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Italians played vital role in American Revolution

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As we prepare to celebrate our nation's independence, we here at NIAF are mindful that Italians have supported the U.S. since the beginning of our country's history. Here is just a sampling of Italians who helped the American colonies become the United States of America.

- Three Italian regiments, totaling some 1,500 men, fought for American independence: the Third Piemonte, the 13th Du Perche, and the Royal Italian.

- Filippo Mazzei, a Tuscan physician, fought alongside Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry during the American Revolution. Mazzei drew up a plan to capture the British in New York by cutting off their sea escape, and convinced France to help the American colonists financially and militarily. He also inspired the Jeffersonian phrase: "All men are created equal" when he wrote "All men are by nature equally free and independent."

- Italian officers in the American Revolution included: Captain Cosimo de Medici of the North Carolina Light Dragoons; Lieutenant James Bracco, 7th Maryland Regiment, killed at the Battle of White Plains; Captain B. Tagliaferro, second in command of the Second Virginia Regiment, a direct subaltern of General George Washington; 2nd Lieutenant Nicola Talliaferro of the 2nd Virginia Regiment; and Colonel Richard Talliaferro, who fell at the Battle of Guilford. Other Italian officers, most from Massachusetts, are on regimental rolls of the Continental Army.

- Major John Belli was the Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army from 1792 to 1794. The first settler in Scioto County, Ohio, he lived there until his death in 1809.

- Three of the first five warships commissioned by the Continental Congress of the new American government, were named Christopher Columbus, John Cabot and Andrea Doria. Doria was a 16th century navy admiral from Genoa who was still fighting the Barbary pirates in his mid 80s.

- Francesco Vigo (1747-1836), is believed the first Italian to become an American citizen. A successful fur trader on the western frontier (today the mid-western states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio), Vigo served as a colonel, spy, and financier during the American Revolution. He died a pauper, but in 1876 the U.S. government gave his heirs about $50,000 to repay them for Vigo's financial support of the Revolutionary War. Along with George Rogers Clark, he helped settle the Northwest territory.

To learn more about Italian American contributions to our country's history, visit NIAF's website.

Who are your favorite Italians or Italian Americans in U.S. history? Share with us!


NIAF thanks military historian Rudy A. D'Angelo for his assistance with this fact sheet.