The Expedition of the Thousand, a celebrated event of Italy’s Risorgimento, occurred between May and October 1860 and led to the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy. At the end of March 1860, there are three independent states in the Italian peninsula. The Kingdom of Sardinia, ruled by Victor Emmanuel II, included Sardinia, Liguria, Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. The Papal State included Lazio, Umbria and the Marches. The Bourbon king Francis II of the Two Sicilies, ruled over all the south of the peninsula. The Austrian Empire was instead in control of the north eastern regions of Alto Adige, Trentino, Veneto and Friuli. In the second independence war, the Kingdom of Sardinia defeats the Austrians and conquers Lombardy. The plan devised by Victor Emmanuel II and his prime minister Camillo Benso Count of Cavour to unify Italy under the rule of the House of Savoy, is now taking shape. The Kingdom of Sardinia is allied with Imperial France. Napoleon’s firm opposition to taking action against Austria or the Pope induces the House of Savoy to face the only possible target: the Bourbons in southern Italy. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies is vulnerable. Francis II is a young and inexperienced king. Several XIX century uprisings, often crushed by Austrian intercessions, testify to the widespread discontent with the Bourbon governance and the weakness of their army.
The Sicilian insurrection in April 1860 offers the Kingdom of Sardinia an opportunity to carry out their plan to annex Italy’s south. Victor Emmanuel II and Cavour entrust the project to Giuseppe Garibaldi, a valiant commander in the recent second independence war. The general is given a squad of some one thousand volunteers. On May 5th 1860 Garibaldi and his one thousand men set sail from Quarto, near Genoa. On May 11th they land in Marsala, welcomed as liberators by the Sicilians. The thousand, joined by Sicilian volunteers, liberate Sicily by the end of July. During August and September, with the support of local populations, Garibaldi’s Redshirts, occupy Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia and Campania. The famous meeting between Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II in Teano on October 26 1860 puts an end to Garibaldi’s endeavour. The general symbolically delivers the Bourbonic south to the future king of Italy. However to reach Teano from the Kingdom of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II must cross the Papal state. The Savoy king’s army defeats the Papal troups both in Umbria and the Marches. Two more regions of the Pope’s territories are now annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia. The kingdom of the Two Sicilies ceases to exist and all its territories are surrendered to the Kingdom of Sardinia. The Bourbons are exiled to Rome. Having lost Umbria and the Marches, the Papal State is left with only the Lazio region. On March 17 1861, Victor Emmanuel II is declared the first sovereign of the Kingdom of Italy.