Garibaldi was a central figure in the Italian Risorgimento, since he personally commanded and fought in many military campaigns that led eventually to the formation of a unified Italy. He generally tried to act on behalf of a legitimate power, which does not make him exactly a revolutionary: for example, he was appointed general by the provisional government of Milan in 1848, General of the Roman Republic in 1849 by the Minister of War, and led the Expedition of the Thousand on behalf and with the consent of Victor Emmanuel II.
He has been called the “Hero of Two Worlds” because of his military enterprises in South America and Europe. These earned him a considerable reputation in Italy and abroad, aided by exceptional international media coverage at the time. Many of the greatest intellectuals of his time, such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and George Sand showered him with admiration. The United Kingdom and the United States helped him a great deal, offering him financial and military support in difficult circumstances.
In the popular telling of his story, he is associated with the red shirts worn by his volunteers in lieu of a uniform.
Giuseppe Garibaldi was born Joseph Marie Garibaldi on July 4, 1807 in Nice, which at the time was part of France, to Giovanni Domenico Garibaldi and Maria Rosa Nicoletta Raimondo. 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.
In April 1833 he travelled to Taganrog, Russia, in the schooner Clorinda with a shipment of oranges. During ten days in port he met Giovanni Battista Cuneo from Oneglia, a politically active immigrant and member of the secret La Giovine Italia / Young Italy movement of Giuseppe Mazzini. Mazzini was an impassioned proponent of Italian unification as a liberal republic through political and social reform. Garibaldi joined the society and took an oath dedicating himself to the struggle to liberate and unify his homeland free from Austrian dominance.
In Geneva during November 1833, Garibaldi met Mazzini, starting a long 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 across the border to Marseille.
Garibaldi first sailed to Tunisia before eventually finding his way to Brazil. Once there he took up the cause of Republic of Rio Grande do Sul in its attempt to separate from Brazil, joining the gaucho rebels known as the farrapos (Ragamuffins) against the newly independent Brazilian nation. During this war he met Ana Ribeiro da Silva (commonly known as “Anita”). When the farrapos tried to proclaim another republic in the Brazilian province of Santa Catarina in October 1839 she joined him aboard his ship Rio Pardo and fought alongside Garibaldi at the battles of Imbituba and Laguna.
In 1841, Garibaldi and Anita moved to Montevideo, Uruguay, where Garibaldi worked as a trader and schoolmaster.
In 1842 Garibaldi took command of the Uruguayan fleet and raised an “Italian Legion” for the Uruguayan Civil War. He aligned his forces with a faction composed of the Uruguayan Colorados led by Fructuoso Rivera, and the Argentine Unitarios. This faction received some support from the French and British Empires in their struggle against the forces of former Uruguayan president Manuel Oribe’s Blancos and Argentine Federales under the rule of Buenos Aires caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas.
The Italian 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. These shirts became the symbol of Garibaldi and his followers. Between 1842 and 1848, Garibaldi defended Montevideo against forces led by Oribe
The fate of his homeland, however, continued to concern Garibaldi.
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 (23 March 1849), Garibaldi moved to Rome to support the Republi crecently 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.
He lead many revolutions and wars in Italy, leaving and returning repeatedly on Italian ground.
Garibaldi’s popularity, his skill at rousing the common people, 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 religious convictions are unclear to historians—in 1882 he wrote “Man created God, not God created Man,”
By Draghici on 3 martie 2013
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