Garibaldi’s Englishman: The Story of Colonel John Peard
W. Baring Pemberton introduces the most intrepid of the Italian Liberator's English volunteers.
As the centenary of the Unification of Italy approaches, thoughts both there and in Britain will be turning to those men who helped to bring about that long and eagerly awaited achievement.
Much will be said of Mazzini, who founded the Young Italy secret society, more of Cavour, who directed the movement, but he who will deservedly be honoured most will be Guiseppi Garibaldi, whose inspiration, leadership and daring completed the work when Louis Napoleon withdrew from the fight and Cavour hesitated.
In these celebrations some thought should be spared for that small band of Englishmen who, actuated partly by love of adventure, partly by hatred of oppression, were willing to exchange the solid comforts of mid-Victorian England for the dangers and hardships of a cause entirely unconnected with their own country.
On the outcome of the struggle these men may not have had very much effect—United Italy must have come regardless of foreign assistance; but British genius for improvisation, its detachment in moments of crisis, are qualities that cannot and should not be forgotten when the full story of the Risorgimento is being told.
Of this band of volunteers none was more intrepid, certainly none more colourful than John Peard. Others, notably that rather mysterious figure Colonel Dunne, Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Dowling,1 performed more constructive work in the organizing and training of Italian patriots, but it was Peard who caught the eye of the public, British as well as Italian, and fired its imagination.