet, and it was made in 1840 according to the design of court painter Palagio Palagi, and called the Minerva helmet.

The Nizza cavallieri were armed with heavy cavalry sabre, two pistols, and a very short carbine (pistolone). The lancers had a lance with a swallow-tailed pennant, in the Italian national colour – blue.

In 1848, upon hearing of the revolution in Vienna, the inhabitants of Milan rose and ousted the Austrian garrison, and Piedmont immediately declared war on Austria. The campaign lasted a year, and ended in the defeat of the Montagnards. The Nizza cavalry played a prominent role. A certain sergeant Fiora had his horse killed under him, and was surrounded by four Austrian uhlans; he killed one with his lance, wounded another, and chased off the remaining two, running after them. A similar feat was performed by a sergeant Prato, also surrounded by four Austrians, this time hussars; he killed one and chased off the remaining three.

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