Italian Patriot. Born Joseph Marie Garibaldi in Nice, France to the son of a fisherman, Giuseppe Garibaldi became a fighter for the freedom and independence of Italy. He had an adventurous early life including becoming a skilled merchant ship captain, traveling to Russia, and serving in the Piedmont-Sardinia Navy. His politics set the course of his life: to merge the many Papal States of Italy into one nation to better serve the people. Being part of a failed plot to overthrow the civil authority in Piedmont led to a price being placed on his head. This was the start of his revolt against tyranny. In 1836, to escape this death, he fled to South America to become a refugee for a dozen years. Coming to Brazil during their revolution, Garibaldi joined their fight, learned Guerrilla warfare, fought bravely and even was captured then tortured with his limbs being dislocated. During this time, he met and married his first wife Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro, or as known in Italian history, Anita Garibaldi. She was more than a wife as she was very supportive in his revolutionary causes. Since Anita was a skilled horseman, she followed him often into battle dressed as a man. His trademark South American attire of red shirt, poncho, and sombrero with long facial hair made him appear even more charismatic to his followers. He and his family lived in the snake-infested jungles nearly starving as he fought for freedom against Argentinean dictatorship in Uruguay. He also was a trader, schoolteacher, and became a person of respect during his time in South America. In 1848, he returned to Italy only to resume his freedom fight by leading thousands of followers. In August of 1849, after the heated retreat of battle to liberate Rome, Anita died sick with malaria while expecting their fifth child. Her remains were hurriedly buried on a stranger’s farm, but later re-interred in the bronze sarcophagus base of an equestrienne statue dedicated to her and erected on the Janiculum Hill in Rome. Her grieving husband had chosen this location. Not only was Garibaldi heartbroken about losing his beloved Anita, he had lost most of his army in this battle on Rome. He wanted time to grieve, regroup and resume the battle, but he was convicted for a second time into exile in 1849, hence he traveled to England, Tangier, Peru, and on to Staten Island, New York. There he again was merchant ship captain, a candle maker, and became an admired figure. Known around the world as a great freedom fighter, he gained monetary support from benefactors in Great Britain and the United States. He returned to Italy in 1854. In 1855, he purchased the main part of the island of Caprera, which is between Sardegna and Corsica. He built his family home there in hope of living in peace as a farmer, but that would not be the case. With thousands of followers known as “Red Shirts”, he led his army in battle after battle, sometimes outnumbered with losses, other times bravely victorious, but always known for his forceful march on the enemy. During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln offered a commission to Garibaldi, but it was declined, as a mutual agreement was not reached. Garibaldi’s first concern was to stand against tyranny and slavery. Many of his well-trained men did serve in Lincoln’s army as a unit from New York. General Garibaldi’s last campaign was in 1870 in which he and his two sons supported France during the Franco-Prussian War. He was called “Hero of two worlds” for his bravery in South America and Italy fighting against tyranny. After nearly fifty years of bloodshed and fighting, he had achieved his primary goal of merging the states in Italy as one nation. He did regret that the ending came not fully on his terms, but victory was victory. Although Garibaldi’s army had been sanctioned for many years, he refused knighthood or any other honors offered by Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the newly unified Kingdom of Italy, He was honored with statues in New York City, Russia, Spain, several in Italy and one with Anita in Brazil. The Staten Island cottage, which was his residence while in New York, is now the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum. Besides being recognized as an Italian military officer, he held high-ranking public offices later in life. As an elderly man, he was a bedridden cripple from complications of his war injuries, yet lucid, expressing his political views, and capable of penning at least two novels and his memoirs. He was a Mason and his religious faith was free of any Catholic thinking. Along with his third wife Francesca Armosino and five other family members, he was buried in the small cemetery near his residence on the Island of Caprera. According to his last will, he wished to be cremated but this was not fulfilled for religious and political orientation of the government in Italy in 1882. His historical military marches and use of Guerrilla warfare in battle have been compared to General Sherman’s Atlanta to the sea march and General Patton’s march in Europe during World War II.
Bio by: Linda Davis