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The Argentine War of Independence was fought from 1810 to 1818 by Argentine forces under Manuel Belgrano and José de San Martín against royalist forces loyal to the Spanish crownmarker. On July 9, 1816, an assembly met in San Miguel de Tucumánmarker, declared full independence with provisions for a national constitution.


The territory known today as Argentina was part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata and its capital city was Buenos Aires. It was ruled by a viceroy appointed by the Spanish Crown and guarded by the Spanish royal army. Part of the conflict between the settlers and the crown can be traced to the traditional, full prohibition of trading with all countries except for Spain. English, French, and Portuguese ships were banned from the port of Buenos Aires. Despite this long-standing legislation, the citizens of Buenos Aires were well renowned as traficantes (contraband dealers), since they would often trade illegally with many foreign merchants who were eager to tap the viceroyalty's market. In addition, the successful resistance against the 1806 and 1807 British invasions of the Río de la Plata, which organized mostly by criollos (persons who were locally born), helped reinforce a sense of regional identity. During the first invasion, Viceroy Rafael de Sobremonte and his staff retreated from the capital to hide himself along with the state treasury in Córdobamarker to the north. The residents of Buenos Aires would later accuse him of cowardice.

On May 13, 1810, a Britishmarker frigate arrived in Montevideomarker bringing the latest news about the Peninsular War. The residents of Montevideo learned that Napoleon Bonaparte's forces had conquered Andalusiamarker and paid siege to Cádiz, the last redoubt against the French on Spanish soil. Moreover, the Supreme Central Junta, which had governed the Empire for the past two years, had abolished itself in favor of a Regency. Word quickly spread throughout the viceroyalty. In Buenos Aires the news that Cádiz was all that was left of a free Spain unleashed a series of events, known as the May Revolution, in which citizens gathered in the Cabildo (City Hall), decided to suspend Viceroy Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros from office and created the Primera Junta (First Junta), a provisional government to rule the viceroyalty in the absence of the king and an independent Spain.

First Junta and Big Junta

With the power of the Crown transferred to a small Regency Council in Cádiz and the city besieged by French troops, a power vacuum existed, and on May 25, 1810, the First Junta was created in Buenos Airesmarker, removing Viceroy Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros from authority the same day. The junta, presided by Cornelio Saavedra (1760-1828), included Mariano Moreno (1778-1811) and Manuel Belgrano (1780-1820) and was later expanded to include deputies from the other provinces and became the "Junta Grande," or Big Junta.The revolutionary leaders remained nominally loyal to the Spanish King, while claiming the right to elect their own authorities (juntas), instead of having a viceroy appointed from Spain. Officially, the Junta aimed to preserve in Río de la Plata the sovereignty of the imprisoned King against the advances of the French, but acted in a manner which suggested the exact opposite. They also attempted to gain support for the Buenos Aires juntas from the territories of Upper Peru (today mostly Boliviamarker) located on the northern border region with the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Armed Conflict

Two campaigns were ordered by the Junta Grande in order to gain support for the revolutionary ideas of Buenos Aires.
  • Alto Perú campaign (1810-1811): The improvised militia was commanded by Antonio González de Balcarce and tried to penetrate the intendencies of the Upper Peru (today Boliviamarker). The militia first engaged in combat with the Spanish army in the Battle of Suipachamarker and it was the first great victory for the patriots (November 7, 1810). But the campaign would end unsuccessfully next June after the Battle of Huaquimarker. There, the militia was outnumbered by royalist forces from Perumarker and suffered heavy losses.

  • Paraguay campaign (1810-1811): Another militia, commanded by Manuel Belgrano, made its way up to the Intendency of Paraguaymarker. The first battle was fought in Campichuelo and the Argentines claimed victory. However, they were completely overwhelmed in the subsequent battles of Paraguarímarker and Tacuarí. This campaign also ended in failure from the military point of view; but some months later, Paraguay broke its links with the Spanish crown and became an independent nation.

Violent internal disagreements and the undesired outcomes of the campaigns, led to the replacement of the Junta by a triumvirate in September 1811; see First Triumvirate . The new government decided to promote another campaign to the Upper Peru with the reorganized Northern Army.

  • Second Alto Perú campaign (1812-1813): Facing the overwhelming invasion of a loyalist army led by General Pío de Tristán, Manuel Belgrano, then commander of the Northern Army, turned to scorched-earth tactics. He ordered the evacuation of the people and the burning of anything else left behind, to prevent enemy forces from getting supplies or taking prisoners in the city of San Salvador de Jujuy. This is known as the Jujuy Exodus.
General Belgrano led the Northern Army to victory in the Battles of Tucumanmarker and Salta in the northwest of present-day Argentina, forcing the bulk of the royalist army to surrender their weapons. Tristán (a former Belgrano's coed at Salamanca Universitymarker) and his men were granted amnesty and released. These cities have remained under the Argentine government ever since. But again, the patriot army was defeated in Upper Perú in the battles of Vilcapugiomarker and Ayohumamarker.

During the campaign, the Triumvirate established recently arrived from Spain José de San Martín as Lieutenant Colonel and ordered him to create the professional and disciplined cavalry unit called Granaderos. The same division helped the revolution that collapsed the government and elected a Second Triumvirate by late 1812.

In January 31, 1813, a Spanish army company coming from Montevideomarker landed near the town of San Lorenzo, in the Santa Fe province. The Second Triumvirate urged San Martín to stop further raids on the west bank of the Parana rivermarker. The Granaderos division met the Spanish on a field near the town's convent and made an easy victory on February 3 in the Battle of San Lorenzomarker. After this battle, the Second Triumvirate awarded San Martín the rank of General.

Fearing a major Spanish attack, a general assembly (the Asamblea del Año XIII) was called in Buenos Airesmarker on February 27, to discuss future military campaigns. It was finally decided to dissolve the Triumvirate status and to create a new regime of a one-person government. The same assembly elected the first Supreme Director in January 31, 1814: Gervasio Antonio de Posadas. Posadas decided to create a naval fleet with the help of Juan Larrea and appointed William Brown as Lieutenant Colonel and Chief Commander on March 1, 1814. This tiny fleet engaged in combat with the Spanish ships on the coasts of Montevideomarker in the Action of 14 May 1814 and defeated them three days later. This action secured the coast of Buenos Aires and William Brown was awarded the rank of Admiral.

Supreme Director Posadas was replaced by Carlos María de Alvear the next year, on January 11, 1815, and was quickly followed by Ignacio Álvarez Thomas on April 21. Álvarez Thomas appointed Alvear as the new General of the Northern Army to replace José Rondeau, but officials would not recognize this act and remained loyal to Rondeau.

  • Third Alto Perú campaign (1815): The Northern Army, unofficially commanded by José Rondeau , started another campaign, but this time without the authorization of Supreme Director Álvarez Thomas. With the lack of official support, the army faced anarchy and later would lose the aid of the Provincial Army of Salta, commanded by Martín Miguel de Güemes. After being defeated in the battles of Venta y Media (October 21) and Sipe-Sipemarker (November 28), the northern territories were lost. They were reannexed by the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, and later became present-day Boliviamarker. This unsuccessful outcome to the campaign would spread rumors in Europe that the May Revolution was over.

Despite this final defeat in the north, the Spanish Army was eventually stopped and could not advance further. With King Ferdinand back in power, an urgent decision was needed regarding independence. On July 9, 1816, an assembly of representatives from all of the provinces (except Santa Fe, Entre Ríos and Corrientes, which along with the Banda Oriental, present-day Uruguaymarker, had formed a Liga Federal) met in the Congress of Tucumán declaring the full independence of Argentina from the Spanish Crown and provisions for a national constitution. Santa Fe, Entre Ríos and Corrientes later joined.

The following year, San Martín took command of the Northern Army preparing a new invasion of Upper Perú (now Boliviamarker), but quickly resigned, foreseeing another defeat. Instead, he became governor of the province of Cuyo (now the provinces of Mendoza, San Juanmarker, and San Luis). He developed a new strategy to attack the Viceroyalty of Perú through the Captaincy of Chilemarker. San Martín largely based this plan on the writings of Sir Thomas Maitland who was quoted to say that the only way to defeat the Spanish at Quitomarker and Limamarker was by attacking Chile first. At this point, the Argentine War of Independence gets mixed with the Chilean independence War as both armies joined forces.

  • Chile campaign (1817): Installed in the city of Mendozamarker, San Martín reorganized the Granderos cavalry unit along with the Army of Cuyo and crossed the Andes Mountains to attack the Royalists in Chilemarker at the beginning of 1817 in the Battle of Chacabuco. With the aid of Chilean patriot Bernardo O'Higgins he made a triumphant entry in the liberated city of Santiago de Chilemarker. Argentine and Chilean armies merged in the unofficial South American Patriot Army and continued the campaign together against the Spanish division commanded by Osorio. However, their forces were surprised and very badly beaten at the Battle of Cancha Rayada on March 18, 1818. In the confusion, a false rumor spread that O'Higgins had died, and a panic seized the patriot troops, many of whom agitated for a full retreat back across the Andes to Mendoza. Crippled after his defeat at Cancha Rayada, O'Higgins delegated the command of the troops entirely to San Martín in a meeting on the plains of Maipú. Then, on April 5, 1818, San Martín inflicted a decisive defeat on Osorio in the Battle of Maipú, after which the depleted royalists retreated to Concepcion, never again to launch a major offensive against Santiago.

This is considered to be the conclusion of the Argentine War of Independence, but battles continued by land and sea in Perúmarker until 1824 when the last Spanish garrison surrendered in the Battle of Ayacucho and Peru proclaimed its independence. These events were part of San Martín's own campaigning with O'Higgins and Simon Bolivar and Buenos Aires no longer recognized his authority..

The meeting of Guayaquil

On 26 July 1822, San Martín met with Simón Bolívar at Guayaquilmarker to plan the future of Latin America. Most of the details of this meeting are secret, and this has made the event a matter of much debate among historians. Some believe that Bolívar's refusal to share command of the combined forces made San Martín withdraw from Perú and resettle as a farmer in Mendoza, Argentinamarker. Another theory claims that San Martín yielded to Bolívar's charisma and avoided a confrontation. It is widely believed that both men were members of Masonic societies, and the outcome of the meeting might have been arranged by hidden players, however this has been denied by the Great Masonic Lodges See Lautaro Lodge.

Annual commemoration

Today, the Día de la Revolución de Mayo (May Revolution Day) on May 25 is an annual holiday in Argentina to commemorate thesesignificant events in the history of Argentina. These and other events of the week leading to this day are referred to as the Semana de Mayo (May Week). Argentine Independence Day is celebrated on July 9, to commemorate the Argentine Declaration of Independence declared in 1816.

See also


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