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Garibaldi has not left the world without some account of his birth, parentage, and early life. Not a little of his great, naïve, and enthusiastic character may be studied in those Memoirs, of which his eccentric friend, Alexander Dumas, published a free translation. He was born July 22, 1807. He was a native of Nice, a city inhabited by a mongrel race, but himself sprung from a purely Italian family The name of Garibaldi, common enough throughout North Italy, betokens old Lombard descent. He first saw light, as he states, in the very house and room where, forty-nine years before, Masséna was born. His father, Domenico, had come from Chiavari, in the Riviera di Levante; he gives his mother's name Rosa Raguindo. Garibaldi's father and grandfather were seamen, and he took to the sea as his native element, developing great strength and skill as a swimmer, an accomplishment which enabled him to save drowning men on several memorable occasions. For what book learning he had he seems to have been indebted to the desultory lessons of priestly schoolmasters under the direction of his mother. Of this latter he always spoke with great tenderness, acknowledging that "to her inspiration he owed his patriotic feelings," and stating that "in his greatest dangers by land and sea his imagination always conjured up the picture of the pious woman prostrated at the feet of the Most High interceding for the safety of her beloved."
Meeting of Victor Emmanuel and Garibaldi.
Escaping from his tormentor by the intervention of the Governor of Gualeguay, Paolo Echague, Garibaldi crossed from the territories of the Plate into those of the Rio Grande, and faithful to the cause of that republic, he fought with better success, winning battles, storming fortresses, standing his ground with a handful of men, or even single-handed, against incredible odds, beating strong squadrons with a few small vessels, giving through all proofs of the rarest disinterestedness, humanity, and generosity, disobeying orders to sack and ravage vanquished cities, and exercising that mixture of authority and glamour over his followers which almost enabled him to dispense with the ties of stern rule and discipline. At last, after losing a flotilla in a hurricane on the coast of Santa Caterina, where he landed wrecked and forlorn, having seen his bravest and most cherished Italian friends shot down or drowned, he fell in with his Anita—not, apparently, the first fair one for whom he had a passing fancy—with whom he united his destinies, for better for worse, in life and till death, in some off-hand manner, about which he is reticent and mysterious. Anita turned out almost as great and daring and long-enduring a being as her heroic mate, and was by his side in all fights by land and sea, till the fortunes of the Republic of Rio Grande declined, when, after giving birth to her first-born, Menotti Garibaldi, September 16, 1840, she went with that infant and his father through unheard of hardships and dangers in the disastrous retreat of Las Antas; when at last, Garibaldi, beginning to feel the responsibilities of a growing family, and despairing of the issues of an ill-conducted war, took leave of his Republican friends at Rio Grande and went for a short respite in his adventurous career to Montevideo.
After trying on the journey to find employment as a cattle-driver, Garibaldi settled at Montevideo in the capacity of a general broker and teacher of mathematics; but war having broken out between the Republic of the Uruguay and Buenos Ayres, the Condottiere was solicited to draw his sword for the former state which afforded him hospitality, and was trusted with the command of a little squadron destined to operate on the Parana River against a largely superior Argentine force. This expedition was contrived by enemies high in power in the Montevidean Government, who, jealous of the reputation won by Garibaldi at Rio Grande, vainly plotted to have him assassinated with his friend Anzani, and hoped to rid themselves of him by exposing him to dangers from which it seemed impossible that he could extricate himself. Garibaldi, however, made the best of his desperate position, and escaped, not only with his life, but also with "honor—the only thing that was not lost."
Presently, danger pressing sorely on the republic, he organized his Italian Legion, which behaved well through a new series of land and sea combats, its band of only 400 combatants often beating the enemy's corps 600 men strong, at the close of which exploits its soldiers refused grants of land offered to them by a grateful state, "the stimulus of their exertions," as their commander said, "being only the triumph of the Republican cause." The legion was afterward as a mark of honor, allowed precedence over all the other troops of the republic. The war continued, and under the auspices of their commander the soldiers of the Italian Legion rose to such distinction that at the affairs of the Boyada and of Salto Sant' Antonio, February, 1846, Garibaldi was empowered to write to the government of the republic that the brilliant successes of those deeds of arms were entirely due to their gallantry.
Meanwhile, however, news from Europe came to turn the attention of Italian patriots to the momentous events which were rapidly changing the conditions of the peninsula. Years had passed. Pius IX. was Pope; Sicily had risen in open and successful revolt; a republic had been proclaimed in France; Constitutions were being wrested from the reluctant hands of most European despots. Austria was convulsed with insurrectionary attempts; the Milanese drove Radetsky from their city after five days' fighting, and Charles Albert unfurled the national standard and crossed the Ticino.
The theatre of the exploits of the hero of Montevideo was soon changed. All who had a heart and soul in Italy were up and doing, and could Italy's greatest heart and soul remain beyond the seas? Garibaldi, on the first reports of the Pope's liberal leanings, wrote to the Nuncio Bedini at Montevideo, October 17, 1847, offering the services of the Italian Legion to his Holiness, who was now almost on the eve of a war with Austria, "although," the letter said, "the writer was well aware that St. Peter's throne rests on a solid basis, proof against all human attacks and needing no mortal defenders." The Nuncio returned thanks and praises and referred Garibaldi's tender to the Pontifical Government at Rome. But Garibaldi, never well disposed to losing time, after vainly waiting for further communication from Pope or Nuncio, brooked no longer delay. With incredible difficulty he scraped together money and means, and embarked with his brave friend, Anzani (who died at Genoa soon after landing), having with him only 85 men and two cannon, and leaving the remainder of his legion to follow when and how it could.
He crossed the ocean, landed at Nice, proceeded to Genoa and Milan, and when Charles Albert, defeated at Custozza, withdrew from the Lombard city and accepted an armistice, which saved Piedmont from invasion, August, 1848, Garibaldi passed over to Mazzini, and at the head of a volunteer force, of which Mazzini was the standard-bearer, issued a manifesto in which he proclaimed the Sardinian king a traitor, and declared that "the royal war was at an end, and that of the people was now to begin." That proclamation was, however, only an idle bravado. Mazzini, even if he had the spirit, lacked the physical strength of a fighting man. The Garibaldians, on hearing the news of the fall of Milan, lost heart, and many crossed over the frontier to Switzerland. With thinned and dispirited bands, Garibaldi, aided by his friend Medici, ventured on a few desultory fights near Luino, on Lake Maggiore, but soon fell back and withdrew to Lugano in the Canton Ticino, his health, it is said, breaking down, and his immediate followers being reduced to some three hundred.
A few months later Pius IX., fallen from his popularity and pressed hard by his disaffected subjects, who murdered his minister and almost stormed him in his palace at the Quirinal, ran away to Gaëta, and a Roman Republic was proclaimed, of which Mazzini, in a triumvirate with two others, mere men of straw, became the head. Attacked by the French in flagrant violation of all rights of nations, Rome undertook to defend itself, and whatever Italy could boast of generous hearts, regardless of party differences, rallied round Garibaldi, who drove back the French from Porta Pancrazia, April 29 and 30, 1849, defeated the Neapolitans in that campaign of Velletri, which was like the farce contrasting with the tragic drama soon to be acted at Rome, and withstood a three months' siege, in which many of the noblest champions of the Italian cause lavished their lives in a hopeless, yet, as it proved, not a fruitless struggle.
The French having gained possession of the city July 13, 1849, Garibaldi left it with a band of devoted volunteers, retired via Terni and Orvieto, gathering together about 2,000 men in his progress, crossed the Apennines, and pressed by the Austrians with overwhelming forces, sought a refuge at San Marino, gave the enemy the slip in the night, embarked at Cesenatico for Venice, which was still withstanding the Austrian siege, was met by four Austrian men-of-war, which compelled him to put back and land on the coast near Ravenna, and wandered ashore in the woods, where Anita, his inseparable companion in this disastrous march, succumbed to the fatigues of the journey, and expired in the hero's arms. Garibaldi's devoted friends Ugo Bassi and Ciceruacchio, falling into the hands of the Austrians, were shot by them without any forms of trial and by an act of barbarism which no human or divine law could justify. The heart-broken hero, with a few trusty men, made his way from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean, was arrested by the Sardinian Carabinieri at Chiaveri, conveyed to Genoa, where La Marmora was in command, and there embarked for Tunis; hence, finding nowhere a refuge, he proceeded to the Island of La Maddalena, off the shore of Sardinia, and hence again to Gibraltar and Tangier.
La Marmora received the heart-broken fugitive as a brother, supplied him with ample means for his journey to Tunis, and obtained for him from the Turin Government the assignment of an honorable pension, which Garibaldi did not in his straits disdain to accept. But, in his opinion, all seemed now over for Italy; Charles Albert's son, Victor Emmanuel, after the defeat of Navara, had made his peace with Austria in March, 1849. Venice had succumbed after heroic sufferings in August, and Garibaldi, again crossing the ocean, settled at New York as a tallow chandler, and only came back to Europe in 1855.
When Garibaldi returned from America he did not look out for Mazzini or his Republicans in England or Switzerland, but sought a home in Piedmont, a Constitutional State, which allowed him an obscure but peaceful retreat in his hermitage at Caprera, an island rock on the Sardinian coast near the Maddalena, and conveyed to him a hint that the time might soon come in which his country's cause would summon him from retirement. And, truly, four years later (1859) the destinies of Italy were nearing their fulfilment. France and Piedmont took the field against Austria. Garibaldi, leaving his island home, was met and highly welcomed by Victor Emmanuel, to whom he swore fealty as the only hope of Italy. He now took the command of the Chasseurs des Alpes, aided the royal army in its defence of the territory previous to the arrival of its great French auxiliary, and, following in the upper region a line parallel to that kept in the plain by the conquest of Palestro, Magenta, and Solferino, beat the Austrians at Varese and San Fermo, bewildered his adversary Urban, by the rashness of his movements on the mountains above Como, advanced upon Bergamo and Brescia, and pushed on to the Valtellina up to the very summit of the Stelvia Pass. Here the peace of Villafranca put an end to the struggle, and Garibaldi, afflicted by the arthritic pains to which he was a martyr all his life, travelled for a few days' rest to Tuscany and Genoa.
At Genoa, during the autumn and winter, Garibaldi, hospitably entertained by his friend Augusto Vecchi outside the city, busied himself with that expedition of "the Thousand" which made one state of the south and north of Italy. He embarked on May 11, 1860, at Genoa, landed in Sicily, at Marsala, beat the Neapolitans at Calatafimi, followed up his success to Palermo, and, aided by the insurgent city, compelled the garrison to surrender. He again routed the Bourbon troops at Milazzo, and had soon the whole island at his discretion with the exception of the citadel of Messina. He then crossed over into Calabria, and, almost without firing a shot, drove the Neapolitan king's troops before him all over the mainland, compelled the king to abandon the strong pass of La Cava and to withdraw his forces from his capital, where Garibaldi, with only a few of his staff, made his triumphal entry on September 7, 1860.
After a few days' rest Garibaldi followed the disheartened king to Capua, obtained new signal successes on the Volturno, at Santa Maria, and Caserta; but would probably have been unable to accomplish the enterprise had not the Piedmontese, whose government had aided Garibaldi's expedition while pretending to oppose it, overrun the Marches, beaten Lamoricière and the Papal forces at Castel Fidardo, and, crossing the frontier and the Apennines, besieged and reduced the strong places of Capua and Gaëta. Garibaldi, who, as a dictator, had with doubtful success endeavored to establish something like rule in the Two Sicilies, aware of the arduousness of a task which would have exceeded many wiser men's powers, met Victor Emmanuel at Naples, delivered the two kingdoms into his hands, and, declining all the proffered honors and emoluments for himself, took leave of his sovereign and embarked for the solitude of his rock-farm at Caprera.
Rome alone now remained outside of the United Italian Kingdom, and Garibaldi, raising bands of adventurers, made two or three attempts to capture it, but was repulsed by its French garrison, and it was not until 1870 that, the French troops being recalled to their own sorely distressed country, the union of Italy under Victor Emmanuel became an accomplished fact, though in the great liberator's absence. Garibaldi once more was seen in Rome, April, 1879. He was supposed to be proposing great purchases of arms, to be enlisting hosts of volunteers, to be planning thorough reforms and preparing formidable expeditions against Austria. But Garibaldi, away from Caprera, could not fail to have his good as well as his evil angels about him. He saw the king; he listened to General Medici, his own right arm in so many campaigns, and now first aide-de-camp to King Humbert, as he had before been to King Victor Emmanuel. He listened, while they showed him the folly of further war, and, though not convinced, he was silenced. Although too proud to acknowledge the absurdity of his schemes in words, he was too wise not to give them up in deeds. He withdrew from the vain popular acclamation; shut his door against the crowd of his visitors, and although he announced his intention to take up his domicile in Rome, he pleaded indisposition as an excuse for inaction and retirement. Unfortunately there was only too much ground in the plea. The arthritic pains, of which symptoms had manifested themselves as early as during the Lombard campaign of 1849, had been seriously aggravated by his toils, and the sight of his helplessness in Rome as he hobbled up the steps of Montecitorio in 1874, was saddening to all beholders, and prepared his friends for that end which, however, was to be put off for several years. The fatigue of the voyage from Caprera in 1879, and still more the excitement of incessant calls, objectless conferences, and endless exhibitions soon entirely prostrated the hero, and before the backward spring had fully set in it became evident that Garibaldi's life could only be a lingering agony.
His life, if life it may be called, and at all events his sufferings, were prolonged yet a few years. He left home in the spring of 1881 on a mad scheme of liberating, "by force if necessary," his son-in-law, Canzio, who had been arrested as a plotter for the republic. But having obtained the man's release from the king's government as a favor, he once more sought the peace of his hermitage where he died, June 2, 1882.
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