Third Italian War of Independence

Third Italian War of Independence
Part of Austro-Prussian War, Wars of Italian Unification
Austrian Uhlans charge Italian Bersaglieri during the Battle of Custoza. Painting by Juliusz Kossak
Date20 June 1866 – 12 August 1866
ResultItalian victory
Austria ceded Venetia to France, which in turn gave it to Italy
Kingdom of Italy Kingdom of Italy
Commanders and leaders
Liechtenstein Johann II

Mincio Army

  • 11 infantry divisions
  • 1 cavalry division

Total: 120,000 men

Po Army

  • 5 infantry divisions

Total: 80,000 men

Garibaldi's forces

  • Volunteer battalions

Total: 20,000 men

Total: 220,000 men

South Army

  • V, VII, IX Corps
  • 2 cavalry brigades

Liechtenstein Army

Total: 80 men

Total: 130,000 men
Casualties and losses


  • 1,633 battle deaths
  • 3,926 wounded
  • 553 missing
  • 5,085 captured


  • 1,392 battle deaths
  • 4,471 wounded
  • 691 missing
  • 3,173 captured

The Third Italian War of Independence (Italian: Terza Guerra d'Indipendenza Italiana) was a war between the Kingdom of Italy and the Austrian Empire fought between June and August 1866. The conflict paralleled the Austro-Prussian War and, like that war, ended in an Austrian defeat, with Austria conceding the region of Venetia to Italy. Italy's acquisition of this wealthy and populous territory represented a major step in the process of Italian unification.


Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy had been crowned King of Italy on 17 March 1861 but did not control Venetia or the much reduced Papal States. The situation of the Irredente (a later Italian term for part of the country under foreign domination, literally meaning un-redeemed) was an unceasing source of tension in the domestic politics of the newly created Kingdom, as well as being a cornerstone of its foreign policy.

The first attempt to seize Rome was orchestrated by Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1862. Confident in the King's neutrality, he set sail from Genoa to Palermo. Collecting 1,200 volunteers, he sailed from Catania and landed at Melito, in Calabria, on 24 August to reach Mount Aspromonte, with the intention to travel northwards up the peninsula to Rome. The Piedmontese General Enrico Cialdini, however, sent a division under Colonel Pallavicino to stop the volunteer army. Garibaldi himself was wounded in the ensuing battle, and taken prisoner along with his men.[4]

The increasing discord between Austria and Prussia over the German Question turned into open war in 1866, offering Italy an occasion to capture Venetia. On 8 April 1866 the Italian government signed a military alliance with Prussia,[5] through the mediation of Emperor Napoleon III of France. Italian armies, led by General Alfonso Ferrero La Marmora, were to engage the Austrians on the southern front. Simultaneously, taking advantage of their perceived naval superiority, the Italians planned to threaten the Dalmatian coast and seize Trieste.[6]

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