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Giuseppe Garibaldi

Garibaldi, Giuseppe (1807-1882), Italian nationalist revolutionary and leader in the struggle for the unification of Italy and its liberation from rule by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.Garibaldi was born on July 4, 1807, in Nice, and was largely self-educated. He spent his youth as a sailor on Mediterranean merchant ships. In 1833 he joined Young Italy, the movement organized by the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini to achieve the freedom of the Italian people and their unification into a self-governing republic. Garibaldi was condemned to death in 1834, but he escaped to South America, where he lived for 12 years. There he displayed unusual qualities of military leadership while participating in the revolt of the state of Rio Grande do Sul against Brazil, as well as later in a civil war in Uruguay.

Return to Italy When the revolutionary tide that swept over Europe in 1848 engulfed Italy, Garibaldi returned and again took part in the movement for Italian freedom and unification, thereafter known as the Risorgimento (literally, "revival"). He organized a corps of about 3,000 volunteers, which, in the service of the Piedmontese ruler Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, unsuccessfully fought the Austrians in Lombardy. In 1849 he led his volunteers to Rome to support the Roman republic established by Mazzini and others. Garibaldi successfully defended the city against attacks by superior French forces for 30 days but was finally compelled to make terms with the French. Although he was allowed to depart from Rome at the head of about 5,000 of his followers, the line of retreat lay through territory controlled by the Austrians; the larger part of his force was killed, captured, or dispersed (his first wife Anita, a Creole, being among the casualties), and Garibaldi had to flee Italy to save his life.

Garibaldi went to the United States in 1848, settled in Staten Island, New York, working as a candle-maker, and became an American citizen. In 1854 he returned to Italy and bought a modest home on the island of Caprera, north-east of Sardinia. At that time Garibaldi had separated politically from Mazzini, an undeviating republican; Garibaldi believed that the road to freedom and unity for Italy lay in alliance with the liberal ruler Victor Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia, and his premier, Conte Camillo Benso di Cavour. Thousands of other Italian patriots and revolutionaries were influenced by Garibaldi's position, a fact that did much to enhance the fortunes of the Sardinian monarch and influence the course of Italian history.

Struggle for Unification Garibaldi was deeply involved in the complicated military and political struggles that took place in the following years. In 1859 he led a successful expedition against the Austrian forces in the Alps; in 1860 he led a force of 1,000 men from Genoa to Sicily, then ruled by the king of Naples. Distinctively clad in bright red shirts, Garibaldi's men became known as the Red Shirts and as The Thousand. Between May and August 1860, Garibaldi conquered Sicily and set up a provisional insular government. He then crossed to the Italian mainland; took Naples; defeated the Neapolitans in a decisive engagement on the banks of the Volturno River on October 26, 1860; and besieged the fortress of Gaeta, which fell in February 1861.

Later that year, the kingdom of Italy was established with Victor Emmanuel as king; Rome, a papal possession garrisoned by French troops, was not included in the new kingdom, nor were areas in the north of the peninsula held by the Austrians. Garibaldi, declining all honours and positions in the new kingdom, retired to his island home on Caprera. In the following year, however, he organized the Society for the Emancipation of Italy and visited Sicily, where he raised a force of volunteers with the object of capturing Rome and including it in a unified Italian state. He was opposed by Victor Emmanuel, who defeated him at the Battle of Aspromonte, on August 29, 1862. Garibaldi was wounded and captured in that battle but was soon pardoned and released.

In 1866, despite the opposition of the Italian government, Garibaldi again raised a volunteer force with the aim of annexing the Papal States to the kingdom of Italy. After a number of initial engagements, he was defeated by combined papal and French (including Zouave) forces at the Battle of Mentana on November 3, 1867. He was taken prisoner but was held only a short time.

For about two years thereafter Garibaldi lived the life of a farmer on Caprera. In 1870 he offered his services to the French government and fought with his two sons in the Franco-Prussian War. Rome was annexed to Italy in October 1870, and Garibaldi was elected a member of the Italian parliament in 1874. In his last years he sympathized with the developing socialist movement in Italy and other countries. Garibaldi died on Caprera on June 2, 1882. His autobiography was published in 1887. Though he remains a great romantic figure and a national hero in Italy, his military contribution to the unification of Italy is now considered less important than the diplomacy of Mazzini and Cavour.