Giuseppe Garibaldi (July 4, 1807 - June 2, 1882) was a brilliant guerrilla fighter and Italy's most famous soldier of the Risorgimento. He was called the "Hero of Two Worlds" in tribute to his military adventures in both South America and Europe.
He was born in Nice.
Influenced by Giuseppe Mazzini, impassioned proponent of Italian nationalism, he participated in a failed republican uprising in Piedmont in 1834. Sentenced to death, he escaped to South America where he took part in a conflict in Brazil, as well as commanded Uruguay's navy in a war with Argentina. He returned to Europe in 1848 to join the war for Italian independence from Austria and France. His exploits made him a hero, but facing defeat at last in Rome, he was forced to retreat, eventually disbanding his army and again escaping abroad.
Garibaldi returned to Italy in 1854 and five years later helped Piedmont in a new war against Austria. In 1860 he set out to conquer Sicily and Naples. Sailing with a thousand so-called Redshirts, he reached Sicily and proclaimed himself dictator in the name of Victor Emmanuel II. Shortly afterward, at Calatafami, his forces defeated the army of the king of Naples, and a popular uprising aided him in capturing Palermo.
That summer he skirmished his way to Naples, then fought a major battle 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, in 1862, resulted in his wounding. He mounted another expedition on Rome in 1867, only to be halted by French troops. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, 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 at Caprera.
Garibaldi and the Unification of Italy
Lack of Italian Unity
From the time of the fall of the Roman Empire until late in the nineteenth century, a period of some fourteen hundred years, Italy remained disunited, divided up between a series of states, small and large, hostile and peaceful, while its territory was made the battlefield of the surrounding powers, the helpless prey of Germany, France, and Spain. Even the strong hand of Napoleon failed to bring it unity, and after his fall its condition was worse than before, for Austria held most of the north and exerted a controlling power over the remainder of the peninsula, so that the fair form of liberty fled in dismay from its shores.
Italian Unity and Its Heroes
But the work of Napoleon had inspired the patriots of Italy with a new sentiment, that of union. Before the Napoleonic era the thought of a united Italy scarce existed, and patriotism meant adherence to Sardinia, Naples, or some other of the many kingdoms and duchies. After that era union became the watchword of the revolutionists, who felt that the only hope of giving Italy a position of dignity and honor among the nations lay in making it one country under one ruler. The history of the nineteenth century in Italy is the record of the attempt to reach this end, and its successful accomplishment. And on that record the names of two men most prominently appear, Mazzini, the indefatigable conspirator, and Garibaldi, the valorous fighter; to whose names should be added that of the eminent statesman, Count Cavour, and that of the man who reaped the benefit of their patriotic labors, Victor Emmanuel, the first king of united Italy.
The basis of the revolutionary movements in Italy was the secret political association known as the Carbonari, formed early in the nineteenth century and including members of all classes in its ranks. In 1814 this powerful society projected a revolution in Naples, and in 1820 it was strong enough to invade Naples with an army and force from the king an oath to observe the new constitution which it had prepared. The revolution was put down in the following year by the Austrians, acting as the agents of the “Holy Alliance”—the compact of Austria, Prussia, and Russia.
An ordinance was passed, condemning any one who should attend a meeting of the Carbonari to capital punishment. But the society continued to exist, despite this severe enactment, and has been at the basis of many of the outbreaks that have taken place in Italy since 1820. Mazzini, Garibaldi, and all the leading patriots were members of this powerful organization, which was daring enough to condemn Napoleon III to death, and almost to succeed in his assassination, for his failure to live up to his obligations as a member of the society.
Mazzini the Patriot
Giuseppe Mazzini, a native of Genoa, became a member of the Carbonari in 1830. His activity in revolutionary movements caused him soon after to be proscribed, and in 1831 he sought Marseilles, where he organized a new political society called “Young Italy,” whose watchword was “God and the People,” and whose basic principle was the union of the several states and kingdoms into one nation, as the only true foundation of Italian liberty. This purpose he avowed in his writings and pursued through exile and adversity with inflexible constancy, and it is largely due to the work of this earnest patriot that Italy to-day is a single kingdom instead of a medley of separate states. Only in one particular did he fail. His persistent purpose was to establish a republic, not a monarchy.
Early Career of Garibaldi
While Mazzini was thus working with his pen, his compatriot, Giusseppe Garibaldi, was working as earnestly with his sword. This daring soldier, a native of Nice and reared to a life on the sea, was banished as a revolutionist in 1834, and the succeeding fourteen years of his life were largely spent in South America, in whose wars he played a leading part.
The revolution of 1848 opened Italy to these two patriots, and they hastened to return, Garibaldi to offer his services to Charles Albert of Sardinia, by whom, however, he was treated with coldness and distrust. Mazzini, after founding the Roman republic in 1849, called upon Garibaldi to come to its defence, and the latter displayed the greatest heroism in the contest against the Neapolitan and French invaders. He escaped from Rome on its capture by the French, and, after many desperate conflicts and adventures with the Austrians, was again driven into exile, and in 1850 became a resident of New York. For some time he worked in a manufactury of candles on Staten Island, and afterwards made several voyages on the Pacific.
The Hunters of the Alps
The war of 1859 opened a new and promising channel for the devotion of Garibaldi to his native land. Being appointed major-general and commissioned to raise a volunteer corps, he organized the hardy body of mountaineers called the “Hunters of the Alps,” and with them performed prodigies of valor on the plains of Lombardy, winning victories over the Austrians at Varese, Como and other places. In his ranks was his fellow-patriot Mazzini.
The success of the French and Sardinians in Lombardy during this war stirred Italy to its center. The grand duke of Tuscany fled to Austria. The duchess of Parma sought refuge in Switzerland. The duke of Modena found shelter in the Austrian camp. Everywhere the brood of tyrants took flight. Bologna threw off its allegiance to the pope, and proclaimed the king of Sardinia dictator. Several other towns in the states of the Church did the same. In the terms of the truce between Louis Napoleon and Francis Joseph the rulers of these realms were to resume their reigns if the people would permit. But the people would not permit, and they were all annexed to Sardinia, which country was greatly expanded as a result of the war.
Count Cavour the Brain of Italy
It will not suffice to give all the credit for these revolutionary movements to Mazzini, the organizer, Garibaldi, the soldier, and the ambitious monarchs of France and Sardinia. More important than king and emperor was the eminent statesman, Count Cavour, prime minister of Sardinia from 1852. It is to this able man that the honor of the unification of Italy most fully belongs, though he did not live to see it. He sent a Sardinian army to the assistance of France and England in the Crimea in 1855, and by this act gave his state a standing among the powers of Europe. He secured liberty of the press and favored toleration in religion and freedom of trade. He rebelled against the dominion of the papacy, and devoted his abilities to the liberation and unity of Italy, undismayed by the angry fulminations from the Vatican. The war of 1859 was his work, and he had the satisfaction of seeing Sardinia increased by the addition of Lombardy, Tuscany, Parma and Modena. A great step had been taken in the work to which he had devoted his life.
Garibaldi's Invasion of Sicily
The next step in the great work was taken by Garibaldi, who now struck at the powerful kingdom of Naples and Sicily in the south. It seemed a difficult task. Francis II, the son and successor of the infamous “King Bomba,” had a well-organized army of 150,000 men. But his father's tyranny had filled the land with secret societies, and fortunately at this time the Swiss mercenaries were recalled home, leaving to Francis only his unsafe native troops. This was the critical interval which Mazzini and Garibaldi chose for their work.
Capture of Palermo
At the beginning of April, 1860, the signal was given by separate insurrections in Messina and Palermo. These were easily suppressed by the troops in garrison; but though both cities were declared in a state of siege, they gave occasion for demonstrations by which the revolutionary chiefs excited the public mind. On the 6th of May, Garibaldi started with two steamers from Genoa with about a thousand Italian volunteers, and on the 11th landed near Marsala, on the west coast of Sicily. He proceeded to the mountains, and near Salemi gathered round him the scattered bands of the free corps. By the 14th his army had increased to 4,000 men. He now issued a proclamation, in which he took upon himself the dictatorship of Sicily, in the name of Victor Emmanuel, king of Italy. After waging various successful combats under the most difficult circumstances, Garibaldi advanced upon the capital, announcing his arrival by beacon-fires kindled at night. On the 27th he was in front of the Porta Termina of Palermo, and at once gave the signal for the attack. The people rose in mass, and assisted the operations of the besiegers by barricade-fighting in the streets. But now General Lanza, whom the young king had dispatched with strong reinforcements to Sicily, furiously bombarded the insurgent city, so that Palermo was reduced almost to a heap of ruins. At this juncture, by the intervention of an English admiral, an armistice was concluded, which led to the departure of the Neapolitan troops and war vessels and the surrender of the town to Garibaldi, who thus, with a band of 5,000 badly armed followers, had gained a signal advantage over a regular army of 25,000 men. This event had tremendous consequences, for it showed the utter hollowness of the Neapolitan government, while Garibaldi's fame was everywhere spread abroad. The glowing fancy of the Italians beheld in him the national hero before whom every enemy would bite the dust. This idea seemed to extend even to the Neapolitan court itself, where all was doubt, confusion and dismay. The king hastily summoned a liberal ministry, and offered to restore the constitution of 1848,but the general verdict was, “too late,” and his proclamation fell flat on a people who had not trust in Bourbon faith.
Messina is Taken
The arrival of Garibaldi in Naples was enough to set in blazed all the combustible materials in that state. His appearance there was not long delayed. Six weeks after the surrender of Palermo he marched against Messina. On the 21st of July the fortress of Melazzo was evacuated, and a week afterwards all Messina except the citadel was given up.
Flight of Francis II and Conquest of Naples
Europe was astounded at the remarkable success of Garibaldi's handful of men. On the mainland his good fortune was still more astonishing. He had hardly landed—which he did almost in the face of the Neapolitan fleet—than Reggio was surrendered and its garrison withdrew. His progress through the south of the kingdom was like a triumphal procession. At the end of August he was at Cosenza; on the 5th of September at Eboli, near Salerno. No resistance appeared. His very name seemed to work like magic on the population. The capital had been declared in a state of siege, and on September 6th the king took flight, retiring, with the 4,000 men still faithful to him, behind the Volturno. The next day Garibaldi, with a few followers, entered Naples, whose populace received him with frantic shouts of welcome.
The Army of the Pope
The remarkable achievements of Garibaldi had filled all Italy with overmastering excitement. He had declared that he would proclaim the kingdom of Italy from the heart of its capital city, and nothing less than this would content the people. The position of the pope had become serious. He refused to grant the reforms suggested by the French emperor, and threatened with excommunication any one who should meddle with the domain of the Church. Money was collected from faithful Catholics throughout the world, a summons was issued calling for recruits to the holy army of the pope, and the exiled French General Lamoriciere was given the chief command of the troops, composed of men who had flocked to Rome from many nations. It was hoped that the name of the celebrated French leader would have a favorable influence on the troops of the French garrison of Rome.
The settlement of the perilous situation seemed to rest with Louis Napoleon. If he had let Garibaldi have his way the latter would, no doubt, have quickly ended the temporal sovereignty of the pope and made Rome the capital of Italy. But Napoleon seems to have arranged with Cavour to leave the king of Sardinia free to take possession of Naples, Umbria and the other provinces, provided that Rome and the “patrimony of St. Peter” were left intact.
Victor Emmanuel in Naples
At the beginning of September two Sardinian army corps, under Fanti and Cialdini, marched to the borders of the states of the church. Lamoriciere advanced against Cialdini with his motley troops, but was quickly defeated, and on the following day was besieged in the fortress of Ancona. On the 29th he and the garrison surrendered as prisoners of war. On the 9th of October Victor Emmanuel arrived and took command. There was no longer a papal army to oppose him, and the march southward proceeded without a check.
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 defence 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 defence 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 he was quickly joined by an enthusiastic party of volunteers. 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. A chance shot was followed by several volleys 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 war between Prussia and Austria. Italy was in alliance with Prussia, and Victor Emmanuel hastened to lead an army across the Mincio to the invasion of Venetia, 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 Custozza 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 Venetia 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 Fleets in the Adriatic
But much the more memorable event of this brief war occurred on the sea, in the most striking contest of ironclad ships between the American Civil War and the Japan-China contest. Both countries concerned had fleets on the Adriatic. Italy was the strongest in naval vessels, possessing ten ironclads and a considerable number of wooden ships. Austria's ironclad fleet was seven in number, plated with thin iron and with no very heavy guns. In addition there was a number of wooden vessels and gunboats. But in command of this fleet was an admiral in whose blood was the iron which was lacking on his ships, Tegethoff, the Dewey of the Adriatic. Inferior as his ships were, his men were thoroughly drilled in the use of the guns and the evolutions of the ships, and when he sailed it was with the one thought of victory.
Persano, the Italian admiral, as if despising his adversary, engaged in siege of the fortified island of Lissa, near the Dalmatian coast, leaving the Austrians to do what they pleased. What they pleased was to attack him with a fury such as has been rarely seen. Early on July 20, 1866, when the Italians were preparing for a combined assault of the island by land and sea, their movement was checked by the signal displayed on a scouting frigate, “Suspicious-looking ships are in sight.” Soon afterwards the Austrian fleet appeared, the ironclads leading, the wooden ships in the rear.
The battle that followed has had no parallel before or since. The whole Austrian fleet was converted into rams. Tegethoff gave one final order to his captains: “Close with the enemy and ram everything grey.” Grey was the color of the Italian ships. The Austrian were painted black, so as to prevent any danger of error.
Fire was opened at two miles distance, the balls being wasted in the waters between the fleets, “Full steam ahead,” signaled Tegethoff. On came the fleets, firing steadily, the balls now beginning to tell. “Ironclads will ram and sink the enemy,” signaled Tegethoff. It was the last order he gave until the battle was won.
The Sinking of the “Re d'Italia”
Soon the two lines of ironclads closed amid thick clouds of smoke. Tegethoff, in his flagship, the Ferdinand Max, twice rammed a grey ironclad without effect. Then, out of the smoke, loomed up the tall masts of the Re d'Italia, Persano's flagship in the beginning of the fray. Against this vessel the Ferdinand Max rushed at full speed, and struck her fairly amidships. Her sides of iron were crushed in by the powerful blow, her tall masts toppled over, and down beneath the waves sank the great ship with her crew of 600 men. The next minute another Italian ship came rushing upon the Austrian, and was only avoided by a quick turn of the helm.
The “Palestro” is Blown Up
One other great disaster occurred to the Italians. The Palestro was set on fire, and the pumps were put actively to work to drown the magazine. The crew thought the work had been successfully performed, and that they were getting the fire under control, when there suddenly came a terrible burst of flame attended by a roar that drowned all the din of battle. It was the death knell of 400 men, for the Palestro had blown up with all on board.
The great ironclad turret ship and ram of the Italian fleet, the Affondtore, to which Admiral Persano had shifted his flag, far the most powerful vessel in the Adriatic, kept outside of the battle-line, and was of little service in the fray. It was apparently afraid to encounter Tegethoff's terrible rams. The battle ended with the Austrian fleet, wooden vessels and all, passing practically unharmed through the Italian lines into the harbor of Lissa, leaving death and destruction in their rear. Tegethoff was the one Austrian who came out of that war with fame. Persano on his return home was put on trial for cowardice and incompetence. He was convicted of the latter and dismissed from the navy in disgrace.
Venetia Ceded to Italy
But Italy, though defeated by land and sea, gained a valuable prize from the war, for Napoleon ceded Venetia 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.