When revolution swept over Europe in 1848, Garibaldi found a new theater of action. Though a convinced republican, he joined the forces of King Charles Albert of Sardinia in the war against Austria. After the Sardinian defeat he went to Rome (1849) and, at the head of some improvised forces, fought brilliantly for Mazzini's short-lived Roman republic against the superior French forces intervening for Pope Pius IX. During his spectacular retreat across central Italy, his wife died. He was refused asylum by the king of Sardinia and went to the United States.
Garibaldi resumed his seafaring life, but in 1854 he returned to Italy and soon bought part of the island of Caprera, N of Sardinia. By then he had renounced the dream of an Italian republic and gave his support to Cavour, publicly declaring that the monarchy as represented by Victor Emmanuel II should be the basis of Italian unity. Garibaldi's popularity won many of Mazzini's republican followers to the monarchist cause. Garibaldi took part in the war of 1859 against Austria. After the Treaty of Villafranca di Verona he violently attacked Cavour and denounced the cession of Savoy and his native Nice to France.
In 1860, with Victor Emmanuel's connivance, Garibaldi embarked on the crowning enterprise of his life—the conquest of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. With 1,000 volunteers, the Red Shirts, he landed (May, 1860) in Sicily, which had rebelled against Francis II, king of the Two Sicilies, and conquered the island in a spectacularly daring campaign. He then crossed to the mainland, took Naples, and won a decisive battle on the Volturno River. Mazzini wanted to make liberated S Italy a republic, and the populace acclaimed Garibaldi as ruler, but Garibaldi himself remained loyal to Victor Emmanuel. After meeting the king at Teano, near Naples, he relinquished his conquests to Sardinia and retired to Caprera. Shortly afterward (1861) Victor Emmanuel was proclaimed king of a united Italy.
Only part of the Papal States, including Rome, remained outside the new kingdom. In 1862, Garibaldi led a volunteer corps against Rome, but the king, fearing international intervention, sent an Italian army that defeated Garibaldi at Aspromonte. Garibaldi was given a pardon.
In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 he commanded a volunteer unit, and in 1867 he was defeated by French and papal forces at Mentana while attempting once again to capture Rome. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 he commanded a group of French and Italian volunteers and won a battle near Dijon (1871). Garibaldi was elected to the Italian parliament in 1874, but his political career was undistinguished.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.