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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
Sanford explained that he was only empowered to offer the two-star generalship as set forth by Secretary Seward, and he could not go beyond it. He reported that Garibaldi was “flattered by the evidence of appreciation and grateful for the friendly sentiments manifested by the President and yourself” but refused to take service except as commander in chief. Sanford then said that he had made the suggestion of a visit to the United States to see conditions for himself and the character of the struggle, offering to underwrite such a trip for the general and his aides. But to this Garibaldi responded by saying that he would not dare to make such a visit because, as “an adopted citizen” of the United States, once on American soil “he could not be able to resist the temptation to throw himself in the foremost ranks, even as a private soldier.”
At his legation in Turin, Marsh consoled Sanfbrd and said that he had carried out his assignment with prudence and skill, even though Garibaldi’s services had not been obtained. To Secretary Seward he wrote that Sanford could not offer terms beyond his authorization and anyway the American government would not be inclined to give Garibaldi total command of all armed forces. And he added an abolitionist point—which may also have been shown to President Lincoln—about Garibaldi’s stand:
The ubiquitous Quiggle, hearing of the failure of the Sanford mission, now tried to fix blame and protect his original idea. “I did not accompany Mr. Sanford on his mission to Caprera,” he wrote to Secretary Seward, implying that he should have. “I am sure that if secrecy had been maintained, as it should have been, Garibaldi would now be on his way to the United States.” Secrecy was difficult if not impossible when even Mrs. Quiggle was writing polite billets-doux to Garibaldi, and aides to all the concerned parties were lending advice and looking out for their own interests.
Garibaldi’s talkative comrades on Gaprera shared their knowledge of the offer with the press in Italy and France, and soon the London and New York newspapers reported the rumors with fair accuracy. The general’s followers felt that news of the American offer would push the Turin government into military action toward battles of unification—led by Garibaldi.
With the story largely out in the open, commentators reacted freely both in Europe and in America. In Italy scores of petitions were published in newspapers urging Garibaldi not to leave. If Garibaldi and his staff went to America, wondered L’Armonia of Turin, “what would become of Italy?” L’Unita Italiana of Milan addressed an open letter to Garibaldi: