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Calabria, Italy and its Genealogy, History, Culture and Language

The Bourbon Era (1734-1860) - Page 6

The Arrival of the Brigand Scarola in Calabria.

Looking ahead to November 1810, the roster of principal landowners and commercianti that formed the electoral college in the Catanzaro district were Francesco Benincasa (Cerenzia) and Tommaso Giannuzzi Savelli (Casino & Cerenzia) owners of over 2,000 and 2500 sheep respectively. The various reforms of the french government had no consistent results given the state of war in the Kingdom, especially in Calabria where the rebellion was particularly active.  In one of these circumstances Crotone was left undefended by the French in 1807.  It was invaded by hordes of bloody brigands under the leadership of Antonio Santoro, called "Re Corenne" from Bocchigliero, who committed unheard of atrocities and bloody acts.  Not satisfied at Crotone, they began to attack neighboring villages.  Belevedere Spinello was attacked by Santoro's hordes while he himself attempted to sack Santa Severina.   Lt. Colonel Giulianetti theoretically defended the castle with the help of the civil guards.  Others, probably from Spinello, shut themselves in the campanile of the church.

The brigands found a way to enter the church and massacred them all by decapitating them and throwing their heads through the streets. They took Father Ignazzo prisoner and condemned him to death. While being held captive in a cell, he used a silver crucifix as a sword to defend himself and escaped. The times were devasting--a member of the Civil Guard in Spinello betrayed and killed his commander in an attempt to abet the brigands.  He and three other local brigands were hung in Cosenza on May 2, 1808.

In February of 1808, the commander of the French forces in Calabria abandoned his command as a result of a feud with the king, Giuseppe Bonaparte. He was replaced by General Partenaux. The commander of the Province was replaced by General Peyri on June 2, 1808 by a Calabrese, Luigi Amato of Amantea, signalling a new alliance between the French and the Calabrese people.  Then on June 28, 1808 the King Giuseppe Bonaparte was made King of Spain by his brother Napoleon.  On July 31, 1808 he appointeed his brother-in-law, Gioacchino Murat, as King of Naples.  This new King, desiring to restore peace, declared peace and amnesty for all those who fought the French in favor of the Bourbon King Ferdinand IV.  The brigands were all but destroyed in Calabria but in neighboring Lucania they were still very active. The brigand leader Scarola, organized an outlaw band of 2,000 heavily armed men, a virtual army, and invaded Calabria.  Blocked by the French troops, the Albanian legions at Terranova and Acri and the local Calabrese Guards, they suffered great losses.  Scarola hid in the Sila mountains and harassed and menaced the nearby villages and towns.  He killed Captain Tornicchia of Spinello together with 7 of is guards.  He inflicted untold misery to the surrounding villages.  The villages and towns were caught between the occupation army of the French and the brigands.  General Duret de Tavel was sent to capture Scarola.  Arriving in San Giovanni in Fiore, he was not happy with the ease in which Scarola was able to exit and enter town, undisturbed, to obtain provisions.

To punish the town's seeming indifference, the commandant left a contingent of troops in San Giovanni in Fiore, These troops were very unhappy to be there in the winter as San Giovanni was considered the Siberia of Calabria.  Scarola sought refuge in Cerchiara.  He was finally captured by shepherds for the 1000 ducat reward on his head.  Murat, concerned with the brigand problem in Calabria, wanted to put an end to it once and for all.  In November of 1809, he sent the infamous General Manhés to Calabria as a pleni-potentate to combat the remaining brigands.

Arriving in Cosenza, he employed the same system by which he had rid the Abruzzi region of brigands.  Simply, aiding and abetting a brigand either directly or indirectly was punishable by death.  No one was permitted to remove provisions of any kind from villages and towns.  Shepherds must only graze their flocks in French guarded areas and must secure the sheep each night in guarded stalls.   All men under the age of seventy were conscripted in the service of the French.   In the midst of this, malaria was raging and in 1807, 800 French troops in Cosenza died from the disease.  Duret de Tavel, in his "Sojour d'un officer en Calabre"  wrote of the customs of the people, as well as the French occupation: "Even during the struggle with the brigands and other events, I was enchanted by the beauty of the villages and countryside.  It is seemingly a Paradise on Earth..." He concludes however. "...but Calabria sits atop hell's fire with frequent and infernal earthquakes vomiting the vilest of demons on its soil."

Submitted and translated by Dr. Tom Lucente