Dominican Restoration War
The Dominican Restoration War was a guerrilla war between 1863 and 1865 in the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 between nationalists and Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, who had recolonized the country 17 years after its independence. It ended with a Dominican victory and the withdrawal of Spanish forces from the country.


General Pedro Santana
Pedro Santana
Pedro Santana y Familias was a wealthy cattle rancher, soldier, politician and dictator of the Dominican Republic. He was born in the community of Hinche, which was part of the Colony of Santo Domingo. Currently, Hinche is a border town part of Haiti...

 had wrested the presidency from Buenaventura Báez
Buenaventura Báez
Buenaventura Báez Méndez was the President of the Dominican Republic for five nonconsecutive terms. He is known for attempting to annex the Dominican Republic to other countries on multiple occasions.-Early years:...

, who had bankrupted the nation's treasury at great profit to himself. Faced with an economic crisis as well as the possibility of renewed attack from Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

, Santana asked Spain to retake control of the country, after a period of only 17 years of independence. Spain was wary at first, but with the U.S. occupied with its own civil war
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and unable to enforce the Monroe Doctrine
Monroe Doctrine
The Monroe Doctrine is a policy of the United States introduced on December 2, 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention...

, it felt it had an opportunity to reassert control in Latin America. On March 18, 1861, the annexation was announced, and Santana became Governor-General of the newly created province.

However, this act was not well received by everyone. On May 2, General José Contreras led a failed rebellion, and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez
Francisco del Rosario Sánchez
Francisco Del Rosario Sánchez was a politician and founding father of the Dominican Republic. He is considered by Dominicans as the second leader of the 1844 Dominican War of Independence, after Juan Pablo Duarte and before Ramón Matías Mella. The Order of Merit of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella is...

, led an invasion from Haiti (who were officially neutral, but also concerned about Spain flexing its muscles in the area), but he was captured and executed on July 4, 1861. Santana himself did not fare well under the new regime. He discovered that he was unable to wield the same amount of power under Spanish rule, and resigned his post in January 1862.

Spanish officials began to alienate the general population by instituting a policy known as bagajes, which required citizens to hand over any work animals to the Spanish military upon demand without any guarantee of compensation. This was especially problematic in the Cibao
Cibao, usually referred as "El Cibao", is a region of the Dominican Republic located at the northern part of the country.The Taíno word Cibao, meaning "place where rocks abound", was originally applied to the central mountain range, and used during the Spanish conquest to refer to the rich and...

 region in the north, where farmers depended on their animals for their livelihoods. A second factor was cultural: the new archbishop from Spain was appalled to find that a large number of Dominican couples were not married within the Roman Catholic Church. This situation had come about due to a small number of priests in the country, as well as poverty and the lack of roads and transportation to get to a church for marriage. With the best of intentions, Archbishop Bienvenido de Monzón wanted to rectify this situation within a short time, but his demands only irritated the local population, who had come to accept the current state of "illegitimate
Legitimacy (law)
At common law, legitimacy is the status of a child who is born to parents who are legally married to one another; and of a child who is born shortly after the parents' divorce. In canon and in civil law, the offspring of putative marriages have been considered legitimate children...

" births as normal. Economically, the new government also imposed higher tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

s on non-Spanish goods and ships and attempted to establish a monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

 on tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

, thus alienating the merchant classes as well. By late 1862, Spanish officials were beginning to fear the possibility of rebellion in the Cibao region (anti-Spanish feelings were not as strong in the south). Lastly, despite explicit statements to the contrary, rumors spread that Spain would re-institute slavery and ship black Dominicans to Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, Spain had issued a royal order in January 1862 declaring its intent to regain the territories that Toussaint Louverture had taken for Haiti in 1794. In attempting to quell disturbances in Dominica, Spanish troops had evicted Haitians living in these areas along the Haitian–Dominican border. Haitian president Fabre Geffrard
Fabre Geffrard
Fabre-Nicholas Geffrard was a general in the Haitian army and President of Haiti from 1859 until his deposition in 1867. After collaborating in a coup to remove Faustin Soulouque from power in order to return Haiti back to social and political control of the colored elite, Geffrard was made...

 gave up his position of neutrality and began to aid the Dominican rebels.


On August 16, 1863, a new group under the leadership of Gregorio Luperón
Gregorio Luperón
Gregorio Luperón , is best known for being a Dominican military and state leader who was the main leader in the restoration of the Dominican Republic after the Spanish annexation in 1863....

 and Santiago Rodríguez made a daring raid on the capital Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, known officially as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Its metropolitan population was 2,084,852 in 2003, and estimated at 3,294,385 in 2010. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River...

 and raised the Dominican flag on the Capotillo hill. This action, known as El grito de Capotillo, was the beginning of the war.

Town after town in Cibao joined the rebellion, and on September 3, an army of 6,000 Dominicans laid siege to Fortaleza San Luis
Fortaleza San Luis
Fortaleza San Luis is located near the Yaque del Norte River in southwest Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. The Fort was the location of several battles during the War of Restoration....

 in Santiago
Santiago de los Caballeros
Santiago de los Caballeros is a city in the Dominican Republic. Founded in 1495 during the first wave of European colonization of the New World, today Santiago is the second largest metropolis in the Dominican Republic, located in the north-central region of the Republic known as Cibao valley...

, capturing it on September 13. The rebels established a new government the following day, with José Antonio Salcedo
José Antonio Salcedo
General José Antonio Salcedo y Ramírez, "Pepillo" led a civil war which aimed at the restoration of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Restoration War began on August 16, 1863, and by September 14, 1863 a Provisional Government was established, over which the general presided...

 as president, and immediately denounced Santana, who was now leading the Spanish forces, as a traitor. Salcedo attempted to engage the U.S. for assistance, but was rebuffed.

Spain had a difficult time fighting the rebels. Over the course of the war, they would spend over 33 million pesos and suffer over 10,000 casualties (much of it due to yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

). Santana, who had previously been revered as a superb military tactician, found himself unable to break the Dominican resistance. In March 1864, he pointedly disobeyed orders to concentrate his forces around Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, known officially as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Its metropolitan population was 2,084,852 in 2003, and estimated at 3,294,385 in 2010. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River...

 and was rebuked and relieved of his command by Governor-General José de la Gándara
José de la Gándara y Navarro
José de la Gándara y Navarro was a Spanish soldier, born in Bilbao. He entered the military College as a cadet in 1832, joined the army in 1834 as sublieutenant, and served in the campaign against the Carlists till 1839, participating in all the battles...

, who ordered Santana to Cuba in order to face a court-martial. However, Santana died suddenly before this happened.

La Gándara attempted to broker a cease-fire with the rebels. He and Salcedo agreed to discuss peace terms, but in the middle of negotiations, Salcedo was overthrown and assassinated by a disaffected group led by Gaspar Polanco. Polanco's faction was concerned that Salcedo was planning to recall former president Buenaventura Báez, whom the rebels hated as much as they hated the Spanish for his actions before Santana's July 1857 coup. Although Báez had initially opposed Spanish annexation, once it began he lived in Spain on a government subsidy and had the honorary rank of field marshal in the Spanish Army. It was not until the near the end of the war that he returned to the Dominican Republic.

In Spain, the war was proving to be extremely unpopular. Combined with other political crises that were happening, it led to the downfall of Spanish Prime Minister Leopoldo O'Donnell
Leopoldo O'Donnell, 1st Duke of Tetuan
Don Leopoldo O'Donnell y Jorris, 1st Duke of Tetuan, 1st Count of Lucena, 1st Viscount of Aliaga, Grandee of Spain, , was a Spanish general and statesman...

. Spain's Minister of War ordered the cessation of military operations on the island while new Prime Minister Ramón María Narváez brought the issue before the Cortes Generales
Cortes Generales
The Cortes Generales is the legislature of Spain. It is a bicameral parliament, composed of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate . The Cortes has power to enact any law and to amend the constitution...


Polanco's reign was short-lived. After an ill-fated attack on the Spanish position in Monte Cristi and efforts to establish a tobacco monopoly on behalf of his friends, he himself was overthrown by Benigno Filomento de Rojas and Gregorio Luperón in January 1865. Given the respite in fighting, the provisional junta organized a new constitution, and when that was adopted, General Pedro Antonio Pimentel
Pedro Antonio Pimentel
Pedro Antonio Pimentel y Chamorro was a Dominican military figure and politician. He served as president of the Dominican Republic from March 25, 1865 until August of the same year...

 became the new president effective March 25, 1865.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Cortes decided it did not want to fund a war for a territory it did not really need, and on March 3, 1865, Queen Isabella II
Isabella II of Spain
Isabella II was the only female monarch of Spain in modern times. She came to the throne as an infant, but her succession was disputed by the Carlists, who refused to recognise a female sovereign, leading to the Carlist Wars. After a troubled reign, she was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of...

 signed the annulment of the annexation. By July 15, there were no more Spanish troops left on the island.


Although many Dominican cities were destroyed and agriculture across the country (apart from tobacco) halted during the war years, the War of Restoration brought a new level of national pride to the Dominican Republic. The Dominican victory also showed Cubans and Puerto Ricans that Spain could be defeated. On the other hand, in local politics, leadership during the war was concentrated in the hands of a few regional caudillos, or strongmen
Strongman (politics)
A strongman is a political leader who rules by force and runs an authoritarian regime. The term is often used interchangeably with "dictator," but differs from a "warlord".A strongman is not necessarily always a formal head of government, however...

, who could command the loyalty of the regions and who were more intent on bettering themselves and their followers than the nation as a whole. This system of political power persisted until the late 20th century.

Dominican politics remained unstable for the next several years. Pimentel was president for only five months before he was replaced by José María Cabral
José María Cabral
José María Cabral y Luna was a Dominican military figure and politician. He served as president of the Dominican Republic from August 4 to November 15, 1865, and again from August 22, 1866 until January 3, 1868.-Reference:* at the Enciclopedia Virtual Dominicana...

. Cabral in turn was ousted by Buenaventura Báez in December 1865, but retook the presidency in May 1866. His negotiations with the United States about the possible sale of land around Samaná Bay
Samana Bay
Samaná Bay is a bay in the eastern Dominican Republic. The Yuna River flows into the Samaná Bay, and it is located south of the town and peninsula of Samaná....

 proved to be so unpopular that Báez was able to regain the presidency once more in 1868.

In intra-island relations, the war marked a new level of cooperation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Until now, Haiti had considered the island of Hispaniola
Hispaniola is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east, within the hurricane belt...

to be "indivisible" and had unsuccessfully attempted to conquer the eastern half several times before. The war forced Haiti to realize that this goal was essentially unattainable, and was instead replaced by years of border disputes between the two countries.

August 16 is commemorated a national holiday in the Dominican Republic, as well as the day the Dominican president is sworn into office every four years.
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