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Giuseppe Garibaldi, a Man who Helped Create Italy

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Rome, Italy

Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Achievements for Italy

The son of a seaman, he was born on July 4, 1807, in Nice, which is now in France but was then an Italian town. From his earliest years he loved adventure, and at the age of 15 tried to run away to sea. With his father's agreement he later went to sea and by the time he was 25 had worked his way from cabin boy to captain.

In 1832 came the turning point of Garibaldi's life, for he met another Italian, Giuseppe Mazzini, who was the organiser of the “Young Italy” movement. At this time Italy was made up of several separate states, many of which were ruled by kings who paid no attention to the wishes of their people. Great parts of what is now northern Italy belonged to Austria. The members of the “Young Italy” movement sought to drive out the Austrians, to unite all the states into one country and to set up one government for the whole country. They were determined to make that government democratic; that is, to have a government that would rule in accordance with the wishes of the people.

In 1834 Garibaldi helped Mazzini to organise a rebellion in Savoy (northem Italy). The attempt failed, Garibaldi fled to France, was sentenced to death in his absence and went to live in exile in South America. For 12 years he led a band of men who were fighting for the Republic of the Rio Grande, which was rebelling against Brazil. He suffered shipwreck, imprisonment and torture so bravely that his followers worshipped him. He organised other Italian exiles into an army known as the Italian Legion, which in 1843 and 1846 saved Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, from attack by Argentina.

In 1848 Garibaldi returned to Italy and found the north Italians in revolt against the Austrians. He formed and fought with a volunteer army of 3,000 men, but after the Italians were defeated had to escape to Switzerland. In 1849 he was back in Italy, defending Rome against the French. The people of Rome had rebelled against the government of the Pope (who at that time ruled over great areas in the same way as an ordinary king), and set up their own government. France sent 30,000 men to fight for the Pope and when these troops attacked Rome, Garibaldi organised the defence of the city while Mazzini controlled its government. Garibaldi's troops, wearing their famous red shirts, were defeated, but most of them managed to escape, and Garibaldi went to the United States. Returning to Europe in 1854, he settled on Caprera, a tiny island off Sardinia.

In 1859 Garibaldi was fighting the Austrians in north Italy once more, this time successfully. In May 1860, with 1,000 volunteers, he landed on the island of Sicily (off southern Italy) where the people were suffering under the brutal rule of King Francis of Naples. Within three months 25,000 of King Francis's troops were defeated, and Garibaldi led his men to the mainland of Italy, won the Battle of Reggio and marched on Naples. Francis fled and his kingdom of southern Italy was handed over to King Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia, who afterwards became King of the whole of Italy. Garibaldi, rejecting all offers of wealth and titles, returned to his simple farm on the island of Caprera.

From there in 1862 he returned once more to raise an army and march on Rome, which was still a separate state ruled by the Pope. However, Victor Emmanuel did not want further strife and forced Garibaldi to stop. In 1867 he tried again and was defeated by the Pope's army, which had French troops fighting with it.

Garibaldi retired to his farm and died at the age of 75, honoured and mourned throughout the nation he had fought to free.

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