Tags: Military, Radicalism, Italy, place: Belluno
Political activist Charles DeRufio was born Carlo di Rudio in Belluno near Venice on 26 August 1832 into an aristocratic family. The area was under Austrian occupation at the time of his birth. DeRudio’s grandfather had been an ardent Bonapartist and the family was hostile to the Austrians. As a teenager DeRudio attended a military academy in Milan, but ran off to fight for Italian unification. He joined Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Red Shirts in the fighting against the French, Austrians, and papal troops. Charles was nicknamed Morett (The Little Moor) for his dark complexion.
The patriots were defeated and DeRudio fled to London where he worked in Wapping docks. In December 1855 he married Elizabeth Booth, a distant relative of the founder of the Salvation Army. Having remained loyal to the cause, he was recruited by Felice Orsini in a plot to assassinate Napoleon III of France who had broken his promise of support to the Italian nationalists. Three bomb attacks took place on 14 January 1858. Eight people were killed, over a hundred were wounded, but Napoleon III and his wife - on their way to the opera - escaped injury. The bombs had been constructed and tested by a Sheffield gunsmith (increasing Anglo-French political tensions).
Orsini and DeRudio were arrested. The former was guillotined, but DeRudio was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. He managed to escape and reach British Guyana, where he was given political asylum. He made his way back to England, arriving in London in February 1860. With help from Mazzini and British sympathisers to the Italian cause, he took his family to New York where he arrived in February 1864. There he enlisted as a private in the 79th Highlanders New York Volunteers Regiment and made a remarkable career in the army. He died in Los Angeles in November 1910.