Garibaldi’s American connection
Giuseppe Garibaldi, the legendary leader of the Italian unification movement known as the Risorgimento, was a staunch supporter of the Union during the Civil War. At the beginning of the war, President Lincoln offered Garibaldi command of a division, but duty called back in Italy. He later wrote to the beleaguered president, “If wars should, by evil chance, continue in your country, I will overcome all obstacles which hold me back, and I will hasten to come to the defense of that people which is so dear to me.”
Although Garibaldi was never able to cross the Atlantic and fight on behalf of the Union, his name became a battle cry of the Garibaldi Guard, a regiment of volunteers also known as the 39th New York Infantry. A polyglot group of 830 soldiers, including Germans, Hungarians, Swiss, French, Spanish, Portuguese and 50 Italians, the Garibaldi Guard was one of the most picaresque units in the Union Army. In their distinctive blue and red uniforms with feathered caps, they served with honor in several battles, from the First Bull Run to Appomattox, sustaining heavy casualties.
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