Sunday, 22 December 2013

Venezuelan War of Independence

I am delighted to be able to include a guest post on the blog. This is from a good friend in Caracas, Carlos Godoy, who is a great expert on the Independence wars in Venezuela. I hope that this will be the first of several posts on this fascinating period from Carlos:




VENEZUELAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
1811-1814
The Republic of Venezuela, as an independent nation, was declared on July 5, 1811 by seven (7) of the provinces that made up the Captaincy General of Venezuela, namely:

EAST                                                              WEST
Mérida                                                            Margarita
Trujillo                                                                        Barcelona
Barinas                                                          Cumana
Caracas
The following provinces  did not join the Republic,  and remained subjects of the Spanish crown:

NORTHEAST                                               SOUTH
Zulia                                                               Guayana
Coro

 
The 1st Republic was short-lived. Its fate was sealed with the capture of the fortress of Puerto Cabello by the Royalist forces and the subsequent surrender of Francisco de Miranda in San Mateo to the leader of the Royalist forces Domingo Monteverde. The causes for the failure of the 1st Republic were examined and analysed in detail at the time by Colonel Simón Bolívar, in a document that has gone down in history as the Cartagena Manifesto.
Following the loss of the Republic, the main political and military leaders opted for exile. Bolívar and others from Caracas and the eastern provinces travelled to Cartagena, New Granada Province (now the Republic of Colombia ), which had declared its independence from the Government of Bogotá.

A group of Republicans from the Eastern Provinces (Barcelona, Cumaná) among them Colonel Santiago Mariño, José Francisco Bermúdez, Manuel Carlos Piar and Antonio José de Sucre (later known as the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho) traveled to the Island of Trinidad, a British colony at the time.

In Cartagena, Bolívar was able to join the New Granada Army with the rank of colonel and was assigned to command the military post of Barrancas, in charge of a small fort on the Magdalena River and a 70-man garrison. 

From this remote corner of New Granada he launched the Magdalena Campaign, that culminated successfully on December 31, 1812.

As the year 1813 dawned, the entire territory of the Republic o f Venezuela was under the control of civilian and military authorities loyal to the Spanish king, a situation that would soon change.

Military operations began on two separate and unrelated fronts. In the east, the Chacachacare Expedition, led by those who had been living in exile in Trinidad, landed on the first day of January north of the Province of Barcelona, launching a campaign that enabled them to take military control of the major cities in that province and in the province of Cumaná. The most noteworthy events in this campaign were the battles for control of the city of Maturin.

Also in the East, but further north on the island Province of Margarita, the Republican forces attacked and overran the Pampatar Fortress, releasing Juan Bautista Arismendi. From Margarita a seagoing expedition was organized that allowed the Republicans to take the city of Barcelona in August 1812. The eastern provinces remained under Republican control throughout the rest of that year.

In the west, Simon Bolivar at the head 500 men, successfully took the city of Cúcuta on February 28, 1813, where he defeated Colonel Ramon Correa and his well-barricaded 800 men, plus 600 civilians, all of whom, following the defeat, decided to evacuate the site and retreat to the city of San Cristóbal (in Venezuela).

This western theatre of operations became the scenario for what was to be known as the Admirable Campaign. Following his victory in Cúcuta, Bolívar was appointed Brigadier by the government of the United Provinces, placed in command of the 500-man 5th Battalion of the Union, and authorised to move into Venezuela in pursuit of Colonel Correa. In command of officers such as Rafael Urdaneta, Atanasio Girardot, Antonio Ricaute, Luciano D'Elhuyar and Francisco de Paula Santander, 4 canons and 1,400 muskets, Bolívar launched the Admirable Campaign on May 14, 1813. On August 6 that same year, Bolívar marched triumphantly into Caracas, where he received the title of The Liberator.

The liberation of Merida Province was followed by that of Trujillo (Battle of Agua de Obispo). In the city of the same name, on June 15, 1813, Bolivar issued his famous Decree of War to the Death
Trujillo was followed by Barinas. The Admirable Campaign was noted for rapid mobilization by the Republican forces, who were able to anticipate the movements of the enemy forces, attacking them where they least expected.   Of this campaign special mention must be made of the battles Niquitao,  Los Taguanaes and Los Horcones. On August 2nd Bolivar entered the city of Valencia, which had been abandoned by Royalist forces bound for the walled city of Puerto Cabello, who left behind a huge cache of war supplies, including 30 pieces of light artillery and ammunition. On orders from Bolívar, Atanasio Girardot set out in pursuit, but was unable to reach the retreating forces before they took refuge in the Puerto Cabello, a city to which Luciano Delhuyar then lay siege.

The Royalist troops fleeing Caracas joined troops from the East that were moving west following the victories of Bermúdez, Mariño and Piar, gathering in the central plains. Monteverde, besieged in Puerto Cabello, received reinforcements by sea and decided to try to break out of the city and attack the Republican forces that had retreated to Bárbula, a hill overlooking the Naguanagua plain on the outskirts of Valencia. There a major battle was fought, and won by the Republicans who, however, paid a high price: the life of Colonel Atanasio Girardot.

 On October 3 the Republicans avenge Girardot´s death in the battle of Las Trincheras, forcing the Royalists back to Puerto Cabello, where they are once again blockaded.
The Republican forces are divided, launching operations in the northwest, Barquisimeto and Coro, under the leadership of Rafael Urdaneta, while Vicente Campo Elías is sent to the central plains (Calabozo) where he defeats José Tomás Boves in the Battle of Mosquiteros. On the same day of the battle, in Caracas Bolívar is appointed by the Congress of Venezuela Captain General of the armies and proclaimed Liberator.

From Coro, Brigadier José Ceballos moves on  to Barquisimeto with a strong division.  After raising new forces in Valencia, Bolívar joins Urdaneta and, on November 10, they fight the battle of Tierritas Blancas, where Ceballos takes the day when the Republican cavalry and infantry leave the battlefield. In the aftermath of this action, as punishment, the battalion that left the field is stripped of its badges and banners by Bolivar and is then called the Nameless Battalion. The end result is that Barquisimeto was lost to the Republican cause.

Vigirima was the stage for the longest battle in the war. After three days of fighting, Major General Jose Felix Rivas and Commander Delhuyar defeat the Granada Regiment that consisted of 800 European veterans and 200 Venezuelans led by Colonel Miguel Solomon.
In general, guerrillas and rebellions in favor of the cause of Spain emerged throughout the territory of the Republic. While the battle was being fought at Vigirima, Royalist troops in Apure and Coro/Barquisimeto concentrated around the town of Araure, where a battle took place on December 5, 1813. Here the Nameless Battalion is bathed in glory, breaking through the centre of the Royalist infantry, and the next day is renamed by Bolivar:  Vencedores de Araure.


With the victory in Araure, military operations ended in 1813. The Republican forces controlled the provinces of Merida, Trujillo, Caracas, Cumana, Barcelona and Margarita, while supporters of the Spanish monarchy were in control of the provinces of Maracaibo, Coro (in the northwest , Apure (southwest), Guárico plains (Province of Caracas, central Plains) and Guyana (south), surrounding the Republican forces .

1814 will be decisive for the fate of the 2nd Republic.

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