Giuseppe Garibaldi

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Garibaldi in 1866
Garibaldi in 1866

Giuseppe Garibaldi (July 4, 1807June 2, 1882) was an Italian patriot and soldier of the Risorgimento. He personally led many of the military campaigns that brought about the formation of a unified Italy. He was called the "Hero of the Two Worlds," in tribute to his military adventures in South America and Europe.

He was born in 1807 Nice, France (then French Empire). Garibaldi's family was involved in coastal trade, and he was reared to a life on the sea. He was certified in 1832 as a merchant marine captain.


Early activity

A special day for Garibaldi came on a visit to Taganrog in April 1833, as his schooner Clorinda charged with a shipment of oranges was moored for ten days in the Taganrog seaport. While the ship was unloading, the young captain walked through the streets of the city, visiting the houses of Italians who lived in Taganrog, and spending the night in little port inns. In one of such inns, he met Giovanni Battista Cuneo from Oneglia, a political immigrant from Italy and member of the secret movement “Young Italy” (La Giovine Italia). In Taganrog, Giuseppe Garibaldi joined the society “Young Italy” and took an oath of dedicating his life to struggle for liberation of his homeland from Austrian dominance.

In Geneva in November 1833, Garibaldi met Giuseppe Mazzini, an impassioned proponent of Italian unification as a liberal republic through political and social reforms. He joined the Young Italy movement and the Carbonari revolutionary association . Garibaldi participated in a failed republican uprising in Piedmont in February 1834. Sentenced to death in Genoa, he escaped to France later that year, then later traveled to Tunisia.

Adventures in South America

In 1836 Garibaldi sailed to Brazil, where he met "Anita", Anna Maria Ribeiro da Silva, the daughter of a southern Brazilian herdsman, who became his lover and comrade-in-arms. They were married in 1842. In 1839, he joined the rebel cause in the War of Tatters revolt in southern Brazil, which had broken out a few years before. Six years of tenacity proved unsuccessful, and the rebels finally surrendered in 1845. He later commanded the Uruguayan navy in defence against Juan Manuel de Rosas of Argentina, who was trying to reannex the country. Garibaldi was inducted into a Masonic lodge in Montevideo in 1844.

Return to Italy

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 a French force sent by Napoleon III threatened to topple it. At Mazzini's urging, Garibaldi took up the command of the defence of Rome. His wife, Anita, fought with him. Despite their effort, the city fell on June 30, 1849, and Garibaldi was forced to flee to the north, hunted by Austrian troops. Anita died near Ravenna during the retreat.

Garibaldi eventually managed to escape abroad. In 1850 he became a resident of New York, where he met Antonio Meucci. For some time he worked in a manufactory of candles on Staten Island. Afterwards he made several voyages to the Pacific, during which he visited Andean revolutionary heroine Manuela Sáenz in Peru.

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 named the Hunters of the Alps. With his volunteers, he won victories over the Austrians at Varese, Como, and other places. One outcome of the war, though, left Garibaldi very displeased. His home city of Nice was surrendered to the French, in return for crucial military assistance.

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, or, as popularly known, the "Red Shirts") in two ships, and landed at Marsala, on the westernmost point of Sicily, on May 11.

Conquest of Sicily

Swelling the ranks of his army with scattered bands of local rebels, Garibaldi defeated an opposing army at Calatafimi on May 13. 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 a siege on May 27. 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.

Crossing to the mainland

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 Bourbon king, Francis II. Most of the Sicilian 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.


Garibaldi deeply disliked the Sardinian Prime Minister, Camillo 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 Sardinian 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. He resigned the next day, telegraphing the single word Obbedisco ("I obey"). 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.

Garibaldi's fellow revolutionaries were not satisfied. 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.

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 French troops in Rome. Victor Emmanuel was wary of the international reprecussions 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 of 1862, he sailed from Genoa and landed at Palermo, seeking to gather volunteers for the impending campaign. 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 Calabrian mountains.

Far from supporting this endeavor, the Italian government was quite disapproving. General 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.

A government steamer took him 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. 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.

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. Garibaldi gathered again his Hunters of the Alps, now some 40,000 strong, and led them into the Tyrol. He defeated the Austrians at Bezzecca and made for Trento.

The Italian regular forces, on the other hand, suffered defeat by land and sea. Austria did cede Venetia to Italy, but it was compelled to do so not by Italy's poor showing, but by Prussia's successes on the northern front. Garibaldi's advance through Trentino was for nought.

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 taken prisoner, held captive for a time, and then again returned to Caprera.

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, French troops withdrew from Rome, and the Italians captured the Papal States without Garibaldi's assistance. Following the wartime collapse of the Second French Empire, Garibaldi led a force of volunteers against Prussia in support of the new French Third Republic.

On his deathbed, Garibaldi asked that his bed be moved to where he could gaze at the emerald and sapphire sea.


Garibaldi's popularity, his skill at rousing the masses, and his military exploits are all credited with making the unification of Italy possible. He also served as a global exemplar of mid-19th century revolutionary nationalism and liberalism. But following the liberation of southern Italy from the Neapolitan monarchy, Garibaldi chose to sacrifice his liberal republican principles for the sake of unification.

Garibaldi subscribed to the anti-clericalism common among Latin liberals and did much to circumscribe the temporal power of the Papacy. His personal convictions bordered on atheism; he wrote in 1882, "Man created God, not God Man." An active freemason, Garibaldi had little use for rituals, but thought of masonry as a network to unite progressive men as brothers both within nations and as members of a global community.

Giuseppe Garibaldi died on the Italian island of Caprera in 1882, where he was interred. Five ships of the Italian Navy have been named after him, among which a World War II cruiser and the current flagship, the aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Statues of his likeness, as well as the handshake of Teano, stand in many Italian squares, and in other countries around the world. On the top of the Janiculum hill in Rome, there is a statue of Garibaldi on horse-back with his face turned in the direction of the Vatican, an allusionCitation needed to his ambition to conquer the Papal States.

It is said that the Garibaldi biscuit is named for the famous commander, who gave it to his men. His red-shirted volunteers also lent his name to the garibaldi, a North American fish with a distinctive orange color. A pub located in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, England is also named after the biscuit or, according to some, for the general. In Italian, the word garibaldino refers not only to a follower of Garibaldi. In tribute to the hero's exploits, it is also an adjective meaning bold or audacious. The red strip of the English football club Nottingham Forest is sometimes referred to as 'the garibaldi'.


  • Garibaldi, by Jasper Ridley (2001).
  • Autobiography, by Giuseppe Garibaldi, trans. A Werner (1971, 1889).
  • The Memoirs of Garibaldi, by Giuseppe Garibaldi and Alexander Dumas (1931, 1861)
  • Morris, Charles, LL.D (1902). Young People's History of the World for the Past One Hundred Years. W. E. Scull.
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