Dans le Sillage de l’Honneur: Historiographical Specifications on the Trentine Memories of Bartolomeo Bortolini
By Roberto A. Scattolin, Italy
Far lesser known to history scholars is instead the brief – but expressively circumstanced – literary exposé provided by the talented writer named Francesco Ambrosi, whose work was edited in the town of Trento in the year 1894. From this cultural reference is extrapolated the following passage, which can present further interesting elucidations on Bortolini’s controversial dies natalis – i.e. date of birth. A passage from this text includes:
There is plenty of evidence that Ambrosi took the cited bibliographical traits from a handwritten annotation enclosed in the volume entitled Il veterano d’ Oriente (one copy is kept by the Biblioteca comunale di Trento), which was carefully composed by Francesco Faes, a priest, and a descendant from the Bortolini family branch – generatio vel linea. Don Faes was quite explicit and he was most benevolent in stating that the correct form of the cognome was Bortolini; consequentially, the writing and transcription of Bertolini was an erratum, a lapsus calami. It is in these notes that is rectified the forma cognominale (i.e. surname) in Bortolini, and that there appeared the indications about his parents: his father, named Giovanni Bortolini, and the mother, Antonia Covi; and the date of his birth, on Sepetember 16, 1782.
These precious specifications provided thanks to the conservative methodology of Don Faes, a nephew of Bortolini, find due confirmation in the documents preserved in the archivio storico (i.e. historical archive) of the Comune di Trento; and most exactly in one particular archive file [fondo archivistico del Commissario di polizia bavarese in Trento]. In this file, one item, dated May 26, 1808, reports that Bertolini had left Trento to enlist in the French army; a further point also confirmed his relationship with the pistore (i.e. baker) Francesco Faes:
Another note written that same day to the governing establishment of the town of Trento reported:
From the protocol registers of the urban district of Trento, in
1833, show at last that the Capitanato circolare di Trento asked
for information about Bartolomeo Bertolini, fencing master at Florence,
but the concerning file does not exist any more. It
seems fairly evident, and it is not destitute of its value, the fact
that the information related to Bertolini can be found in the fondo
del Capitanato circolare di Trento [preserved by the archivio
di Stato di
The Incidence of Glory
The mortal remains of Bartolini rest in the
Military Synopsis The abrégé of Bertolini’s military services reverberates with accounts of his bravery and consummate devotion. His multi-faceted personality and behavior (an ardent belief in the expansion politics of the Empire) was marked by many hard fought campaigns, and moulded by the bread of daily sufferences and enduring service in arms. The historical data are taken from Berlam. 1791: Bertolini enrolled as a volunteer in the French Revolutionary army; after having left Trento, his native town, he entered in the Government guides in Paris; 1792: this military corps was disbanded, and they were to form the Chevaliers d’ Arpajones; 1793: under a new military cohesion and organizational status, they became the 19e Régiment de Dragons; Bertolini took an active participation during these military changings; 1791-1793: the regiment was employed in the executive functions of ordre public, and Bertolini received three wounds; 1794-1795: the regiment is assigned to the armée d’Anjou (and he was wounded one more time); 1796: with the armée du Rhein (one wound); 1797-1798: the regiment took part in the repression of the Vendee uprisings, and Bertolini distinguished himself "par des preuves de courage et de bravoure militaires"; 1798, May: He enrolled for the Egyptian expedition; 1799, wounded, he came back to France, and entered in the armée des Grisons serving under the authority of the commandant en chef Etienne-Jacques-Joseph-Alexandre Macdonald; 1800: stationed in the military lodgings at La Rochelle; 1801: enrolled as a volunteer for the Santo Domingo expedition, he stayed there up to the year 1803; in the trip back to France, he took part in a pitched naval battle against the British vessels, and sustained four wounds; 1805: in the armée du Rhein, he distinguished himself at the battle of Austerlitz (2 December); 1806: in the campaign against Prussia, he lead a twenty-four man combat force which succeeded in capturing a Prussian artillery battery; 1807: took leave from the 19e Dragons, and entered in the mounted artillery company of the Royal Italian Guard; 1809: at the battle of Wagram with the army of the Italian Kingdom; 1810-1811: serving in Catalonia with cavalry units; 1812: in the Russian campaign; forty-six years old, he served with the Italian Royal Guard, and fought at Borodino; he was taken a prisoner, but made his escape after three weeks (and with three wounds) reached the IV Army Corps; the intrepid veteran was received by Napoleon, who wanted to hear about the circumstances of his escape; 1815, June: Bertolini fought at the battle of Waterloo, in Claude-Pierre Pajol’s cavalry division.
Bibliography and Further Reading
1. Italian works:
Bertolini, Bartolomeo, Il Veterano D’ Oriente, Trieste 1839.
Bertolini, Bartolomeo, La Caduta Di San Giovanni D’ Acri. Racconto Storico Di Bartolomeo Bertolini Di Trento, Cavaliere Della Legion D’onore, Fu Capitano Di Cavalleria. Trieste, Tipografia Weiss 1843.
Bertolini, Bartolomeo, da Trento, La Mia Prigionia In Russia, Milano, Alberti Editore 1864.
Bertolini, Bartolomeo, Il Valore Vinto Dagli Elementi: storia narrazione della campagna di Russia degli anni 1812-1813 e successivi fatti d’ arme fino alla battaglia di Waterloo. Milano, Tipografia di G. Alberti e C., 1869.
2. Italian works:
Ambrosi, Francesco, Scrittori Ed Artisti Trentini, Trento 1894.
Ambrosi, Francesco, Scrittori Ed Artisti Trentini, Forni, Bologna, 1972.
Archivio Veneto, Deputazione di storia patria per le Venezie, 1927, A spese della R. Deputazione.
Berlam, Arduino, Il veterano napoleonico cav. Bartolomeo Bertolini scrittore di memorie e maestro di scherma, pp. 269-277, in: Archeografo Triestino, 1913 - III SERIE - VOL. VII, articolo N. 640.
Bertolini, Bartolomeo, di Trento, Trattato Di Sciabola Di Bartolomeo Bertolini, cavaliere della Legion d’Onore dedicato a S.E. il conte Ettore Lucchesi-Palli-Pigatelli d’Aragona, dei principi di Campo Franco, e Duchi della Grazia, Trieste, 1842.
Bertolini, Bartolomeo, di Trento, Trattato Di Contropunta, Trieste, 1844.
Bertolini, Bartolomeo, Teorie Sulla Sciabola, Ferrara, 1856.
Fabietti, Ettore, Un atesino alla campagna di Russia (dalle memorie di un veterano dell’ armata d’ Italia: 1812-1813, in Atesia Augusta, Bolzano, aprile 1940.
Poliaghi, Nora Franca, Un Italiano Con Napoleone E Stendhal: Bartolomeo BertolinI (1776-1871), Trieste, Bolaffio Ed. 1976.
Poliaghi, Nora Franca, Stendhal E Trieste, L. S. Olschki 1984.
Zieger, A., Emmert, B., Bartolomeo Bertolini, il sedicente Veterano d’ Oriente, estratto dagli Studi Trentini a. VII, Trento, Scotoni, 1927.
2. French works: Stendhal Club, Académie française, Centre national des lettres - Stendal Club, 1995.
 Arduino Berlam, 1913.
 Nora Franca Poliaghi, 1976.It is most obviously a incomprensione calligrafica (i.e. a handwriting misundertstanding); the first vowel in the surname Bortolini, the "- o", because of the ink-writing, was considered to be instead an "- e". The induced visual transposition remained through the passing of the time.
The same date was then reported by Ambrosi, as well as the military rolls after the year 1802.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2007
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