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The Battle of Ayohuma ("dead man's head" in Quechua) was fought on 14 November 1813, during the second Upper Peru Campaign of the Argentine War of Independence. The Republican forces of the Army of the North, led by General Manuel Belgrano were defeated by the Royalists, led by Joaquín de la Pezuela.


After the rout of Vilcapugiomarker, Belgrano established his headquarters at Machamarker. There he reorganized his army, obtaining help from Francisco Ocampo (then President of Charcas), and from the provinces of Upper Peru (Cochabambamarker, Santa Cruz de la Sierramarker, and Chayanta). At the end of October 1813, the Republican army included around 3,400 men, of which barely 1,000 were veterans. An important fraction of the Republican forces, under the command of General Díaz Vélez had remained isolated at Potosímarker following the retreat from Vilcapugio, but was able to reunite with Belgrano after a small action at Tambo Nuevomarker relieved them from the pressure of the Royalist army.

Despite their recent victory, Pezuela and his troops were short of horses and supplies. They had sought refuge on the Condo-Condo heights, where, being surrounded by hostile populations and still recovering from the casualties suffered at Vilcapugio, they could not readily take the offensive against Belgrano's Army. However, on 29 October, they left their camp in Condo-Condo in order to attack the Republicans before they could obtain further reinforcements. On 12 November, in the middle of a heavy snowfall, they arrived at Toquirí, a hill dominating the plain of Ayohuma, about 16 km from Macha.

In the meantime, just two leagues away from Toquirí, on 8 November, Belgrano had been discussing the course of action with his officials. The majority of them vowed to avoid a major battle, some supporting a withdrawal towards Potosí while others agreed with Colonel Pedriel on a plan to harass the enemy without facing them in open combat. But at the end the general convinced his officers to fight. That same night the army left Macha, reaching Ayohuma on the morning of the next day.

The battle

The armies that were about to face each other exhibited a significant disproportion. While the Republican cavalry outnumbered the Royalists' two-to-one, Pezuela had twice as much infantry and 18 pieces of artillery, against only eight carried by Belgrano's troops.At dawn of 14 November the Royalists began their descent from their high position and by mid-morning they had deployed the bulk of their forces on the plain. Belgrano's troops were meanwhile attending Mass, even if aware of the enemy movements. An hour later, Pezuela had completed his maneuver and outflanked the Republicans by seizing a hill on their right. In the opinion of Lieutenant Gregorio Aráoz de Lamadrid, one of Belgrano's best officers, this move was decisive for the outcome of the battle. Then, Pezuela's artillery opened fire, blasting holes in the Republicans ranks for more than half an hour. To make matters worse, the Republican's lighter guns were no match for the Royalists. In a hail of enemy fire, Belgrano ordered the advance of his infantry and cavalry toward the enemy right flank, but they could not overcame Pezuela's entrenchements.Belgrano was forced to retreat. By a trumpet call and waving the United Provinces flag on the top of a hill, he managed to gather some 500 men, leaving around 200 dead, 200 injured, 500 prisoners and almost all his artillery on the battlefield. Belgrano's 500 survivors managed to retreat to Potosímarker, supported by the cavalry of Colonel Cornelio Zelaya, which kept the Royalist scouts away from the remains of the army for several miles. Potosí had to be evacuated by 19 November due to the approaching Royalists. Belgrano moved back to Tucumánmarker, where on 30 January 1814, he resigned the command of the Northern Army to General San Martin. He would later write about the tactical superiority of the Spaniard officers as compared to his limited knowledge of warfare.


  1. Mitre, Bartolomé: Historia de Belgrano. Imprenta de Mayo, Buenos Aires, 1859. V. II., page 226
  2. Mitre, page 216
  3. Mitre, page 232
  4. Mitre, pp. 233-234
  5. Mitre, page 238
  6. Mitre, pp. 242-243
  7. Araóz de la Madrid, Gregorio: Obsebvaciones [sic] sobre las Memorias póstumas del brigadier general d. Josè M. Paz, por G. Araoz de Lamadrid y otros gefes contemporaneos. Imprenta de la Revista, Buenos Aires, 1855, pp. 35-36.
  8. Mitre, page 245
  9. Mitre, pp. 246-248
  10. Mitre, page 249
  11. Mitre, page 256
  12. Mitre, page 261

See also

Battle of Pequerequemarker

Battle of Vilcapugiomarker

Action of Tambo Nuevomarker

External links and references

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