Giuseppe Garibaldi: History and Major Achievements

Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian general, revolutionary, and republican famous for the very influential role he played in Italian unification (the Risorgimento) and the creation of the kingdom of Italy. Inspired by the ideas of liberal republicanism and social reforms proposed by Italian revolutionary and political activist Giuseppe Mazzini, Garibaldi joined the Young Italy movement of Mazzini, vowing to unify Italy by breaking it free from the influence of Austria.

From 1836 up until his death, he fought passionately for Italian nationalism, freedom, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and other social reforms.

The Italian nationalist is famous for having influenced the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Che Guevara, Alexandre Dumas, William Brown, Charles Dickens, and Friedrich Engels. To many historians, he is one of the greatest generals of the modern era.

Quick Biography and Family

Giuseppe Garibaldi

Garibaldi in 1866

He was christened Joseph-Marie Garibaldi on July 4, 1807.

His birthplace Nice was annexed on two occasions by France. The first time the city was annexed came in 1792, while the second time was in 1860.

By his mid-20s, Garibaldi had become a certified merchant navy captain.

He met his first wife Anita (Ana Maria de Jesus Ribiero da Silva) while fighting in the Ragamuffin War of 1835. Shortly after the rebels announced the formation of the Catarinense Republic, Anita joined Garibaldi in the battles of Laguna and Imbituba. His first wife Anita was praised for her bravery and skills in horse riding.

It was in Uruguay that he started wearing the red shirt, sombrero and poncho that he is most commonly associated with.

After moving with Anita to Montevideo, Uruguay, he worked as a schoolteacher and trader. He and Anita tied the knot in 1842. By Anita, he had four children – Domenico Menotti (1840-1903), Rosa (1843-1845), Teresa Teresita (1845–1903), and Ricciotti (1847–1924).

He tied the knot with Francesca Armosino in 1880. He and Armosino had had three children.

He was an anti-cleric, as he opposed having religious authority in the social and political discourse of a nation.

In his later years he suffered from arthritis, which made him bedridden. He died on June 2, 1882. He was aged 75. Going against his wish for his body to cremated, he was instead buried (alongside his last wife and some of his children) in his farm on the island of Caprera (off the coast of Sardinia, Italy).

Family tree of Giuseppe Garibaldi

Giuseppe Garibaldi family tree

Quick facts about Giuseppe Garibaldi

Born: Guisseppe Maria Garibaldi

Date of birth: July 4, 1807

Place of birth: Nice, French Empire

Died: June 2, 1882

Place of death: Caprera, Kingdom of Italy

Aged: 74

Burial: Island of Caprera.

Parents: Domenico garibaldi and Maria Rosa Nicoletta Raimondi

Spouses: Anita Garibaldi (married in 1842), Guiseppina Raimondi (married in 1860), Francesca Armosino (married in 1880)

Children: 8 children, including Menotti and Ricciotti

Most famous for: His efforts in the Unification of Italy

Influenced by: Giuseppe Mazzini

Ideology: Republicanism, nationalism

Famous wars fought in: Ragamuffin War, Uruguayan Civil War, Italian Unification Wars, Franco-Prussian War

Epithets: “Father of the Fatherland”, “Hero of the Two Worlds”

10 Major Achievements of Garibaldi

Achievements of Giuseppe Garibaldi

Garibaldi on Caprera Island, Sardinia

Giuseppe Garibaldi was a champion of liberalism and nationalism. The Nice, France-born general spent the bulk of part of his life fighting for the Unification of Italy. He even had to put aside his liberal and republican values just so to realize this goal of his. He is often highly regarded across the world, especially on both sides of the Atlantic. It is for this reason he was given the epithet “Hero of the Two Worlds”.

Below, we delve into the 10 major accomplishments of Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the greatest national heroes in Italy.

The Ragamuffin War of 1835

After arriving in the Empire of Brazil, Garibaldi got involved in the Ragamuffin War of 1835, fighting for the Riograndense Republic (also known as the Piratini Republic). His efforts helped the Riograndense Republic cede from the Empire of Brazil on September 11, 1836.

Founded the Red coats


Redshirts, also known as Red coats, were volunteer fighters who followed Giuseppe Garibaldi. The group came to being around the start of the Uruguayan Civil War (1839-1851) | Image:  Uniforms of the Garibaldines at the Museum of the Risorgimento, Milan

In the same year that he got married to his first wife Anita, he led a Uruguayan fleet that was made up of soldiers from Italian population in Montevideo, Uruguay. Those volunteer soldiers later came to be known as the Redshirts or Red coats. Garibaldi and his Red Coats fought for the Uruguayan Colorados, who were led by Uruguayan politician Joaquín Luis Miguel Suárez de Rondelo and Uruguayan general José Fructuoso Rivera y Toscana.

Garibaldines at the Battle of Domokos in the Greco-Turkish War (1897)

Battles of San Antonio del Santo and Cerro

With some bit of assistance from France and Britain, Garibaldi and his Redshirts fought gallantly against former Uruguayan president Manuel Oribe and his supporters from Blancos. It must be noted that Oribe received tremendous amount of help from the Federales of Argentina. It was during this war that he mastered the skills of guerrilla warfare, amphibious attacks and other military tactics. He would secure victory in two very important battles in 1846 – the Battle of San Antonio del Santo and the Battle of Cerro.

Founding member of the Action Party

He is often regarded as one of the founders of the Action Party, a pre-unitary political party that was formerly called the Italian National Association to aid the Unification of Italy and abolish monarchy. Mazzini was another notable leader/founder of the Action Party. In 1860, Garibaldi, in association with the Action Party, used his paramilitary group, the Redshirts, to support the goals of the party, which were Unification of Italy, granting of freedom of religion, thought, speech, and press, and the creation of a republic. During this time, he marched his Redshirts on Lombardy to provide assistance to the provisional government of Milan, which was at the time fighting against Austrian occupation.


Garibaldi during the siege of Rome

Fought in the First Italian War of Independence

He fought in the First Italian War of Independence (March 1848-August 1849), which saw the Kingdom of Sardinia and Italian volunteers wage war against the Austrian Empire. Although the war was a failure, Garibaldi still managed to secure a couple of battle victories at Morazzone and Luino.

The Battles of Varese and San Fermo in 1859

Following the break out of the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, Garibaldi, then a major general, gathered a group of volunteers, which he called the Hunters of the Alps. He joined forces with the Piedmontese monarchy, and thus he had grown disillusioned with Mazzini’s approach to securing the unification of Italy. Garibaldi and his men fought in a number of battles against Austrian forces. He emerged victorious at the Battle of Varese in 1859 and the Battle of San Fermo in 1859.

Battle of Bezzecca

Captured the city of Parlemo

In early May 1860, Garibaldi and his group of Redshirts numbering about 800 volunteers sailed from Quarto, Genoa, to Marsala. On the hill of Calatafimi in Sicily, he secured victory over troops belonging to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies which were about twice the size of Garibaldi’s forces in numbers. After the Battle of Calatafimi, he proclaimed himself, in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, dictator of Sicily. Realizing that Garibaldi had the support of the many Palermo residents, Neapolitan royal troops laid down their weapons just a few days into a siege launched by Garibaldi.

About a month after his famous Palermo victory, he marched on Messina and secured another famous victory at Milazzo. He would then go on to complete the conquest of Sicily before marching north. In early September 1860, he and his forces made their way into the city of Naples. On September, at the Battle of Volturno, Garibaldi and his army of about 24,000 troops could not defeat a well-oiled Neopolitan army of about the same size. That all changed upon the arrival of upon the arrival of the Piedmontese Army, which allowed Garibaldi to secure victory. At that point, an emboldened Garibaldi wanted to march his army of volunteers on Rome. However, the Piedmontese Army commanders were reluctant as they feared that doing so would result in France coming into the fray to protect the Pope.

A well sought-after military mind during the American Civil War

He was a highly regarded figure among soldiers and generals on both sides of the American Civil War. The Union Army had the 39th New York Volunteer  Infantry Regiment named after Garibaldi. It was called the Garibaldi Guard. Hearing of this, as well as the values that guided the Union army, Garibaldi contemplated joining the Union Army’s cause. He was even invited to serve as a major general in the Union Army. Then U.S. ambassador to Brussels Henry S. Sanford had the pleasure of meeting Garibaldi in Belgium on July 27, 1861. According to Secretary Seward, Garibaldi wanted the position of commander-in-chief of the Union forces.

Garibaldi’s letter to Abraham Lincoln on August 6, 1863

Founded the International Legion

In October 1861, he established the International Legion to not only work to complete the task of the Unification of Italy, but also to start championing republican sentiments across Europe. Garibaldi’s International Legion had volunteers from many European countries, including France, Poland, Germany and Switzerland.

Helped in Italy’s annexation of Venetia

Garibaldi fought in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) on the side of Prussia. During the war, he had the full backing of the Italian government, who had wanted to annex Venetia from the Austrians.

Under his command were 40,000 troops. He marched his troops on Trentino and won a hard fought battle against the Austrians at Bezzecca in July 1866. In the end, a truce was reached and the Austrians ceded Venetia to the Italian government.

More Giuseppe Garibaldi facts

  • Garibaldi and Mazzini met face to face in Genoa in November 1833.
  • He was involved in the February 1834 Mazzini-led insurrection in Piedmont (in present day northwest Italy).
  • For his involvement in the Piedmont insurrection, he was handed a death sentence in absentia. He then fled Europe, sailing to South America.
  • His grandson Giuseppe Garibaldi II served on the side of British forces in the Second Boer War (1899-1902).
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi was the commander of forces that defended the newly proclaimed Roman Republic in the Papal States. Fighting was so fierce that Garibaldi almost lost his life had it not been for his friend and volunteer in the Red shirt Achille Cantoni. Garibaldi was forever grateful to Cantoni. The leader of the Italian war volunteers even wrote a novel in honor of Cantoni. The novel was titled Cantoni il volontario.

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