Cesare Ricotti-Magnani - Encyclopedia


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CESARE RICOTTI-MAGNANI (1822-), Italian general and knight of the Annunziata, was born at Borgo Lavezzaro on the 30th of June 1822. As artillery lieutenant he distinguished himself and was wounded at the siege of Peschiera in 1848, and in 1852 gained further distinction by his efforts to prevent the explosion of a burning powder magazine. After serving from 1856 to 1859 as director of the Artillery School, he became general of division in 1864, commanding the 5th division at the battle of San Martino. In the war of 1866 he stormed Borgoforte, to open a passage for Cialdini's army. Upon the death of General Govone in 1872 he was appointed minister of war, and after the occupation of Rome bent all his efforts to army reform, in accordance with the lessons of the Franco-German War. He shortened the period of military service; extended conscription to all able-bodied men; created a permanent army, a mobile militia and a reserve; commenced the renewal of armaments; and placed Italy in a position to put 1,800,000 men on a war footing. Ricotti fell from power with the Right in 1876, but returned to office with Depretis in 5884, and amended his previous scheme of reform. Resigning in April 1887, he became a member of the senate in 1890, but took little part in public life until 1896, when, after the battle of Adowa, he was entrusted by King Humbert with the formation of a cabinet. Having constructed his ministry, he made over the premiership to the marquis di Rudini, retaining for himself the portfolio of war, and seeking to satisfy popular demands for the reduction of military expenditure by consolidating the tactical structure of the army without weakening its fighting power. Rudini, however, finding that Ricotti's ideas, which he himself shared, were not acceptable at court, obliged him to resign office. His prestige as creator of the modern Italian army remained unimpaired, and his views on army consolidation enjoyed a large measure of technical and public favour.

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