Explanation of the role of Guiseppe Garibaldi in the Unification of Italy

Essay by sharpey2001High School, 12th grade September 2004

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Giuseppe Garibaldi has been referred to by many historians as 'the foremost military figure and popular hero of the age of Italian unification'. Indeed, unlike Mazzini known as the "thinker" of the movement towards a united Italian state, Garibaldi can be seen as the "sword" of the 'Risorgimento', whose efforts resulted in many practical contributions to the cause for Italian independence.

Firstly, after his return to Italy in 1848, Garibaldi made his opening contribution to the cause by inspiring corps of volunteers to serve under the Piedmontese ruler Charles Albert. Although unsuccessfully, he waged war against the Austrians in Lombardy and then led his volunteers to Rome in order to support the Roman Republic as established by Mazzini. During this time Garibaldi initially defended Rome against the French forces with some success, but in the end was forced to "settle" with them, being allowed to depart from Rome with about 5000 of his followers.

However, these volunteers soon dispersed due to Austrian intervention on the line of retreat and it was then only in 1859 and 1860 that Garibaldi played another yet more significant role in the Unification of Italy. First of all, he furthered his apparent invincibility on the battlefield by marking a successful expedition fighting against Austrian forces on the Alpine Front in 1859. Then, in 1860 came his most significant achievement whereby he seized southern Italy from the Bourbons.

Against all the odds, Garibaldi and his 'Thousand' defeated the Bourbon forces at Calatafirmi and then in a patriotic gesture, made a gift of it to King Victor Emmanuel II. This in effect set the ball rolling for the whole Unification of Italy to take place as plebiscites were held in central and southern Italy which resulted in the overwhelming favour of annexation to Piedmont in...