The Battle of Boyacá (1819), also known as the Battle of Boyacá Bridge was a decisive victory by a combined army of Venezuelan and New Granadan troops along with a British Legion led by General Simon Bolivar over the III Division of the Spanish Expeditionary Army of Costa Firme commanded by Spanish Colonel José Barreiro. This victory ensured the success of Bolívar's campaign to liberate New Granada. The battle of Boyaca is considered the beginning of the independence of the north of South America, and is considered important because it led to the victories of the battle of Carabobo in Venezuela, Pichincha in Ecuador, and Junín and Ayacucho in Peru.[1] New Granada acquired its definitive independence from the Spanish Monarchy, although fighting with royalist forces would continue for years.[2]: 232–235 

Battle of Boyacá
Part of Bolívar's campaign to liberate New Granada and the Colombian War of Independence

Battle of Boyaca, Martín Tovar y Tovar
DateAugust 7, 1819
Location5°27′00″N 73°25′45″W / 5.45000°N 73.42917°W / 5.45000; -73.42917
Result Patriot victory
New Granada
British Legions
Kingdom of Spain
Commanders and leaders
Simón Bolívar
José Anzoátegui
Francisco Santander
José Maria Barreiro (POW)
Francisco Jiménez  (POW)
2,850[1] 2,670[1]
Casualties and losses
13 killed
53 wounded[1]
100 killed
150 wounded
1,600 captured[1]
Battle of Boyacá is located in Colombia
Battle of Boyacá
Location within Colombia
Battle of Boyacá is located in South America
Battle of Boyacá
Battle of Boyacá (South America)
Battle of Boyacá is located in America
Battle of Boyacá
Battle of Boyacá (America)

Under the overall command of General Simon Bolivar, the Brigadier Generals Francisco de Paula Santander and José Antonio Anzoátegui led a combined patriot army of Newgranadians and Venezuelans that defeated in two hours the Spanish Royalist forces led by Spanish Colonels José María Barreiro and Francisco Jiménez who would both be captured in battle. The effective destruction of the Royalist Army led to the collapse of the Royalist Government in the capital of Santa Fe with Viceroy Juan de Samano along with other government officials fleeing the capital shortly after news had reached of the battle.

The battle occurred 150 km from Bogotá in the Andes Mountains, in a place known as Casa de Teja, close to a bridge over the Teatinos River and 3 roads heading to Samaca, Motavita and Tunja, an area which is now part of the Boyacá Department. The site of the battelfied today is dotted with various monuments and statues that commemorate the battle.

Prelude edit

1. Map of the Bolívar's campaign to liberate New Granada; 2. Battle of Boyacá's day; 3. Disposition of troops

General Simon Bolivar's Patriot Army surprised the Spanish by strategically crossing the Andes Mountain Range through the Paramo de Pisba into the Boyacá region in early July of 1819, however the march had weakened his army. To prevent this threat from growing stronger, Viceroy Juan de Samano ordered the commander of the Spanish forces in New Granada– which were the III Division of the Expeditionary Army of Costa Firme, led by artillery Colonel Jose Maria Barreiro to intercept and defeat Bolivar's army to prevent him from reaching the capital of Santa Fe. This would lead to the two forces clashing at the Battle of Vargas Swamp on July 25.

After Bolívar secured a narrow victory at the Battle of Vargas Swamp on July 25th, the Patriot Army camped near the vicinity of the battlefield, while Spanish Forces camped in the nearby town of Paipa. Both armies still had the same goal of reaching the capital Santa Fe, which was only defended by some 400 Spanish troops. On August 3, still camped in Paipa the Spanish observed Bolivar's forces cross the Chicamocha River near Paipa and then at night observed him by candlelight retreat to his original positions across the river. The Spanish then rested unaware of Bolivar's feint, as he ordered a nocturnal countermarch crossing the river again and taking the alternate route to the city of Tunja through the Toca Road.

This allowed Bolivar to outmaneuver his Spanish counterpart and gain the lead for the race to Santa Fe, a reversal of the previous situation with Bolivar now trying to prevent Barreiro from reaching the capital.[3] On August 4 at 9:00 am the Patriot Army reached the village of Chivata and 2 hours later entered and occupied the city of Tunja. The city had been lightly defended as a small garrison and the Governor Juan Lono had left the city in the direction of Paipa to give Colonel Barreiro the supplies and reinforcements he had begged the Viceroy for, in the city Bolivar was able to obtain 600 rifles for his army.

Barreiro would eventually find out about this on August 5 and quickly marched his army southwest, midday he rendezvoused with Governor Juan Lono who provided him with 12,000 cartridges and 3 artillery pieces (2 howitzers and 1 cannon) that had been sent by the Viceroy. Upon learning that Bolivar had taken the city and seeing that his line of communication with the capital was cut, he ordered his army march around Tunja through the mountains northwest of the city at night through roads deemed impassable during the rainy season to avoid detection and gain the lead once gain. This march began in the town of Combita at 1 am August 6 and then proceeded to Motavita through a heavy downpour reaching the town at 11:30am where the army camped for the night. Marching through Motavita was considered a wise move strategically for the Spanish, due to its higher elevation one is able to observe Tunja from it. However Barreiro's movement did not go undetected and patriot spies informed Bolivar of their movements[4]: 94 

Battle edit

At 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 7, the III Division of the Expeditionary Army of Costa Firme under the command of artillery Colonel Jose Maria Barreiro departed from Motavita to continue their march towards Santa[5] Fe starting off on the Samaca road with the intention of rejoining the main Camino Real (Royal Road to Santa Fe) at the Casa de Teja which was close the Boyaca Bridge. The Boyaca Bridge was an important bridge that was part of the Camino Real de Santa Fe, where it crossed the Teatinos River. The distance to the bridge was only 25 km which the Spaniards completed in 7 hours 30 minutes, at an average pace of 18 minutes per kilometer. Early morning that same day Bolivar and his staff observed the Barreiro's movements from the San Lazaro heights near Tunja and ordered Generals Santander and Anzoategui to immediately set out for Santa Fe along the Camino Real and to destroy Barreiro wherever they may find him. 10:00 a.m. General Santander's forces departed from Tunja toward Casa de Teja and the road to Bogota. During this time Barreiro split his forces in two and ordered his vanguard unit under the command of Colonel Francisco Jimenez to take up position near the Casa de Teja, where they could observe the bridge. The Spanish vanguard arrived at the Casa Teja around noon and camped for lunch.

The Patriot forces also split their forces in two: the vanguard reached Casa de Teja at 1:30 p.m., while the rearguard stopped a kilometer and a half behind to get some rest. Shortly before 2:00 p.m., Captain Andres Ibarra and his forces spotted Casa de Teja and the vanguard of the Spanish Army. The Spaniards spotted him too and the two exchanged fire, with Colonel Francisco Jimenez, chief of the vanguard of the Spanish army ordered to follow and engage what he believed was only a small observation force. 20 royalists chased after the Patriot force but later returned when they realized that this was a bigger force. General Santander who came marching down the Camino Real with the rest of the patriot vanguard upon seeing this unfold ordered Lieutenant Colonel Joaquín París commander of "Cazadores" Battalion to attack the Royalist forces at the Casa Teja.

The Spanish vanguard was forced to fall back to river and crossed the strategic bridge over the Teatinos River and took attack positions there. Meanwhile, the full vanguard of the Patriot army under Santander had reached Casa de Teja. The two vanguards now found themselves on opposite sides of the river, with this Santander then ordered Colonel Antonio Bejar to take some forces down the river and cross it in order to attack the Spanish vanguard from the rear. The Spanish rearguard was still several kilometers behind, so General Anzoátegui ordered to block the way between the vanguard and the rearguard of the Spanish forces. The rearguard, outnumbered, retreated to a small hill close to Casa de Teja.

Anzoátegui then ordered a flank attack on the Spanish rearguard: battalions Barcelona and Bravos de Paez were to attack on the right side while the Legion Britanica and Rifles Battalion attacked on the left. The British Legion was a special forces squad composed of British and Irish people, which aided the revolutionary army in certain key battles for independence in South american countries.[6] Unable to cross the river the Spanish assumed battle positions by the Casa de Teja: in the center they positioned three artillery pieces surrounded by royal battalions 12 and 22, and on the wings, cavalry units. Arthur Sandes commander of Rifles Battalion charged the royalist artillery. This charge disrupted the arming of the 3 artillery pieces the Spanish possessed (they had transported them unassembled) only one of them was able to be assmebled which allowed it to fire 3 shots before the gun carriage that supported it broke rendering it useless.[4] Outnumbered, the Spanish rear guard began to retreat without any clear direction. Therefore, Bolívar ordered lancers units to attack the center of the Royalist infantry, while a full cavalry squadron ran away from the battle via the road towards Samaca. The charge of two patriot army cavalry squadrons caused panic amongst the Spanish troops, who were formed up in a column to resist the attack, although they were given the order to perform a bayonet charge this was not carried out due to the panic and confusion. Barreiro and his officers tried in vain to contain the rout of their soldiers and dismounted from their horses which condemned them to easily be captured by their enemy.

Meanwhile, one kilometer and a half behind Casa de Teja, the Bejar's Patriot vanguard managed to ford the river and was approaching the rear of the Royalist vanguard force. Once it reached them, the vanguard forces engaged in battle, while this occurred Santander led a charge across the bridge by force, using bayonets.[7]: 472  The Spanish forces fled, leaving on the bridge their leader, Colonel Juan Tolrá. As the assembly of enemy prisoners began, the battle was over shortly after 4:30 p.m have only lasted a little more than 2 hours. The Patriots only suffered 66 casualties in total with some 13 dead and 53 wounded, meanwhile Barreiro's III Division was effectively dismantled as a result of the battle suffering 100 dead, 150 wounded, and 1,600 captured.

Aftermath edit

For their actions on the battlefield, Santander and Anzoátegui were both promoted to divisional general. At least 1,600 troops and several of the Spanish commanders, including Barreiro himself, were captured at the end of the battle. Since the majority of these captured troops were composed of Venezuelan and New Granadans, these troops were immediately incorporated into the Patriot Army which considerably augmented its size allowing Bolivar to dispatch these new units from the battlefield to other areas of New Granada that had not been liberated yet.[4]

Through a messenger, who rode nonstop for 30 hours over the 100 km of bad roads that separated the battlefield from the capital, Viceroy Juan de Samano was informed of Barreiro's defeat around 10 pm on August 8th. Not wishing to take any chances Samano hastily prepared to abandon the capital and did so at 9:00 am on August 9 bound for Cartagena by way of Honda disguised as a peasant.[2]: 237 [4]: 103  So hasty was the Viceroy's departure that he failed to destroy important government documents and archives and left behind some 900,000 pesos in gold, silver, and currency. Earlier that same day at 7:00 am Colonel Sebastian de La Calzada blew up the gunpowder supply in the arsenal and left with the 400 troops who were stationed in the city bound for Popayan. Royalist sympathizers and other government officials also fled the capital.

Bolivar arrived on the 10th August with a group of cavalry in advance of his army where he received a jubilant welcome from the inhabitants of the city.[2] On the 18th of September, a victory ceremony was held for the patriot army in the Plaza Mayor, Bolivar was crowned with a laurel wreath given to him by a group of 20 women of the most prestigious families of the city who were all dressed in white.[2]: 238-239  Along with this crown, Bolivar, Santander, and Anzoategui were all awarded the Cruz de Boyaca medal which had been created for the occasion[7]: 392 This victory ceremony was accompanied by a large number of dances and balls held in honor of the victors with many of the officers along with Bolivar himself attending these festivities.

On the orders of Santander, Colonel Barreiro and 38 more were executed in Bogotá on October 11, 1819, because of the Decree of War to the Death. The bridge in question, el Puente de Boyacá, is no longer in use but it has been maintained as a symbol of the Independence of South America.

Consequences edit

The consequnces of Bolivar's victory at Boyaca bridge lead to large chain of events that would end up changing the history of south america forever.

  • The final defeat of Royal forces in the New Kingdom of Granada and the weakening of the rest of the forces in all America.
    The Boyaca Bridge, the original bridge no longer exists. This replica bridge was built by the order of President Marco Fidel Suarez in 1919 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the battle.
    The end of Spanish control over the American provinces, with the escape of viceroy Juan de Samano.
  • The creation of Gran Colombia.
  • The start of an autonomous government in the former Spanish provinces.
  • The subsequent independence of Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and the creation of Bolivia, after a liberation campaign.

August 7 is a national holiday in Colombia. On this date every 4 years the elected President of Colombia is inaugurated as president by taking the presidential oath of office while also receiving the Presidential sash in the Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota. August 7 is also Army Day (Spanish: Día del Ejército Nacional) in Colombia, the Colombian Army holds a large military ceremony at the site of the battle to commemorate its anniversary. This was established officially in 1978 under the administration of President Alfonso López Michelsen. [8]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e "La Batalla de Boyacá" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2016-04-11. Retrieved 2016-09-17.
  2. ^ a b c d Arana, Marie (2013). Bolivar: American liberator (1st ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-1019-5.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  3. ^ Lynch, John (2006). Simón Bolívar: a life. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-300-11062-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  4. ^ a b c d Gutiérrez Ardila, Daniel (2019). 1819: campaña de la Nueva Granada. Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia. ISBN 978-958-790-122-1.
  5. ^ Martínez Garnica, Armando, ed. (2018). "Diario militar, que comprende desde el cuatro hasta el siete de agosto [de 1819], con respecto a la División, llevado por teniente coronel don Sebastián Díaz, jefe del Estado Mayor de la Tercera División del Ejército Expedicionario de Tierra Firme". La Batalla de Boyacá en sus testimonios documentales: el bicentenario de la independencia de Colombia 2019 y los retos de la celebración: un cencuentro en torno a las nuevas corrientes historiográficas , Bogotá, D.C., 14 y 15 de junio de 2018 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Bogotá, D.C., Colombia: Academia Colombiana de Historia. p. 32. ISBN 978-958-8040-82-0.
  6. ^ "The Role of Great Britain in the Independence of Colombia" (PDF). 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  7. ^ a b Moreno de Angel, Pilar (1989). Santander (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Bogota: Crítica Colombia (published 2019). ISBN 9789584276926.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  8. ^ Tiempo, Casa Editorial El (1999-08-06). "EFEMÉRIDES CON INSPIRACIÓN PATRIÓTICA". El Tiempo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2024-02-29.

External links edit