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Chapter 16

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Antonio José de Sucre

Guillermo Antonio Sherwell

Press of Byron S. Adams
Washington, D. C., 1924

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 18

p206 Chapter XVII

A Masterful Summary from a Masterful Pen.

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.

Before closing this book, it is impossible to resist the inclination to review the life of this great man, to note the highest points of his career, and to make a comprehensive summary of its most important events. An ordinary pen could not put the essentials of Sucre's life into a few pages, but a superman undertook to do it, and he did as he did everything to which he put his hand. No better biographer could Sucre have than Bolívar himself.

Ayacucho had just passed when Bolívar, at Lima, wrote the following lines:

"General Antonio José de Sucre was born in the city of Cumaná in the province of Venezuela in the year 1790,1 of wealthy and distinguished parents. He received his early education in Caracas, the capital. In 1802 he started to study mathematics in order to follow the career of an engineer. At the beginning of the revolution he entered that branch of the service and from the first moment showed an application and intelligence that made him excel among his fellow students.2

p207 "Soon after, the war started, and General Sucre immediately joined the revolutionists. He served with distinction under General Miranda during 1811 and 1812. When Generals Miranda, Piar, Bermúdez and Valdez started the reconquest of their country in the year 1813, the youth Sucre accompanied them in a most daring and reckless undertaking. Hardly a handful of brave men, not over one hundred, attempted to obtain, and succeeded in obtaining, the freedom of three provinces in the East. Sucre distinguished himself by his untiring energy, his intelligence and his bravery. On the famous fields of Maturín and Cumaná he was among the most audacious, breaking through enemy lines, destroying opposing armies with three or four companies of volunteers which formed our forces. Greece presents no greater prodigies. Five hundred armed peasants, commanded by the fearless Piar, destroyed eight thousand Spaniards on three battlefields. General Sucre was outstanding, even among these heroes.

"General Sucre served the general staff of the army of the East during 1816 and 1817, always with the zeal, talent and learning for which he is noted. He was the soul of the army wherever he served. He subjected all to method; he directed all with the modesty and grace which beautifies all he does. In the midst of the irritations necessarily born of war and revolution, General Sucre frequently found himself a mediator, an adviser, a guide, without ever losing sight of the good cause and the right  p208 path. He was the worst enemy of disorder, and at the same time the friend of everyone.

"His loyalty to the Liberator and to the Government often placed him in difficult situations, when domestic dissensions kindled the spirit. All through the storm General Sucre remained like a rock, fought by the waves, with his eyes fixed on his country and without losing the esteem and love even of those whom he opposed.

"After the battle of Boyacá, General Sucre was appointed Chief of Staff of the Liberating Army, a position which he filled with wonderful activity. In this capacity, in company with General Briseño and Colonel Pérez, he negotiated the armistice and the treaty for the regularization of the war with General Morillo in the year 1820. This treaty is worthy of General Sucre's soul. Benignity, clemency, the genius of charity dictated it. It will be eternal as a most beautiful emblem of mercy applied to war. It will be eternal as the name of the victor of Ayacucho.

"Later, he was sent to Bogotá to command the division which the Government of Colombia placed at his command to help Guayaquil, which had risen against the Spanish Government. There Sucre showed his painstaking, courteous, active and bold nature.

"Two successive defeats had placed Guayaquil at the edge of an abyss. But General Sucre was in Guayaquil, and his presence was enough to do everything. The people wished to deliver themselves from slavery; General Sucre  p209 directed this noble aim with great skill and glory. He was victor at Yaguachi, and thus delivered Guayaquil. Afterwards, a new army appeared at the gates of the city, victorious and strong. General Sucre repelled it without combatting it. His diplomacy obtained what his army could not have obtained. General Sucre brought about an armistice with the Spanish general, which in fact was a victory. A great part of the battle of Pichincha is due to this clever negotiation, for without it that famous battle could not have taken place. All would have perished then, for Sucre would not have had means to resist.

"Finally, General Sucre organized a respectable army during the armistice, with the troops he raised in the country, with those received from the Government of Colombia and with the division of Santa Cruz which he obtained from the Protector of Peru as a result of his untiring perseverance in asking everywhere for enemies of the Spaniards who were in possession of Quito.

"The campaign which ended the war in the South was directed and commanded by General Sucre personally. In it he displayed his talent and military virtues. He conquered difficulties which seemed unconquerable. Nature presented obstacles, privations and severe sufferings; but his fecund genius knew how to remedy everything. The battle of Pichincha crowned the work of his zeal. . . . Then, as a reward for his sacrifices, he was appointed Major-General and Intendente (Governor) of the Department of Quito, whose inhabitants saw him as their  p210 liberator and their friend, and were even more pleased with the leader given them than with the freedom itself which they were receiving at his hands. But good things are not enduring; they lost him very soon.

"The obstinate city of Pasto rebelled soon, after the capitulation granted to it by the Liberator with a generosity unparalleled in the history of wars. The generosity displayed in Ayacucho, which we have just seen with wonder, was not comparable with it. Nevertheless, this ungrateful and treacherous people forced General Sucre to advance against their city, at the head of some battalions and squadrons of the Colombian guard. The abysses, the torrents, the steep precipices of Pasto were crossed by the indomitable soldiers of Colombia. Sucre guided them and Pasto was again reduced to obedience.

"General Sucre was very soon designated for a two‑fold mission, military and diplomatic, before this Government, the object of which was to be near the President of the Republic in order to take part in the operations of the auxiliary Colombian troops in Peru. He had no sooner arrived at this capital (Lima) than the Government of Peru urged him repeatedly and earnestly to take command of the united army. He declined, following his duty and his own moderation, until the proximity of the enemy with very superior forces converted the acceptance of the command into an honorable duty. Everything was in disorder; all would perish unless some military leader put the city of Callao in condition to defend itself with the forces occupying  p211 this capital. Reluctantly, General Sucre assumed command.

"The Congress, which had been attacked by President Riva Agüero, deposed this magistrate as soon as it entered Callao and authorized General Sucre to act as supreme chief in both military and political affairs. Circumstances were acute; it was necessary not to hesitate, but to act resolutely.

"General Sucre nevertheless resigned the command bestowed on him by Congress, which continued to insist with greater ardor, for Sucre was the only man who could save the country in the terrible conflict. Callao was like the box of Pandora, and was in chaos. The enemy was at the very gates with double the strength of the defenders. The city was not prepared for siege. The army corps garrisoning it belonged to different countries and parties. Congress and the Executive fought each other in armed conflict. Everybody commanded in that time of confusion, and seemingly General Sucre was responsible for all. He then decided to defend the city, provided the supreme authorities should evacuate it, as had already been decided both by Congress and the Executive Power. He advised both bodies to get together and compromise their differences at Trujillo, which was the place designated for their residence.

"General Sucre had positive orders from his Government to support the Government of Peru, but to refrain from intervening in its domestic differences. This was his invariable conduct, in rigid obedience to his instructions. For this reason, both parties complained of his indifference,  p212 indolence, and apathy; for, although he had assumed military command, he had done so with great repugnance and only to please the Peruvian authorities; at the same time he firmly resolved to exercise none but a purely military command. Such was his conduct in the midst of these difficult circumstances. All of Peru may say whether these lines are dictated by truth.

"Santa Cruz' operations in Upper Peru had started with success and promised a happy conclusion. General Sucre had received orders to sail for that section with four thousand men of the allied army. Consequently, he left with three thousand Colombians and Chileans, landed at the port of Quilca and took the city of Arequipa. He established communication with General Santa Cruz, who was in Upper Peru. In spite of not having received any request for help from Santa Cruz, Sucre arranged everything so as to be able to act immediately against the common enemy. His troops had arrived in very bad condition, as is usual after a sea voyage. It had been enormously difficult to obtain horses and provisions. The Chilean troops were almost naked, and had to be uniformed before undertaking a severe campaign. Nevertheless, everything was accomplished in a few weeks. General Sucre's division had received word from General Santa Cruz, who was asking for its help, and a few hours after receiving the message it was on its way, when the sad news arrived of the dissolution of the Peruvian division in the neighborhood of Desaguadero. Consequently all changed in aspect.  p213 It was then necessary to modify plans. General Sucre interviewed General Santa Cruz in Moquegua, and there they combined their future operations. The division under General Sucre came to Pisco, and from there went by order of the Liberator to Supe to oppose the plans of Riva Agüero, who was acting in combination with the Spaniards. Under these circumstances, General Sucre requested the Liberator to permit him to take possession of the valley of Jauja with the Colombian troops, so as to oppose General Canterac, who was coming from the south. Riva Agüero had offered to coöperate in this movement, but his perfidy intended to deceive us; his real intention was to delay operations until the arrival of his confederates, the Spaniards. So poor a snare could not deceive the Liberator, who had foreseen it, or rather, who knew of it through intercepted documents between the traitors and the enemy.

"General Sucre at that moment gave a brilliant proof of his generous character. Riva Agüero had slandered him atrociously. He imputed to him the decrees of Congress and believed him the agent of the ambition of the Liberator and the instrument of his own downfall. In spite of this, Sucre earnestly and ardently urged the Liberator not to employ him in the campaign against Riva Agüero, not even as a simple soldier. It was hardly possible that he go as a simple spectator and not in command of the United Army. His opposition was absolute. He stated that the intervention of the auxiliary army was by no means advisable, and  p214 even less so his own intervention, because he was believed to be a personal enemy of Riva Agüero and his rival in command. The Liberator acceded with great regret, as has been said, to the vehement requests of General Sucre. He personally assumed command of the army until General La Fuente, obeying his noble decision to remove the treachery of a leader and the civil war of his country, arrested Riva Agüero and his accomplices. Then General Sucre resumed the head of his army and stationed it in the Huailas province, according to orders. There he showed all his resources of economy to contribute to the comfort and ease of the Colombian troops. Up to this time that region had contributed little or nothing at all to the State. However, General Sucre established the most rigid order in the subsistence of the army, with due regard for the sacrifices of the people, and alleviated the pain produced by the military exactions with his inexhaustible kindness and good nature. So it was that both people and army found themselves as well as the circumstances permitted.

"Sucre had orders to reconnoiter the border, which he did with his usual accuracy, and ordered such preparatory measures as would aid in the ensuing campaign.

"When the treachery of Callao and Torre Tagle brought the enemy to Lima, General Sucre received orders to counteract the complicated system of perfidy which was spread throughout the territory against the freedom of the country, the reputation of the Liberator, and the honor of the Colombians. General  p215 Sucre fought successfully all the enemies of Peru and freedom, in favor of justice, and for the comfort of those who were discouraged to see evil victorious.

"General Sucre wrote his friends that he was more interested in the cause of Peru than if it were his own or his family's cause. He had never shown such indefatigable zeal, and his services were not in vain. They succeeded in keeping attached to the cause of the country many who would have abandoned it except for the generous diligence of Sucre. At the same time this general took charge of the preparations which resulted in the wonderful march of the army to the valley of Jauja, over the frozen and desert Andes. The army received all the help it needed, due doubtless as much to the Peruvian people who gave it as to the commander who so competently and discreetly had requested it.

"After the battle of Junín, General Sucre devoted himself again to the betterment and relief of the army. The hospitals were supplied by him, and the detachments which joined the army were indebted to the assistance of the same general. These attentions gave the army two thousand men who might have perished in misery without the care of this man who devoted all his waking hours to such merciful services. To General Sucre, all sacrifices for humanity and country seem glorious. No kind attention is unworthy of his heart. He is the soldier's general.

"When the Liberator entrusted him with the campaign during the following winter, General  p216 Sucre made use of his superior talent, which led him to realize the most brilliant campaign of all those which redound to the glory of the children of the New World. The march of the United Army from the province of Cotabamba to Huamanga is an almost insuperable operation, comparable to anything military history presents. Our army was only half as strong as the enemy's. In addition, they possessed many material advantages over us. We were forced to advance, over rocks and peaks, through rivers and ravines and abysses, always in the presence of a superior force. This short but terrible campaign is of a merit not yet well known. It might well be ascribed to Caesar.

"The battle of Ayacucho is the summit of American glory and it is the work of General Sucre. The preparation has been perfect and the execution almost superhuman. In one hour, clever and swift manoeuvers destroyed the conquerors of fourteen years, and crushed a perfectly organized and ably commanded army. Ayacucho is the despair of our enemy. Just as Waterloo decided the destiny of Europe, so Ayacucho has decided the destiny of the American nations. The coming generations will bless the triumph of Ayacucho and will see in it the throne of Liberty, giving to Americans the exercise of their rights and establishing the sacred empire of nature.

"General Sucre is the hero of Ayacucho. He is the redeemer of the children of the Sun. He has broken the chains with which Pizarro bound the empire of the Incas. Posterity will see Sucre standing over Pichincha and Potosí,  p217 carrying in his hands the cradle of Manco-Capac, the chains of Peru broken by his sword."

Here end the words of Bolívar. It was the year 1825. Sucre had still a great deal to do. Swords made of gold and precious stones, the homage of peoples, the flattery of his fellow men — everything that the powerful receive — came to Sucre, but he was the same modest, quiet and loyal friend of Bolívar. Just as the young officer of Cumaná received the orders of the genius of America, so did the Grand Marshal of Ayacucho, who had put an end to Spanish domination in America. At the bottom of his soul there was as yet no bitterness, but only the touch of sadness which lurks in those who are destined to perform the supreme works of the world; for all such have suffered martyrdom.

Sucre went to Upper Peru, and there he saw the possible cradle of future discords. America was for him a unit, and wars between Americans were fratricidal. He conceived the idea of an independent republic, to belong neither to Buenos Aires nor to Peru. Opposed by the Liberator, he stood by his own conception, for his affection for Bolívar was never abject submission but honorable love. Again, as in the past, he was offered the supreme command. Bolívar himself ordered him to assume absolute power. But he was not only Bolívar's friend; he was also the friend of freedom and democracy, and with these ideas he organized a new republic. Bolívar  p218 gave concrete form to his ideals of government, drafting the constitution of this new daughter of liberty. Sucre did not like this constitution, and he deceived no one. He said so, and he was right. He could have been President for life, but he agreed to be President only until the Congress should convene.

Conspiracies broke out here and there. The eternal ambitions were evidencing themselves. Sucre had been the man of service and struggle; others wanted to be the men of power. He was willing, and even more, he was anxious, to surrender power to any one. But this had to be done according to law. His only comfort was the love of the masses. He did not want to have foreigners in Bolivia and he even sent his own Colombian friends out of the country, keeping there only those who had not been able to leave because of the lack of transportation. He had no opportunity to resign power in peace. Ambitious men were also impatient, and mutiny broke out in the capital and the arm of Sucre was wounded by the ungrateful conspirators. He could not write his last message to the Bolivians, but he dictated it and left his supreme lesson to that country which owed him its existence. He returned poor indeed. He went to Peru, where he found the other martyr of American independence attacked, insulted, slandered by the Peruvians, and again he tried to be of personal service to the man to whom America owed so much and to the country for which they had both  p219 suffered so intensely. His mediation was not accepted. Discouraged, he went to Quito to join his wife and to live humbly, working to earn his daily bread; and while recovering the use of his right arm, the words which he put on paper with difficulty were words of advice and of patriotism which reflect a great and beautiful soul.

He hated nothing more than civil war, but the Peruvians were attacking Colombia. General Flores was at the head of the army of southern Colombia, now Ecuador. Sucre was put in command of the region. He tried by any means in his power to stop the advance of the Peruvians and to avoid bloodshed, but when he found it impossible he assumed command and destroyed the enemy at Tarqui. His victory was only less magnificent than his generosity to the conquered ones who, after all, were his misguided brothers.

Then, back to Quito, but not to peace. His countrymen had not forgotten him and the people bestowed on him their representation in the Colombian Congress, which history has called the "Admirable Congress." And there he went to serve once more.

He was sent to try to keep Venezuela united to Colombia. He failed and returned to Bogotá. There he took leave of his friend, never to see him again. Sucre thought he would go back home to his wife and little daughter. He knew well that a group of so‑called democrats had decided to put an end to his life, for they considered him dangerous to their  p220 soi‑disant democracy. But he started that journey which was to be his last. When approaching the place where such great difficulties had been encountered in establishing freedom, in the most rugged section of the Andes, he was murdered, and for more than a day his body lay in the mud.

Now, in the love of America, his memory is second only to Bolívar's. It is a symbol of singleness of purpose, kindness, loyalty, self-sacrifice and supreme valor — the valor of a man who is ready to give everything for the sake of country, honor and truth.

The Author's Notes:

1 The Liberator was mistaken in the date; he was born in 1795.

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2 This date must also be wrong. From 1802 till the beginning of the revolution, eight years passed, and it is difficult to believe that Sucre studied mathematics eight years in order to follow the engineering profession.

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Page updated: 21 Dec 17