Europe 1859: Battle of Magenta
In April 1859 Sardinia deliberately provoked an Austrian invasion, giving the French under Napoleon III an excuse to rush to her aid. The French armies used railways to swiftly cross Italy, with the combined Franco-Sardinian forces smashing the Austrians at Magenta a month later.
26 Apr 1859 Second Italian War of Independence▲
In March 1859 the Kingdom of Sardinia began massing its troops on the Austrian border, provoking Austria into issuing an ultimatum on 23 April demanding complete Sardinian demobilization. When the ultimatum expired three days later without a satisfactory Sardinian response, the Austrian government order Marshal Gyulay, commander of the 2nd Army in Lombardy-Venetia, to advance into Piedmont.
27–28 Apr 1859 Tuscan Revolution▲
On 27 April 1859, as war was breaking out between the Kingdom of Sardinia and Austria, a large crowd, secretly backed by the Sardinian government, gathered in Florence to demand that Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany declare war on Austria and take up the Italian tricolor. Unable to appease the crowd, the grand duke fled for the Papal States and a provisional government was installed in his place. The next day the new government offered the dictatorship over Tuscany to King Victor Emanuel II of Sardinia, but the king, fearing the response of Napoleon III to this move, turned down the offer and instead sent an extraordinary commissioner to Florence to function as the Tuscan head of state.
3 May 1859 France declares war on Austria▲
On 3 May 1859, eight days after the first French troops had begun arriving in Piedmont by land and sea, the French Empire activated its alliance with the Kingdom of Sardinia by formally declaring war on Austria. Already concerned by the influx of French troops into the kingdom, the Austrians withdrew east to avoid being cut off on the 10th. That same day Napoleon III left Paris for Genoa, and then on to Alessandria, where he would take command of the combined Franco-Sardinian forces in Italy.
4 Jun 1859 Battle of Magenta▲
In early June 1859 Napoleon III led a Franco-Sardinian force consisting of 58,000 French and 1,100 Sardinian troops across the Ticino River into the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, a crown land of the Austrian Empire, where he encountered a similar-sized Austrian force under Ferenc Gyulay near Magenta. After a struggle made difficult by the numerous orchards, streams, canals, and houses that dominated the country, the allies outflanked the Austrians and forced them into retreat. The color magenta—discovered as a dye in France at this time—was named after this battle.