[ id=14921 w=320 h=240 float=left] Several years ago, we discovered that three Ustica boys had died in an 1866 naval battle in the Adriatic Sea that was related to the final unification of Italy. Venice had for years been closely aligned with the Austro-Hungarian empire, and felt that a realignment with the new Italy would be detrimental to its commercial well-being. The Venetians maintained a strong naval tradition in support of the Austro-Hungarians. When the new Italy decided to challenge the Austrian Empire to a naval battle in the Adriatic Sea, the Austrian ships were manned primarily by Venetians!
The Battle of Lissa, an island on the Dalmation coast of present day Croatia, resulted from the desire of Italy to complete its unification to include Veneto. Italy sided with Prussia to challenge Austria for the region of Venice. In a land battle at Costuzo, the Prussian/Italian forces were defeated by Austria. Next, the Italians tried a naval engagement at Lissa, but were soundly defeated, losing 643 dead and 40 wounded vs. Austria’s 38 dead and 138 wounded. Despite these losses to the Austrians, the Austrians were finally forced to surrender to the Prussians and to cede Veneto to the Italian Republic.
Immediately following Garibaldi’s successes in uniting Italy, Italy began to conscript men into its newly formed Army. The story of the bark Elizabetta, spiriting away about 28 Usticesi boys to America, arriving in New Orleans just ahead of the closure of that port by the Union forces during the Civil War, resulted in the first Usticesi settlers in that area, leading to emigration between then and the early 1900s of hundreds of Usticesi families to the New Orleans area. That conscription, undoubtedly led to the “drafting” of other Ustica boys into the new Republic’s Army and Navy. And some of those first conscripts were unfortunate enough to be present at the Battle of Lissa.
Included were Antonino Caravella, eldest son of Pasquale and Maria Zanca, who was born on Ustica on May 3, 1831 and who died at age 35. He was the helmsman on the ironclad Italian frigate, Re d’Italia. He was known to his shipmates as “Zu Nino” or Uncle Nino due to his more advanced age. As with many in his family, he had been a “contadino” (farmer) on Ustica.
Litterio Lauricella was the second born of 13 children of Giovanni and Maria Rosa Majorana. He died at the age of 24, a third class sailor on the ironclad Palestro. My grandfather was only 6 when his older brother died at Lissa. My grandfather also was conscripted into the Italian Navy at Palermo. Years later he stated that it was his desire to bring his boys to America to avoid having them conscripted into the Italian military. As it happened though, my uncle Giacomo served in France in 1917-18, a photographer on the staff of General “Blackjack” Pershing.
Salvatore Randazzo was the only surviving son of Domenico and Caterina Mancuso. He died that day at age 40, a second class stoker on the ironclad Palestro.
The “Monument to the Fallen” in the Piazza Umberto Primo on Ustica honors the dead of many Italian conflicts through the years, but makes no mention of the three Usticesi “heroes” of the Battle of Lissa.
We would like to change that. As a gesture of good will from all Americans of Ustica descent, we would like to propose that, together, we purchase a plaque, to be placed on the Monument to the Fallen on Ustica specifically remembering the three boys who fell in the Battle of Lissa.
If you agree that this is a cause worthy of your individual support, please send your check for $5, $10 or any amount you deem appropriate, payable to Chris Caravella and mail to him at 59 Allard Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70119-3739 or to Fred Laurice, at 7789 Palmyra Drive, Fair Oaks, CA 95628-3442. You may also pay online using the CSBA PayPal (https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=MZ9BMKDARH2JN) . Funds collected will immediately be presented to the Mayor and the Community of Ustica through the Centro Studi e Documentazioni, Isola di Ustica, for the purpose of purchasing and affixing an appropriate plaque for the Monument to the Fallen. Names of all contributors (but not the amount) will be communicated. We estimate the cost at about $300.
Our sincere thanks for your consideration of support for this endeavor. Time is of the essence, since we hope that the presentation of our gift will be made at the upcoming “Memorial Day Service”, on November 4, 2012 on Ustica.
FRED AND CHRIS
Fred Laurice, Coordinator, Western Usticesi
Chris Caravella, President, CSBA