Yes... or no?
August 12, 2003 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Giuseppe Garibaldi, who united Italy in the 1860s, was asked by Lincoln to lead the army during the US Civil War. Garibaldi said he would if Lincoln officially declared that the aim of the war was to end slavery. Lincoln replied that he couldn't at that time, and so Garibaldi moved on to other things. But what if Giuseppe had gotten involved? The Papacy would clearly have denounced the North (indeed, the pope was the only world leader to recognize the Confederacy). The French hated him; the English loved him. Had he led the Federal troops, would France have jumped in on the side of the South? Would England have then jumped in on the Union side to counter? A whole different world history, perhaps, hanging on a yes/no question.
posted by ewagoner (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No wonder the Italians have such a losing reputation, their Minute Men were all Red Shirts.
posted by hob at 8:05 AM on August 12, 2003

He stumbled across the faded blue postcard, from Garibaldi to King Victor Emmanuel II telling the king of the offer[...]

"Dear King,
Hi! Having a great time in Sicily! Everyone has been really nice, except the Neopolitans, which worries us a little because that's where we're going next!

Well, there's not much else to report, except that the President of the United States offered me overall command of the Union forces in their war with the Confederacy, only I didn't say yes yet because I said back that he should say the war's about slavery but he's scared to do it. Anyway, I guess I'll try to write from Naples.

Your friend,
posted by coelecanth at 8:15 AM on August 12, 2003

Interesting what-if. However, I don't think the politics of America in 1862 would have allowed an Italian rebel to lead the Union Army. The Union (and Confederate) command was made up of West Point graduates (an insiders club) many of whom had fought recently in Mexico against rebels there. It would have been too much of an insult. If Lincoln had forced it through he very well could have prolonged the war by alienating his army commanders even more. My guess is Lincoln by 1862 was so distraught with the ineptitude of McClellan that he knew even the rumor of him asking Garibaldi would upset McClellan to no end, something Lincoln was fond of doing.
posted by stbalbach at 8:51 AM on August 12, 2003

'It's quite interesting, y'know, the number of biscuits that are named after revolutionaries...You've got your Garibaldi, of course, you've got your Bourbons, then of course you've got your Peak Freens' Trotsky Assortment.

Revolutionary biscuits of Italy
Rise up out of your box!
You have nothing to lose but your wafers
Yum yum yum yum yum!'
– Alexi Sayle [ref.] [Biscuits = cookies]
posted by i_cola at 8:54 AM on August 12, 2003

For fans of speculative civil war fiction, there is this excellent book, "How Few Remain," by Harry Turtledove, set in an 1880's where the Civil War ended in stalemate because England and France recognized the Confederacy. It's a novel.

There is also "For Want of a Nail," a book positing a British victory in the war for independence. What's interesting about this work is that it's written as if it was a high school/college intro text book, educating a reader in the (alternate) history of North America...I found it fascinating.
posted by pjgulliver at 8:57 AM on August 12, 2003

Wow, that site is insanely anti-Catholic. I haven't heard tripe about the "big horn", "little horn" garbage since I converted out of being Baptist (or since watching Jack Van Imp for laughs on late-night tv while rocking my baby to sleep).
posted by timbley at 10:44 AM on August 12, 2003

I understand (and totally believe, without a bit of research on my part...) that the first person Lincoln asked to be in charge of the Union army was...

... General Lee, who declined...

Now there'd be a different timeline.

Oh, by the way, that shouldn't be the "Civil War", but rather, "The War of Northern Aggression."
posted by jpburns at 10:55 AM on August 12, 2003

Wow, the site is.. wow.

"... Hollywood has always been run by the greatest enemies of Italian unity, the Jesuits.

...We know that Pope and Pentagon are working together to divide Italy once again and turn the clock back to the Dark Ages."

posted by signal at 1:07 PM on August 12, 2003

Would England have then jumped in on the Union side to counter?

Unless they would have thought it would hasten the end of blockades keeping them from the cotton they needed for sailcloth for their trade ships and their cargoes of textiles that they pressed out in the Dickensian mills back home, I'd say no.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:29 PM on August 12, 2003

[Biscuits = cookies]
posted by i_cola

Here's something I've wanted to know for a while. If the Britsh call cookies biscuits, what do they call biscuits?
posted by Bonzai at 1:56 PM on August 12, 2003

Freedom cabbage?
posted by jpburns at 2:29 PM on August 12, 2003

If the Britsh call cookies biscuits, what do they call biscuits?

Scones. They generally don't make American-style biscuits.
posted by kindall at 2:46 PM on August 12, 2003

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