What was it?
In one of the most dramatic moments of Italy’s unification, the revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi led an army of over 1,000 guerrillas to support a revolt in Sicily against their Neapolitan ruler, Francis II. While Garibaldi was a seasoned general of proven ability, the odds were stacked against him. His army – known as the Redshirts – was made of mostly untrained young idealists armed with rusty rifles. Meanwhile, Francis II boasted more than 20,000 highly skilled troops. However, the scarlet fighters quickly took the town of Marsala when they landed on Sicily’s west coast. As they made their way to Palermo, hundreds of Sicilian rebels joined them. The Redshirts won further Sicilian support after Garibaldi had the Neapolitan troops running scared at Calatfimi. By July, they had seized nearly all of Sicily and by September, crossed the water and captured Naples itself. Though Garibaldi’s efforts to march on Rome were checked, his ally King Victor Emmanuel II invaded the Papal States. Following a plebiscite, Garibaldi surrendered all of Sicily and Naples to Victor Emmanuel.