The Risorgimento and the revolutions of 1848 in Vicenza
The decisive attack was launched on 10th June. Thirty-thousand imperial soldiers with 50 cannons assaulted the town. The order to attack the town of Vicenza issued by Marshal Radetzky (the original copy is kept in the archive) is probably the most important document related to the events of 1848 in Vicenza. The bulk of the Austrian attack was directed against the positions on Monte Berico, the real keystone of the Vicenza defences; this position was held by papal regular troops and by volunteers.
Secondary manoeuvres in the plain were carried out to support the main action.
The town’s defenders counted 11,000 men with 38 cannons; these forces were under the orders of General Giovanni Durando.
The defensive system of the Berici Hills was arranged on three successive lines, respectively at Castel Rambaldo, on the Bella Guardia and Ambellicoli hills and at Villa Guiccioli, close to the Sanctuary.
At first the Austrians occupied Castel Rambaldo, then they took, lost and took again Bella Guardia, even if the fiercest fighting was around Ambellicoli hill, the most important position of Vicenza's defensive system.
It was vigorously attacked and defended with great valour, but the great numeric disproportion in favour of the attackers left few doubts as to who would win the fight.
While the Sanctuary was being defended by few gallant fighters devoted to sacrifice, the greater part of the defenders retreated in an orderly fashion, even attempting a last counter-attack that was not able to change their fortunes.
After losing the hill the town became indefensible, also because there were no reserves to throw into battle.
Consequently surrender negotiations were started. After long and not always serene discussions between the plenipotentiaries of the two sides, an agreement was reached and signed in Villa Ca’ Balbi at dawn on 11th June 1848. The defenders would leave the town receiving the honours of war to retreat to the right bank of the Po, with the pledge of not fighting against Austria for three months. The losses were: Austrians, 304 dead, 541 wounded and 140 missing; Italians, 293 dead and 1665 wounded.
The fall of Vicenza, a town with an important strategic position, had very negative effects on the development of the war and also gave rise to bitter and long controversies.