Military Wiki
Argentine independence War
Part of the Spanish American wars of independence
From top and left: Crossing of the Andes, Battle of Salta, 22 May 1810 Open Cabildo, Battle of San Lorenzo, Battle of Suipacha, 1813 Assembly, Shooting of Liniers, Jujuy Exodus.
LocationArgentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia
Result Argentine victory and emancipation from Spanish colonial rule, slavery partially abolished
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg United Provinces of the Río de la Plata
Chilean exiles
Spain Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata
Spain Viceroyalty of Peru
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg Manuel Belgrano
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg José de San Martín
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg Martín Miguel de Güemes
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg Juan José Castelli
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg José Gervasio Artigas
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svgWilliam Brown
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svgCarlos María de Alvear
Flag of Chile (1817-1818).svg Bernardo O'Higgins

Spain Francisco Javier de Elío
Spain Bernardo de Velasco
Spain José Manuel de Goyeneche
Spain Pedro Antonio Olañeta
Spain Santiago de Liniers  Executed

Spain Vicente Nieto  Executed

The Argentine War of Independence was fought from 1810 to 1818 by Argentine patriotic forces under Manuel Belgrano, Juan José Castelli and José de San Martín against royalist forces loyal to the Spanish crown. On July 9, 1816, an assembly met in San Miguel de Tucumán, declared full independence with provisions for a national constitution.


The territory of modern Argentina was part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, with the same capital city in Buenos Aires, seat of government of the Spanish viceroy. Modern Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia were part of it as well, and began their push for autonomy during the conflict, becoming independent countries afterwards. The vast area of the territory and slow communications led most populated areas to become isolated from each other. The wealthiest regions of the viceroyalty were in Upper Peru, (modern-day Bolivia). Salta and Córdoba had closer ties with Upper Peru than with Buenos Aires. Similarly, Mendoza in the west had closer ties with the Captaincy General of Chile, although the Andes mountain range was a natural barrier. Buenos Aires and Montevideo, who had a local rivalry, located in the La Plata Basin, had naval communications allowing them to be more in contact with European ideas and economic advances than the inland populations. Also, Paraguay was isolated from all other regions.

In the political structure most authoritative positions were filled by people designated by the Spanish monarchy, most of them Spanish people from Europe, without strong compromises for American problems or interests. This created a growing rivalry between the Criollos, people born in America, and the peninsulares, people arrived from Europe (the term "Criollo" is usually translated to English as "Creole", despite being unrelated to most other Creole peoples). Despite the fact that all of them were considered Spanish, and that there was no legal distinction between Criollos and Peninsulares, most Criollos thought that Peninsulares had undue weight in political conflicts and expected a higher intervention in them. The ideas of the American and French Revolutions, and the Age of Enlightenment, promoted desires of social change within the criollos. The full prohibition imposed by Spain to trade with other nations was seen, as well as a cause of damage to the viceroyalty's economy.

The population of Buenos Aires was highly militarized during the British invasions of the Río de la Plata, part of the Anglo-Spanish War. Buenos Aires was captured in 1806, and then liberated by Santiago de Liniers with forces from Montevideo.[1] Fearing a counter-attack, all the population of Buenos Aires capable to bear arms was arranged in military bodies, including slaves. A new British attack in 1807 captured Montevideo, but was defeated in Buenos Aires, and forced to leave the viceroyalty. The viceroy Rafael de Sobremonte was successfully deposed by the criollos during the conflict, and the Regiment of Patricians became a highly influential force in local politics, even after the end of the British threat.[2]

The transfer of the Portuguese Court to Brazil generated military concern. It was feared that the British would launch a third attack, this time allied with Portugal. However, no military conflict took place, as when the Peninsular War started Britain and Portugal became allies of Spain against France. When the Spanish king Ferdinand VII was captured, his sister Carlota Joaquina sought to rule in the Americas as regent, but nothing came out of it because of the lack of support from both the Spanish Americans and the British. Javier de Elío created a Junta in Montevideo and Martín de Álzaga sought to make a similar move organizing a mutiny in Buenos Aires, but the local military forces intervened and thwarted it. Spain appointed a new viceroy, Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros, and Liniers handed the government to him without resistance, despite the proposals of the military to reject him.[3]

May Revolution

The May Revolution forced the viceroy to resign. He was replaced by a government Junta, the Primera Junta.

The military conflict in Spain worsened by 1810. The city of Seville had been invaded by French armies, which were already dominating most of the Iberian Peninsula. The Junta of Seville was disestablished, and several members fled to Cádiz, the last portion of Spain still resisting. They established a Council of Regency, with political tendencies closer to absolutism than the former Junta. This began the May Revolution in Buenos Aires, as soon as the news were known. Several citizens thought that Cisneros, appointed by the disestablished Junta, did not have the right to rule anymore, and requested the convening of an open cabildo to discuss the fate of the local government. The military gave their support to the request, forcing Cisneros to accept. The discussion ruled the removal of viceroy Cisneros and his replacement with a government junta, but the cabildo attempted to keep Cisneros in power by appointing him president of such junta. Further demonstrations ensued, and the Junta was forced to resign immediately. It was replaced by a new one, the Primera Junta.[4]

Buenos Aires requested the other cities in the viceroyalty to acknowledge the new Junta and send deputies. The precise purpose of these deputies, join the Junta or create a congress, was unclear at the time and generated political disputes later. The Junta was initially resisted by all the main locations around Buenos Aires: Córdoba, Montevideo, Paraguay and the Upper Peru. Santiago de Liniers came out of his retirement in Córdoba and organized an army to capture Buenos Aires, Montevideo had naval supremacy over the city, and Vicente Nieto organized the actions at the Upper Peru. Nieto proposed to José Fernando de Abascal y Sousa, viceroy of the Viceroyalty of Peru at the North, to annex the Upper Peru to it. He thought that the revolution could be easily contained in Buenos Aires, before launching a definitive attack.

Buenos Aires was declared a rogue city by the Council of Regency, which appointed Montevideo as capital of the viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, and Francisco Javier de Elío the new viceroy. However, the May Revolution was not initially separatist. Patriots supported the legitimacy of the Juntas in the Americas, whether royalists supported instead the Council of Regency; both ones acted on behalf of Ferdinand VII. All of them believed that, according to the retroversion of the sovereignty to the people, in the absence of the rightful king sovereignty returned to the people, which would be capable to appoint their own leaders. They did not agree on who was that people, and which territorial extension had the sovereignty. Royalists thought that it applied to the people on European Spain, who had the right to rule over all the Spanish empire. The leaders of the May Revolution thought that it applied to all the capitals of Spanish kingdoms. José Gervasio Artigas would lead later a third perspective: the retroversion applied to all regions, which should remain united under a confederative system. The three groups battled each others, but the disputes about the national organization of Argentina (either centralist or confederal) continued in Argentine Civil War, for many years after the end of the war of independence.[5]

Armed conflict

The Primera Junta sent military campaigns to the viceroyalty, in order to secure support to the new authorities and retain the authority held as the capital of the viceroyalty. The victories and defeats of the military conflict delimited the areas of influence of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, the new name given by Buenos Aires to the former viceroyalty. With the non-aggression pact arranged with Paraguay early on, most of the initial conflict took place at the Upper Peru at the north and the Banda Oriental at the east. On the second half of the decade, with the capture of Montevideo and the stalemate in the Upper Peru, the conflict moved to Chile, to the west.[6]

First Upper Peru campaign

One of the first two military campaigns sent from Buenos Aires moved to Córdoba. Santiago de Liniers organized a counter-revolution, but there was no battle: all the army deserted before it. Liniers attempted to move to the north and join Nieto and Goyeneche, but Francisco Ortiz de Ocampo captured him and the other leaders of the counter-revolution. Instead of executing them as instructed, he sent them to Buenos Aires as prisoners. He was demoted as a result, and Juan José Castelli appointed head of the military campaign instead. Castelli executed the prisoners, and the army headed then to the Upper Peru. Antonio González Balcarce moved ahead, and was defeated at the battle of Cotagaita. Castelli sent him reinforcements, and got the first victory at the battle of Suipacha, which gave control of the Upper Peru. The royalist generals Vicente Nieto, Francisco de Paula Sanz and José de Córdoba y Rojas were captured and executed.

Castelli proposed to the Junta to cross the Desaguadero River and expand the military conflict to the Viceroyalty of Peru, but his proposal was rejected. His army and Goyeneche's stationed near the frontier, while negotiating. Goyeneche advanced and defeated Castelli at the Battle of Huaqui, whose forces dispersed and left the provinces. The resistance of Cochabamba kept the royalists at the Upper Peru, preventing them from advancing to Buenos Aires. Castelli returned to the city and died of cancer during a lengthy trial of his actions. Other trialed officers would be pardoned later.

Paraguay campaign

Paraguay campaign (1810–1811): Another militia, commanded by Manuel Belgrano, made its way up the Paraná towards the Intendency of Paraguay. A first battle was fought at Campichuelo, where the Argentines claimed victory. However, they were completely overwhelmed at the subsequent battles of Paraguarí and Tacuarí. Thus, this campaign ended in failure as well from a military point of view; however, some months later, inspired on the Argentine example, Paraguay broke its links with the Spanish crown and became an independent nation.

Violent internal disagreements and the undesired outcomes of these campaigns, led to the replacement of the Junta for a triumvirate in September 1811. The new government decided to promote another campaign to the Upper Peru with a reorganized Army of the North.

Second Upper Peru campaign

Second Alto Perú campaign (1812–1813): Facing the overwhelming invasion of a royalist army led by General Pío de Tristán, Manuel Belgrano, then commander of the Northern Army, turned to scorched-earth tactics. He ordered the evacuation of the people and the burning of anything else left behind, to prevent enemy forces from getting supplies or taking prisoners from the city of San Salvador de Jujuy. This action is commonly known as the Jujuy Exodus.

General Belgrano led the Northern Army to victory in the Battles of Tucumán and Salta, in the northwest of present-day Argentina, forcing the bulk of the royalist army to surrender their weapons. Tristán (a former fellow student with Belgrano at Salamanca University) and his men were granted amnesty and released. The cities of Tucumán and Salta have remained under the Argentine government ever since. But, then again the patriot army was defeated into the Upper Peru at the battles of Vilcapugio and Ayohuma.

San Martín wrapped in the flag.

Campaigns of José de San Martín

Meanwhile, the Triumvirate named a recently arrived from Spain José de San Martín Lieutenant Colonel, and ordered him to create the professional and disciplined cavalry unit Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers (Spanish language: Granaderos a caballo ). By late 1812, this same division helped a revolution that deposed the government and promoted the creation of a new Trimuvirate

On January 31, 1813, a Spanish army company coming from Montevideo landed near the town of San Lorenzo, Santa Fe Province. The Second Triumvirate urged San Martín to stop further raids on the west bank of the Parana river. The Granaderos division met the Spanish on a field near the town's convent and made it an easy victory on February 3. After the Battle of San Lorenzo, the Triumvirate awarded San Martín the rank of General.

Fearing a major Spanish attack, a general assembly known as Asamblea del Año XIII was summoned in Buenos Aires on February 27, 1813, to discuss future military campaigns and with provisions for a Constitution. It was decided there to dissolve the Triumvirate and to create a new unipersonal office for an effective executive action. The assembly elected Gervasio Antonio de Posadas as the first Supreme Director on January 31, 1814. Posadas decided to create a naval fleet with the funding of Juan Larrea, and appointed William Brown as Lieutenant Colonel and Chief Commander of it, on March 1, 1814. This tiny fleet engaged in combat with the Spanish ships off the Montevideo coast, this action known as the Action of 14 May 1814, and defeated the Spanish three days later. This action secured the coasts of Buenos Aires and allowed the subsequent fall of Montevideo, executed by Carlos María de Alvear. All of this meant the end of the royalist menace from the Eastern Bank of the Uruguay river.

William Brown was awarded the rank of Admiral and Carlos María de Alvear succeeded his uncle Posadas as the Supreme Director, on January 11, 1815. However, he was resisted by the troops, so he was quickly replaced, on April 21, by Ignacio Álvarez Thomas. Álvarez Thomas appointed Alvear as General of the Northern Army, in replacement of José Rondeau, but the officiality would not recognize this and instead remained loyal to Rondeau.

  • Third Alto Perú campaign (1815): The Northern Army, unofficially commanded by José Rondeau, started another campaign, but this time without the formal authorization of Supreme Director Álvarez Thomas. Lacking official support, the army was faced with anarchy. Moreover, soon after it would lose as well the aid of the Provincial Army of Salta, commanded by Martín Miguel de Güemes. After the defeats of Venta y Media (October 21) and Sipe-Sipe (November 28), the northern territories of the Upper Peru were definitively lost. They were then reannexed by the Viceroyalty of Peru, and it later would became the modern nation of Bolivia. This unsuccessful outcome to the campaign would spread rumors in Europe that the May Revolution was over. However, the Spanish Army could not advance further south as they were successfully stopped at Salta by the Güemes guerrillas from this moment on.

By 1815, King Ferdinand VII was restored in his throne, so an urgent decision was needed regarding independence. On July 9, 1816, an assembly of representatives from all of the Provinces (except for Santa Fe, Entre Ríos, Corrientes and the Eastern Province, which formed a Federal League) met at the Congress of Tucumán, and declared the Independence of Argentina from the Spanish Crown with provisions for a national Constitution. Santa Fe, Entre Ríos and Corrientes later joined the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata.

The following year, San Martín took command of the Northern Army, to prepare a new invasion of the Upper Peru. However, he quickly resigned as he foresaw yet another defeat. Instead, he developed a new strategy to attack the Viceroyalty of Perú through the Captaincy of Chile, inspired on the writings of Sir Thomas Maitland, who was quoted as saying that the only way to defeat the Spanish at Quito and Lima was attacking Chile first. San Martín asked to became Governor of the Province of Cuyo, where he prepared the Chilean campaign. From here on, the Argentine War of Independence gets mixed with the Chilean War of Independence, as patriots from both countries joined their forces.

  • Chile campaign (1817): Installed in the city of Mendoza, San Martín reorganized the Granaderos cavalry unit along with the Army of Cuyo and crossed the Andes Mountains to attack the Royalists in Chile at the beginning of 1817 in the Battle of Chacabuco. With the aid of Chilean patriot Bernardo O'Higgins he made a triumphant entry in the liberated city of Santiago de Chile. Argentine and Chilean armies merged in the unofficial South American Patriot Army and continued the campaign together against the Spanish division commanded by Osorio. However, their forces were surprised and very badly beaten at the Battle of Cancha Rayada on March 18, 1818. In the confusion, a false rumor spread that O'Higgins had died, and a panic seized the patriot troops, many of whom agitated for a full retreat back across the Andes to Mendoza. Crippled after his defeat at Cancha Rayada, O'Higgins delegated the command of the troops entirely to San Martín in a meeting on the plains of Maipú. Then, on April 5, 1818, San Martín inflicted a decisive defeat on Osorio in the Battle of Maipú, after which the depleted royalists retreated to Concepcion, never again to launch a major offensive against Santiago.

This is considered to be the conclusion of the Argentine War of Independence, but battles continued by land and sea into Peru until 1824, when the last decisive battle was fought in Ayacucho. These events were part of San Martín's own campaigning with O'Higgins and Simón Bolívar, and Buenos Aires no longer recognized his authority.

The meeting of Guayaquil

On 26 July 1822, San Martín met with Simón Bolívar at Guayaquil to plan the future of Latin America. Most of the details of this meeting are secret, and this has made the event a matter of much debate among historians. Some believe that Bolívar's refusal to share command of the combined forces made San Martín withdraw from Perú and resettle as a farmer in Mendoza, Argentina. Another theory claims that San Martín yielded to Bolívar's charisma and avoided a confrontation. It is widely believed that both men were members of Masonic societies, and the outcome of the meeting might have been arranged by hidden players, however this has been denied by the Great Masonic Lodges [7] See Lautaro Lodge.

Annual commemoration

The Día de la Revolución de Mayo (May Revolution Day) on May 25 is an annual holiday in Argentina to commemorate the First National Government (and the creation of the Primera Junta), one of the significant events in the history of Argentina. These and other events of the week leading to this day are referred to as the Semana de Mayo (May Week).

See also


  1. Camogli, p. 23
  2. Camogli, p. 24
  3. Camogli, pp. 26-27
  4. Camogli, pp. 27-28
  5. Camogli, pp. 29-31
  6. Camogli, pp. 32-33
  7. Cruce de los


  • Camogli, Pablo; Luciano de Privitellio (2005). Batallas por la Libertad. Buenos Aires: Aguilar. ISBN 987-04-0105-8. 
  • Luna, Félix (2003) (in Spanish). La independencia argentina y americana. Buenos Aires: Planeta. ISBN 950-49-1110-2. 

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