27 September 1846|
|Died||1 March 1896
Battle of Coatit
Giuseppe Galliano (Vicoforte, 27 September 1846 – Adwa, 1 March 1896) was an officer of the Italian army. A Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Italian Army, regarded for his skill and mastery of the military science, he became famous in the First Italo-Ethiopian War, fighting against the dervishes at Agordat in 1893 and in the Battle of Coatit, against Ras Mengesha Yohannes, in 1895, as well as defending the fort of Mek'ele. He perished in the Battle of Adwa.
The son of an officer who, in 1821, had joined Santorre di Santarosa in the constitutional motions in Piedmont, Giuseppe Galliano entered the Military College in Asti on 24 October 1854. In 1864 he entered the Military School, which he left two years after as second lieutenant in the arm of Infantry, and was assigned to the 24th Regiment Como with which he participated to the war against Austria in 1866. In 1870 he was promoted to the rank of Luogotenente (Lieutenant) and in 1873 he was moved to the new Alpini body; on 19 July 1883 he became a captain, and was sent to the 58th Infantry regiment Abruzzi. In 1884 he passed to the 8nd[clarification needed] Infantry Regiment in Turin; on 6 November 1887 he left for Eritrea under the command of General Asinari di San Marzano, in order to revenge the massacre at Dogali. Since the Abyssinians “disappeared like fog in the sunlight” the expedition corps was repatriated. On 10 March 1888 Captain Galliano returned to his Regiment and stayed in Turin two years; in 1890, he obtained to be sent again to Eritrea.
The Campaign of Africa
Battle of Agordat
In the battle of Agordat (1893) Captain Giuseppe Galliano commanded a Battalion of Aboriginal Eritreans, as well as a battery of mountain artillery served from Sudanese soldiers. At first the battle was favorable to Galliano's troops but later the Dervishes, excited by their military and religious heads, tried to close in on them. Galliano could not check their offensive and had to order the retreat. Later, he ordered a violent bayonet counterattack, leading it himself on horse. Shortly the Dervishes fled in disarray. The booty of guns, ammunitions and standards is now in the Museum of Artillery of Turin. Between the flags is the famous green banner, that was one painful and disheartening loss to Dervishes.
When King Umberto I assigned him the Gold Medal of Military Valor, Captain Galliano wrote to his brother: “a single thing disturbs my joy for such honour: it is too different from the one given to my officers, who have earned it for me, to whom the Ministry was not as generous as to me”. Galliano was distinguished for his skill in instructing the aborigines and constituting them in solid and homogenous units. His personal value and command abilities were evidenced above all in the numerous fights in which he battled together with his faithful askaris.
Battle of Coatit
In January 1895 began the battle of Coatit between Italian troops and those from Ras Mangascià, governor of Tigray, who was defeated and was forced to shelter itself near Senafe, where Italian troops reached him forcing him to flee. Giuseppe Galliano, promoted to major after Agordat, had a great part in this operation. The action earned him a Silver Medal of Military Valor. For this action he received also the Cross of Knight of the Order of the Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro for motu proprio of the Monarch.
Defense of the fort of Mek'ele
In autumn 1895 all of Tigray was occupied; the Governor of Eritrea, General Oreste Baratieri returned to Massaua. A few weeks later, Negus Menelik II denounced the undue Italian occupation of Tigray, a territory that the Treaty of Wuchale assigned to Ethiopia. Menelik II collected huge supplies of provisions, cattle, arms and ammunitions and gathered a big army in order to march against the Italian column. In December the Abyssinian army could boast 100,000 men, while the Italian forces had been divided into two contingents: 5000 men were stationed in Adigrat and 5000 in Mek'ele, under General Giuseppe Arimondi.
Arimondi intended to support Major Pietro Toselli, isolated with its company on the plateau of Amba Alagi in an advanced position. However Governor Baratieri telegraphed that the garrison in Mek'ele had to be maintained and prohibited general Arimondi from moving. On 7 December approximately 2000 soldiers, commanded by Major Toselli, died heroically.
Arimondi, that had advanced as far as Aderà, (20 km from Amba Alagi), could only collect the few survivors and go back to Adigrat, leaving Giuseppe Galliano with 1.300 men in the fort of Enda Yesus near Mek'ele. The army of the Negus began the siege of the fort. Galliano resisted for two months to the continuous attacks of 100,000 Abyssinian armed men. The small garrison of approximately 1500 men endured serious losses, mainly for diseases, but did not surrender. The peace negotiations reached the peak on 17 January 1896, when Menelik II offered to stop hostilities and let the Italians in Mek'ele go free, asking in compensation that the Treaty of Wuchale be cancelled. The Italian government, though demanding the liberation of the besieged ones of Mek'ele, remained firm in asking that the Treaty be renewed. The siege finally came to an end when Menelik agreed to free the Italian army and negotiate. This was good news for Galliano because his army was facing defeat and was short of water supplies. Galliano with all his men joined the Italian forces near the Eritrean border. For the heroic defense of the fort of Enda Yesus (then called in his honor “Fort Galliano”) Galliano received another Silver Medal of Military Valor and was moved up to lieutenant colonel in January 1896.
The Battle of Adwa
In the last days of February, the Italian army had supplies only for a few days. It was necessary to retreat, or to advance to Adwa in order to reach the warehouses of Adi Ugri and Asmara. Baratieri was more favorable to the retreat but the others generals inclined for the attack. In the night between 29 February and 1 March, Baratieri decided at last to face the enemy with his 15,000 men against 120,000 of Menelik II. He was led to a risky manoeuvre, and to engage battle, by a telegram of Francesco Crispi (head of the government) sent on 25 February: “This one is a military tuberculosis, not a war”. In the night of 29 February the army moved in three columns: Colonel Galliano took part to the center one, 2500 soldiers guided by General Giuseppe Arimondi. On the Rajo Mount, Galliano tried to cover the left wing of the brigade of Arimondi by blocking the Abyssinians. In this courageous effort he and all his Askaris fell.
A second Gold Medal of Military Valor was conferred posthumous to Galliano. Galliano, the first alpine decorated with the gold medal, was also the first officer who received two Gold Medals of Military Valor, thus breaking off the tradition not to award it twice to the same person.
Knight of the Order of the Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro “" motu proprio (Latin: On his own impulse)" of Monarch” - 1896
Military Valor silver medal “For the combats of Coatit” - 1893
Medal of gold to the valor “Decisive victory over the Dervishes” - Agordat (Eritrean), December 1893
Silver medal to the valor “For the heroic defense of the fort of Enda Jesus (Mek'ele)” - 1896
Medal of gold to the valor “Engaged with his battalion on the Rajo Mount, in the more critical moment of the fight, he fought with valor. [...] he,although wounded, persisted in the resistance with the few soldiers near him, urging the others to end with honour, until he was killed. Adua, (Ethiopia), 1 March 1896
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Galliano is also the namesake of Galliano, a herbed liqueur.