Battle of Monte de las Cruces
The Battle of Monte de las Cruces was one of the pivotal battles of the early Mexican War of Independence
Mexican War of Independence
The Mexican War of Independence was an armed conflict between the people of Mexico and the Spanish colonial authorities which started on 16 September 1810. The movement, which became known as the Mexican War of Independence, was led by Mexican-born Spaniards, Mestizos and Amerindians who sought...

. It was fought between the insurgent troops of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and Ignacio Allende
Ignacio Allende
Ignacio José de Allende y Unzaga , born Ignacio Allende y Unzaga, was a captain of the Spanish Army in Mexico who came to sympathize with the Mexican independence movement. He attended the secret meetings organized by Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, where the possibility of an independent New Spain was...

 against the royalist troops of General Torcuato Trujillo in the Sierra de las Cruces mountains between Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

 and Toluca
Toluca, formally known as Toluca de Lerdo, is the state capital of Mexico State as well as the seat of the Municipality of Toluca. It is the center of a rapidly growing urban area, now the fifth largest in Mexico. It is located west-southwest of Mexico City and only about 40 minutes by car to the...

. The battle marks the furthest advance of the first rebel campaign, before Hidalgo decided to retreat towards Guadalajara, and not attack Mexico City, despite the fact that he won the battle. The battlefield is now located in the La Marquesa National Park
La Marquesa National Park
La Marquesa is the common name for the Parque Nacional Insurgente Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, situated west of Mexico City on the toll road heading towards Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico. It lies in the municipalities of Ocoyoacac, Huixquilucan, and Lerma de Villada in the State of...

, which is officially called the Miguel Hidalgo National Park in honor of the event.

Grito de Dolores and march to the Sierra de las Cruces

The battle marks the end of the first offensive in the Mexican War of Independence, which began with the Grito de Dolores
Grito de Dolores
The Grito de Dolores also known as El Grito de la Independencia , uttered from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato on April 19, 1810 is the event that marks the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence and is the most important national holiday observed in Mexico...

. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was the parish priest of Dolores, Guanajuato
Dolores Hidalgo
Dolores Hidalgo Dolores Hidalgo Dolores Hidalgo (in full, Dolores Hidalgo Cuna de la Independencia Nacional is the name of a city and the surrounding municipality in the north-central part of the Mexican state of Guanajuato....

, involved with one of a number of conspiracies against the colonial government in the early 19th century. A particular conspiracy was called the Conspiracy of Querétaro. The plot, which was supposed to be launched in December 1810, was discovered. Fearing his arrest, Hidalgo decided to begin the insurrection early by calling upon parishioners to rise up against the colonial government. The Grito was a call to arms to better the lives of Mexicans, and it immediately attracted the support of the lower classes in the town of Dolores and the Bajío
The Bajío is a region of Central Mexico that includes the plains south of the Sierra de Guanajuato, in the state of Guanajuato, as well as parts of the states of Querétaro and Michoacán .In general parlance, it is usually associated with the States of Guanajuato and Querétaro, although it only...

 region. One reason for this was that Hidalgo had credibility among the lower classes, despite being an upper class Creole, due to his work to give the poor and indigenous peoples more economic opportunities.

This made Hidalgo leader of the insurgent movement instead of follow conspirator Ignacio Allende, despite Allende's training as a military commander. The insurgent army was really an untrained mob with little or no discipline. This army passed through the Bajio region of what is now state of Guanajuato
Guanajuato officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Guanajuato is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 46 municipalities and its capital city is Guanajuato....

, capturing cities such as San Miguel el Grande, Celaya
Celaya is a city and its surrounding municipality in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, located in the southeast quadrant of the state. It is the third most populous city in the state, with a 2005 census population of 310,413. The municipality for which the city serves as municipal seat, had a...

 and Irapuato with little resistance. All the while, more people joined the ranks of the insurgents, until upon leaving Celaya, Hidalgo had about 80,000 men. The response to Hidalgo’s call was so quick that royal authorities could not react at first. Hidalgo’s army then passed through Querétaro and into what is now the state of Mexico, heading south and east towards Mexico City, with still more volunteers joining along the way.
Despite the early success, there were serious problems with the army. Many were armed only with primitive weapons such as bows and arrows but the bigger concern for Ignacio Allende was the pillaging, looting and wanton violence that followed the taking of the Bajio cities.

The battle

Only a month and a half after the Grito de Dolores, Hidalgo’s army entered the Toluca Valley
Toluca Valley
Toluca Valley is a valley located approximately 75 km southwest Mexico City. The modern city of Toluca is located there. Other municipalities within valley and part of the Toluca metropolitan area include Metepec, Calimaya, Almoloya de Juárez, San Mateo Atenco, Lerma, Lago, Temoaya, Otzolotepec and...

 on its way to Mexico City. The insurgents’ rampage through Guanajuato terrified the elite in New Spain
New Spain
New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain , was a viceroyalty of the Spanish colonial empire, comprising primarily territories in what was known then as 'América Septentrional' or North America. Its capital was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire...

 and even many of the lower classes of the more conservative valleys of Toluca and Mexico
Valley of Mexico
The Valley of Mexico is a highlands plateau in central Mexico roughly coterminous with the present-day Distrito Federal and the eastern half of the State of Mexico. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the Valley of Mexico was a centre for several pre-Columbian civilizations, including...

. The city of Toluca called upon viceregal authorities for help, which came in the form of contingent of royalist forces under the command of General Torcuato Trujillo.

Trujillo’s royalist army took up strategic positions in the Sierra de las Cruces, which separate Toluca from Mexico City. These mountains are filled with steep valleys and thick forests. This allowed for advantages against the numerous insurgent army, such as the ability to place cannons above oncoming troops. It also allowed Trujillo to protect the road to Mexico City with troops on both sides.
Command of insurgent forces was put directly under Ignacio Allende, in order to take advantage of his military capabilities.

The battlefield is a site called Los Llanos de Salazar in the current municipality of Ocoyoacac
Ocoyoacac is a town and municipality in Mexico State in Mexico. The municipality covers an area of 134.71 km². It is one of the 17 municipalities that border Mexico City...

, where more than 90,000 insurgent troops fought. The army was divided into three flanks. One was composed of 30,000 men who took the Temoaya
Temoaya is a town and municipality in Mexico State, Mexico, It is located from Toluca and from Mexico City. It is known for its large ethnic Otomi population, the Centro Ceremonial Otomí and its tradition of making Persian style rugs using Mexican designs....

Jiquipilco is a town and municipality located in State of Mexico in Mexico. It is north of the Valley of Toluca, part of the region consisting of the southern and western slopes of Cerro La Catedral, which has a concentration of speakers of the Otomi language. It is about 40 km from Toluca,...

 road on the west side. Another flank approached the battlefield from the south via Mexicaltzingo and the main troops commanded by Allende and Hidalgo between the two. The strategy was to encircle Trujillo’s troops.

The battle began at about 8am on 30 October 1810 in a cold pine forest on rugged territory. The battle had three phases, corresponding to the three offensives of the insurgent army against royalist positions. The first two were rebuffed, but the insurgents managed to surround the royalists. Before the third try, Hidalgo sent emissaries to try to get the royalist to surrender but the head of the royalist army responded by killing the emissaries. This angered insurgent troops.
The third offensive was successful and cleared the road for the advance to Mexico City. However, the insurgent army experienced heavy losses, with 2,000 troops dead and many more wounded. This was due to the lack of training of insurgent troops as well as the lack of modern weapons.

Retreat from Mexico City

After the battle, Hidalgo’s troops advanced as far as Cuajimalpa
Cuajimalpa de Morelos is one of the 16 boroughs of Mexico City. Its name comes from the indigenous expression "over sticks of wood"...

, which today is just within the Federal District of Mexico City. Meanwhile, Hidalgo also sent word that he wanted to speak to the viceroy
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

, Felix María Calleja
Félix María Calleja del Rey, 1st Count of Calderón
Félix María Calleja del Rey, 1st Count of Calderón was a Spanish military officer and viceroy of New Spain from March 4, 1813, to September 20, 1816, during Mexico's War of Independence.-Before the insurrection of 1810:Captain Calleja del Rey accompanied the Count of Revillagigedo to New Spain in...

. However, at this point, Hidalgo decided not to press forward to Mexico City and instead retreat towards Guadalajara. The true reason for this decision is not known but a number of speculations have been offered.

One story is that before knowing if the viceroy had received his request for a meeting, Hidalgo received word that Calleja was already in route with another army. Hidalgo’s troops had sustained heavy casualties during Las Cruces and Hidalgo feared that he could not withstand another royalist assault. Another view is that Hidalgo was a priest, not a military man and the bloodshed of that battle horrified him. He did not want to see it, nor the riots of the Bajio cities repeated in Mexico City.

One other explanation is that about 40,000 of Hidalgo's volunteer troops abandoned the effort after the battle with efforts to recruit more from the local area failing and there was disagreement among the ranks and leadership as to what to do next.

The battle crippled the royalist army but did not completely destroy it. It was able to regroup and pursue a counteroffensive as Hidalgo retreated.

The site today

The actual battlefield is located in what is now La Marquesa National Park (officially Miguel Hidalgo National Park), in an area called Los Llanos de Salazar in the municipality of Ocoyoacac. The road that the insurgents fought to clear has since been replaced by a more modern highway linking Mexico City and Toluca. The remains of the original road are hardly noticeable to the masses of cars that pass by. The battlefield is marked by an obelisk
An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, and is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon...

 constructed in the 1960s to acknowledge the event and also proclaims Hidalgo as the first “caudillo
Caudillo is a Spanish word for "leader" and usually describes a political-military leader at the head of an authoritarian power. The term translates into English as leader or chief, or more pejoratively as warlord, dictator or strongman. Caudillo was the term used to refer to the charismatic...

” of Mexican Independence. Another monument nearby has giant sculptures of Hidalgo, Allende and José Mariano Jiménez
José Mariano Jiménez
José Mariano Jiménez was a Mexican engineer and rebel officer active at the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence....

 on horseback. However, La Marquesa is filled with food stands and recreational facilities and the battlefield area is no exception. These businesses crowd around the monuments, and graffiti mars them.

Where Hidalgo’s troops turned around in Cuajimalpa also has monuments in similar shape. There is a bust of Hidalgo in a community called San Lorenzo Acopilco which marks the point of the insurgent army’s farthest advance. Local legend states that the priest blessed the waters of a spring near here.
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