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Giuseppe Garibaldi is considered one of the “fathers of the fatherland” in Italy due to his significant role in Italian history. He unified Italy during the Italian Risorgimento through his extensive campaigns as a military general and politician. His military ventures in South America and his part in Italian unification earned him worldwide recognition and the title, “Hero of Two Words.”

Youth and Revolution

Born Joseph-Marie Garibaldi in French-annexed Nice on July 4, 1807, Garibaldi’s parents, Giovanni Domenico Garibaldi and Maria Rosa Nicoletta Raimodi. Not much is known about his early years except for his family’s work as traders and fisherman along the coast. He received certification as a merchant captain in 1832 and sailed to Taganrog, Russia in April 1833.

At the port, Garibaldi met Giovanni Battista Cuneo, a member of Guiseppe Mazzini’s La Giovine Italia (Young Italy) society, and he soon joined the movement to unite Italy. In November 1883, he met Mazzini in Geneva and the two formed a lasting partnership. He aided the unsuccessful revolutionary attempt in Piedmont led by Mazzini in February 1834. He fled to Marseilles while he was sentenced to death by a Genoese court.[1]

South American Exile

Giuseppe sailed to South America in 1836 and landed first in Brazil. He joined rebel group the Rio Grande del Sul fighting for succession from the Empire of Brazil.

The operations Giuseppe Garibaldi undertook in South America solidified his military prowess and gave him the skills needed to unite Italy.

He met Ana Ribeiro da Silva, known as Anita, during the Ragamuffin War. She fought with him at Laguna and Imbituba after moving with him in October 1839. In 1841, they moved again to Montevideo, Uruguay. Garibaldi began work as a schoolmaster and they married in 1842. [2] The couple produced four children named Menotti (1840), Rosita (1843), Teresita (1845), and Ricciotti (1847).[3]

Garibaldi commanded the Italian Legion of the Uruguayan fleet after the battle of Arroyo Grande on December 6, 1842. This legion wore red shirts that soon became popular symbols of Garibaldi and his volunteers and gave them the nickname, “Redshirts”. He helped defend Montevideo against Juan Manuel Rosas, the Argentinian dictator, and Manuel Oribe, Uruguay’s former president. They succeeded in February 1846 at the Battle of San Antonio del Santo.[4]

Returning to Italy and Second Exile

Garibaldi returned to Italy during the 1848 revolutions with 60 Italian legion members and fought with his Legion out of Milan. He took command of the defense of Rome after Pius IX fled in the spring of 1849. When a truce was settled, he retreated to San Marino to outrun the many troops chasing him and his men. His wife, Anita, died during their escape.

Garibaldi faced exile once again and made his way from Tangier to Staten Island and, finally, to Peru while working for his friend, Francesco Carpanetto. His five years of exile ended on May 10, 1854. He returned [5]

Italian Unification

In 1854, Giuseppe Garibaldi returned to Italy and purchased half of Caprera Island in the north of Sardinia. He fought during the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859 and won several battles, including Como and Varese.

Garibaldi discarded his Mazzinian views, believing only the established monarchy could liberate Italy.

When uprisings began in Messina and Palermo in April 1860, Garibaldi organized around 1,000 volunteers to form his Redshirts army and sailed to Sicily, arriving on May 11. He succeeded in capturing Palermo at the end of May after victory in Calatafimi secured with the help of local fighters.

Garibaldi continued across Sicily to conquer the whole country before the British Navy helped him and his forces cross the Strait of Messina. He arrived in Naples on September 7 and proceeded to conquer the city. His largest battle was fought at the Volturno River and won him all of Southern Italy. He did not finish marching to Rome, but met with the new king, Victor Emmanuel II, on October 26, 1860, in Teano and entered Naples by his side on November 7 in a newly unified Italy.

Garibaldi retired to Caprera until October 5, 1861, when he established the International Legion to collaborate with Germans, Swiss, Poles, and French to finish unifying Italy and their own countries. [6] The same year, United States President Abraham Lincoln offered Garibaldi a position in the American Civil War, but he turned it down.

Later Career and Death

Garibaldi Guiseppe felt determined to conquer Rome as well, but Victor Emmanuel did not want to anger the Papal States. Commissioned by Emmanuel to fight Austrians in the Balkans, he instead sailed to Palermo in June 1862 with about 2,000 volunteers to engage Rome. He was denied entrance at Messina and sailed from Catania, landing in Melito on August 14 without the approval of the Italian government.

The Battle of Aspromonte took place on August 28 when Italian Colonel Emilio Pallavicini confronted his army. He forbade his men to fight after a few rounds, but not before being struck in the foot. He and his men were imprisoned in Varignano where he recovered from his wound. He was released and returned to Caprera.

Garibaldi may or may not have been secretly aided by the Italian government during his campaigns against Rome.

Emmanuel again used Guiseppe’s military skills to fight Austria in 1866 and he acquired Venice. Then in 1867, he attempted to conquer the Papal States again. He suffered defeat in Mentana by French troops. The Italian government arrested him again, released him, and allowed him to return to Caprera. He founded the “League of Democracy” in 1879 advocating for women’s rights, universal suffrage, and banning the church from owning land. He married Francesca Armosino in 1880. The couple already bore several children together. Garibaldi died on June 2, 1882, while looking over the sea from his bed.[7]



Mortimer, R., & Pierce, J. A. (1997). The Anthony P. Campanella Collection of Giuseppe Garibaldi. University Libraries - Rare Books and Special Collections.

Salomone, A. W., & Parris, J. (1962). The Lion of Caprera: A Biography of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Military Affairs, 26(4), 184. doi:10.2307/1985620

Scirocco, A., & Cameron, A. (2007). Garibaldi: Citizen of the World: A Biography. United States: Princeton University Press.


  1. Scirocco & Cameron, 2007
  2. Mortimer & Pierce, 1997
  3. Salomone, A. W., & Parris, J. (1962). The Lion of Caprera: A Biography of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Military Affairs, 26(4), 184. doi:10.2307/1985620
  4. Mortimer & Pierce, 1997
  5. Garibaldi, G. (2014). Autobiography of Giuseppe Garibaldi V2: 1849-1872. United States: Literary Licensing.
  6. Trevelyan, G. M. (2015). Garibaldi and the Thousand (Classic Reprint). United States: Forgotten Books.
  7. Ridley, J. (1976). Garibaldi. New York: Viking Press.

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