In 1834 Garibaldi, who had absorbed political influences from Giuseppe Mazzini and from the French Socialist theorist Saint-Simon, participated in an unsuccessful attempt at revolution in Piedmont, in whose navy he then served. Under sentence of death he escaped first to France and then, in 1836, to South America, where he remained in exile until 1848. His experiences in South America determined his future career, shaping the military genius which later enabled him to resist the French and to defeat the Neapolitans and Austrians.
With the destruction of the Uruguayan army at the battle of Arroyo Grande (December 6, 1842), it was assumed that the country's capital, Montevideo, would fall to the combined forces of the Argentinian dictator Juan Manuel Rosas and the former Uruguayan president Manuel Oribe. Responsibility for the city's defence principally fell to two groups--the newly-freed slaves, who formed a contingent 5,000 strong, and the community of foreign exiles. As a leader of the Italian Legion--the first group to adopt the name "Redshirts" with which he will always be associated--Garibaldi substantially enhanced his reputation through the defeat of a superior force at the battle of Salto Sant Antonio (February 1846). In South America, Garibaldi learned and mastered the techniques of guerilla warfare which he was to use to great effect against the armies of the French and Austrians, which lacked effective experience to counter them. This rare history of the events of the period was written by the editor of the Montevideo newspaper the Constitucional.
During his service as a captain in the navy of the Rio Grande del Sul, a small state which attempted unsuccessfully to secede from the Brazilian empire, Garibaldi eloped with a married woman, Anna Maria ("Anita") Ribero da Silva. She was to be Garibaldi's companion (the two were bigamously married in 1842) until her death in 1849 during their flight from Austrian and Papal troops, subsequent to the collapse of the Roman republic. The dramatically tragic circumstances of her death placed her firmly in the front rank of the heroes of the Risorgimento. Bandi's romantic biography, first published in 1889, is a perennially popular hagiography of Anita Garibaldi.
From 1836-1840 Garibaldi fought for the Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost section of the Brazilian empire, then seeking to establish itself as an independent republic. By tradition, this map was owned by Garibaldi and was used by him at that time.
This sword is believed to have been presented to Garibaldi by the people of Montevideo on the occasion of his departure for Italy in June, 1848. The two sides of the engraved blade bear the inscriptions L'Italia and L'Unione.