- Historic Sites
Garibaldi And Lincoln
Would the great fighter come over for the Union? Italian freedom and lead troops Lincoln hoped so
October 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 6
And Seward informed Sanford that one thousand pounds sterling was put aside for the payment of General Garibaldi’s “expenses” for himself and his suite, adding that Sanford could enlarge his line of credit with banking houses in England and on the Continent, if necessary, to get Garibaldi.
Before leaving for a strategy session with Minister Marsh in Turin, Minister Sanford unwisely clued in Consul Quiggle, who again saw himself at the center of events. He wrote to Garibaldi, giving him the impression that he would run the Union show. Diplomatic silence was not one of Quiggle’s strong instincts. The press already smelled that an offer was in the wind; its main sources of information were Garibaldi’s aides, whose knowledge stemmed from Quiggle’s flamboyance as a letter writer. Sanford, who later called Quiggle “a low besotted Pennsylvania politician with an eye to money-making and political capital,” managed to sideline Quiggle in the negotiations.
On August ao, 1861, Marsh conferred with Sanford in Turin, and they decided to proceed cautiously at first, talking to Garibaldi on a level below ministerial rank. If Garibaldi turned down an intermediary, the incident could be viewed merely as a sounding out instead of a rebuff to the prestige of the Lincoln administration. The cat’s-paw was Giuseppe Artomi, an Italian-American who was Marsh’s secretary of legation. He was briefed and given a letter from Sanford addressed to the general on Caprera. The letter was written not in the name of Lincoln or Seward—that would be going out on a limb too soon—but of the government of the United States. It took note of the Quiggle correspondence, threw out a few high-sounding phrases about preserving the “Unity and Liberty of the American people,” and avoided mention of slavery and emancipation. Sanford said that he would stand by in Genoa and await a response; he added that he was ready for a personal talk. Meantime Artomi was so beguiled by Garibaldi that he assured the general President Lincoln was ready to make him commander in chief.
Garibaldi responded with a squeeze play, its main aim being the conquest and unification of Italy. With an American letter in hand he could move from strength.
“I should be very happy to be able to serve a country for which I have so much affection and of which I am an adoptive citizen,” Garibaldi replied to Sanford, who had holed up at a “bathing place” in Genoa. He added that “if I do not reply affirmatively and immediately to the honorable proposition which your government through your agency has made to me, it is because I do not feel myself entirely free, because of my duties toward Italy.
“Nevertheless if His Majesty, Victor Emmanuel, believes he has no need of my services, then, provided that the conditions upon which the American government intends to accept me are those which your messenger has verbally indicated to me, you will have me immediately at your disposal.” And he wrote that he was delegating Colonel Caspare Trecchi, a devoted follower who had been with him in Sicily and also served as an aide-de-camp to the king, to get a reply quickly.
The answer came through on September 6, 1861, politely but clearly: Garibaldi was free to go to the United States. The king told Trecchi that his government was not about to embark on a military expedition, commanded by Garibaldi or anyone else, against the papal territories. The pressure had not worked. These facts were conveyed by Trecchi to Sanford; it now seemed that the Union command could become a face-saving device for Garibaldi. After consulting with Minister Marsh and bringing him up to date Minister Sanford decided to move swiftly and confront the general himself.
On September 7, 1861, Sanford went down to the Genoa waterfront and—using an assumed name to preserve the secrecy of his mission—chartered a small steamer named the Dante to carry him to La Maddalena and thence to Caprera. Taking the regular steamer across the churning Ligurian Sea to the Sardinian off-island would have meant a ten-day delay, and there was no time to lose. The Dante hauled anchor from Genoa and, on the evening of September 8, 1861, appeared on the horizon and hove into view of the general’s telescope above the harsh bluffs of Caprera. After walking across the rock-strewn pathways through fields of geraniums and over fenced goat pastures, the American minister sat down with the Italian general to discuss details of the offer from the embattled United States.
In a letter marked “confidential” Sanford reported to Secretary of State Seward what had happened; it is not unreasonable to assume that the letter was shown to or at least its contents summarized for President Lincoln when it arrived at the State Department early in October of 1861. After mentioning Garibaldi’s convalescence following several months of rheumatism, Sanford got to the heart of the matter—that is, the hero’s conditions for serving: