The Great War
From Baselga di Pine` to the United States
Trentino and the Great War
The First World War had vast impact on the Trentini people as a whole, as well as individual families. At the war's beginning, the Trentino territory had endured a century of domination and control by the Austrian Empire, but was also experiencing a surgence of Irredentism, fueled by Italy's quest to regain the territory. These competing loyalties exacerbated the Trentini response to war and pitted brother against brother in the call to war.
On July 31, 1914, the vast majority of Trentini men heeded the order of the Austrian Emporer Franz Josef, which ordered the enlistment of 60,000 Trentini men into the Austrian Army, for mobilization to the Russian front. They were organized into 4 regiments, the Tiroler Kaiserjäger - T.K.J. - (Tirolesi Hunters of the Emperor), the Tiroler Landesschützen (provincial Bersaglieres), the Tiroler Standschützen (territorial Bersaglieres), and in smaller numbers to units of the common army and the Landerwehr. On August 7, 1914, the soldiers of the Tiroler Kaiserjäger regiment left from the Dante public square in the city of Trento, for Galizia-Bucovina-Serbia destination. They were greeted by political, military, and religious authorities. Upon departure, the soldiers were given a bottle of wine, labeled “health and auguries”, as well as bread, beer, salami and cheese.
At the same time, approximately 700 Trentini fled south, fueled by their quest for Italian reunification, and enlisted into the Italian army. The personification of this movement was Cesare Battisti, among others. Battisti was ultimately captured by the Austrians forces and hung at the Castle of the Buonconsiglio on July 12, 1916.
On May 26, 1915, the Italian Republic ended its neutrality and entered the war on the side of the English. Their entry was secured, in part, by the Pact of London, in which the Italians were promised the former areas of Trento and the contiguous territory to the Brennero Pass; the cities of Gorizia, Trieste and Gradisca d' Isonzo; Istria and Dalmatia.
With the opening of the Italian front in the Trentino territory, evacuation of more than 100,000 civilians were ordered to the north and south of the territory. Others were persecuted and interned, based on their perceived or resistant activities. Approximately 1,700 were exiled to the field of Katzenau, where they suffered for 3 years in poverty and away from family and home.
As Trentini natives, our ancestors likely faced the same dilemmas and trials as those described above. At this time, the only known participant is Giovanbattista Mattivi. He was ordered to report to the Austrian Army and was subsequently killed on the Russian front, in 1916. Whether he served out of will or fear is unknown. A family anecdote, told by James "Bud" Mattivi, provides that one cause of Ben's immigration to the United States was to avoid the possibility of fighting against his brothers.