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Second Battle of Guararapes

First Battle of Guararapes
Batalha dos Guararapes.jpg

Insurreição Pernambucana


April 19, 1648


Pernambuco, Brazil


Decisive Portuguese forces


Dutch Republic


  • Sigismund van Schoppe (WIA)
  • 5,000
  • 5 cannons
  • 2,000
  • 1,000 men killed, wounded or captured
  • 1 cannon captured
  • 80 killed
  • 400 wounded

The First Battle of Guararapes was a battle fought between Dutch and Portuguese forces at the hill of Guararapes (near the actual city of Jaboatão dos Guararapes) during the Insurreição Pernambucana.

The first battle of Guararapes is symbolically considered the origin of the Brazilian Army, because it was the first time where whites, blacks and Indians (main Brazilian ethnicities at the time) joined forces to fight for Brazil instead of Portugal. Giving origin to Brazilian nationalism that culminated on Brazilian independence two centuries later.



The first battle Guararapes, happened during the Insurreição Pernambucana, a resistance movement against the Dutch presence in northeastern Brazil, that began after 1640. The Battle occurred in a period withoud direct intervention of the Portuguese government. Nevertheless, the Portuguese in Brazil take up arms to expel the Dutch from northeastern Brazil. Early in 1948, a powerful force composed of 5,000 soldiers and 5 cannons is sent from the Dutch Recife south towards the region of Bahia. However, as they learn that Recife was surrounded they march back north to try to relieve the pressure that the Portuguese impose against the city. However a Portuguese force composed of 2,200 soldiers is sent to intercept the returning Dutch army to prevent them to reach Recife, they intercepted the Dutch in the Hill of Guararapes.

The Battle

At the beginning of the fight, Von Schoppe may have realized that he would have to fight a much stronger force than the one he had defeated in Barreta. Also, the opportunity to choose the proper place to meet a superior force was crucial for the Portuguese victory. The terrain was damp, mostly swamp, and did not allow for the classical in-line formation of European armies. Forced into a narrow front, the Dutch's advantages had been almost nullified. The Portuguese forces were divided in five terços commanded by Francisco Barreto de Menezes, Fernandes Vieira, Filipe Camarão and Henrique Dias. André Vidal de Negreiros was the commander of the fifth terço kept in reserve. Barreto de Menezes concentrated his efforts on the space between the East face and the main swamp. In the center, Fernandes Vieira's terço had the mission to penetrate as deep possible into the enemy's formation. On the right flank, Filipe Camarão would use the long experience of the natives in fighting in the swamped terrain. Henrique Dias would use the "terço dos negros" (black's terço) to keep the Dutch from advancing and then avoiding the spear head advance from being flanked. Limited by the lack of space for maneuver, Von Schoppe concentrated most of his forces on the space between the east face and the main swamp. Three of his battalions were face-to-face against the terços of Vieira and Camarão, while two other battaltions of his would try to flank the advancing forces and would be contained by the terço of Dias. Two Dutch battalions would not be allowed to maneuver and would stay back, out of action. The closed space also did not allow the use of firearms to its full potential and

Battle of Guararapes, painted by Victor Meirelles

maximized the use of native weapons and the short sword. Diogo Lopes Santiago, a possible eye witness of that event, gives his gruesome account of that encounter: "(...) and as they ran away, our soldiers would follow them with their swords with cuts and slashes, cutting legs, arms, heads, some killing, others wounding badly, laying on the field bodies without arms, trunks without heads (...) holding their sword in the middle of those squadrons, piles of enemies, giving spokes to some and to others death, showing the sword, tinted in blood."


At least a thousand Dutch were killed or wounded in the fight. The battle was crucial to the Dutch presence in Brazil, one year later the Dutch and Portuguese forces would clash in Guararapes again, leading to another Portuguese victory and, subsequently, leading to the recapture of the city of Recife.

See also

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