The Wars of San Martin 1814-1824

[ 1814 - 1824 ]

In Argentina...An assembly representing most of the viceroyalty met at San Miguel de Tucumán and on July 9, 1816 (Nueve de Julio), declared the country independent under the name of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata.

Several years of hard fighting followed before the Spanish royalists were defeated in northern Argentina. But they remained a threat from their base in Peru until it was liberated by José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar in 1820-24. The Buenos Aires government tried to maintain the integrity of the old Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, but the outlying portions, never effectively controlled, soon were lost: Paraguay in 1814, Bolivia in 1825, and Uruguay in 1828. The remaining territory--what now constitutes modern Argentina--was frequently disunited until 1860. 

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In Chile... the initial move toward independence was made on Sept. 18, 1810, when a cabildo abierto (open town meeting) in Santiago, attended by representatives of privileged groups whose vaguely defined objectives included a change in administration, accepted the resignation of the President-Governor and in his place elected a junta composed of local leaders.

From 1810 to 1813 the course of the patriots was relatively peaceful because they were able to maintain themselves without formal ties to the Viceroyalty of Lima. Trade restrictions were relaxed; steps were taken toward the eventual abolition of slavery; a newspaper was established to publicize the beliefs of the patriots; and education was promoted, including the founding of the National Institute. However, the embers of civil strife were also fanned. The Creoles were divided over how far the colony should go toward self-government. José Miguel Carrera and his brothers, whose desire for complete independence was equaled if not surpassed by their personal ambition, inflamed the issues. Meanwhile, Spain had taken steps to reassert its control over the colony. At the Battle of Rancagua, on Oct. 1 and 2, 1814, it reestablished its military supremacy and ended what has been called la patria vieja ("The old fatherland").

Following the defeat at Rancagua, patriot leaders, among them the Carrera brothers and Bernardo O'Higgins, future director-dictator of Chile, migrated to Argentina. There O'Higgins won the support of José de San Martín, who, with the support of the revolutionary government in Buenos Aires, was raising an army to free the southern portion of the continent by first liberating Chile and then attacking Peru from the sea. The Carreras continued their spirited agitation for independence in Buenos Aires and the United States.

Meanwhile, many of those who remained in Chile suffered from the harsh rule of Spain's inept representatives and became convinced that absolute independence was necessary. In January 1817 San Martín's well-drilled army, with O'Higgins as one of its commanders, began its march across the Andes; and on Feb. 12, 1817, the patriot forces defeated the royalists on the hill of Chacabuco, which opened the way to Santiago. O'Higgins was proclaimed supreme director of Chile, although the act of declaring Chile's independence was not taken until a year later (Feb. 12, 1818), on the first anniversary of Chacabuco; and the decisive defeat of Spain on the Chilean mainland (Spain held the island of Chiloé until 1826) did not come until the Battle of Maipú, on April 5, 1818. Before emancipation was assured, O'Higgins began the creation of the Chilean navy, which by late 1818 was in the process of clearing the Chilean coast of Spanish vessels.

Chile was free, but its inherent weaknesses were everywhere manifest. The Creoles remained bitterly divided between O'Higgins and the Carreras. Two of the Carrera brothers had been executed in Mendoza, Arg., in 1818; and José Miguel Carrera suffered the same fate in the same city in 1821. The elite groups were dedicated to the retention of those institutions on which such things as law, property, family, and religion were founded. The masses, who had been little more than spectators in the conflicts between 1810 and 1818, were excluded from government.

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In Peru... The Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808 sparked the Creoles (those of European descent born in America) in other Spanish colonies to struggle for independence between 1810 and 1821. But Peru remained loyal because of the conservative attitude of the Peruvian aristocracy, the presence of many Spaniards in Peru, the concentration of Spanish military power in Lima, and the effective suppression of Indian uprisings. Peru's independence was, consequently, achieved primarily by outsiders.

Among them was General José de San Martín of Argentina, whose aims were to secure Argentine control of Upper Peru's silver from the Spanish forces that had occupied Upper Peru and to assure Argentina's independence by destroying the remaining Spanish power in South America. Because Argentine forces had previously been defeated in Upper Peru, San Martín determined to surround the Spaniards by liberating Chile and using it as a base for a seaborne attack on Peru. Chile was freed in 1818 and a fleet was readied, which enabled San Martín to occupy the Peruvian port of Pisco in September 1820. When the viceroy withdrew his forces into the interior, San Martín entered Lima. Peruvian independence was declared on July 28, 1821.

Lacking power to attack the strong Spanish forces in the interior, San Martín sought aid from Simón Bolívar, who had liberated northern South America, but Bolívar declined, refusing to share leadership. San Martín then withdrew, and Bolívar assumed power in Peru to carry on the struggle for liberation. At the battles of Junín (Aug. 6, 1824) and Ayacucho (Dec. 9, 1824) Spanish power was broken and Peru's independence assured.

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José de San Martín... Instead of taking up his new post, he sought permission to go to Lima, the capital of the viceroyalty of Peru, but traveled by way of London to Buenos Aires, which had become the principal centre of resistance in South America to the Seville junta. There, in the year 1812, San Martín was given the task of organizing a corps of grenadiers against the Spanish royalists centred in Peru who threatened the revolutionary government in Argentina. ...

In the service of the Buenos Aires government, San Martín distinguished himself as a trainer and leader of soldiers, and, after winning a skirmish against loyalist forces at San Lorenzo, on the right bank of the Paraná River (Feb. 3, 1813), he was sent to Tucumán to reinforce, and ultimately replace, General Manuel Belgrano, who was being hard pressed by forces of the viceroy of Peru. San Martín recognized that the Río de la Plata provinces would never be secure so long as the royalists held Lima, but he perceived the military impossibility of reaching the centre of viceregal power by way of the conventional overland route through Upper Peru (modern Bolivia). He therefore quietly prepared the masterstroke that was his supreme contribution to the liberation of southern South America. First, he disciplined and trained the army around Tucumán so that, with the assistance of gaucho guerrilleros, they would be capable of a holding operation. Then, on the pretense of ill health, he got himself appointed governor intendant of the province of Cuyo, the capital of which was Mendoza, the key to the routes across the Andes. There, he set about creating an army that would link up overland with the soldiers of the patriotic government in Chile and then proceed by sea to attack Peru.

... To his disappointment, when the first stage of this plan was nearing completion, loyalist forces recaptured Chile (although the Chilean liberator, Bernardo O'Higgins, was able to escape to Mendoza). This made it necessary for San Martín to fight his way westward across the formidable barrier of the Andes. This was accomplished between Jan. 18 and Feb. 8, 1817, partly by a double bluff, which caused the Spanish commander to divide his forces in order to guard all possible routes, and more especially by careful generalship that ensured the maximum concentration of force at the enemy's weakest point, backed by adequate supplies. San Martín's skill in leading his men through the defiles, chasms, and passes--often 10,000 to 12,000 feet (3,000 to 4,000 m) above sea level--of four Andean cordilleras has caused him to be ranked with Hannibal and Napoleon. On February 12 he surprised and defeated the royalists at Casas de Chacabuco and took Santiago, where he refused the offer of the governorship of Chile in favour of Bernardo O'Higgins (who became supreme director) because he did not wish to be diverted from his main objective, the capture of Lima. Nevertheless, it took him more than a year to clear the country of royalist troops. He finally routed the remaining 5,300 on April 5, 1818, at the Battle of Maipú.

The next stage of San Martín's plan involved the creation of the Chilean navy and the accumulation of troop ships. This was accomplished, despite a shortage of funds, by August 1820, when the rather shoddy fleet, consisting mainly of armed merchant ships, under the command of Thomas Cochrane (later 10th Earl of Dundonald), left Valparaíso for the Peruvian coast. Cochrane, whom San Martín found a cantankerous colleague, had failed the year before to take the chief port, Callao, which was well-defended. The port was therefore blockaded, and the troops were landed to the south near Pisco; from this point they could threaten Lima from the landward side. True to his cautious nature, San Martín resisted the temptation to assault the capital, which was defended by a superior force, and waited for almost a year, until the royalists, despairing of assistance from Ferdinand VII (who had since been restored to the Spanish throne), withdrew to the mountains. San Martín and his army then entered Lima, the independence of Peru was proclaimed on July 28, 1821, and the victorious revolutionary commander was made protector.

San Martín's position was nevertheless insecure. He had broken with his supporters in Buenos Aires when, against their wishes, he insisted on pressing on to Lima; he was unsure of the loyalty of the Peruvian people and of the backing of some of his officers, many of whom suspected him of dictatorial or monarchical ambitions; and he lacked the forces to subdue the royalist remnants in the interior. Moreover, Simón Bolívar, who had liberated the northern provinces of South America, had annexed Guayaquil, a port and province that San Martín had hoped would opt for incorporation in Peru. He therefore decided to confront Bolívar.

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Battle of Maipú (April 5, 1818), during the South American wars of independence, a victory won by South American rebels, commanded by José de San Martín, leader of the resistance to Spain in southern South America, over Spanish royalists, near Santiago, Chile.

The six-hour battle left 2,000 Spaniards dead and 3,000 captured; the patriots lost about 1,000 men. It ended the struggle for Chilean independence.

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The struggles that produced independence in the south began even before Napoleon's invasion of Portugal and Spain. In 1806 a British expeditionary force captured Buenos Aires. When the Spanish colonial officials proved ineffective against the invasion, a volunteer militia of Creoles and peninsulars organized resistance and pushed the British out. In May 1810 prominent Creoles in Buenos Aires, having vied with peninsulars for power in the intervening years, forced the last Spanish viceroy there to consent to a cabildo abierto, an extraordinary open meeting of the municipal council and local notables. Although shielding itself with a pretense of loyalty to Ferdinand, the junta produced by that session marked the end of Spanish rule in Buenos Aires and its hinterland. After its revolution of May 1810, the region was the only one to resist reconquest by loyalist troops throughout the period of the independence wars.

Independence in the former Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, however, encountered grave difficulties in the years after 1810. Central authority proved unstable in the capital city of Buenos Aires. An early radical liberal government dominated by Mariano Moreno gave way to a series of triumvirates and supreme directors. More troubling still were the bitter rivalries emerging between Buenos Aires and other provinces. From the start Buenos Aires' intention of bringing all the former viceregal territories under its control set off waves of discord in the outlying provinces. At stake was not only political autonomy per se but also economic interest; the Creole merchants of Buenos Aires, who initially sought the liberalization of colonial restraints on commerce in the region, subsequently tried to maintain their economic dominance over the interior. A constituent assembly meeting in 1813 adopted a flag, anthem, and other symbols of national identity, but the apparent unity disintegrated soon afterward. This was evident in the assembly that finally proclaimed independence in 1816; that body received no delegates from several provinces, even though it was held outside Buenos Aires, in the interior city of Tucumán (in full, San Miguel de Tucumán).

Distinct interests and long-standing resentment of the viceregal capital led different regions in the south to pursue separate destinies. Across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires, Montevideo and its surroundings became the separate Estado Oriental ("Eastern State," later Uruguay). Caught between the loyalism of Spanish officers and the imperialist intentions of Buenos Aires and Portuguese Brazil, the regional leader José Gervasio Artigas formed an army of thousands of gauchos. By 1815 Artigas and this force dominated Uruguay and had allied with other provinces to oppose Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires achieved similarly mixed results in other neighbouring regions, losing control of many while spreading independence from Spain. Paraguay resisted Buenos Aires' military and set out on a path of relative isolation from the outside world. Other expeditions took the cause to Upper Peru, the province that would become Bolivia. After initial victories there, the forces from Buenos Aires retreated, leaving the battle in the hands of local Creole, mestizo, and Indian guerrillas. By the time Bolívar's armies finally completed the liberation of Upper Peru (then renamed in the Liberator's honour), the region had long since separated itself from Buenos Aires.

The main thrust of the southern independence forces met much greater success on the Pacific coast. In 1817 San Martín, a Latin-American-born former officer in the Spanish military, directed 5,000 men in a dramatic crossing of the Andes and struck at a point in Chile where loyalist forces had not expected an invasion. In alliance with Chilean patriots under the command of Bernardo O'Higgins, San Martín's army restored independence to a region whose highly factionalized junta had been defeated by royalists in 1814. With Chile as his base, San Martín then faced the task of freeing the Spanish stronghold of Peru. After establishing naval dominance in the region, the southern movement made its way northward. Its task, however, was formidable. Having benefited from colonial monopolies and fearful of the kind of social violence that the late-18th-century revolt had threatened, many Peruvian Creoles were not anxious to break with Spain. Consequently, the forces under San Martín managed only a shaky hold on Lima and the coast. Final destruction of loyalist resistance in the highlands required the entrance of northern armies.

<table class='table table-bordered col-lg-12 col-md-12 col-sm-12 col-xs-12 margin20 row-30' border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="color: rgb(60, 59, 59); line-height: 25px; font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><tbody><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">State</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Entry</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Exit</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Combat Forces</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Population</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Losses</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">San Martin</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1814</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1824</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">10000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">200000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">2000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Spain</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1814</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1824</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">100000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">12000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">6000</font></td></tr></tbody></table>

Total Casualties 8000 Killed and Wounded
Casualties Killed / Wounded
Military Casualties Killed 8000 /Wounded
Civilian Casualties Killed / Wounded
Note
Belligerents Initiation Date Termination Date
San Martin and Spain 1814 1824 View

Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts