In 1834, after acquiring a license as a merchant captain, he took part in an abortive republican rising in Genoa. Sentenced to death, he fled to South America, where he married his first wife, Anita, who was to fight beside him in all of his battles.
Between 1836 and 1848 he was active as a soldier and a naval captain in the area around São Paulo in its ultimately futile attempt to break away from Brazil.
Transferring his services at Orientale Province, he supported the province’s attempt to establish its independence by forming the Italian Legion and being placed in charge of the defense of Montevideo and the small Orientale (Uruguayan) fleet. His victories at Cerro and Sant’ Antonio helped to establish Uruguayan independence.
In 1848 he returned to Italy and volunteered to fight for Italian unification. Afterward he aided in military efforts to fight off French attacks on the Roman republic and defeat the forces of the Bourbon rulers of Naples.
In the summer of 1849, when the Roman republic fell to overwhelming French forces, he disbanded his troops in San Marino. After being pursued by Austrian armies, he departed for America. His wife died during the retreat.
Garibaldi returned to Italy in 1854 and in 1859 took part in battles against Austrian forces, enjoying many victories. The great moment of his life occurred in 1860. Landing with 1,000 volunteers in May with his “Red Shirts” in Sicily, he defeated the Neapolitan army and drove it out of Sicily.
By September and October, he had defeated the Neapolitan army on the mainland at the Battles of Reggio and the Volturno. He also arrived in Naples, and, by November, all of Naples and Sicily were in his hands. He then, although republican in sympathy, gave basically the whole of southern Italy to the Piedmontese monarchy.
After unsuccessful attempts to unite Rome with the new Italian state, he returned to battle in 1866, when he led a voluntary army against Austria. He defeated the Austrians at Monte Saello, Darso, Condino, and Bezzecca in July 1866.
The war ended with Venetia being united with Italy. In the 1860s, he volunteered for the French army in the Franco-Prussian War after France declared itself a republic. He secured victories at Châtillon, Autun, and Dijon. Rome was occupied during the war as French troops withdrew.
Garibaldi served in the French assembly for four years and then returned to Italy, where he was sporadically active in politics. For most of the decade, however, he was in retirement on the island of Caprera north of Sardinia. A skilled seaman and soldier, he was moderate enough to avoid the temptation of power.
Garibaldi could have gained power in Naples and Sicily, but, guided by his vision of a united Italy, he shelved his republican convictions so as to form the second vision. His role in the founding of Uruguay and Italy puts him in rare company as a father of two nations.