March 2020 marks the 160th anniversary of the “Spedizione dei Mille,” a significant military campaign that ultimately led to Vittorio Emanuele being proclaimed the first king of a united Italy on March 27, 1861. The path to the “Risorgimento,” however, was plagued with hardships. Guiseppe Garilbaldi said it best: “I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor food; I offer only hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles, and death. . .”
In March 1860, Garibaldi was approached about leading an expedition to liberate Southern Italy from Bourbon rule. Although hesitant at first, Garibaldi accepted the task. By May 1860, Garibaldi had recruited a little over a thousand poorly equipped volunteers.
Yet, much like the Minutemen of the American Revolution, these poorly trained volunteers heroically distinguished themselves by their courage, sacrifices, and selfless determination during the decisive battles of the southern campaign. Although Garibaldi’s forces grew, the Italian freedom fighters incurred significant loses. Indeed, freedom is never free.
The Expedition of the Thousand is one of the most celebrated events of the Italian “Risorgimento.” The military successes of the Expedition fueled the fervor of – and for – an independent, unified Italian state. That drive – that impetus – became the nationalistic catalyst that propelled Italy to become a sovereign state. And, despite the ups-and-downs of European and internal Italian politics, Italy remains a viable nation to this day.
Albert J. Cupo, President of the Dante Alighieri Society
John Di Genio