Battle of Vuelta de Obligado

The Battle of Vuelta de Obligado took place on the waters of the Paraná River on 20 November 1845, between the Argentine Confederation, led by Juan Manuel de Rosas, and a combined Anglo-French fleet. The naval action was part of the larger Anglo-French blockade of the Río de la Plata.

Battle of Vuelta de Obligado
Part of the Anglo-French blockade of the Río de la Plata

The Battle of Vuelta de Obligado, as depicted by
François Pierre Barry
Date20 November 1845
Location33°35′32″S 59°48′26″W / 33.59222°S 59.80722°W / -33.59222; -59.80722
Result See aftermath
 Argentine Confederation France Kingdom of France
 United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Argentine Confederation Lucio Norberto Mansilla
Argentine Confederation Francisco Crespo y Denis
France François Thomas Tréhouart
United Kingdom Samuel Inglefield
2160 men
4 coastal batteries
1 brigantine
2 gunboats
11 warships
Casualties and losses
150 killed
90 wounded
1 brigantine lost
21 cannons
20 barges
28 killed
95 wounded
Multiple damage to the
warships, forcing emergency repairs.
Plan of the battle

Although the attacking forces broke through the Argentine naval defenses and overran the land defenses, the battle proved that foreign ships could not safely navigate Argentina's internal waters against its government's wishes. The battle also changed the political attitude toward the confederation in South America by increasing support for Rosas and his government.

Background edit

During the 1830s and 1840s, the British and the French governments were at odds with Juan Manuel de Rosas's leadership of the Argentine Confederation. Rosas's economic policies of requiring trade to pass through the Buenos Aires custom house, which was his method of imposing his will on the Littoral provinces, combined with his attempts to incorporate Paraguay and Uruguay to the confederation, were in conflict with French and British economic interests in the region. During his government, Rosas had to face numerous problems with those foreign powers, which in some cases reached levels of open confrontation. The incidents included two naval blockades: the French blockade in 1838 and the Anglo-French of 1845.[1]

With the development of steam-powered sailing, which mainly took place in Britain, France, and the United States, in the third decade of the 19th century, large and thus ocean-going merchant and military ships became capable of sailing up rivers at good speeds and with heavy loads. This new technology allowed the British and the French governments to avoid the custom house in Buenos Aires by sailing directly through the La Plata Estuary and engaging in commerce directly with inland cities in Entre Ríos, Corrientes, Uruguay and Paraguay. That avoided the taxation of Buenos Aires, guaranteed special rights for the Europeans, and allowed them to export their products cheaply.[citation needed]

Rosas's government tried to stop the practice by declaring the Argentine rivers closed to foreign shipping and barring access to Paraguay and other ports in the process. The British and the French governments did not acknowledge that declaration and decided to defy Rosas by sailing upstream with a joint fleet, which set the stage for the battle.[1]

Battle edit

Order of battle edit

British and French boats assaulting the chain line at Obligado

The Anglo-French squadron that was sailing through the Paraná River in the first days of November was composed of eleven warships:

The ships were among the most advanced military machinery of their time, and at least three (Fulton, HMS Firebrand and HMS Gorgon) were steamers, which initially stayed behind the sailing vessels.[8] They were partially armoured and had rapid-fire guns and Congreve rockets.[9]

The main Argentine redoubt was located on a cliff rising between 30 and 180 m over the banks at Vuelta de Obligado, where the river was 700 m wide, and a turn made navigation difficult.[10]

Argentine General Lucio N. Mansilla, the commander of the confederation forces, and Rosas's brother-in-law, set up three thick metal chains suspended from 24 boats completely across the river, to prevent the advance of the allied fleet. The operation was under the charge of the Italian immigrant Filipo Aliberti.[11] Only three of the boats were naval vessels; the rest were requisitioned barges whose owners received a compensation in case of loss.[12] Aliberti was the master of one of the boats, the Jacoba, that was sunk in the battle. At least 20 boats and barges were lost in the chain barrage at Obligado.

Chain links and ammunition used by the Argentine forces during the battle

On the right shore of the river, the Argentines mounted four batteries with 30 cannons, many of them bronze 8, 10, 12 and 20-pounders. They were served by a division of 160 gaucho soldiers. There were also 2,000 men in trenches under the command of Colonel Ramón Rodríguez, together with the brigantine Republicano and two small gunboats, Restaurador and Lagos,[13][8] with the mission of guarding the chains across the river.[14] Some sources[12] increase the Argentine naval power to a third gunboat, the unarmed brigantine Vigilante, whose artillery had been dismounted and transferred to one of the batteries, eight armed launches and at least five armed barges.[12]

Main action edit

The combat began at dawn, with intense cannon fire and rocket discharges over the Argentine batteries, which had less accurate and slower loading cannons. From the beginning the Argentines suffered many casualties: 150 dead and 90 wounded. Furthermore, the barges that held the chains were burnt down, and the Republicano was lost by being blown up by its own commander when he was unable to defend it any longer. A number of armed launches were also sunk in battle. The gunboats Restaurador and Lagos disengaged successfully and withdrew upriver, towards Tonelero Pass.[12][15] The third gunboat and the armed barges also survived the action, but the dismantled brigantine Vigilante was scuttled by its crew, and the remaining launches were destroyed by the combined fleet on 28 November.[12]

Shortly afterwards, the French steamer Fulton sailed through a gap open in the chain's barrier. Disembarked troops overcame the last defenders of the bluff, and 21 cannons fell into the hands of the allied forces.[citation needed]

The Europeans had won free passage at the cost of 28 dead and 95 wounded. However, their ships suffered severe damage, which stranded them at Obligado for 40 days to make emergency repairs.[8][14]

Secondary action edit

Meanwhile, 40 km to the north, a small Argentine naval force composed of the sloop Chacabuco, the gunboats Carmen, Arroyo Grande, Apremio, and Buena Vista kept watch over a secondary branch of the Paraná whose control gives full access to the ports of Entre Ríos. Like at Obligado, a double chain, held by seven barges, was also deployed across the river.[13] When news of the battle's outcome reached the squadron, the Chacabuco was scuttled, and the remainder of the flotilla took shelter in the port of Victoria.[16]

Upstream edit

Only 50 out of 92 merchantmen awaiting at Ibicuy Islands continued their upriver trip. The rest gave up and returned to Montevideo.[17] The British and the French ships that sailed past upriver were again attacked on their way back at Paso del Tonelero and at Angostura del Quebracho. The combined fleet suffered the loss of six merchant ships during the later engagement, on 4 June 1846.[9]

Aftermath edit

The Anglo-French victory did not achieve the Allies' goal. The severe damage to their naval forces and the loss of merchantmen indicated that it would be too costly to sail Argentine rivers without the authorisation of the Argentine authorities.[18][19]

Some Unitarian leaders, who were traditional enemies of the Rosas, were moved by the events, with the Unitarian general Martiniano Chilavert offering to join the confederacy's army.[14]

France and the United Kingdom eventually lifted the blockade and dropped their attempts to bypass Buenos Aires policies. They acknowledged Argentina's legal right over the Paraná and other internal rivers and its authority to determine who had access to it in exchange for the withdrawal of Rosas's army from Uruguay.[20]

The Battle of Obligado is remembered in Argentina on 20 November, which was declared "Day of National Sovereignty" in 1974[21] and became a national holiday in 2010.[22] The Paris Métro had a station named Obligado for this battle until 1947, when it was renamed Argentine as a goodwill gesture after the visit of Eva Perón to France that year.[23]

References edit

  1. ^ a b Lewis, Daniel K (2003), The history of Argentina, The Greenwood histories of the modern nations. Palgrave Essential Histories, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 46–47, ISBN 1-4039-6254-5.
  2. ^ Naval database: Gorgon, 1837
  3. ^ Naval database: Firebrand, 1842
  4. ^ Naval database: Philomel, 1842
  5. ^ "Naval database: Comus, 1832". Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  6. ^ Nval database: Dolphin, 1836
  7. ^ Naval database: Fanny, 1845
  8. ^ a b c Marley 1998, p. 495.
  9. ^ a b De León 2008, pp. 18–19.
  10. ^ Rodríguez, Moises Enrique (2006), Freedom's Mercenaries: British Volunteers in the War of Independence of Latin America: Southern South America, vol. 2, Hamilton Books, p. 566, ISBN 0-7618-3438-9.
  11. ^ Mansilla 1994, p. 175.
  12. ^ a b c d e Las naves argentinas que participaron del combate de la Vuelta de Obligado [The Argentinian ships that participated in the combat of Vuelta de Obligado] (in Spanish), AR: Histarmar
  13. ^ a b Batalla de la Vuelta de Obligado [Battle of Vuelta de Obligado] (in Spanish), AR: Ateneo HYV, archived from the original on 8 March 2010{{citation}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  14. ^ a b c "Batalla de Obligado", Luche y Vuelve (in Spanish), AR, archived from the original on 17 June 2006.
  15. ^ Investigaciones y ensayos (in Spanish), AR: Academia Nacional de la Historia, 1993, p. 119.
  16. ^ Carlos, Anadón; del Carmen, Murature María (1968), Historia de Matanza-Victoria: desde los orígenes hasta 1900 [History of Matanza‐Victoria: from the origins to 1900] (in Spanish), Talleres Gráficos Nueva Impresora, p. 102
  17. ^ Después de Obligado [After Obligado] (in Spanish), AR: Histarmar.
  18. ^ Chapman 1889, p. 165: ‘For nearly four years we kept a squadron there, seldom consisting of less than a dozen ships, to cooperate with the similar force maintained by the French; yet, after all our trouble and lavish expenditure, we concluded a treaty in 1849, which was only a diplomatic avowal of the failure of our intervention’
  19. ^ Alonso Piñeiro, Armando (2006). "El bloqueo anglo-francés del Río de la Plata". Historia. 26 (101–104): 131.
  20. ^ Scheina, Robert (2003), Latin America's Wars: The age of the caudillo, 1791–1899, Brassey's, p. 122, ISBN 1-57488-450-6.
  21. ^ Diario de sesiones de la Cámara de Diputados [Journal of sessions of the House of Representatives], Congreso de la Nación, 1973, p. 3569.
  22. ^ "Por decreto, el Gobierno incorporó nuevos feriados al calendario" [By decree, Government incorporated new holidays in the calendar], La Nación (in Spanish), AR
  23. ^ "La station Argentine fait peau neuve" Le Parisien, 16 June 2011 (in French)

Sources edit

  • Marley, David (1998), Wars of the Americas: a chronology of armed conflict in the New World, 1492 to the present, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 0-87436-837-5.
  • Mansilla, Lucio Victorio (1994), Mis memorias y otros escritos [My memories and other writings] (in Spanish), Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación; Lugar Editorial, ISBN 950-9129-91-7.
  • De León, Pablo (2008), Historia de la Actividad Espacial en la Argentina [History of the spatial activity in Argentina] (in Spanish), Lulu, ISBN 978-0-557-01782-9.
  • Chapman, J (1889), The Westminster Review, vol. 131.

External links edit