Garibaldi, hero of South America

Garibaldi, eroe in Sud America (Leggi versione in italiano)

His greatest challenge was the Expedition of the Thousand, with which he unified Italy. But he began his heroic adventures in South America, where he fought for the freedom of the people of the Rio Grande and Uruguay. He returned in Italy only after the outbreak of the first war of independence.

Giuseppe Garibaldi was born French. On July 4, 1807, the day of the birth of the future hero of the two worlds, the county of Nice was under the sovereignty of France. His family was native of Chiavari. It had moved to Nice a few decades earlier. It seems that Garibaldi’s progeny descended from the Lombard king Garibaldo, who reigned in Italy in 671. His father Domenico owned a tartan, the “Santa Reparata“, a sailboat of about 25 meters in length, used for coasting transport. The mother, Maria Rosa Raimondi, was native of Loano and belonged to a family of fishermen.

Giuseppe had three brothers, two other sisters had died at an early age. The second sister lost her life, still newborn, in a fire in which the nurse also died. The elder brother Angelo made a career as a diplomat and became consul in the United States for the Kingdom of Sardinia. His brother Michele became captain of ships, while the third brother, Felice, younger than Giuseppe, as an adult was a representative of the company Avigdor and was the owner of an oil mill in Bitonto (Bari).

Giuseppe was just 8 years old when he made his first heroic gesture. A laundress had fallen into the water and was in danger of drowning. Giuseppe, courageously, dived and pulled her to safety. In 1815, after the return of Nice to the Savoy, Garibaldi became a citizen of the Piedmontese state and therefore Italian. He reluctantly attended the school, contravening the wishes of his father who wanted him to become a doctor, a lawyer or a priest. The passion of Giuseppe instead was the sea. He tried to escape from home to become a sailor. He set out on a boat, along with three of his little friends, headed for Genoa, where he was planning to look for a boarding. Discovered in the sea of Munich by some acquaintances he was taken back home.

In 1824 he had his first engagement as a sailor on a Russian brigantine commanded by the Angelo Pesante of Sanremo at the age of sixteen. Giuseppe Garibaldi crossed the Mediterranean reaching the Black Sea on this journey. The ship “Costanza” made several stops in the Russian and Ukrainian ports. The city of Odessa was very important for the future of Garibaldi because, years later, it was 1833, returning always by sea, he met a Mazzinian who began it to the republican theories of the Italian patriot.

After embarking on the “Costanza” father Domenico took him on board the “Santa Reparata” as a sailor’s aid for a journey that, along the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy, had as its destination the port of Rome. In that city a cargo of wine was disembarked for the pilgrims of the Jubilee of 1825. After some other embarkations which brought him to the western Mediterranean up to the Canary Islands, he had an engagement on the “Cortese” ship. The boat was attacked by the Tunisian pirates and completely looted, including the clothes of the crew. Arrived in Constantinople, the young Garibaldi fell ill and stopped in that city for three years. He was held back by the Turkish-Russian war that made the marine connections difficult, but also he was held back from the friendship he had with a local woman, Luisa Sauvaigo, originally from Liguria. In Constantinople there were numerous families of Italian, descendants of those who had founded the Genoese colony of Galata at the entrance of Costantinople a century before. At that time he was a teacher of Italian, French and mathematics to earn a living. Garibaldi also had the opportunity to attend the house of the legendary commander of the Sultan’s cavalry, the Italian Giovanni Calosso, originally from Chivasso, nicknamed Rustem Bey.

He was enlisted in the Piedmontese navy on his return to Genoa. He, in the city of the lantern, was involved in the plots that Mazzini, exiled in Switzerland, was plotting to unify Italy in a single republican state. In 1834 the attempted invasion of the Savoy carried out by Girolamo Ramorino and other followers of Mazzini and the contemporary revolt, that broke out in Genoa, of which Garibaldi was one of the organizers, were severely repressed by the Savoy army. Garibaldi, wanted by the gendarmes, was helped by three women: the innkeeper Caterina Boscovich, the maid of the inn, Teresina Cassamiglia, and the greengrocer Natalina Pozzo, who hid him in their houses because he was not captured.

He secretly left Genoa on a ship headed for Tunis to escape Savoy justice, finding refuge in that city. He had been sentenced to death by the Piedmontese military court for his participation in the riots. There was a large colony of Italians a La Golette, the port of Tunis, among whom some had joined the local section of the Giovane Italia. Garibaldi was hosted by these patriots. Here, just not to get bored, he enlisted in the pirate Houssin Bey‘s fleet. A few months later he embarked for Marseilles where he found a cholera epidemic. He decided to leave the city to reach South America, embarking as a second of the captain on the brig “Nautonier“, directed to Rio de Janeiro.

Republic of Riograndense
He made contact with the local section of the “Giovane Italia” in Rio de Janeiro, where he met some Italian patriots who were also exiles in South America. He was conquered by the republican ideals that opposed the Brazilian Empire and he decided to start a race war against the navy of the empire. In this regard he asked for a letter of “corsair” license to Mazzini. This license was essential because in case of capture by the authorities, this allowed him not to be judged as “pirate”, an accusation that provided for the death sentence. The turning point for Garibaldi came after the meeting with Livio Zambeccari, a count of Bologna who had to leave Italy after the revolts of 1821. Zambeccari was the secretary of the president of the Republic of Riograndense, Bento Gonçalves. The Republic was born following the secession of the Rio Grande territory by the Brazilian Empire.

In 1838 the president Bento Gonçales named Giuseppe Garibaldi “Corsair against the Empire” being the newborn republic in war against Brazil to maintain its independence. The Italian hero armed a small ship, the “Mazzini”. He was accompanied by Luigi Rossetti, a Genoese who had participated in the riots of Naples and Turin in 1821 and 1822 and, therefore, sentenced to death in absentia. He began his war against the ships of the imperial navy, capturing a Brazilian cargo loaded with coffee. He captured the crew, freeing four black slaves who were on board. He took possession of the ship that baptized with the name of “Farropilha” (Canaglia) and sank the “Mazzini” which was much smaller. Near the coast he freed the captive crew. One of the freed slaves, the giant Andrea Aguyar, will follow him in his adventures as his personal bodyguard. The legend of Garibaldi as a liberator of slaves spread throughout Brazil, with rumors, unfounded, that spoke of a hundred freed slaves.

Garibaldi was seriously injured in a subsequent clash with Brazilian ships. The naval battle continued led by another Italian, Carniglia, who managed to get away, taking refuge in the port of Buenos Aires, where the entire crew was imprisoned. Only a few months later Argentina released Garibaldi and his companions, having no accusations to move against them.

In 1848 Garibaldi reached the capital of the Rio Grande where he was nominated by the president Bento Gonçalves as general commander of the navy. The fleet consisted of only two ships, “Rio Pardo” and “Independencia“. He succeeded in numerous clashes with the Brazilian navy with these two boats alone. Meanwhile, Garibaldi was taking care of the construction of another ship to create a real fleet at the service of the republic. The shipyards were located inside the Los Patos lagoon, an interior body of water, connected to the ocean through a narrow channel. Since the mouth of the lagoon was blocked by the Brazilian navy, to launch two of the boats, the “Farroupilha” and the “Seival“, the same were loaded on the huge carts dragged by a hundred pairs of oxen. The strange convoy crossed the straight spit of land that divided the lagoon from the ocean. On July 15, 1839 the two new ships were lowered in the Atlantic, away from enemy eyes. Garibaldi, captain of Farroupilha, and Griggs, captain of the Seival, attacked a convoy of little Brazilian ships. They pushed the ships to the mainland with a stratagem, where a group of Riograndense soldiers captured the big launchs loaded with goods.

On 25 July 1839 Garibaldi, in command of his fleet, attacked the city of Laguna and conquered it. The city took the name of Juliana and was the capital of the new republic of Juliana. During this action Garibaldi noted from the side of his ship, through the telescope, the beautiful and proud Anita. He went down and went to meet her. Ana Maria de Jesus Ribeiro da Silva, born in 1821, was married at 14, forced by her mother, with Manuel Duarte de Aguilar, a shoemaker from Laguna. The Italian hero, in order to convince her to follow him, uttered simple words: “You must be mine”. These were the words to conquer Anita forever.

The two immediately went together. The abandoned husband of Anita will die shortly afterwards due to the displeasure and injuries suffered during the clashes with Garibaldi’s sailors. Anita, just to be always next to his beloved José, became a real soldier, always deployed and ready to fight. Garibaldi taught Anita the secrets of military life. Anita, a horsewomanship, taught him to ride, something that the sailor Garibaldi had not yet learned. In November, the Imperial troops reconquered Laguna, putting an end to the Republic of Juliana. Garibaldi, with Anita and his men, after several clashes on the nearby plateau, was forced to retreat. After four days of march he reached the Rio Grande.

In 1840 Garibaldi took leave of the Rio Grande Navy and moved to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. He was rewarded for the service with thousand oxen. Only three hundred oxen arrived in Uruguay of the thousand oxen, the others went missing during the transfer.

In 1840 the first son of Garibaldi and Anita was born in Montevideo. He had the name of Menotti, like the patriot Ciro Menotti, who was executed in 1831 after the failed riots in Mantua.

Garibaldi was enlisted in the Uruguayan navy with the rank of colonel. At the command of a fleet of three ships, the Constitution, the Pereyra and the schooner Procida carried out an expedition penetrating the Argentine territory going up the course of the Paranà river. His goal was the city of Bajada, today Paranà, where he had to capture the cargo of some ships and continue to Corrientes, in friendly territory. Despite the great difficulties, given that it was to penetrate deep into the Argentine lands, he managed to mock the commander of the opposing fleet, the British Admiral William Brown, who with his seven ships followed him on the Parana river. Helped by the fog and the shallow which did not allow easy maneuvers, Garibaldi managed to escape the pursuit entering into one of the many rivers where the river was divided, while the Argentine fleet mistakenly entered another. The clash between the two fleets occurred after the city of Bajada. The superiority of the Argentine fleet, which included seven ships plus another minor ships, forced Garibaldi, with only two ships as the Procida had continued towards Corrientes, on the defensive. His two ships were on fire at the end of the battle. Garibaldi and the survivors escaped to the mainland. With great difficulty they managed to reach Montevideo.

On March 26, 1842, Giuseppe and Anita were married. The following year Anita gave birth to the second child of her Josè. The girl was given the name of Rosa, like Garibaldi’s mother. The child died in 1845 for a smallpox attack.

In this period Garibaldi constituted a military force to which he gave the name of “Legione italiana”. The men belonging to the legion, for the great majority of Italian origin, were distinguished by the red shirt they wore. Garibaldi had managed to buy a stock of shirts for butchers of red color to hide the blood stains due to slaughter. The legion’s flag was black with the design of steaming Vesuvius. The war between Argentina and Uruguay was carried out between sieges and naval blitz. The Argentinean navy came to the siege of the capital Montevideo after several clashes between the two brigantines and other boats of Garibaldi and the Argentinean ships, which were higher in tonnage and number, in whose command there were expert Britain admirals. The Italian Legion’s ships managed to head for the city of Salto after being defeated the siege of Montevideo. Salto city was abandoned in haste by the Argentine occupants, after a clash with the men commanded by Francesco Anzani. Garibaldi was able to enter the city and re-establish the sovereignty of the Uruguayan republic. The city was however under siege by General Justo José de Urquiza. Garibaldi managed to get a first victory with a blitz. The siege lasted several months in which the Italian Legion was honored following the many victories achieved against the enemy. Garibaldi’s heroism became famous all over the world. In Italy the stories of Raffaele Lacerenza describing the deeds of the hero and the Italians of his legion were printed at his expense in eight thousand copies, exciting the citizens of the peninsula.

In 1845 Garibaldi had his third daughter, who called Teresita in memory of his little sister died in a fire at an early age. In 1846 the insistent requests of Italian patriots to the Piedmontese authorities began to allow Garibaldi to return to Italy. The Piedmontese minister Solaro della Margherita refused to allow the pass because of Garibaldi’s death sentence imposed for his participation in the Genoa riots. At the beginning of 1847 the last son of Garibaldi and Anita was born. He was named Ricciotti, a name given to him to remember the Ricciotti brothers who, with Guglielmo Pepe, had participated in the liberation riots of 1821 in the Papal States. Italian legionaries made a collection to allow their family members to come to Italy. In January 1848 Anita with her three children (Rosa had died in 1845 only two years old), along with the wives and children of the other legionaries, embarked for Italy. Anita went to Nice where she was hosted by her husband’s elderly parents. At the end of March of the same year, Giuseppe Garibaldi returned to Italy with the outbreak of the first war of independence, after he had been granted the safe conduct by the Piedmontese authorities.

Ugo Carcassi, Giuseppe Garibaldi: profilo di un rivoluzionario, Sassari, C. Delfino Editore, 2001
Alfonso Scirocco, Garibaldi. Battaglie, amori, ideali di un cittadino del mondo, Editori Laterza, 2009
Alexandre Dumas, Le memorie di Garibaldi, Mursia, 2005 Garibaldi
Antonio Pagano, Giuseppe Garibaldi (Un’altra storia), Garibaldi