November 6, 2016

Craco and the Briganti

Carmine Crocco
Reprinted from the November 2016 Craco Society Bulletin
Thomas Frascella, Esq., and president of the San Felese Society of New Jersey has been writing an illuminating history of Basilicata. In his research he has come across several mentions of Craco during the briganti era after the Italian Unification.
He recently shared an excerpt from the autobiography of Carmine Crocco (the bandit known as Donatello or Donatelli). Crocco (1830 Rionero in Vulture-1905 Portoferraio), always a controversial figure, has begun to appear in a new light by historians who are involved in a “Revisionism of the Risorgimento.” 
His book, Come divenni brigante (How I became a brigand) provided a short mention of actions around Craco but gives us some added details that may help explain the background to the massacre of 16 men that took place there on Nov. 24, 1861 by government forces. 
The section in the book (pg. 69) about Craco is as follows: 
Somewhere around the 6th of November give or take. Leaving Salandra we headed for Craco where we met half way a procession of women and children led by a priest with his cross. They came to ask for clemency for their country (village) and this clemency was given to them…., From Craco after having crossed the river Agri we arrived in Aliano.” 
Thomas Frascella interprets this incident as a factor in the government’s action later in the month. He feels. “... the fact that the town was spared by the insurgents put it on the Piedmont list for action.” 
Frascella’s writings about the period from October 1861, when Carmine Cracco joined forces with General Jose Borjes to try to foment an uprising in Basilicata and restore the Bourbon king, provide added insight about the succeeding events which are also mentioned in the town of Craco’s history, Note Storiche sul Comune di Craco. 
Although Carmine Crocco and General Borjes had spared Craco in the beginning of November, it appears that a splinter group of brigands returned to the town on November 14th and found support amongst some of the townspeople. 
Prof. D’Angella in Note Storiche presents this account of that incident (pg. 75 English version): 
“The brigands found in Craco many supporters of the Bourbons, including brothers Gaetano and Giovanni Arleo, Antonio Miadonna (husband of Rosa Grossi), the Santalucia family, the Rev. Giuseppe Colabella and others.” 
This set the stage for the reprisal and execution of the 16 men by the government forces on November 24th that is well documented in the book. 
Following that, we know from the “Briganti List” that was preserved by Archimedes Rigirone in the papers of the Archivio Privato Rigirone there was an additional naming of individuals from Craco as outlaws. 
Tom Frascella suggests in his writings, which can be found on the San Felese Society of New Jersey website, that the actions of the government during this period and subsequent decisions in the next decades was an underlying cause of the great migration of Southern Italians to America at the turn of the 20th century. So, the importance of this little known period by Italian-Americans takes on a new light and helps explain some of the factionalism between northern and southern regions.