lincoln tried to recruit garibaldi -- 8/16/18

Today's encore selection -- from Garibaldi by Christopher Hibbert. By 1860, Italy had been partially unified under the military leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi. His reputation was so favorable at this point that Abraham Lincoln had offered him command of federal troops in the American Civil War. He turned Lincoln's offer down in part because he discovered that the purpose of the war was not, at that moment, to end slavery, but merely to recapture seceded states. Instead, he remained in Italy to try to complete the reunification. Through his battles, the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia, in the north of Italy, had been unified with Sicily and Naples. But Rome was still independent, under the governance of the pope and the protection of France, and Venice was part of Austria. Garibaldi and his fellow revolutionaries wanted to retake both to be part of the new Italy:

"[After Garibaldi's dramatic military victories in Sicily and Naples in 1860], no one could be sure, ... in what way the unpredictable hero might act. It even seemed likely, at one time, that he would go to fight for the northern states in America, as, a few years later, it seemed likely that he would go to fight for the Mexican revolu­tionary, Benito Juarez (after whom Alessandro Mussolini was to name his elder son).

Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1861

"Abraham Lincoln offered Garibaldi command of an army corps and permission had been obtained from the King [Victor Emmanuel of Piedmont and Sardinia, whom Garibaldi fought on behalf of] for him to accept it. But in writing to accept Lincoln's offer, Garibaldi had characteris­tically demanded not an army corps but supreme command, and an undertaking that slavery would be formally abolished. He did not want to risk the chance of being let down by indecisive politicians prepared to trim their sails.

"He did not want to run this risk in Italy, either. And he continued to storm in word and print against the cautious and the cowardly who would not strike out [to retake Rome and Venice].

"Meanwhile the rumours varied and multiplied: he was going to capture Fiume; he was preparing an attack on Venice; he had been promised a million lire by the Government to attack the Austrians in the Balkans.

"And then it was learned for certain that he had left [his home in] Caprera, that he had seen the King in Turin and that he had also seen the new Prime Minister, Rattazzi, ...

Lincoln and George McClellan after the Battle of Antietam in 1862

"It seemed certain that Rattazzi, who had a strong taste for con­spiracy, would involve Garibaldi in some plot. But no one outside the intrigue was sure -- no one is sure -- what exactly had been agreed. It was clear at least, though, that when Garibaldi embarked on a Government-sponsored tour of northern Italy, making inflamma­tory speeches, encouraging students and schoolboys to practise fighting as part of their homework, instructing his agents to enroll volunteers and to collect money and arms, the Government took fright at the wild enthusiasm he aroused. He was not impressive as a speaker before cultivated audiences -- he had failed in Parliament and was inclined to dislike those who had succeeded -- but before a crowd, speaking in simple generalities, yet with intense concern and sincerity, he was inspiring and masterful. The 'sort of intimate communion of mind' that existed between himself and the masses was, one foreign observer thought, 'perfectly electrifying'."


Christopher Hibbert


Garibaldi: Hero of Italian Unification
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