Sunday, 9 March 2014

New Greens for Chaco War Range - Officers

Next up in our pipeline of new release will be officers for the Chaco War range. These are two each for the Bolivian and Paraguayan armies (the Bolivian officers usually had "Sam Browne" belts which marked out their rank). Given the diversity of clothing displayed by both sides, especially as the campaign conditions became harder, one really can use these four figures to represent officers for either side. We suspect that they are adaptable to some other inter-war conflicts as well, such as the Spanish Civil War.

These figures will be available in the next few weeks along with the new SMG figures. There is more news about additional figures which we will be announcing soon.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

More New Wars of Liberation Flags

We're excited to announce the second instalment in our series flags accompanying the Wars of Liberation range. Iain over at Flags of War has come up trumps again with two more excellent flag sheets. 

These are all for the Gran Colombian Army, and include the "War to the Death" flag, the Gran Colombian national flag, the Llaneros "Liberty or Death" flag, and a Gran Colombian Infantry Battalion flag. These will be ready for purchase shortly from Orinoco Miniatures.

The flags can be purchased directly from our webstore here:  

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

New greens for Chaco War range - Infantry with SMG's

Next up in our Chaco War range are some new greens of infantry with SMG's for both sides (Bolivian and Paraguayan). The Bolivian Army had a large supply of SMG's (mostly Bergman MP28's and Steyr S1-100's) which in the course of the war the Paraguayan army began to capture and distribute to their troops. These were highly effective in some of the close fighting in the jungles and trenches of the Chaco Boreal.

The figures have been sculpted to reflect the harsh campaign climate of the Chaco, and are very much based on contemporary photographs. These are now on their way to casting, and should be available on our main website in the coming weeks. There is more news about other figures which we shall be announcing shortly.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

200th Anniversary of the Battle of La Victoria, 12th February 1814

The Battle
As the sun was rising, at approximately 7:00 in the morning of 12 February 1814, the spearhead of the Republican forces located at El Pantanero spotted Morales’s forces moving in from the south and west of the town. The first clash between the vanguard forces occurred an hour later. Morales’s forces quickly pushed the defenders back and took control of the positions near the Aragua River and on the heights of El Calvario and El Pantanero, while the Republicans retreated behind the defensive perimeter they had set up around the houses in the town surrounding the main plaza.

In his book El General en Jefe José Félix Ribas, the Venezuelan historian Héctor Bencomo Barrios describes the battle as follows:

The magnificent barrier of artillery fire and fusiliers, coupled with existing obstacles, had turned the main square into a true stronghold. Nine times the enemy cavalry charged, and nine times it was forcefully pushed back, because the position was virtually impregnable to cavalry forces. Morales, blinded by his ignorance of tactics and his thirst for blood, was incapable of realizing this and obstinately tried to overcome the Republicans….

Edgar Esteves Gonzales, in turn, in his book Batallas de Venezuela 1810-1824, describes the events as follows:

The infantrymen sought to protect themselves behind any breastwork they could find, trying to hold off the waves of cavalrymen that came at them, one after the other, with no surcease for the Republicans. Morales’s men doggedly attacked again and again while the inexperienced defenders dropped one by one….

Yet another author, Juan Vicente González, in his biography of General José Félix Ribas, published in La Revista Literaria in 1865, quoting from Gaceta de Caracas number 42, tells us that:

…nine times Morales charged and nine times he was pushed back; the battle began at 8:00 in the morning and was fought on the outskirts of the town, and was fought in the streets, where the enemy hordes were finally able to penetrate; and was fought from the square, where the formidable leader regrouped, uncertain whether help would or would not come, self-confident and trusting to his luck. On horseback, in the midst of his soldiers, he encouraged and drove them; he was everywhere; he held back and tired the enemy forces. There was in his eye, in his speech, a spark that shone in those dark moments; his look forced hearts to strive. Thrice the horse under him fell to the ground; a thousand bolts of lightning flashed around the plumage on his head, the target of every shot, heroically handsome and visible in the midst of his comrades.

At approximately 4:00 in the afternoon, following a frenzied battle, when the stamina and morale of the defenders seemed to be flagging, a cavalry column approached from the west along the Valencia-San Mateo road to attack Morales and his men from behind. It was Campo Elías, the victor at Mosquiteros and avenger of those who had fallen at La Puerta. He had marched from La Cabrera, some 40 Km. away, with two cavalry squadrons consisting of approximately two hundred (200) horsemen under the command of Manuel Cedeño and the brothers Juan and Francisco Padrón, as well as two hundred and twenty (220) infantrymen under Lieutenant Colonel José María Ortega and Captain Antonio Ricaurte, in aid of the Republicans. Rivas took advantage of the confusion that reigned following the unexpected arrival of help and ordered an attack, led by Major Mariano Montilla. One hundred lancers and fifty light infantrymen broke away from their defensive positions and managed to break through the ranks of the attackers, allowing Campo Elías’s troops to breach the bulwarks. Reorganizing his forces in the main plaza, Ribas ordered a general attack. Morales, who had no idea of the size of the forces attacking him or whether additional reinforcements were on the way, was unable to withstand the onslaught and, taking advantage of the waning light after sunset, retreaded to the higher ground of El Pantanero, pursued by Mariano Montilla and Vicente Campo Elías. Meanwhile, Boves, with the reserve forces, was approaching along the road from Villa de Cura.

The battle ended with the Republicans in control of the main plaza and Morales’s forces spread out in the hills of El Pantanero. The next day, following the arrival of Boves at the head of the reserves, the enemies of the Republic tried to regain the upper hand, an initiative that was stymied by a group under the command of Colonel Campo Elías, who defeated Boves’s men and sent them fleeing. Boves was forced to return to Villa de Cura. One of the men to die in this battle was Rudecindo Canelón, a captain in the Valerosos Cazadores battalion who had endured prison in Puerto Rico and in Coro following the fall of the First Republic and had been a heroic figure in the Battle of Araure.

The Republicans had suffered serious losses. In his official report General José Félix Ribas said “We, in turn, lost some 100 men and have close to four hundred wounded. Among the former, we must lament the death of the intrepid commander of the “Soberbios Dragones de Caracas”, C.L. María Rivas Dávila; cavalry lieutenant C. Ron....” He goes on to report that two horses had been killed out from under him, but that he had not been injured. His report then goes on to say that no prisoners were taken “because our troops show no mercy....”

In the case of the death of the commander of the “Soberbios Dragones de Caracas”, Luis María Rivas Dávila, who was not a professional soldier but a lawyer from Mérida, and who had joined the liberation movement when the Admirable Campaign passed through his city –and who had distinguished himself during the fighting at Cerritos Blanco outside Barquisimeto, protecting the withdrawal of the Republican troops, and at the Battle of Araure- history tells us that when the bullet that would ultimately kill him was removed, he held it up and said “Give it to my wife and tell her to keep it, and to remember that it is to it that I owe the most glorious moment in my life, the moment when I died defending the cause of my soil.” With his last breath he cried out “I die content. Long live the Republic!”

On the tactical side, we cannot fail to point out that General Ribas made the best possible use of his forces given the circumstances and the terrain where he was facing his enemy. By placing his troops, mostly inexperienced infantrymen, in a defensive position within a fortified square, he neutralized the advantages of mobility and brute force that the cavalry gave Colonel Morales. The layout of the streets leading to the plaza where Ribas mounted his defense offered the great advantage of providing both the infantry and the artillery with clear, very specific fields of fire that the enemy would necessarily have to follow during their approach and attack. In the case of Colonel Morales, in view of the defensive position adopted by his enemy, he should have reorganized his forces, launching attacks mainly with the infantry and used his cavalry to prevent the arrival of reinforcements that could attack him from the rear.

Although the Battle of La Victoria was not a decisive encounter in the War of Independence, it was extremely important from a strategic standpoint because it meant that communications between Valencia, where the general headquarters were located, and Caracas, the seat of the Republican government, remained open and prevented Morales and Rosete from joining forces against the latter city, which would have led to a defeat of the Republicans.

This episode in the War of Independence has gone down in Venezuelan history as a most significant battle thanks to the courage of the young university students and seminarians from Caracas who, although not men of arms, did not hesitate to seize them and offer up their lives in defense of the cause of independence.

In commemoration of the Battle of La Victoria and in honor of the young men who fought there, on February 10, 1947, the National Constituent Assembly proclaimed February 12th as Youth Day in Venezuela, “in recognition of the services young people had rendered to the republic.”

Plaza Jose Félix Ribas, La Victoria, Venezuela

Written by Carlos A. Godoy L. In commemoration of the 200 anniversary of the battle of La Victoria. Caracas, Venezuela. January 2014

200a Aniversario de la "Batalla de La Victoria", 12 de febrero de 1813

La Batalla
Al despuntar el sol el 12 de febrero de 1813, a eso de las 7:00 de la mañana, las avanzadas republicanas ubicadas en El Pantanero divisan a las fuerzas de Morales que se aproximan por el sur y el oeste del pueblo, el primer contacto entre las avanzadas se da una hora después. Rápidamente las fuerzas de Morales obligan al repliegue de los defensores y toman el control de las posiciones en torno al río Aragua y las alturas de El Calvario y El Pantanero, los republicanos se retiran dentro del perímetro defensivo que han construido en torno a las edificaciones del poblado, con epicentro en la plaza mayor.

 El historiador Venezolano Héctor Bencomo Barrios, describe en su obra El General en Jefe José Félix Ribas la batalla en estos términos:

La magnífica barrera de fuegos de artillería y fusilería, unida a los obstáculos existentes, habían hecho de la plaza mayor un verdadero baluarte. Nueve veces cargó la caballería enemiga y otras tantas fue rechazada con energía, porque la posición era prácticamente intomable por fuerzas de caballería. Morales, enceguecido por su ignorancia táctica y por su sed de sangre no podía darse cuenta y con obstinación trataba de arrollar a los republicanos…

Por su parte, Edgar Esteves Gonzales, en su obra Batallas de Venezuela 1810-1824 la describe de la siguiente manera:

Los infantes buscan protegerse detrás de cualquier parapeto que encuentren, tratando de contener las cargas de caballería que se suceden como oleadas incesantes, una tras otra, sin dar descanso a los republicanos. Los efectivos de Morales atacan una y otra vez con terquedad mientras los imberbes defensores van cayendo uno a uno…

Juan Vicente González, en su biografía del General José Félix Ribas, publicada en La Revista Literaria, en 1865, nos narra, citando a la Gaceta de Caracas número 42, que:

…nueve veces volvió a la carga Morales, rechazado nueve veces; comenzó la lucha a las ocho de la mañana, y se luchó a los alrededores de la población, y se luchó en las calles, adonde penetraron al fin las hordas enemigas; y se peleó desde la plaza, donde reconcentró el formidable jefe, incierto de Socorro, seguro de sí y confiado en su fortuna. A caballo en medio de sus soldados, los alienta e impele; él se halla en todos los puntos; detiene y fatiga las fuerzas enemigas. Hubo en su ojo, en su palabra, una centella que brilló en aquellos momentos sombríos; su mirada esforzaba a los corazones. Tres veces cae a sus pies el caballo que monta; mil rayos se cruzan al derredor del plumaje que sombrea su cabeza, blanco de todos los tiros, heroicamente apuesto visible en medio de sus compañeros.

Aproximadamente a eso de las cuatro de la tarde, después de un intenso combate cuando ya parecía agotarse la fuerza y la voluntad de los defensores, se ve una columna de caballería que se acerca por el oeste, por el camino de Valencia-San Mateo y arremete la retaguardia de las tropas de Morales. Es Campo Elías, el Vencedor de Mosquiteros y Vengador de los caídos en “La Puerta”, que desde “La Cabrera”, aproximadamente a unos 40Km de distancia con dos escuadrones de caballería, unos doscientos (200) jinetes al mando de Manuel Cedeño y de los hermanos Juan y Francisco Padrón, y doscientos veinte (220) infantes, al mando del Tte. Coronel José María Ortega y el Capitán Antonio Ricaurte acuden en apoyo de los Republicanos. Ribas aprovecha la confusión causada por la inesperada llegada de auxilio y ordena un ataque, al mando del Mayor Mariano Montilla. Cien Lanceros y cincuenta cazadores salen de las posiciones defensivas y abren una brecha en las filas de los atacantes por donde pueden ingresar al baluarte las tropas de Campo Elías. Reorganizadas sus fuerzas en la plaza mayor, Ribas ordena una ofensiva general, Morales, sin saber el número de fuerzas que lo atacan y si en camino viene una fuerza adicional, pierde su capacidad de respuesta y aprovechando la caída del sol se retira en desbandada hacia las alturas de El Pantanero, siendo perseguido por Mariano Montilla y Vicente Campo Elías, mientras Boves con la reserva se aproxima por la vía que viene de Villa de Cura.

La batalla termina con los republicanos en control de la plaza y las fuerzas de Morales dispersas por los montes de El Pantanero. Al día siguiente con la llegada de Boves, al mando de la reserva, los enemigos de la república intentarían retomar la iniciativa del combate, siendo esta iniciativa frustrada por un destacamento al mando del coronel Campo Elías que derrotó y dispersó las tropas al mando de Boves, que se ve obligado a replegarse nuevamente a Villa de Cura. En esta acción murió el Ciudadano Rudecindo Canelón, capitán del batallón Valerosos Cazadores, quien sufrió prisión en Puerto Rico y Coro tras la caída de la Primera República y quien se había vestido de gloria en la batalla de Araure.

Las pérdidas de los republicanos fueron cuantiosas, en su parte oficial el General José Feliz Ribas señala “…por nuestra parte hemos perdido como 100 hombres y cerca de cuatrocientos heridos; entre los primeros tenemos que llorar la muerte del intrépido Comandante de Soberbios Dragones de Caracas C.L. María Rivas Dávila; el teniente de caballería C. Ron…”de igual manera señala que a él le habían matado 2 caballos bajo las piernas pero que no había resultado herido”, por último cabe señalar que el parte afirma que no se tomaron prisioneros “porque nuestra tropa no da quartel (sic)…”

Sobre la muerte del Coronel, Comandante de los Soberbios Dragones de Caracas, Luis María Rivas Dávila, quien no era militar de oficio sino abogado oriundo de Mérida, y quien se había unido a las tropas libertadoras durante la campaña admirable a su paso por dicha ciudad, quien se había distinguido en el combate de Cerritos Blancos en las afueras de Barquisimeto, protegiendo la retirada de las tropas republicanas, así como en la Batalla de Araure; señala la historia, que al extraerle la bala de fusil, que a la postre acabaría con su vida tomándola en mano dijo: “Llevadla a mi esposa y decidle que la conserve y se acuerde que a ella debo el momento más glorioso de mi vida, aquel en que he perecido defendiendo la causa de mi suelo”. Su último aliento fue exclamar: “Muero contento. ¡Viva la República!”

Desde el punto de vista táctico debemos señalar que el General Ribas utilizó sus fuerzas de la manera más ventajosa de acuerdo a las circunstancias y el terreno en el cual se enfrentaba al enemigo. Al colocar sus fuerzas, en su mayoría infantería inexperta, dentro de una posición defensiva, en una plaza fortificada, neutralizó las ventajas de movilidad y fuerza de choque que le brindaba la caballería al Coronel Morales. La conformación de las calles que conducían a la plaza en la que organizó Ribas su defensa brindaban a los defensores una gran ventaja al permitirles tanto a la infantería como a la artillería, establecer claros y determinados campos de tiro por la vías de penetración que necesariamente debía utilizar el enemigo para su aproximación y ataque. Por su parte, el Coronel Morales ha debido frente a la posición defensiva recomponer su fuerza lanzando ataques en los que predominase la infantería y utilizando la caballería para evitar la llegada de refuerzos que lo pudiesen atacar por la retaguardia.

Si bien la batalla de La Victoria no constituyó un encuentro definitorio en la guerra de independencia, desde el punto de vista estratégico fue de suma relevancia ya que permitió mantener la comunicación entre Valencia, donde estaba ubicado el cuartel general, y Caracas, asiento del gobierno republicano, evitando la unión de Morales y Rosete sobre esta última ciudad, lo cual hubiese llevado a la derrota de los republicanos.

Este episodio de la guerra de independencia ha pasado a la historia venezolana como un hito importante por el compromiso de los jóvenes estudiantes de la universidad y el seminario de Caracas, que sin ser hombres de armas no dudaron en empuñarlas, y en ofrendar sus vidas en la defensa de la causa independentista.

En conmemoración de la Batalla de la Victoria y en honor de los jóvenes que en ella lucharon, el 10 de febrero de 1947, la Asamblea Nacional Constituyente decretó que se celebrase el doce de febrero de cada año el Día de La Juventud en Venezuela “en reconocimiento a los servicios hechos a la república por los jóvenes”.

 Plaza Jose Félix Ribas, La Victoria, Venezuela

Escrito por Carlos A. Godoy L. En conmemoración del 200 aniversario de La Batalla de La Victoria. Caracas, Venezuela. Enero 2014.

Monday, 3 February 2014

200a Aniversario de la Batalla de La Puerta, preludio de la batalla de La Victoria

Situación Estratégica
Las actividades del año 1814 se inician con las provincias de Mérida, Trujillo, Caracas, Cumaná, Barcelona y Margarita, bajo el control Republicano no obstante lo cual, en ellas operaban numerosas guerrillas partidarias de la Monarquía, con el apoyo brindado desde Coro por el Brigadier Ceballos y el Brigadier Juan Manuel Cajigal, llegado desde Puerto Rico a finales del año 13, así como las que operaban en los llanos orientales y centrales con el apoyo brindado desde Guayana.
Domingo de Monteverde gravemente herido tras los combates de “Las Trincheras”, continuaba sitiado en la Fortaleza de Puerto Cabello, al mando del Regimiento de Granada y otras tropas.
En los llanos del Guárico había comenzado a escucharse un nombre que sembraría de terror a la República, en su condición de Comandante General de la Caballería de Calabozo (nombrado por Monteverde en enero de 1813) y luego Jefe del Ejército Real de Barlovento, José Tomás Boves controla los alrededores de San Juan de los Morros al mando de un ejército de aproximadamente 3.400 hombres, la mayoría a caballo. Compuesto por “llaneros” y esclavos, a los que se ofreció la libertad siempre que tomasen las armas en contra de sus antiguos amos y a cambio de parte del botín, este ejército, que no era americano ni español, monárquico o republicano, que estaba al margen de la delimitación de campos pretendida por Bolívar al dictar el Decreto de Guerra a Muerte (Trujillo 15 junio 1813) haría temblar el territorio de la República, su divisa la anarquía, su bandera Muerte a los Blancos.

El 3 de febrero de 1814 tiene lugar la primera batalla de “La Puerta”. El área donde se desarrolló el combate es un abra en las montañas que separan a los llanos del norte del territorio, encrucijada de caminos que transcurren de norte a sur y da paso a los Valles de Aragua por donde siguen los caminos a Valencia y Caracas, lo cual lo convierte en un lugar de importancia estratégica.

Las fuerzas enviadas por Bolívar, para contener la amenaza que representaba Boves, sumaban unos 1.800 hombres, casi en su totalidad infantería, al mando de Vicente Campo Elías, quien unos meses atrás había vencido a Boves en el combate de Mosquiteros, en el Guárico (14 de octubre de 1813).

En esta oportunidad la suerte no acompañó a Campo Elías, las tropas Republicanas fueron totalmente derrotadas. La caballería y la superioridad numérica de las fuerzas de Boves fue determinante en esta victoria, que no sería la última para las fuerzas de los enemigos de la República en este campo de batalla.

Campo Elías se repliega hacia el norte con las tropas que pudo salvar hacia el poblado de El Consejo y luego por órdenes de Bolívar hacia La Cabrera en donde une sus fuerzas a las del Teniente Coronel Manuel Aldao quien tenía órdenes de defender ese estratégico desfiladero.
Boves, quien resultó herido de consideración en el combate de La Puerta, debe retirarse a los llanos a reponerse de sus heridas y a levantar tropas adicionales. Antes de retirarse divide sus fuerzas: una columna al mando de Francisco Tomás Morales con 2.500 hombres (aprox. 1800/caballería + 900/infantería.), quienes deben avanzar hacia el norte, tomar la población de Villa de Cura y seguir hacia La Victoria a objeto de cortar las comunicaciones entre Caracas y Valencia; la otra al mando de Francisco Rosete (aprox. 2.000 en su mayoría caballería), quienes debían avanzar hacia la ciudad de Caracas por la vía de los Valles del Tuy.

Al enterarse Bolívar de la derrota de Campo Elías en “La Puerta”, se traslada con parte de las fuerzas que mantenían el sitio de Puerto Cabello a la Ciudad de Valencia, movimiento estratégico que le permite situarse en el “centro” del teatro de operaciones pudiendo desde esta posición trasladarse hacia Barquisimeto en auxilio de Rafael Urdaneta o moverse hacia Caracas en caso de ser necesario.

Paralelamente, el General de División José Félix Ribas, en su condición de Comandante/Gobernador de la Provincia de Caracas, moviliza las tropas a su disposición con la intención de trasladarse a la población de “La Victoria” y asegurar las comunicaciones entre dicha ciudad y Valencia.

Las tropas a las órdenes de Ribas estaban integradas de la siguiente manera:
1)         Batallón de Infantería “La Guaira” al mando del Teniente Coronel Ramón Ayala Soriano; compuesto por aproximadamente 350 hombres.
2)         Los “Soberbios Dragones de Caracas” al mando del Coronel Luis María Rivas Dávila, aproximadamente 200 hombres.
3)         Una “Batería de Artillería” compuesta por cinco (5) piezas y aproximadamente 150 hombres.
4)         Ochocientos (800) jóvenes estudiantes de la Universidad y el Seminario de Caracas.
5)         200 individuos entre tropa dispersa y reclutas.
Para el momento de la llegada a “La Victoria” el 10 de febrero de 1814, sumarían unos 1.500 hombres. (Sobre el número de las tropas recomendamos la obra “El General en Jefe José Félix Ribas, Pp. 120 y 121, escrita por el General Bencomo Barrios, Héctor).

El Campo de Batalla
La victoria es un población asentada de este a oeste sobre el camino principal que une a Caracas con Valencia equidistante a aproximadamente unos 80 Km de cada una, el poblado tenía como límite natural al oeste el río Aragua que corta al camino principal perpendicularmente a una distancia aproximada de un (1) kilómetro de la plaza principal o plaza mayor del pueblo, por el norte la delimitan las alturas o cerros denominados “El Calvario” que la separan del Mar Caribe, por el sur también alturas denominadas “Pantanero” que la separan de los llanos centrales, al este el camino que sube hacia el valle de Caracas.

Situación Táctica
Al llegar a “La Victoria” el General Ribas comienza la preparación de las defensas, pues sabe que su infantería inexperta sería incapaz de enfrentar a la caballería en campo abierto y podría seguirle la suerte de Campo Elías en “La Puerta”. A este efecto dispone su avanzada cerca de la margen del río sobre el camino principal, y en las alturas de El Pantanero y El Calvario, estableciendo un perímetro fortificado en torno a la plaza mayor y la iglesia del poblado, coloca las piezas de artillería y construye trincheras y parapetos a fin de resguardar a los Fusileros y Dragones. Es en esta situación cuando el General Ribas arenga a sus tropas con las palabras recogidas por Eduardo Blanco en su Obra “Venezuela Heroica”:

Soldados: Lo que tanto hemos deseado realizará hoy: he ahí a Boves. Cinco veces mayor es el ejército que trae a combatirnos; pero aun parece escaso para disputarnos la victoria. Defendéis del furor de los tiranos la vida de vuestros hijos, el honor de vuestras esposas, el suelo de la patria; mostradles vuestra omnipotencia. En esta jornada que será memorable, ni aun podemos optar entre vencer o morir: ¡necesario es vencer! ¡Viva la República!

Por su parte el Coronel Morales, quien llegaría a detentar el rango de mariscal de campo, había abandonado las posiciones que ocupaba en La Victoria ante la llegada de las tropas republicanas, prefiriendo atacar que ser atacado al ser la mayor parte de sus tropas de caballería. A este efecto divide sus fuerzas en dos (2) columnas, la primera que avanza desde el Suroeste por la vía de El Pantanero, compuesta por setecientos (700) infantes, dos mil (2.000) jinetes y cuatro (4) piezas de artillería ligera, la otra que avanza por el camino principal integrada por doscientos (200) infantes y quinientos (500) jinetes. En Villa de Cura Boves se encuentra recuperándose de sus heridas con una fuerza de reserva.
De esta forma se presenta el escenario para una batalla que puede decidir la suerte de la República. Una derrota Republicana en La Victoria abre el camino de los Valles del Aragua a Caracas, quedando la ciudad rodeada y a merced de las tropas de Boves, que la amenazan también por el sur por donde Rosete avanza con su columna de 2.000 hombres sembrando el terror a su paso en el escenario de la Guerra a Muerte.
Escrito por
Carlos A. Godoy L.
En conmemoración del 200 aniversario de
La Batalla de La Victoria.
Caracas, Venezuela Enero 2014.

200th Anniversary of the Battle of La Puerta, prelude to the Battle of La Victoria

Strategic Situation
Activities in the year 1814 began in the provinces of Mérida, Trujillo, Caracas, Cumaná, Barcelona and Margarita, under Republican control, although a number of guerrilla groups that sided with the Monarchy were also quite active with backing provided by Brigadier Ceballos from Coro and by Brigadier Juan Manuel Cajigal, who arrived from Puerto Rico towards the end of 1813, as well as other forces active in the eastern and central plains, with support received from Guayana.

Domingo de Monteverde, having suffered serious injuries in the fighting at Las Trincheras remained under siege at the fortress in Puerto Cabello after, in command of the Granada Regiment and other troops. 

 A man whose name would later fill Republican hearts with fear was already being mentioned on the plains of Guárico. He was General Commander of the Calabozo Cavalry (appointed by Monteverde in January 1813), and later head of the Royal Army of Barlovento, José Tomás Boves, who controlled the area around San Juan de los Morros at the head of an army of some 3,400 men, mostly on horseback. This army, made up mainly of plainsmen, or llaneros, and slaves who were promised their freedom provided they rose up in arms against their former masters and in exchange for a share of the booty, was neither American nor Spanish, royalist or republican, but remained on the sidelines of the clearly differentiated forces envisaged by Bolívar when he issued his Decree of War to the Death (Trujillo, 15 June 1813), and would soon spread terror throughout the territory held by the Republicans, with anarchy as its banner and “Death to Whites” as its battle cry.

The first battle of La Puerta was fought on 3 February 1814. It was fought in a pass in the mountains that stand between the plains and the northern territory, a crossroads for routes joining north and south and leading to the valleys of Aragua and the roads to Valencia and Caracas, a site of strategic importance.

The forces sent by Bolívar to fend off the threat of Boves totaled some 1,800 men, mainly infantry, under the orders of Vicente Campo Elías who had defeated Boves a few months earlier in the fighting at Mosquiteros, in Guárico (14 October 1813).
This time luck was not on Campo Elías’s side. The Republican troops were trounced. The combination of cavalry and numerical superiority of Boves’s forces was decisive for this victory, which would not be the last the enemies of the Republic would be able to boast of on this battlefield.

Campo Elías and his surviving troops retreated northward to the town of El Consejo and then, under orders from Bolívar, to La Cabrera, where he joined forces with the men led by Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Aldao, who had been ordered to defend the strategic mountain pass.

Boves, who had been seriously wounded at the Battle of La Puerta, was forced to head back to the plains to recover from his wounds and raise more troops. Before pulling back, he split his forces.  One column led by Francisco Tomás Morales, with 2,500 men (app. 1,800/cavalry + 900/infantry) who were supposed to move north, take the town of Villa de Cura and continue on towards La Victoria in order to cut off communications between Caracas and Valencia; and another under the command of Francisco Rosete (app. 2,000 men, mostly cavalry), who were to march to Caracas via the Tuy Valleys.

When Bolívar received the news of Campo Elías’s defeat at La Puerta, he set off for Valencia with part of the forces that were laying siege to Puerto Cabello, a strategic move that placed him at the “center” of the field of operations, where he would be able to head over to Barquisimeto to help Rafael Urdaneta or move to Caracas if necessary.
At the same time, Major General José Félix Ribas, as Commander and Governor of the Province of Caracas, moved the troops under his command, intending to reach the town of La Victoria so as to ensure that communications between Caracas and Valencia were not disrupted.

The troops under Ribas consisted of:
1)         The La Guaira Infantry Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ramón Ayala Soriano, consisting of close to 350 men.
2)         The Superb Dragoons of Caracas, led by Colonel Luis María Rivas Dávila, with close to 200 men.
3)         An artillery battery made up of five (5) pieces of artillery and approximately 150 men.
4)         Eight hundred (800) students from the university and seminary in Caracas.
5)         200 unattached men and recruits.
By the time they reached La Victoria on February 10, 1814, they totaled some 1,500 men. (For information on the number of men, we recommend the book El General en Jefe José Félix Ribas, pp. 120 and 121, by General  Héctor Bencomo Barrios).

The Battlefield
La Victoria is a town that runs from east to west, about midway on the main road joining Caracas and Valencia, some 80 Km. from each city. To the west of the city lies a natural boundary, the Aragua River that crosses the road about one (1) kilometer from the town’s main square. To the north, it borders on the hills known as El Calvario that stand between the town and the Caribbean Sea.  Other hills, called the Pantanero Hills, lie to the south, separating the town from the central plains, and to the west lays the road leading to the Caracas Valley.

Tactical Situation
Upon arriving at La Victoria, General Ribas began to prepare his defense strategy, aware as he was that his inexperienced infantrymen would be unable to stand up to the cavalry on open ground and could suffer the same fate as Campo Elías at La Puerta. He positioned his advance troops close to the river’s edge on the main road, and on the higher land at El Pantanero and El Calvario, setting up a fortified perimeter around the main plaza and the church in town. He set up the artillery pieces, dug trenches and built breastworks to protect the Fusiliers and the Dragoons. This was how things stood when General Ribas addressed his troops, with the rousing words quoted by Eduardo Blanco in his book Venezuela Heroica:

Soldiers: The long awaited moment is here today: there is Boves. The army he brings to do battle against us is five times larger; yet it still seems too small to wrest victory from our hands. Defend the lives of your children, the honor of your wives, the soil of the motherland from the fury of tyrants; prove to them that we are all powerful. On this memorable day, we cannot choose between death and victory: victory must be ours! Long live the Republic!

 In the other camp, Colonel Morales, who would rise to the rank of field marshal and who had abandoned the positions he held in La Victoria before the arrival of the Republican troops, preferred to attack rather than be attacked given that most of his troops were cavalrymen. He therefore split his forces into two (2) columns. The first, marching in from the southwest along the El Pantanero road, consisted of seven hundred (700) infantrymen, two thousand (2,000) men on horseback, and four (4) pieces of light artillery. The other, consisting of two hundred (200) infantrymen and five (500) hundred men on horseback, moved in along the main road. Boves was in Villa de Cura, recovering from his wounds, with a reserve force.
This was the setting of a battle that could decisive for the future of the Republic. A Republican defeat at La Victoria would open up the road to Caracas through the Valleys of Aragua, leaving the city surrounded and at the mercy of Boves’s troops; this city also faced a threat from the south, where Rosete was marching towards Caracas at the head of a column of 2,000 men, leaving terror in his wake as part of the War to the Death.

Written by
Carlos A. Godoy L.
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of
The Battle of La Victoria.
Caracas, Venezuela. January 2014.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

200th Anniversary of the Battle at Calibio Hacienda - 14th January 1814

Today is the 200th Anniversary of Calibio, one of the early battles of the wars of revolution which was part of what was called The Southern Campaign.  Royalist troops under the command of General Samano, who had been retreating from a previous defeat at the hands of a Patriot Army at the Battle of Alto Palace, regrouped at the Hacienda in Calibio (in modern day Colombia). Here they met a second Royalist force commanded by General Asin, who had already defeated Patriot armies in several battles. 

On 15th January 1814, the Patriot army under the command of Antonio Narino (painted above by Espinosa again) with about 1500 - 2000 men attacked the Royalist army at the Hacienda. The battle lasted for three hours and was a close fought and bloody affair, where the Patriot army essentially launched a frontal attack on the Spanish Army. In the end, the Patriots had the better of the final hand-to-hand fighting and routed the Royalists, killing 400 including General Asin, and taking over 300 prisoners, as well as capturing most of the Royalist weapons and artillery.

The painting at the top of the page is by Jose Maria Espinosa (and also features in John Fletcher's Osprey book on the wars) who was actually one of the participants in the battle so we can assume that it is an accurate depiction of the dispositions in this action, though probably not of the patriot uniforms (if they had any at all).

In Espinosa's on words (roughly translated from Spanish below):
" [ ... ] We formed in front of the enemy. Their artillery began to fire , which was answered by the fire of our own, and after few rounds General Narino gave the order to advance , and thus began an exchange of musketry from both sides , which lasted three hours long , and then at last, after a hard fought battle , the victory was decided in our favour , resulting the most complete Spanish defeat and leaving the field covered with corpses , including that of Asin and eight officers. There were 400 killed and wounded and 300 prisoners , including Colonel Solis, and six officers were taken prisoner. All weapons , with eight pieces of artillery fell into our hands ... this tough battle was a stimulus for us to see the courage and intrepidity of Narino, who boldly challenged the greatest dangers and was everywhere giving example of courage and serenity . "

General Samano fled with the remnants of his army to Pasto, where he was relieved of command by the governor of Quito Toribio Montes and replaced by Lt. Gen. Melchor Aymerich . However, Narino and the Patriot army were very slow to follow up their victory and lost their chance to completely destroy the Spanish army partly due to the difficult terrain, and lack of reinforcements, and it wasn't until 22nd March 1814 that they advanced towards Pasto. The weakened Patriot Army eventually disintegrated during this march, and Narino was captured by the Spanish and sent as a prisoner to Cadiz where he remained until being freed in 1821. Though a national hero, his time away meant that he was politically on the margins when he returned, Santander and especially Bolivar now dominating the independence movement in New Granada. Narino did not have the vision of Bolivar  of total independence for all of South America, and was figthing just to create an independent New Granada (current day Colombia). Ironically it was Santader who actually accomplished this with the split of Gran Colombia in the 1830's.  Narino died in 1824.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Review of Orinoco Miniatures in Miniature Wargames magazine

I was just sent a scan of a nice review of our figures by Henry Hyde in December's edition of Miniature Wargames. It's good to see some positive feedback. You can see the review below.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Chaco War article in Miniature Wargames

Firstly I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year 2014.  A few days ago I stumbled across scans of an article on the Chaco War from some early edition of Miniatures Wargames by Bob Cordery over at his blog Wargaming Miscellany. It really is an excellent introduction to the period, best I've seen to date. Bob has kindly given me permission to post his article here. I hope you find it useful.