By Rob Morgan
Tribute troops — that seems to be the best way to describe these several odd fighting formations around the world in the 19th century. Garibaldi’s name and his liberal revolutionary spirit seem to have brought into existence a large number of troop units and named in honour of him. From the Ragamuffin Wars of the 1830s to the Army of the Vosges in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the General himself led forces in two continents, though it has to be said with rather limited success on many occasions.
The units which bore his name in the American Civil War are very well known, of course, but in two later South American Wars in which he took no part, Garibaldini were active in three armies. Recently I have been reviewing two books, Osprey Men-at-Arms titles by Gabriele Esposito, “Armies of the War of the Pacific 1879-1883” (MAA 504) and “Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance 1864-1870” (MAA 499) for Lone Warrior magazine and they’ll appear shortly.
In the earlier 1860s war between Paraguay and her neighbours Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, both Brazil and Uruguay raised small volunteer units named after Garibaldi, they were “national legions of liberty” wearing the red shirt, and in the case of Uruguay, officers and men dressed to resemble Spanish rebel Carlists! The Brazilians, says Esposito, were recruited from Italian residents in that state, and that may also have been the case with the Uruguayan force. There are good colour plates of each of these units in the two Ospreys.
In the bitter War of the Pacific, which ended the year after Garibaldi died, a single tribute-named force appeared in 1880. This was in the remnants of the Peruvian army, led interestingly by the Peruvian Dictator Villena, and was said to have consisted of two hundred Italians living in Lima the capital, who were almost partisans, and wore red trousers and a hat band bearing Garibaldi’s name. It achieved little, but like so many, the name was as important as the cause.
Were there any other Garibaldini during the latter decades of the 1800s?