When Garibaldi used the flag with Vesuvius

by Federico Quagliuolo

In 1843 a flag rose with Vesuvius in Uruguay in the hands of Garibaldi. This is not a hallucination, but the birth of the Italian Legion. It was a handful of Italian-led soldiers who became famous in South America during the times of the war between Uruguay and Argentina where the Nice was hero.
Dell 'Unification of Italy it wasn't talked about yet: it was in the Mazzini's dreams, Carbonari and Freemasons, but all attempts at insurrection they had ended up in bloodbaths in which so many had lost their lives young. Garibaldi at the time was just one of these boys who escaped death sentences of the Piedmontese who found refuge in South America, where many Italians fled for the same reasons. However, the South American political situation was not calm: the entire continent was on the verge of to blow up, among the sights expansionists of Argentina and the winds of revolution in Brazil.

In this hot and dangerous environment, Garibaldi began his military career using the Vesuvius flag without imagining that, twenty years later, the Naples volcano would have known him personally.

bandiera vesuvio garibaldi
Garibaldi's flag

Vesuvius on a Calabrian flag

"As Vesuvius incessantly burns, so the fire of Liberty burns in the breasts of the Italians." These were the words of Luigi Missaglia, one of the most faithful Garibald's aidesi, to describe the flag of the small battalion of Italian volunteers who decided to put themselves at the service of Uruguayan cause.

This flag was then nicknamed "Calabrese", probably due to the large presence of southern volunteers. Many believe it is due to the story of the Fratelli Bandiera who, like many young people fomented by Mazzini's dreams, they went to raise the revolution in Calabria, against Ferdinand II. They were soon shot. The story, however, happened in July 1844, while the flag is one year younger.

South America thus became an emigration destination for all political refugees and fugitives that they came from all over Italy. Not all of them were good people and were involved, more or less voluntarily, in the "Great War", between Argentina and Uruguay, in which the government of Buenos Aires supported with its military a coup, to place in Montevideo a character close to his sphere of influence. The situation resulted in one civil war.

Garibaldi was restless and could not get out of this affair. From an early age he felt the need di leave its mark on the world, but he didn't know how. In Italy the Piedmontese wanted him dead and he believed that he would never return to the Bel Paese. Thus, during his entire stay in South America he never missed an opportunity to get into trouble, joining all republican and revolutionary causes he met with his Italian compatriots.

Even the myth of the red shirt was born there: the uniforms of the Garibaldi troops were in fact those of the gods South American butchers, buy at a good price, as they were in financial straits. The red color served to not show the bloodstains when slaughtering the meat. In the case of the Garibaldini, however, it was useful to do not show the wounds.

Garibaldi da giovane
Garibaldi as a young man

Between lights and shadows

The Vesuvius he accompanied Garibaldi for his whole South American adventure, even if things got off to a terrible start and his character still divides today between acts of heroism and piracy of his men.

The first battles of the Italian Legion ended up in sound defeats. In addition, many legionaries they deserted, others gave themselves to raids or real ones assaults on merchant ships, which they put in several times difficulty the Italian general. Garibaldi himself told it in his memoirs, saying that "he blushed with shame"In not being able to prove the"value of the Italians“.

statua di garibaldi
Garibaldi statue in Salto

The siege of Montevideo

In 1846 Garibaldi's Italians found a way to redeem themselves. After two sensational victories against the Argentines in the city of Jump (which ended up with looting by Garibaldi's troops), the banner with Vesuvius and the battle cry “Garibaldi part!”Became famous throughout Uruguay. But that wasn't enough: Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, was besieged by the blancos (the pro-Argentine party) and the enemy troops. The battle was fierce and in a few days Garibaldi's Italians were decimated. Under the guidance of the expert Francesco Anzani, the strategist of Garibaldi's campaigns in South America, the remaining legionaries they fought to the death, managing to save the foreign capital.

Garibaldi on that occasion was promoted to general and the Uruguayan government even offered him the command of the General Staff. Meanwhile, rumors began to circulate in Italy about the adventures of a Italian leader in South America. The myth ofHero of the Two Worlds.

Uruguay Garibaldi Battaglia
URUGUAY: Giuseppe Garibaldi at the battle of San Antonio, February 8, 1846. Uruguayan Civil War, Uruguay, 19th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Italy called

The war in Uruguay continued until 1851. The Argentines they had the opposing state in their hands, but the British, the Brazilians and the French intervened decisively a reverse the situation not to lose a precious business partner. Garibaldi, however, had already left for some years: he had arrived in South America as a young man fugitive, quickly became famous as pirate and, for adults twists of History, departed from hero. It was the 1848 and in Italy the first had just broken out spark that would lead toUnity, which also took place through the intervention of many southerners. He arrived in Italy on the ship called "Speranza", which was still flying the black flag with Vesuvius. Then, once you get to the Mediterranean, decided to lower the old flag and hoist the Italian tricolor.

Twenty years after the events in Uruguay, the red shirts really landed in Naples. It was the 1860 and in the city he arrived, escorted by the National Guard, a army also formed by those volunteers he met in South America. It was at that moment that, for the first time, Garibaldi saw in person the Vesuvius who had accompanied him in numerous battles on the other side of the world.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Indro Montanelli, Marco Nozza, Garibaldi, Portrait of the Hero of the Two Worlds

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