(July 4, 1807 - June 2, 1882) was an Italian military and political figure.
In his twenties, he joined the Carbonari Italian patriot revolutionaries, and
fled Italy after a failed insurrection. Garibaldi took part in the War of the
Farrapos and the Uruguayan Civil War leading the Italian Legion, and
afterward returned to Italy as a commander in the conflicts of the
Risorgimento. He has been dubbed the "Hero of the Two Worlds" in
tribute to his military expeditions in both South America and Europe. He is
considered an Italian national hero.
Giuseppe Garibaldi was born on July 4, 1807 in Nice (Italian: Nizza), which
at the time was the capital of the French department of Alpes-Maritimes,
before it was returned to the House of Savoy, the rulers of the Kingdom of
Sardinia, in 1814 following Napoleon's defeat. In 1860, however, the Savoys
returned the city to France (an action Garibaldi opposed), to get French aid
in Italy's unification wars. Garibaldi's family's involvement in coastal
trade drew him to a life at sea. He participated actively in the community of
the Nizzardo Italians and was certified in 1832 as a merchant marine captain.
An influential day in Garibaldi's life came in April 1833, in Taganrog,
Russia where he moored for ten days with the schooner Clorinda and a shipment
of oranges. In a seaport inn, he met Giovanni Battista Cuneo from Oneglia, a
political immigrant from Italy and member of the secret movement La Giovine
Italia ("Young Italy"), founded by Giuseppe Mazzini, an impassioned
proponent of Italian unification as a liberal republic through political and
social reforms. Garibaldi joined the society, and took an oath dedicating his
life to the struggle to liberate his homeland from Austrian dominance.
In Geneva in November 1833, Garibaldi met Giuseppe Mazzini, starting a
relationship that later became troublesome. He joined the Carbonari
revolutionary association, and in February 1834 participated in a failed
Mazzinian insurrection in Piedmont. A Genoese court sentenced him to death in
absentia, and he fled to Marseilles.
South American adventures
Garibaldi first sailed to Tunisia, before eventually finding his way to
Brazil. There he took up the cause of independence of the Republic of Rio
Grande do Sul (the former Brazilian province of São Pedro do Rio Grande do
Sul), joining the gaucho rebels known as the farrapos (tatters) against the
newly independent Brazilian nation (see War of Tatters). During this war he
met a woman, Ana Ribeiro da Silva (best known as "Anita"), when the
Tatters Army tried to proclaim another republic in the Brazilian province of
Santa Catarina. In October 1839, Anita joined Garibaldi on his ship, the Rio
Pardo. A month later, she fought at her lover's side at the battles of
Imbituba and Laguna.
In 1841, the couple moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, where Garibaldi worked as a
trader and schoolmaster, and married there the following year. They had four
children, Menotti (born 1840), Rosita (born 1843), Teresita (born 1845), and
Ricciotti (born 1847). A skilled horsewoman, Anita is said to have taught
Giuseppe about the gaucho culture of southern Brazil and Uruguay. Around this
time, he adopted his trademark clothing, the red shirt, cloak (poncho), and
sombrero (hat) used by the gauchos.
In 1842, Garibaldi took command of the Uruguayan fleet and raised an
"Italian Legion" for the Uruguayan Civil War. He aligned with the
liberal coalition of Uruguayan Colorados of Fructuoso Rivera and Argentine
Unitarios (with substantive support of France and United Kingdom) against the
conservative forces of former Uruguayan president Manuel Oribe's Blancos and
Argentine Federales under the rule of Buenos Aires caudillo Juan Manuel de
Rosas. The Legion adopted a black flag that represented Italy in mourning,
with a volcano at the center that symbolized the dormant power in their
homeland. Though there is no contemporary mention of them, popular history
asserts that it was in Uruguay that the legion first wore the red shirts,
said to have been obtained from a factory in Montevideo that had intended to
export them to the slaughterhouses of Argentina. It became the symbol of
Garibaldi and his followers. Between 1842 and 1848, Garibaldi defended
Montevideo against forces led by Oribe. In 1845, he managed to occupy Colonia
del Sacramento and Isla Martín García, and led the controversial sack of
Gualeguaychú. Adopting skillful guerrilla tactics, he achieved two celebrated
victories in the battles of Cerro and San Antonio del Santo in 1846.
The fate of his homeland, however, continued to concern Garibaldi. The
election of Pope Pius IX in 1846 caused a sensation among Italian patriots,
both at home and in exile. When news of the Pope's initial reforms (which
seemed to identify him as the liberal pope prophesied by Vincenzo Gioberti,
who later led the unification of Italy) reached Montevideo, Garibaldi wrote
the following letter:
If these hands, used to fighting, would be acceptable to His Holiness, we
most thankfully dedicate them to the service of him who deserves so well of
the Church and of the fatherland. Joyful indeed shall we and our companions
in whose name we speak be, if we may be allowed to shed our blood in defence
of Pius IX's work of redemption
- (October 12, 1847)
Also Mazzini, from his exile, applauded the first reforms of Pius IX. In
1847, Garibaldi offered the apostolic nuncio at Rio de Janeiro, Bedini, the
service of his Italian Legion for the liberation of the peninsula. News of
the outbreak of revolution in Palermo in January 1848 and revolutionary
agitation elsewhere in Italy encouraged Garibaldi to lead some 60 members of
his legion home.
Return to Italy and second exile
Garibaldi returned to Italy amongst the turmoil 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.
Rebuffed by the Piedmontese, he and his followers crossed into Lombardy where
they offered assistance to the provisional government of Milan, which had
rebelled against the Austrian occupation. In the course of the following,
unsuccessful First Italian War of Independence, he led his legion to two
minor victories at Luino and Morazzone.
After the crushing Piedmontese defeat at Novara (March 23, 1849), Garibaldi
moved to Rome to support the Republic recently proclaimed in the Papal
States, but a French force sent by Louis Napoleon (the future Napoleon III)
threatened to topple it. At Mazzini's urging, Garibaldi took command of the
defence of Rome. In fighting near Velletri, Achille Cantoni saved his life.
After Cantoni's death, during the Battle of Mentana, Garibaldi wrote the
novel Cantoni il volontario.
On April 30, 1849 the Republican army, under Garibaldi's command, defeated a
numerically far superior French army. Subsequently, French reinforcements
arrived, and the siege of Rome began on June 1. Despite the resistance of the
Republican army, the French prevailed on June 29. On June 30 the Roman
Assembly met and debated three options: surrender, continue fighting in the streets,
or retreat from Rome to continue resistance from the Apennine mountains.
Garibaldi made a speech favoring the third option and then said: Dovunque
saremo, colà sarà Roma. (Wherever we may be, there will be Rome).
A truce was negotiated on July 1, and on July 2 Garibaldi withdrew from Rome
with 4,000 troops. The French Army entered Rome on July 3 and reestablished
the Holy See's temporal power. Garibaldi and his forces, hunted by Austrian,
French, Spanish, and Neapolitan troops, fled to the north with the intention
to reach Venice, where the Venetians were still resisting the Austrian siege.
After an epic march, Garibaldi took momentary refuge in San Marino, with only
250 men still following him. Anita, who was carrying their fifth child, died
near Comacchio during the retreat.
America and the Pacific
Garibaldi eventually managed to reach Portovenere, near La Spezia, but the
Piedmontese government forced him to emigrate again.
He went to Tangier, where he stayed with Francesco Carpanetto, a wealthy
Italian merchant. Carpanetto suggested that he and some of his associates
would finance the purchase of a merchant ship, which Garibaldi would command.
Garibaldi agreed, feeling that his political goals were for the moment
unreachable, and he could at least earn his own living.
The ship was to be purchased in the United States, so Garibaldi went to New
York, arriving on 30 July 1850. There he stayed with various Italian friends,
including some exiled revolutionaries. However, funds for the purchase of a ship
The inventor Antonio Meucci employed Garibaldi in his candle factory on
Staten Island. The cottage on Staten Island where he stayed is listed on the
U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is preserved as the Garibaldi
Garibaldi was not satisfied with this. In April 1851 he left New York with
his friend Carpanetto for Central America, where Carpanetto was establishing
business operations. They went first to Nicaragua, and then to other parts of
the region. Garibaldi accompanied Carpanetto as a companion, not a business
partner, and used the name "Giuseppe Pane."
Carponetto went on to Lima, Peru, where a ship-load of his goods was due,
arriving late in 1851 with Garibaldi. En route, Garibaldi called on Andean
revolutionary heroine Manuela Sáenz.
At Lima, Garibaldi was generally welcomed. A local Italian merchant, Pietro
Denegri, gave him command of his ship Carmen for a trading voyage across the
Pacific. Garibaldi took the Carmen to the Chincha Islands for a load of guano.
Then on 10 January 1852, he sailed from Peru for Canton, China, arriving in
After side trips to Amoy and Manila, Garibaldi brought the Carmen back to
Peru via the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, passing clear around the
south coast of Australia. He visited Three Hummocks Island in Bass Strait.
Garibaldi then took the Carmen on a second voyage: to the United States via
Cape Horn with copper from Chile, and also wool. Garibaldi arrived in Boston,
and went on to New York. There he received a hostile letter from Denegri, and
resigned his command.
Another Italian, Captain Figari, had just come to the U.S. to buy a ship. He
hired Garibaldi to take his ship to Europe. Figari and Garibaldi bought the
Commonwealth in Baltimore, and Garibaldi left New York for the last time in
November 1853. He sailed the Commonwealth to London and then to Newcastle on
the River Tyne for coal.
Commonwealth arrived on March 21, 1854. Garibaldi, already a popular figure
on Tyneside, was welcomed enthusiastically by local workingmen, although the
Newcastle Courant reported that he refused an invitation to dine with
dignitaries in the city. He stayed in Tyneside for over a month, departing at
the end of April 1854. During his stay, he was presented with an inscribed
sword, which his grandson later carried as a volunteer in British service in
the Boer War. He then sailed to Genoa, where his five years of exile ended on
10 May 1854.
Second Italian War of Independence
Garibaldi returned again to Italy in 1854. Using a legacy from the death of
his brother, he bought half of the Italian island of Caprera (north of
Sardinia), devoting himself to agriculture. In 1859, the Second Italian War
of Independence (also known as the Austro-Sardinian War) broke out in the midst
of internal plots at the Sardinian government. Garibaldi was appointed major
general, and formed a volunteer unit named the Hunters of the Alps
(Cacciatori delle Alpi). Thenceforth, Garibaldi abandoned Mazzini's
republican ideal of the liberation of Italy, assuming that only the
Piedmontese monarchy could effectively achieve it.
With his volunteers, he won victories over the Austrians at Varese, Como, and
Garibaldi was however very displeased as his home city of Nice (Nizza in
Italian) was surrendered to the French, in return for crucial military
assistance. In April 1860, as deputy for Nice in the Piedmontese parliament
at Turin, he vehemently attacked Cavour for ceding Nice and the County of
Nice (Nizzardo) to Louis Napoleon, Emperor of the French. In the following
years Garibaldi (with other passionate Nizzardo Italians) promoted the
Irredentism of his Nizza, even with riots (in 1872).
Campaign of 1860
On January 24, 1860, Garibaldi married an 18-year-old Lombard noblewoman,
Giuseppina Raimondi. Immediately after the wedding ceremony, however, she
informed him that she was pregnant with another man's child and Garibaldi
left her the same day.
At the beginning of April 1860, uprisings in Messina and Palermo in the
independent and peaceful Kingdom of the Two Sicilies provided Garibaldi with
an opportunity. He gathered about a thousand volunteers (practically all
northern Italians, and called i Mille (the Thousand), or, as popularly known,
the Redshirts) in two ships named Piemonte and Lombardo, left from Genoa on
May 5 in the evening and landed at Marsala, on the westernmost point of
Sicily, on May 11.
Swelling the ranks of his army with scattered bands of local rebels,
Garibaldi led 800 volunteers to victory over an enemy force of 1500 on the
hill of Calatafimi on May 15. He used the counter-intuitive tactic of an
uphill bayonet charge. He saw that the hill the enemy had taken position on
was terraced, and the terraces would give shelter to his advancing men.
Though small by comparison with the coming clashes at Palermo, Milazzo and
Volturno, this battle was decisive in terms of establishing Garibaldi's power
in the island. An apocryphal but realistic story had him say to his
lieutenant Nino Bixio, Qui si fa l'Italia o si muore, that is, Here we either
make Italy, or we die. In reality, the Neapolitan forces were ill guided, and
most of its higher officers had been bought out. The next day, he declared
himself dictator of Sicily in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. He
advanced to Palermo, the capital of the island, and launched a siege on May
27. He had the support of many inhabitants, who rose up against the garrison,
but before they could take the city , 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
surrendered the city and departed.
Garibaldi had won a single 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, winning a ferocious and
difficult battle at Milazzo. By the end of July, only the citadel resisted.
Having conquered Sicily, he crossed the Strait of Messina with help from the
British Royal Navy, and marched north. Garibaldi's progress was met with more
celebration than resistance, and on September 7 he entered the capital city
of Naples, by train. Despite taking Naples, however, he had not to this point
defeated the Neapolitan army. Garibaldi's volunteer army of 24,000 was not
able to defeat conclusively the reorganized Neapolitan army (about 25,000
men) on September 30 at the Battle of Volturno. This was the largest battle
he ever fought, but its outcome was effectively decided by the arrival of the
Piedmontese Army. Following this, Garibaldi's plans to march on to Rome were
jeopardized by the Piedmontese, technically his ally but unwilling to risk
war with France, whose army protected the Pope. (The Piedmontese themselves
had conquered most of the Pope's territories in their march south to meet
Garibaldi, but they had deliberately avoided Rome, his capital.) Garibaldi
chose to hand over all his territorial gains in the south to the Piedmontese
and withdrew to Caprera and temporary retirement. Some modern historians
consider the handover of his gains to the Piedmontese as a political defeat,
but he seemed willing to see Italian unity brought about under the
Piedmontese crown. The meeting at Teano between Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel
II is the most important event in modern Italian history, but is so shrouded
in controversy that even the exact site where it took place is in doubt.
Garibaldi deeply disliked the Sardinian Prime Minister, Camillo Benso, conte
di Cavour. To an extent, he simply mistrusted Cavour's pragmatism and
realpolitik, but he also bore a personal grudge for trading away his home
city of Nice to the French the previous year. On the other hand, he felt
attracted toward the Piedmontese monarch, who in his opinion had been chosen
by Providence for the liberation of Italy. In his famous meeting with Victor
Emmanuel II at Teano on October 26, 1860, Garibaldi greeted him as King of Italy
and shook his hand. Garibaldi rode into Naples at the king's side on November
7, then retired to the rocky island of Caprera, refusing to accept any reward
for his services.
On October 5 Garibaldi set up the International Legion bringing together different
national divisions of French, Poles, Swiss, German and other nationalities,
with a view not just of finishing the liberation of Italy, but also of their
homelands. With the motto "Free from the Alps to the Adriatic," the
unification movement set its gaze on Rome and Venice. Mazzini was
discontented with the perpetuation of monarchial government, and continued to
agitate for a republic. Garibaldi, frustrated at inaction by the king, and
bristling over perceived snubs, organized a new venture. This time, he
intended to take on the Papal States.
At the outbreak of the American Civil War (in 1861), Garibaldi volunteered
his services to President Abraham Lincoln. Garibaldi was offered a Major
General's commission in the U. S. Army through the letter from Secretary of
State William H. Seward to H. S. Sanford, the U. S. Minister at Brussels,
July 17, 1861. On September 18, 1861, Sanford sent the following reply to
He (Garibaldi) said that the only way in which he could render service, as he
ardently desired to do, to the cause of the United States, was as
Commander-in-chief of its forces, that he would only go as such, and with the
additional contingent power - to be governed by events - of declaring the
abolition of slavery; that he would be of little use without the first, and
without the second it would appear like a civil war in which the world at
large could have little interest or sympathy.
According to Italian historian Petacco, "Garibaldi was ready to accept
Lincoln's 1862 offer but on one condition: that the war's objective be
declared as the abolition of slavery. But at that stage Lincoln was unwilling
to make such a statement lest he worsen an agricultural crisis." On
August 6, 1863, after the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued, Garibaldi
wrote to Lincoln: "Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more
enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane
Expedition against Rome
A challenge against the Pope's temporal domain was viewed with great distrust
by Catholics around the world, and the French emperor Napoleon III had
guaranteed the independence of Rome from Italy by stationing a French
garrison in Rome. Victor Emmanuel was wary of the international repercussions
of attacking the Papal States, and discouraged his subjects from
participating in revolutionary ventures with such intentions. Nonetheless,
Garibaldi believed he had the secret support of his government.
In June 1862, he sailed from Genoa and landed at Palermo, seeking to gather
volunteers for the impending campaign under the slogan Roma o Morte (Rome or
Death). An enthusiastic party quickly joined him, and he turned for Messina,
hoping to cross to the mainland there. When he arrived, he had a force of
some two thousand, but the garrison proved loyal to the king's instructions
and barred his passage. They turned south and set sail from Catania, where
Garibaldi declared that he would enter Rome as a victor or perish beneath its
walls. He landed at Melito on August 14, and marched at once into the
Far from supporting this endeavor, the Italian government was quite
disapproving. General Enrico Cialdini dispatched a division of the regular
army, under Colonel Pallavicino, against the volunteer bands. On August 28
the two forces met in the rugged Aspromonte. One of the regulars fired a
chance shot, and several volleys followed, killing a few of the volunteers.
The fighting ended quickly, as Garibaldi forbade his men to return fire on
fellow subjects of the Kingdom of Italy. Many of the volunteers were taken
prisoner, including Garibaldi, who had been wounded by a shot in the foot.
This episode gave birth to a famous Italian nursery rhyme, still known by
boys and girls all over the country: Garibaldi fu ferito ("Garibaldi was
A government steamer took him to Varignano, a prison near La Spezia, 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. His venture had
failed, but he was at least consoled by Europe's sympathy and continued
interest. After being restored to health, he was released and allowed to
return to Caprera.
In 1864 he visited London, where his presence was received with enthusiasm by
the population. He met the British prime minister Viscount Palmerston, as
well as other revolutionaries then living in exile in the city. At that time,
his ambitious international project included the liberation of a range of
occupied nations, such as Croatia, Greece, Hungary, but none of them turned
Final struggle with Austria, and other adventures
Garibaldi took up arms again in 1866, this time with the full support of the
Italian government. The Austro-Prussian War had broken out, and Italy had
allied with Prussia against Austria-Hungary in the hope of taking Venetia
from Austrian rule (Third Italian War of Independence). Garibaldi gathered
again his Hunters of the Alps, now some 40,000 strong, and led them into the
Trentino. He defeated the Austrians at Bezzecca (thus securing the only
Italian victory in that war) and made for Trento.
The Italian regular forces were defeated at Lissa on the sea, and made little
progress on land after the disaster of Custoza. An armistice was signed, by
which Austria ceded Venetia to Italy, but this result was largely due to
Prussia's successes on the northern front. Garibaldi's advance through
Trentino was for nought and he was ordered to stop his advance to Trento.
Garibaldi answered with a short telegram from the main square of Bezzecca
with the famous motto: Obbedisco! ("I obey!").
After the war, Garibaldi led a political party that agitated for the capture
of Rome, the peninsula's ancient capital. In 1867, he again marched on the
city, but the Papal army, supported by a French auxiliary force, proved a
match for his badly armed volunteers. He was shot and wounded in the leg in
the Battle of Mentana, and had to withdraw out of the Papal territory. The
Italian government again imprisoned and held him for some time, after which
he again returned to Caprera.
In the same year, Garibaldi sought international support for altogether
eliminating the papacy. At an 1867 congress in Geneva he proposed: "The
papacy, being the most harmful of all secret societies, ought to be abolished."
When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in July 1870, Italian public opinion
heavily favored the Prussians, and many Italians attempted to sign up as
volunteers at the Prussian embassy in Florence. After the French garrison was
recalled from Rome, the Italian Army captured the Papal States without
Garibaldi's assistance. Following the wartime collapse of the Second French
Empire at the battle of Sedan, Garibaldi, undaunted by the recent hostility
shown to him by the men of Napoleon III, switched his support to the newly
declared French Third Republic. On 7 September 1870, within three days of the
revolution of 4 September in Paris, he wrote to the Movimento of Genoa:
Yesterday I said to you: war to the death to Bonaparte. Today I say to you:
rescue the French Republic by every means.
Subsequently, Garibaldi went to France and assumed command of the Army of the
Vosges, an army of volunteers that was never defeated by the Prussians.
Despite being elected again to the Italian parliament, Garibaldi spent much
of his late years in Caprera. He however supported an ambitious project of
land reclamation in the marshy areas of southern Lazio.
In 1879 he founded the "League of Democracy," which advocated
universal suffrage, abolition of ecclesiastical property, emancipation of
women, and maintenance of a standing army. Ill and confined to a bed by
arthritis, he made trips to Calabria and Sicily. In 1880 he married Francesca
Armosino, with whom he had previously had three children.
On his deathbed, Garibaldi asked that his bed be moved to where he could gaze
at the emerald and sapphire sea. Upon his death on June 2, 1882 at the age of
almost 75, his wishes for a simple funeral and cremation were not respected.
He is buried on his farm on the island of Caprera alongside his last wife and
some of his children.