Figure 11  French, Piedmontese and Austrian  flags


On 26th April 1859, Camillo Benso count of Cavour, the Piment Prime  Minister , gave a negative reply to the Austrian ultimatum, which imposed Piedmont to disarm its army. It is in this way that the Second war of Italian independence started. About half a million soldiers Austrian, French and Piedmonts started fighting. The Austrian military plan aimed at defeating the small Savoy army before Napoleon III in command of the French  army arrived. But the plan failed because the Austrian army, commanded by old Marshal Giulay, lingered in the rice- fields near Vercelli, which had been previously flooded on purpose to prevent the enemy from advancing.

Meanwhile Napoleon III quickly arrived in Italy with his army thanks to an efficient railway system. The first French attack against to the Austrian army took place at Montebello, while the Piedmonts won at Palestro. At the beginning of June a large part of the French Piedmontese armies got ready to cross the Ticino and reach Magenta, heading for Milan, while the Austrians expected to be attacked further south in Lomellina. When the Austrians  realised they had been deceived it was too late. They withdrew and tried to blow up the big bridge over the Ticino between Magenta and Trecate. But the action failed. On 4th June 1859 a great battle between the Austrian army and French Piedmontese army led by Napoleon III took place in Magenta.

There were fightings for the whole day at the end the French Piedmontese army won. That opened the way to the liberation of Milan, first step towards the unity of Italy.