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Giuseppe Garibaldi

Giuseppe Garibaldi (July 4, 1807June 2, 1882) was an Italian nationalist and Italy's most famous soldier of the Risorgimento. He was called the "Hero of the Two Worlds," in tribute to his military adventures in South America and Europe.

He was born in the coastal city of Nice, and reared to a life on the sea. The city was then part of Savoy, in the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.


Early activity

Influenced by Giuseppe Mazzini, an impassioned proponent of Italian nationalism, he joined the Carbonari revolutionary association. He participated in a failed republican uprising in Piedmont in 1834. Sentenced to death, he escaped to South America, where he took part in the War of the Farrapos, in addition to commanding Uruguay's navy in a war with Argentina.

Garibaldi returned to Italy in the tumult of the revolutions of 1848, and offered his services to Charles Albert of Sardinia. The monarch displayed some liberal inclinations, but treated Garibaldi with coolness and distrust. Meanwhile, a Roman Republic had been proclaimed in the Papal States, but an Austrian and French force threatened to topple it. At Mazzini's urging, Garibaldi came to the republic's defense. After many desperate conflicts and adventures with the Austrians, he was again driven into exile, and in 1850 became a resident of New York. For some time he worked in a manufactory of candles on Staten Island, and afterwards made several voyages on the Pacific.

Garibaldi returned to Italy in 1854. In 1859, the Austro-Sardinian War broke out through the machinations of the Sardinian government. Garibaldi was appointed major general, and formed a volunteer unit dubbed the Hunters of the Alps. With his volunteers, he won victories over the Austrians at Varese, Como, and other places.

Campaign of 1860

At the beginning of April 1860, uprisings in Messina and Palermo in the absolutist Kingdom of the Two Sicilies provided Garibaldi with an opportunity. He gathered about a thousand volunteers (called i Mille ) in two ships, and landed at Marsala, on the westernmost point of Sicily, on the 11th.

Swelling the ranks of his army with scattered bands of local rebels, Garibaldi defeated an opposing army at Catalafimi on the 13th. The next day, he declared himself dictator of Sicily in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. He advanced then to Palermo, the capital of the island, and launched an attack. He had the support of many of the inhabitants, who rose up against the garrison, but before the city could be taken, reinforcements arrived and bombarded the city nearly to ruins. At this time, a British admiral intervened and facilitated an armistice, by which the Neapolitan royal troops and warships departed and surrendered the city.

Garibaldi had won a signal victory. He gained worldwide renown and the adulation of Italians. Faith in his prowess was so strong that doubt, confusion, and dismay seized even the Neapolitan court. Six weeks later, he marched against Messina in the east of the island. By the conclusion of July, only the citadel resisted him.

Having finished the conquest of Sicily, he crossed the Straits of Messina, under the nose of the Neapolitan fleet, and marched northward. Garibaldi's progress was met with more celebration than resistance, and on September 7th he entered the capital city of Naples. However, he had never defeated the king, Francis II. Most of the army remained loyal, and had gathered north of the river Volturno. Though by then his volunteers numbered some 25,000, Garibaldi could not oppose it.

A major battle was fought on the Volturno on the 1st and 2nd of October, but the bulk of the fighting was left to the Sardinian army under the command of Victor Emmanuel.

That summer he fought his way to Naples, where a major battle took place on the Volturno River. After turning over Sicily and Naples to Victor Emmanuel, he retired to his home on the island of Caprera, where he formulated plans to capture the Papal States. His first expedition to bring this about was in 1862, and resulted in his being wounded. He mounted another expedition on Rome in 1867, only to be halted by French troops. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, he led a force of volunteers in support of the new French republic.


Garibaldi's popularity, his skill at rousing the masses, and his military exploits are all credited with making the unification of Italy possible.

He died on Caprera, where he was interred. The aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi was named in his honor.


The following text is modified from the relevant chapter (ch. 13) of "Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years", by Charles Morris, LL.D; public domain text published 1902 by W.E. Scull. It should be edited and merged with the above article

Garibaldi's invasion of Sicily

Garibaldi yields his conquests

The object of the king in assuming the chief command was to complete the conquest of the kingdom of Naples, in conjunction with Garibaldi. For though Garibaldi had entered the capital in triumph, the progress on the line of the Volturno had been slow; and the expectation that the Neapolitan army would go over to the invaders in a mass had not been realized. The great majority of the troops remained faithful to the flag, so that Garibaldi, although his irregular bands amounted to no more than 25,000 men, could not hope to drive away King Francis, or to take the fortresses of Capua and Gaeta, without the help of Sardinia. Against the diplomatic statesman Cavour, who fostered no illusions, and saw the conditions of affairs in its true light, the simple, honest Garibaldi cherished a deep aversion. He could never forgive Cavour for having given up Nice, Garibaldi's native town, to the French. On the other hand, he felt attracted toward the king, who in his opinion seemed to be the man raised up by Providence for the liberation of Italy. Accordingly, when Victor Emmanuel entered Sessa , at the head of his army, Garibaldi was easily induced to place his dictatorial power in the hands of the king, to whom he left the completion of the work of the union of Italy. After greeting Victor Emmanuel with the title of King of Italy, and giving the required resignation of his power, with the words, “Sire, I obey,” he entered Naples, riding beside the king; and then, after recommending his companions in arms to his majesty's special favor, he retired to his home on the island of Caprera, refusing to receive a reward, in any shape or form, for his services to the state and its head.

Capture of Gaeta

The progress of the Sardinian army compelled Francis to give up the line of the Volturno, and he eventually took refuge, with his best troops, in the fortress of Gaeta. On the maintenance of this fortress hung the fate of the kingdom of Naples. Its defense is the only bright point in the career of the feeble Francis, whose courage was aroused by the heroic resolution of his young wife, the Bavarian Princess Mary. For three months the defense continued. But no European power came to the aid of the king, disease appeared with scarcity of food and of munitions of war, and the garrison was at length forced to capitulate.

Victor Emmanuel made King of Italy

The fall of Gaeta was practically the completion of the great work of the unification of Italy. Only Rome and Venice remained to be added to the United Kingdom. On February 18, 1861, Victor Emmanuel assembled at Turin the deputies of all the states that acknowledged his supremacy, and in their presence assumed the title of King of Italy, which he was the first to bear. In four months afterwards Count Cavour, to whom this great work was largely due, died. He had lived long enough to see the purpose of his life practically accomplished.

Great as had been the change, which two years had made, the patriots of Italy were not satisfied. “Free from the Alps to the Adriatic!” was their cry; “Rome and Venice!” became the watchword of the revolutionists. Mazzini, who had sought to found a republic, was far from content, and the agitation went on. Garibaldi was drawn into it, and made bitter complaint of the treatment his followers had received. In 1862, disheartened at the inaction of the king, he determined to undertake against Rome an expedition like that which he had led against Naples two years before.

Garibaldi's expedition against Rome

In June he sailed from Genoa and landed at Palermo, where an enthusiastic party of volunteers quickly joined him. They supposed that the government secretly favored their design, but the king had no idea of fighting against the French troops in Rome and arousing international complications, and he energetically warned all Italians against taking part in revolutionary enterprises.

Sent back to Caprera

But Garibaldi persisted in his design. When his way was barred by the garrison of Messina he turned aside to Catania, where he embarked with 2,000 volunteers, declaring he would enter Rome as a victor, or perish beneath its walls. He landed at Melito on the 24th of August, and threw himself at once, with his followers, into the Calabrian mountains . But his enterprise was quickly and disastrously ended. General Cialdini dispatched a division of the regular army, under Colonel Pallavicino, against the volunteer bands. At Aspromonte , on the 28th of August, the two forces came into collision. Several volleys followed a chance shot from the regulars. Garibaldi forbade his men to return the fire of their fellow subjects of the Italian kingdom. He was wounded, and taken prisoner with his followers, a few of whom had been slain in the short combat. A government steamer carried the wounded chief to Varignano , where he was held in a sort of honorable imprisonment, and was compelled to undergo a tedious and painful operation for the healing of his wound. He had at least the consolation that all Europe looked with sympathy and interest upon the unfortunate hero; and a general sense of relief was felt when, restored to health, he was set free, and allowed to return to his rocky island of Caprera.

Florence the capital of Italy

Victor Emmanuel was seeking to accomplish his end by safer means. The French garrison of Rome was the obstacle in his way, and this was finally removed through a treaty with Louis Napoleon in September 1864, the emperor agreeing to withdraw his troops during the succeeding two years, in which the pope was to raise an army large enough to defend his dominions. Florence was to replace Turin as the capital of Italy. This arrangement created such disturbances in Turin that the king was forced to leave that city hastily for his new capital. In December 1866, the last of the French troops departed from Rome, in despite of the efforts of the pope to retain them. By their withdrawal Italy was freed from the presence of foreign soldiers for the first time probably in a thousand years.

The War of 1866

In 1866 came an event, which reacted favorably for Italy, though her part in it was the reverse of triumphant. This was the Austro-Prussian War. Italy was in alliance with Prussia, and Victor Emmanuel hastened to lead an army across the Mincio to the invasion of Veneto, the last Austrian province in Italy. Garibaldi at the same time was to invade the Tyrol with his volunteers. The enterprise ended in disaster. The Austrian troops, under the Archduke Albert, encountered the Italians at Custoza and gained a brilliant victory, despite the much greater numbers of the Italians.

Fortunately for Italy, the Austrians had been unsuccessful in the north, and the emperor, with the hope of gaining the alliance of France and breaking the compact between Italy and Prussia, decided to cede Veneto to Louis Napoleon. His purpose failed. All Napoleon did in response was to act as a peacemaker, while the Italian king refused to recede from his alliance. Though the Austrians were retreating from a country, which no longer belonged to them, the invasion of Venetia by the Italians continued, and several conflicts with the Austrian army took place.

The Italian fleet was defeated in the battle of Lissa, in the Adriatic sea.

Only Garibaldi's Hunters of the Alps kept up the Italian military honour, defeating an Austrian army next to Varese and conquering Trentino.

Veneto ceded to Italy

But Italy, though defeated by land and sea, gained a valuable prize from the war, for Napoleon ceded Veneto to the Italian king, and soon afterwards Victor Emmanuel entered Venice in triumph, the solemn act of homage being performed in the superb Place of St. Marks. Thus was completed the second act in the unification of Italy.

The national party, with Garibaldi at its head, still aimed at the possession of Rome, as the historic capital of the peninsula. In 1867 he made a second attempt to capture Rome, but the papal army, strengthened with a new French auxiliary force, defeated his badly armed volunteers, and he was taken prisoner and held captive for a time, after which he was sent back to Caprera. This led to the French army of occupation being returned to Civita Vecchia, where it was kept for several years.

Rome becomes the Capital of Italy

The final act came as a consequence of the Franco-German war of 1870, which rendered necessary the withdrawal of the French troops from Italy. The pope was requested to make a peaceful abdication. As he refused this, the States of the Church were occupied up to the walls of the capital, and a three hours' cannonade of the city sufficed to bring the long strife to an end. Rome became the capital of Italy, and the whole peninsula, for the first time since the fall of the ancient Roman Empire, was concentrated into a single nation, under one king.

Other information

It is said that the Garibaldi biscuit is so called because it is named after Garibaldi, who gave it to his men.

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