Thayer's Note: For following the geography in the text, the map provided by the author at the end of the book may be useful; it opens in a separate window.
The victory of Ayacucho was the coup de grace in the wars of independence. The treaty of capitulation gives proof of Sucre's magnanimity, which had already appeared evident in the treaty for the regularization of war. It was extremely generous, and Sucre fulfilled it to the letter.
Bolívar could not but be moved by the glory of the patriots and their commander. As soon as he learned of the victory at Ayacucho he sent a message to the army.
"Soldiers," it reads, "you have given independence to South America, and a quarter of the world is a monument to your glory. You have always conquered. South America is filled with emblems of your valor, but Ayacucho, like Chimborazo, towers above the others."
"Colombia owes you the glory you are again giving her. Peru owes you life, freedom and peace. La Plata and Chile also share in these enormous benefits. The good cause, the cause of the rights of man, has won with your army in its struggle against oppression.
"Receive the unlimited gratitude which I present to you on behalf of Peru. I also propose p134 that you be rewarded as you deserve before returning to your great country. But no — you can never be properly rewarded, for sacrifice has no price.
"Peruvian soldiers, you will always be counted among the first saviors of Peru. Colombian soldiers, a hundred victories carry your fame to the ends of the world."
This message was dated at Lima on Christmas day, 1824. Speaking of General Sucre, Bolívar later on expressed himself as follows:
"The battle of Ayacucho is the summit of American glory, and it is the work of General Sucre. The preparation has been perfect and execution almost superhuman. In one hour clever and swift manoeuvers destroyed the conquerors of fourteen years and crushed a perfectly organized and ably commanded enemy. Ayacucho is the despair of our enemy. Just as Waterloo decided the destiny of Europe, so Ayacucho has decided the destiny of American nations. . . . General Sucre is the hero of Ayacucho; he is the redeemer of the children of the Sun.1 He has broken the chains with which Pizarro bound the empire of the Incas. . . ."
The messages sent by Sucre to Bolívar regarding the battle were of a simple character, in keeping with p135 the spirit of the commander. The first was written four hours after it ended. A part reads as follows:
"Excellency, the field of battle has given us the decision. . . . At Ayacucho six thousand brave men of the liberating army have destroyed the ten thousand royalist soldiers who have oppressed the Republic. The last remnants of Spanish power in America disappeared on December 9th on this happy field. Three hours of hard fighting assured forever the sacred interests which Your Excellency was good enough to entrust to the united army."
He enumerates the trophies of the fight and makes a provisional estimate of casualties, not forgetting to commend the men who distinguished themselves in the battle. Later he sent Bolívar the treaty of capitulation. In another message he honors Bolívar in the following words:
"The united army is happy beyond words to offer to Your Excellency the whole land of Peru, subject to Your Excellency's authority, after less than five months of campaign. All the royalist army, all the provinces occupied by it in this Republic, all its positions, ammunition, supplies, and fifteen generals of Spain are the trophies offered by the united army to Your Excellency as homage to the illustrious savior of Peru who, since the day of Junín, pointed the soldiers of the liberating army on to Ayacucho, to complete their glory."
p136 In this communication Sucre reports the exact number of men taking part in the battle. On the Spanish side there were 9,310 and on the independent side 5,780.
In another letter to Bolívar, also written from the field of battle, he is simpler still.
"General," he writes, "the war has ended and Peru's freedom is accomplished. More than for any other reason, I am happy because I have fulfilled the commission which you gave me."
Sucre received honors in proportion to the importance of his victory. In a proclamation to the Peruvians, issued on the same date as his proclamation to the army, the Liberator said:
"The liberating army under the orders of the fearless and experienced Sucre has put an end to the wars of Peru, and of the American continent, through the most glorious victory ever obtained by the armies of the New World. Thus has the army fulfilled the promise which I made you on its behalf, of accomplishing the freedom of Peru within this year."
Two days later, Bolívar used his authority as dictator of Peru and issued a decree awarding honors to the victors. We quote the following articles inasmuch as they have reference to Sucre:
p137 "Whereas this glorious battle (Ayacucho) is the exclusive result of the ability, valor and heroism of the commander-in‑chief, Antonio José de Sucre, and the members of his army . . .
"Fourth: A column consecrated to the glory of the conquerors will be erected on the field of Ayacucho. At the top of this column will be placed the bust of the illustrious general, Antonio José de Sucre, and on the column will be engraved the names of the generals, officers and corps in the order of their preëminence. The gratitude of the people and the Government will be shown in the wealth, taste, and efforts expended toward the adequate erection of this column.
"Fifth. A corps of each branch of the service of the armies of Colombia and Peru shall take the surname of Ayacucho. A committee composed of the generals and commanders of both armies, presided over by the commander-in‑chief, Antonio José de Sucre, shall designate the corps which shall receive this signal reward. . . .
"Tenth. The commander-in‑chief, Antonio José de Sucre, is appointed Grand Marshal, with the title of General Liberator of Peru."
When Sucre was notified of these honors, he sent a note to the Minister of War of Peru, dated January 23, 1825. It deserves full quotation, as indicative of his character.
p138 "My dear Mr. Minister:
"I have the honor of acknowledging receipt of your communication of December 27th, as well as the decree of His Excellency, the Liberator, in favor of the conquerors of Ayacucho. My heart has undergone a struggle between deep emotions. I have seen myself humiliated by the excessive generosity of His Excellency, the Liberator, in bestowing upon me the honors which are due him, the genius of America, who gave me an army of heroes which he himself had organized, to defend the liberties of the continent and the rights of Peru; and at the same time I see with pride the rewards given to these heroes who determined the destiny of the New World in a single day.
"The Liberator has ordered the erection of a monument to recall to future generations the services of the conquerors of Ayacucho, but in the hearts of the latter there is a monument already consecrated by them to the son of glory, the generous warrior who gave us a country and who transmuted us from slaves to soldiers of freedom and victory. Upon all these hearts and upon each one of them is the image of Bolívar, and from these hearts we shall pass it to the children of our children, so that his memory will live as long as the sun shines upon us."
Sucre also thanked Bolívar in a personal letter from Puno (February 1, 1825) in which he used the familiarity which he sometimes assumed with the Liberator:
p139 I thank you again for the favors and honors which you have bestowed with your decrees and proclamations. I have wanted, and now I am decided, to ask your permission to endeavor that the brilliant title given me in the decree of December 27th be returned to the man who really deserves it; who gave me a valiant army with which to conquer, who encouraged all, and especially myself. . . . I want to ask the Congress that this illustrious title be given to Colombia's beloved father; and I want your permission to do so. I have enough with a little corner in Quito and your friendship."
Later, from La Paz, he wrote:
"Your friendship is my greatest reward. This is no flattery, but the feeling of my soul. And there is no Colombian who has other sentiments toward the leader who gave us fatherland and life."
In the midst of all the honors given by the Congress of Peru to Bolívar as the directing genius of this work of freedom, Sucre was properly remembered in a decree issued on February 12, 1825. In article VII Bolívar's decree is sanctioned in the following words:
"In the future the commander-in‑chief of the united army, Antonio José de Sucre, shall be known under the name of Grand Marshal of Ayacucho, on account of the great triumph achieved on that field."
p140 Colombia, in a decree issued February 11, 1825, in honor of Bolívar, included the following provision:
"On behalf of the Congress, the Executive Power shall present to General Antonio José de Sucre a gold sword bearing the following inscription: 'The Congress of Colombia to General Antonio José de Sucre, victor of Ayacucho, in the year 1824.' "
By a decree of Bolívar, the city and department of Huamanga changed their name to Ayacucho. The decree of the Peruvian Congress honoring Bolívar gave him a million pesos for gifts to the army. Congress excepted Sucre and provided a special gift for him — either two hundred thousand pesos in currency, or public lands to the same value. Bolívar, as the man in charge of the executive power, carried out this decree and ordered that a farm called La Huaca, in the valley of Chancay, be given him free from all incumbrances.2
Finally, the Government of Colombia addressed Sucre directly in a communication dated June 5, 1825:
"Since the Executive Power received the important news of the glorious exploits of the army of freedom at Ayacucho, it has very urgently requested the Liberator, President of the Republic, to express to the conquering army p141 and to Your Excellency the admiration and gratitude which it feels for the immense services for the cause of America in Peru. . . . After His Excellency, the Liberator, has expressed his feelings to the army and to Your Excellency, who so heroically led it on the field of its greatest fortune; after the Peruvian Congress has bestowed such well deserved homage of gratitude upon you; and finally, after the Congress of Colombia has recognized the merited services of the careers of Junín and Ayacucho with memorials and satisfactory awards, the Executive Power can add nothing new or adequate to express its satisfaction and pleasure.
"His Excellency, the Vice President of the Republic, in charge of the Government, accepts with great joy, in the name of the country, the five Spanish flags which Your Excellency offers as a token of the obedience and esteem of the army. These flags will be kept in a public place, so that on seeing them the Colombians, to whom they now belong, may transport themselves in imagination to the fortunate field of Ayacucho and witness the heroism of their compatriots, the wisdom with which Your Excellency led them to the gates of the temple of immortality, and the always heroic and generous efforts of the Liberator President in favor of the cause of the peoples and for the honor of Colombia.
"The Executive Power highly appreciates this token of obedience, presented on behalf of the army. For the future wars of Colombia, it will surely be the symbol of reunion to support p142 the institutions of the republic, to defend the rights of citizens, and to preserve the political independence of the country. There is nothing, General, comparable to the glory of an army consecrating its efforts to this dear object. If your glory and that of the victorious army are brilliant on account of the destruction of an enemy army which had triumphed over the independent forces for fourteen years, their brilliancy is further increased with the support of the rights of men and the placing of laurels, bravery and family at the foot of the law."
Incidentally, it must be said that the two men who distinguished themselves most on the field of battle obtained due reward. Córdoba and Lara were promoted to Major Generals.
Later, in La Paz, the people presented Bolívar a civic crown of gold and diamonds. He handed it to Sucre, saying:
"To the victor belongs the reward; hence I pass it to the hero of Ayacucho."
1 The Peruvian legends claimed that the Incas were descendants of the sun.
2 Sucre, as will be seen, never enjoyed the gift.
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