But the situation deteriorated in a few days: a street demonstration, got
out of his control, resulting in a bloody revolution planned for the
Sunday 5 August, the "Holyday" for the Madonna della Catena (of
From the moment, however, that the persons indicated for
revenge were slipping away on the quiet, the rebels (but not Lombardo)
decided to besiege the town and, to the sound of the "funeral"
bells, to anticipate the slaughter (the "scanna") at August 2.
Among the roadblock instituted to avoid the running away of the "hats"
and the fires set to the theatre, the municipal archive, the "The
gentlemen's club" (46 were the
houses set to fire), the rebels, as a herd of ravenous wolves, desirous
of blood and robberies, were coming out of every alley, they were sacking,
they were firing, killing.
In a sequence of ferocious scenes were mercilessly slaughtered many well
to do people and a rebel hit by mistake by a stray bullet.
Sixteen persons were cruelly massacred:
among others were killed, the notary Cannata and his son Antonino, the Council cashier Francesco Aidala, the municipal guard Carmelo Luca, a employee of the land register Vincenzo Lo Turco, Rosario Leotta accountant of the
Duchy and the bailiff Giuseppe
Behind these killings there was hatred never soothed, vexations never
forgotten, extreme poverty, but also wish for freedom and generous
anxieties risen up again in front of what was appearing the splendid and
quick Garibaldi action, with his promises to give immediate satisfaction
to the rural claims.
The hopes of the farmers, all poor laborers, had been suddenly re-lighted,
they wanted to re-appropriate of the state properties and of the immense
land property usurped twice by the Hospital In Palermo (1494) and by the
admiral Nelson (1799).
And the gigantic case undertaken by the brontese community against the
usurpers for three centuries (had lasted since
1554 and it had not been yet concluded ), could finally have an end.
The anger, for long repressed, of the farmers exploded in forms of
atrocious violence also for the infiltration of the many elements escaped
from jail in all of Sicily and the contemporary arrival, from surrounding
country towns, of other individuals not very reliable.
«Had got back to Bronte, from the jails, some criminals, known for
killings and robberies. The rumbling in Bronte attracted also, as vultures
to the smell of carrion, other lawless elements from Adernò, Biancavilla,
Pedara, Alcara Li Fusi». (Benedetto
Radice, Nino Bixio a Bronte).
On August 4 a company of the National
Guard reached Bronte from Catania to restore the order, but the riots
On August 5, on Sunday, a company of
soldiers arrived in Bronte and the crowd started to calm down.
Garibaldi, camped in the river bed of S. Filippo, in the near south periphery of Messina, more to protect the interest of the
English property owners, (these were the pressing requests of the English
consul John Goodwin) that for reasons of public order, decides to send his
reliable lieutenant Nino Bixio, camped at Giardini, to go immediately to
Bronte and put down the rebellion.
Rather than the primary rights of the brontese people, he chose the
improper ones of the English citizens.
Strangely enough, the rebellion, intended to support the Garibaldian
revolution, was stifled by the same Garibaldian chiefs.
The British had helped Garibaldi: to
the ships of the English fleet, moored in the harbor in Marsala, had been
ordered to support the Garibaldian landing, which took place quietly and
without any opposition.
They could not accept in silence the occupation of the Dukedom by the
populace therefore required a vigorous intervention of the Garibaldian
On the other hand, the new Italian government, from which was expected the
annulment of the gift of 1799, renewed it in his
turn and assumed also the burden to pay the canon due to the
Hospital In Palermo for property that the Bourbon had assigned in 1799 to
Bixio reached Bronte on August 6 with two battalions
of bersaglieri, when the rising had exhausted his violent charge and the
true authors of the misdeeds had already disappeared in the near countryside
("...the rebels obviously have run away",
so Bixio himself wrote to the major Dezza in a letter of August
He lodged in the Capizzi College and stayed there only three days.
Ordered immediately the state of siege and intimated that all arms would
have to be handed over within three hours and a war tax of ten onzes per
hour was quickly imposed.
To set an example of severity, as deterrent to other similar situations
developing in other towns, he implemented a
retaliation without precedents against defenceless farmers,
and improvised avenger, turned his fury on the
first fellows who fell in the net.
He made intervene the «commissione mista di guerra»
(mixed war committee), to hold a quick and hasty trial against those who
were considered the chiefs of the riot.
The matter was liquidated within few days:
with extremely grave trial and juridical procedures, the cause was
concluded, the evening of August 9, in
just four hours.
At 12.00 to the defendants (some of them almost illiterate) was given an
hour of time to present in writing their defence.
Rather than an hour, four of accused presented their paper at 14.30 and this was sufficient for the court to reject everything because the defense
had been presented at expired time.
The attempts and the disputes of the principal defendant
(the lawyer Nicolo' Lombardo) were useless and unsuccessful.
He tried with
all his strengths to convince the judges of the weakness and falseness of
the charges gathered against him.
The war committee issued the sentence on Thursday
August 9 at 8 p.m.: five people,
among which the Avv. Nicola Lombardo (old patriot of liberal education,
who had spontaneously presented himself), culprits according to Bixio's
judgment and that of the improvised and frightened Committee, were
sentenced to death by firing squad.
The lawyer Lombardo Nicolò (truly
and the common men Nunzio
Spitaleri Nunno, Nunzio Samperi Spiridione, Nunzio Longhitano Longi and
Nunzio Ciraldo Fraiunco, the town's idiot, totally infirm of
mind, pointed to as the provokers of the sacks and the killings, victims
of reasons to them incomprehensible, at the dawn
of August 10th, 1860,
were shot in presence of all the population in the little
square before the church of San Vito.
"One of the sentenced, not hit by the shooting discharge, keeping
in his hand the image of the Virgin, was shouting": - Grace! Grace! -
It was the madman.
The officer approached him and gave him" the grace
blow. (Benedetto Radice)
On August 10th, 1860, together with five unlucky ones, was also dying the
warlike spirit of the brontese folks, betrayed by the one in whom they had
believed: the "liberator" Garibaldi, behind whom many volunteers
from Bronte had gone "to do" the revolution.
The action imposed by Bixio to the judges of the mixed war committee was
a choice coldly calculated.
He was certainly sacrificing justice but fully answering to
politic necessities and the hard laws of the war.
The shootings gave wide satisfaction to the British nation whose secular
interests on the Dukedom had been seriously threatened by the