Battle of Chacabuco
Overview
 
The Battle of Chacabuco, fought during the Chilean War of Independence, occurred on February 12, 1817. The Army of the Andes
Army of the Andes
The Army of the Andes was a military force created by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata and mustered by general José de San Martín in his campaign to free Chile from the Spanish Empire...

 of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata led by General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Captain José de San Martín
José de San Martín
José Francisco de San Martín, known simply as Don José de San Martín , was an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America's successful struggle for independence from Spain.Born in Yapeyú, Corrientes , he left his mother country at the...

 defeated the Spanish force led by Rafael Maroto. It was a defeat for the Captain Generalcy of Chile, the Spain-controlled government established after the division of the Viceroyalty of Peru
Viceroyalty of Peru
Created in 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru was a Spanish colonial administrative district that originally contained most of Spanish-ruled South America, governed from the capital of Lima...

.
In 1814, having been instrumental in the establishment of a popularly elected congress in Argentina, José de San Martín
José de San Martín
José Francisco de San Martín, known simply as Don José de San Martín , was an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America's successful struggle for independence from Spain.Born in Yapeyú, Corrientes , he left his mother country at the...

 began to consider the problem of driving the Spanish royalists from South America.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Chacabuco, fought during the Chilean War of Independence, occurred on February 12, 1817. The Army of the Andes
Army of the Andes
The Army of the Andes was a military force created by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata and mustered by general José de San Martín in his campaign to free Chile from the Spanish Empire...

 of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata led by General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Captain José de San Martín
José de San Martín
José Francisco de San Martín, known simply as Don José de San Martín , was an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America's successful struggle for independence from Spain.Born in Yapeyú, Corrientes , he left his mother country at the...

 defeated the Spanish force led by Rafael Maroto. It was a defeat for the Captain Generalcy of Chile, the Spain-controlled government established after the division of the Viceroyalty of Peru
Viceroyalty of Peru
Created in 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru was a Spanish colonial administrative district that originally contained most of Spanish-ruled South America, governed from the capital of Lima...

.

Background

In 1814, having been instrumental in the establishment of a popularly elected congress in Argentina, José de San Martín
José de San Martín
José Francisco de San Martín, known simply as Don José de San Martín , was an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America's successful struggle for independence from Spain.Born in Yapeyú, Corrientes , he left his mother country at the...

 began to consider the problem of driving the Spanish royalists from South America. He realized that the first step would be to drive them from Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, and, to this end, he set about recruiting and equipping an army. In just under two years, he had an army of some 6,000 men with 1,200 horses and 22 cannons, and, on January 17, 1817, he set out with this force to cross the Andes and liberate Chile. He found himself allying with Chilean patriot Bernardo O'Higgins
Bernardo O'Higgins
Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme was a Chilean independence leader who, together with José de San Martín, freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. Although he was the second Supreme Director of Chile , he is considered one of Chile's founding fathers, as he was the first holder...

, who commanded his own army. Careful planning on his part had meant that the Royalist forces in Chile were deployed to meet threats that did not exist, and his crossing went unopposed.

At the beginning of February 1817 the troops of San Martín finished his crossing of the Andes
Crossing of the Andes
The Crossing of the Andes was one of the most important feats in the Argentine and Chilean wars of independence, in which a combined army of Argentine soldiers and Chilean exiles invaded Chile leading to Chile's liberation from Spanish rule...

 and prepared to put an end to Spanish dominion in Chile. The Army of the Andes
Army of the Andes
The Army of the Andes was a military force created by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata and mustered by general José de San Martín in his campaign to free Chile from the Spanish Empire...

 (as San Martin's force was called) had suffered heavy losses during the crossing, losing as much as one-third of its men and more than half of its horses. The Royalist forces had rushed north to respond to their approach, and a force of about 1,500 under Brigadier Rafael Maroto blocked San Martin's advance at a valley called Chacabuco
Chacabuco
Chacabuco is one of the many abandoned nitrate or "saltpeter" towns in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Other nitrate towns of the Atacama Desert include Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works. Unlike most of the other ghost towns in the Atacama Desert, Chacabuco became a concentration...

, near Santiago. In the face of the disintegration of the royalist forces, Maroto proposed abandoning the capital and retreating southward, where they could hold out and obtain resources for a new campaign. The military conference called by Royal Governor Field Marshal Casimiro Marcó del Pont
Casimiro Marcó del Pont
Francisco Casimiro Marcó del Pont Ángel Díaz y Méndez was a Spanish soldier and the last Governor of Chile. He was one of the main figures of the Chilean independence process, being the final Spaniard to rule as Royal Governor of Chile from 1815 to 1817, when he was deposed and captured by the...

 on February 8 adopted Maroto's strategy, but the following morning the captain general changed his mind and ordered Maroto to prepare for battle in Chacabuco
Chacabuco
Chacabuco is one of the many abandoned nitrate or "saltpeter" towns in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Other nitrate towns of the Atacama Desert include Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works. Unlike most of the other ghost towns in the Atacama Desert, Chacabuco became a concentration...

.

The night before the combat, Antonio Quintanilla
Antonio Quintanilla
Antonio Quintanilla was a Spanish brigadier and Governor of Chiloé from 1820-1826....

, who would later distinguish himself extraordinarily in the defense of Chiloé, confided with another Spanish official regarding his views on the ill-chosen strategy and that, given the position of the insurgents, the royalist forces ought to retreat a few leagues towards the hills of Colina
Colina, Chile
Colina is a Chilean city and commune, capital of the Chacabuco Province, in the northern part of the Santiago Metropolitan Region.-Demographics:...

: Maroto overheard this conversation from a nearby chamber and either couldn't or refused to hear me because of his pride and self importance, called on an attendant with his notorious hoarse voice and proclaimed a general decree on pain of death, to whoever suggested a retreat.

Although all Maroto and his troops had to do was delay San Martin, as he knew that further Royalist reinforcements were on the way from Santiago. San Martin was well aware of this as well, and opted to attack whilst he still had the advantage of numbers. The royalists fought with valor, but the battle turned into a complete defeat for them. Maroto, who succeeded in escaping thanks to the speed of his horse, was slightly injured during the retreat.

Prelude

San Martín received numerous reports of the Spanish attack plans from a spy dressed as a roto, a poverty-stricken peasant of Chile. The roto told him that the Spanish general, Marcó, knew of fighting in the mountains and told his army to "run to the field", which refers to Chacabuco. He also told San Martín the plan of General Rafael Maroto, the leader of the Talavera Regiment and a force of volunteers of up to 2,000 men. His plan was to take the mountainside and launch an attack against San Martín. On February 11, three days before his planned date of attack, San Martín called a war council to decide a plan of attack. Their main goal was to take the Chacabuco Ranch, the Spanish headquarters, at bottom of the hills. He decided to split his 2,000 troops into two parts, sending them down two roads on either side of the mountain. The right flank was led by Soler, and the left flank under O’Higgins. The plan was for Soler to attack their flanks while at the same time surrounding their rear guard in order to prevent their retreat. San Martín expected that both leaders attack at once so the Spanish had to fight a two-front battle.

Battle

San Martín sent his troops down the mountain starting at midnight of the 11th to prepare for an attack at dawn. At dawn his troops were much closer to the Spanish than anticipated, and fought hard and heroically. Soler's troops had to go down a tiny path that proved long and arduous, and took longer than expected. General O’Higgins, supposedly seeing his homeland and being overcome with passion, defied the plan of attack and charged along with his 1,500. What exactly happened in this part of the battle is fiercely debated. O’Higgins claimed that the Spanish stopped their retreat and started advancing towards his troops. He said that if he were to lead his men back up the narrow path and retreat, his men would have been decimated one by one. San Martín saw O’Higgins early advancement and ordered Soler to charge the Spanish flank, which took the pressure off of O’Higgins and allowed his troops to stand their ground.

The firefight then ensued into the afternoon, and the tides turned for the Patriots as Soler captured a key Spanish artillery point. At this point, the Spanish set up a defensive square around the Chacabuco Ranch. O’Higgins charged the center of the Spanish position, and Soler got into place behind the Spanish forces, effectively cutting off any chance of retreat. O’Higgins and his men overwhelmed the Spanish troops and they attempted to retreat but Soler's men cut off their retreat and pushed towards the ranch. Hand to hand combat ensued in and around the ranch until every Spanish soldier was dead or taken captive. 500 Spanish soldiers were killed and 600 taken captive. The Patriot forces only lost twelve men in battle, but an additional 120 lost their lives from wounds suffered during the battle.

External links

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