Jules de Meyer, Pontifical Officer 1852-70

de MEYER

Commander Jules Meyer
Episode of the Garibaldi campaign against the Holy See in 1867.
Excerpts  from the "Revue de la Suisse Catholique 1884."

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On  September 15, 1864, Napoleon III and King Victor Emmanuel II  signed an agreement in which Italy would agree "to not attack the actual territory of the Holy Father and would prevent even by force all attacks coming from outside of the said territory."

Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famous Italian patriot did not by himself fill the Pantheon of the Italian Freemasonry.  Below Garibaldi there were "demigods" and in this group were the two brothers Cairoli from Pavia.   In 1884, to the memory of the Cairoli brothers, a monument was erected in the "Garden of the Pincio", a  public promenade in Rome.

Captain Jules de Meyer, officer at the service of the Holy See, wrote the following report:

EXCERPTS FROM THE REPORT:

When "Red Shirts," (Garibaldi partisans) were spotted on the on the "Monti Parioli," General Zappi sent 42 men from the battalion, led by Captain Jules Meyer.

On the 23 rd.  of October, 1867, at 4pm - I found myself at the Capitol visiting the post, when a messenger gave me an order from General Zappi, written in pencil, for me and a few available men from my company to go to the "Gate of the People," given that an armed band had been seen around Acqua Acetosa.  Instantly, we were on foot.  We arrived to the designated gate where I found a police brigadier with 4 men on horseback.  They were assigned to lead me towards the enemy company. After a half of a league walking on the Ponte Molle road, we headed to the right. The path lead us through several farmhouses, gardens, hedges, and walls until we faced the "Monti Parioli."  On top of one of the hills there was a country home surrounded by trees. Although night was almost upon us, I could see several armed men who appeared to be on guard.

A farmer nearby told me that this group had occupied this position on top of the hill since daybreak.  I only had 42 men with me, of which two thirds were Swiss and one third German.  My plan..... consisted of taking over in one decisive moment the house nearest  to the one occupied by the Garibaldi band.  Supposing that they would prevent me from doing so,  I wanted to hold my ground and wait for reinforcement.  I sent two policemen to Rome to inform General Zappi that I found myself in the presence of adversaries in somewhat large numbers, however I had the advantage of being in a good ground position and that I would nonetheless attack.

At this point I ordered the offensive. We reached 300 feet from the position without having fired a shot.   The entry of the house was closed with an iron gate.   When we began to force the gate, the Garibaldi forces opened fire, however  we did not suffer any casualties.   When we broke through the gate, my men hastily entered the courtyard.  I lined up my men in firing positions with order to march in a semi circle.

Finally when we were separated from the enemy position by some 150 feet, I ordered that the men mounted their bayonets on the rifles and we marched forward, at the sound of the charge.  We were received by a broad discharge of gunfire from the Garibaldi forces which had us in their gun sights.  Without giving the enemy time to reload, I ran with my men leaping over a hedge which was between us.  A portion of our adversaries who were a little bit far at the left, and protected by a large pile of hay, fired upon us before retreating.

After this first success.... the enemy became invisible.  We  ran just about 300 feet, when to our left the clamor of "Eviva Garibaldi" was heard.   The situation became critical. I yelled to my sergeant-major, who was following with a small reserve of men, to flank my left which was threaten.   I placed myself at the head of my men and gave them few words of encouragement.   The enemy had approached us within 15 feet.  When I fired twice from my revolver, I was hit three times from a revolver in the left arm.  At the same time part of the Garibaldi party, was yelling savagely, and crossed a hollow trail to attacked us.  I tried to fire upon them the last remaining four shots from my revolver, but it misfired.  My arm, weakened by the loss of blood, did not allow me to pull the trigger.  I let my side arm fall to grab the rifle of a wounded bugler, laying at my feet.  One of the attackers, a tall robust man lunged at me, armed with a rifle.  The men on my left, still forming a chain at a distance of three feet between them, each was engaged in a fight with an adversary and could not help each other.

The adversary who I was fighting was none other than the leader of the group, Henri (Enrico) Cairoli.  He thrust violent bayonet blows at me that my wounded arm was only partially able to parry.  Within a short period of time, I received two stabs to the right shoulder, one on my thigh, another on my left side and a fifth in the region of the stomach.  As I was repelling the sixth thrust, my hand without strength released the rifle.  I grabbed the bayonet of my enemy, which fortunately remained in my hand.  As he brandished his weapon at my head I threw myself on him and squeezed him between my two arms.  I was on the brink of losing consciousness, when my sergeant-major Hofstetter, appeared with a few men in reserve.  Given the predicament that I found myself in, it was a matter of an instant for him to fire upon Cairoli.  He released his hold on me to face his new adversary.  I stumbled and felt my knees weakening, but I saw my aggressor fall unconscious.

At that moment a cold rain fell and it was for me a real benefit, as it brought me a little soothing.   I got up as well as I could on my legs and walked a few steps.   At that instant I was again attacked by two Garibaldi sympathizers, with one of them strangling my neck with two hands.  We both rolled on the ground and I was about to be again strangled by this new aggressor, who held me below him, when my helpful sergeant-major made him release the hold by way of a rifle butt whack on the head.  When this was occurring, the "red shirts" scattered everywhere.  My soldiers lifted me from the ground and it was impossible for me to walk, if it were not for the help of two men who led me, or better said dragged me.  While a good number of our enemies were laying without moving, we counted on our side, without including me, three wounded, comprising our two buglers, one of whom died from his wounds.

After a half hour had passed, we all headed towards Rome.  A seven o'clock we were at the "Gate of the People," where I was stretched on a hay cart, in order to be transported back to my quarters.  For the next several weeks I remained suspended between life and death.

During the morning of October 24, 1867, a detachment of soldiers had combed the Monti Parioli.   In addition to the body of Henri Cairoli and a certain Montovani, seven Garibaldi partisans seriously wounded were taken and in this number was Jean Cairoli, brother of the former.   On a subsequent day, one of my brave soldier brought me a revolver, on which was engraved the initials "E.C." (Enrico Cairoli).  He  picked it up on the battle ground and had the kind thought of giving it to me as a souvenir of a bloody day.

THE CAIROLI BROTHER'S  "MISSION":

It was generally pondered what was the intention of the Garibaldi elites to advance to the proximity of the Eternal City?   Certain clues provided answers to the enigma.  This group led by the Brothers Cairoli, strong of seventy to eighty men, was composed of members of secret societies, which had as mission to incite an insurrection in the streets of Rome.  They had sworn as they entered the Pontifical States to rather perish under the ruins of the Capital, instead of not completing their task.

After having descended the Tibre river on a boat, they had reached the shores around the Monti Pairoli and hid in on the banks waiting for the small Pontifical steamer which sailed each night.  They wanted to commandeer the steamer which was headed for Rome.   Had they landed at the port of Ripetta, they would have distributed to co-conspirators and Garibladi loyalists.

Roman conspirators armament and munitions, which would have then been given to the heads of the insurrectional movements.   But it is precisely because of these uncertain  circumstances that the Pontifical steamer had received the order to stop its daily service.  The evening and the night had passed without an opportunity to board the steamer, and the hungry group had reached the hill, whereby they were seen by a police patrol.  Later, this led to the encounter with Jules Meyer and his men.

Cairoli monument

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