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Chapter 3

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 5

p42 Chapter IV

The Battle of Pichincha, May 24, 1822.
Sucre, the Father of Ecuador.

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.

Bolívar could not consider his work ended with the battle of Carabobo. He wished to see all of Colombia independent as soon as possible, and in his plans the kingdom of Quito was to be part of the republic of his dreams. He therefore determined to take a hand in the liberation of the south. He left Bogotá with three thousand veterans. At this time his genius had reached its highest development. It was then that he sent plenipotentiaries to invite the governments of South America to a conference at Panama, the origin of practical Pan‑Americanism, which has been the dream of statesmen ever since.

At first the Liberator had intended to go from Buenaventura to Guayaquil, but he was advised that the Spanish General Mourgeon had arrived from Panama at the port of Esmeraldas with a large body of troops. Also, two Spanish warships were cruising in the Pacific, and preventing American vessels from leaving Buenaventura for Guayaquil. To these circumstances is probably due the fact that Sucre continued as commander-in‑chief of the army that was to free Ecuador. His subsequent communications with the Liberator were over one of the most precipitous sections of the Andes range.

 p43  The Peruvian troops sent by San Martín under the command of Colonel Andrés de Santa Cruz, were advancing by land, and Sucre crossed the mountains to meet them, with part of his own army. He left Guayaquil on the 20th of January, after the royalists had broken the armistice. Before leaving, a proclamation was issued to the people of Quito, in which he tells of Bolívar's movements as the guarantee of their coming freedom:

"People of Quito, the God of justice, insulted in his altars, in his ministers and in his sacred institutions, is sending us to avenge religion. The profanation of the sanctuary and the desolation of this beautiful land have aroused the anger of Heaven, and Heaven has identified its cause with the cause of freedom and is sending Bolívar's sword and the brave victors of Carabobo to defend its rights.

"People of Quito, the purpose of the liberating army is not only to make your country free. It is for the conservation of your property, your lives, your forefathers' faith, and your nation's honor, that it goes to victory. Sacrilegious and tyrannical men shall pay for their crimes, and we shall offer our blood as an oblation for your happiness."

In his march, Sucre suffered much from the cold, and lost many men. When Tolrá learned of his plans he moved to prevent the union of his army with that of Santa Cruz. But he was too late and withdrew to Cuenca, with his forces disorganized by hardships  p44 and desertion, many of his men having gone over to the independent ranks. He found little sympathy in Cuenca, and was forced to withdraw to Riobamba, expecting to receive there some reënforcements he had asked of Aymerich. No sooner had he left Cuenca, February 21, 1822, than the independents entered. They were received with great acclamation.

The patriots remained at Cuenca for about sixty days, giving time for the Liberator to enter into action from the north. Sucre sent detachments to cut communications between Quito and Riobamba and to watch the movements of the enemy. Meanwhile, the viceroy had died and Aymerich took command of the viceroyalty. The Spanish warships as well as the Alejandro, which mutinied at Guayaquil, left the royalists and joined the patriots at that port. The situation was favorable for the combined attack upon Quito, by Bolívar from the north through the mountains of Pasto, and by the army of Sucre from Cuenca. The two leaders were at such a distance that they could not get into touch with each other and had to work independently, but they acted with such unity of purpose that their movements seemed directed by one man.

Aymerich was aware that Sucre's army was growing to alarming size, and decided upon a supreme effort to destroy him. With this purpose he brought a substantial part of his forces from the north. This movement fitted in with Sucre's plan, as it weakened the resistance  p45 that would be presented to the Liberator in Pasto.

The two independent armies advanced against Quito in April, 1822. Sucre began his advance on the 7th. On the 14th he crossed the difficult mountains of Azuay, and on the 19th he arrived in the vicinity of Riobamba, where several skirmishes took place. On the 21st his advanced cavalry met the royalists at the foot of Chimborazo and forced them to retire. Sucre entered Riobamba, where a good climate and fertile soil furnished the independents with sufficient provisions to continue the campaign.

At the same time that Sucre started this movement, April 7th, Bolívar was waging the strange and formidable battle of Bomboná, a struggle that was rather against ravines and cliffs, torrents and precipices, than against men. He faced two thousand royalists, who fought as have always fought the soldiers of Spain, who have taught the world how to fight, how to conquer and how to die, even as the Spanish administrators, with all the drawbacks and stains of the Spanish régime, which have been no greater than the drawbacks and stains of other régimes, taught the world how to govern and how to organize, and how to assimilate and civilize a conquered people.

The royalists were defeated at Bomboná. They lost all their artillery. But Bolívar, master of the field of battle, found himself with a crippled army facing the unconquerable obstacles of nature. In this position he proposed a cessation of hostilities to the enemy, which  p46 was accepted. On April 16th he had to withdraw to Popayán, knowing that it was impossible to reach Pasto at the time with such elements as were at his disposal.

The Spaniards did not consider themselves defeated at Bomboná. They took new positions near the same field of battle and made ready to meet the independent army in case it should attack again. This preparation to resist Bolívar was again favorable to the plans of Sucre. He advanced with his army to Latacunga, where he received reënforcements sent previously by the Liberator under the command of Colonel Córdoba, though losses and desertions had reduced them to one‑third the original number of eight hundred men. From Latacunga on the advance was still more difficult, for the main road was fully guarded by the Spaniards and Sucre had to take a steep path where his men suffered greatly on account of cold and other natural hardships.

On May 17th the independents were about twenty miles distant from Quito, where the Spaniards had concentrated their forces the night before. They had built fortifications and had taken a position between the city and their foes. But Sucre managed to appear from another direction, where he had better chances of success. The royalists dodged the encounter, and waited for men they were expecting from Pasto. Sucre decided to cut the communications with Pasto and make ready to fight any troops that might come from that direction. To accomplish this he concentrated  p47 the guerrillas of the region and during the night of the 23rd made a masterful march which has aroused the admiration of historians. He appeared between Quito and Pasto on the morning of the 24th, thus making it impossible for the city to receive any assistance. The royalists then decided to fight, being somewhat influenced, perhaps, by the scarcely concealed sympathy of the populace of Quito for the independent cause. The patriots were on the heights of Pichincha, while the inhabitants of Quito watched them from the roofs of their houses and cheered them enthusiastically.

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Pichincha Hill, Now Called "La Libertad."
The Monument Commemorating the Battle
May be Seen in the Background at the Right

The principal officers under Sucre were Colonel Córdoba, Colonel Santa Cruz in command of the Peruvians, and Mires. At eight o'clock in the morning Santa Cruz occupied Pichincha with the advance guard, and at nine-thirty both armies were ready for battle. The defeat of Sucre would have meant communication with Pasto and union with the veteran army that had been fighting against Bolívar. It would have been a terrible blow to the cause of independence. Behind the independent army were steep ravines into which the Spaniards intended to drive them. It was Santa Cruz' purpose to receive the first blow and to hold his ground in order to permit the part of the independent army which had not yet arrived to ascend from the canyons and join the advance guard. Three hundred years before, on that same day and month, the empire of the Incas had fallen under the conqueror  p48 Pizarro. And on this day the fate of Ecuador was to be decided.

Santa Cruz occupied the right wing, Córdoba the left, and Mires remained in the rear protecting the ammunition. Sucre directed everything and watched every movement. The country was so rough that the cavalry could take no part. For a time it seemed that the Spaniards were gaining the advantage, advancing to the left of the volcano in order to attack from the rear, but Sucre stopped the movement by sending a body of men at the proper moment. At another time the independent army, short of ammunition, was obliged to retreat for a short distance. Sucre sent a battalion to attack with bayonets, and the danger was averted. Accounts of personal heroism are so numerous that it is impossible to mention all of them. Among the heroes of the day the Ecuadorians remember Lieutenant Calderón, a young man, eighteen years old, from Guayaquil, who was wounded in his right arm, took his sword with his left hand and continued to fight until a cannon ball destroyed both his legs. For a long time it was impossible to predict which side would be victorious. Sucre decided to make a supreme effort and ordered Córdoba to charge with a battalion known as the Magdalena. The charge was brilliant, but the royalists fought with such gallantry that for a moment it seemed unsuccessful. Nevertheless, Córdoba carried on with great daring and at noon triumph was certain. "Having been reënforced  p49 . . . this officer pursued the Spaniards, entering the capital and forcing the remains of their army to take refuge in the fortress of Panecillo."1

At last the Spaniards, having lost many of their best men, among them Captain Aymerich, son of the Viceroy, began to retreat, and finally fled in utter rout. The cavalry escaped to the north, pursued by the independents. Tolrá reached Pasto with some cavalrymen. More than a thousand prisoners were taken, of whom a hundred and sixty were officers. The booty included fourteen heavy guns, seventeen hundred rifles, and a quantity of ammunition.

In the afternoon Sucre sent a message to the royalists who had taken shelter in Quito, offering them guarantees if they would surrender the city and fortress. Aymerich answered favorably, and the following day a capitulation was signed by which the republicans received Quito, its fortress and all the troops and war materials in the kingdom. All royalists were permitted to go to Europe or any other place they desired, and the officers who preferred to remain in America were admitted into the republican army, or authorized to live unmolested in private life. The officers were permitted to keep their arms, baggage and horses. The Colombian government obligated itself to pay the transportation to Havana of those who wanted to leave for Europe. Aymerich was free to  p50 go wherever he wished, and received all consideration due his position and valiant conduct. A general amnesty was extended to all those public servants who had expressed their opinions in favor of the Spanish rule. The capitulation included the troops at Pasto, but as there had been no opportunity to know what the conduct of these troops would be, the Colombian government was left free to deal with the situation there according to its own discretion.

Sucre took possession of the city of Quito on the afternoon of May 25, 1822. At the age of twenty-seven he was giving freedom to a country. He entered the city modestly, but was received in triumph. The people acclaimed him and the women threw flowers from their balconies. Bolívar received in the valley of Patia word of the victory of Pichincha. His joy knew no bounds. He issued a proclamation to Colombia in which he expressed his happiness over the completion of the great republic which he had conceived.

The royalists at Pasto surrendered, and Bolívar organized that region as a department of Colombia. He then hastened to Quito where Sucre and the people received him with the greatest honors. Bolívar promoted Sucre to Major General and Santa Cruz and Córdoba to Brigadier Generals. He organized among the soldiers who had taken part in the battle a battalion which received the name Pichincha. The heroic Calderón had been made a captain by Sucre before he  p51 died, but the Liberator decreed that his company should never have another captain and that when the roll was called the name of Calderón should be pronounced, to which his company should respond, "He died with glory at Pichincha, but lives in our hearts."

The notables of Quito assembled and declared the province of Quito incorporated in the Republic of Colombia and ordered a monument in the shape of a pyramid to be erected at Pichincha. A special medal was struck to honor Sucre, and it was decided that busts of Sucre and Bolívar should be placed in the hall of the city council, in the national palace, and other public places. The Government of Peru congratulated Sucre on his triumph, and issued a decree to give him a sword of honor and a medal to each of the officers of the army. But the greatest reward for Sucre was the verdict of the Liberator, who said:

"The battle of Pichincha was the work of his care, sagacity and valor. On that occasion he was rewarded for his services with promotion to Major General and Governor of the department of Quito. The people saw in him their Liberator and their friend. They were more pleased with the chief given them than with the liberty itself which they had received from his hands."

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Monument Commemorating
the Battle of Pichincha

The inhabitants of Pasto continued to fight against the independents, and Bolívar, having exhausted conciliatory measures, sent Sucre against them. This campaign had no special brilliancy, but its difficulties  p52 make it worthy of mean in certain detail. Sucre had to meet the same obstacles that Bolívar encountered at Bomboná. He was also to meet a man whose very name was of ill omen to the independents. This was a nephew of the infamous Boves, who had taken his uncle's name. This Boves assumed the leadership of the Pastusos. Sucre, with the garrisons of Quito and nearby places, advanced toward Pasto, attacking and defeating Boves on the way. Boves destroyed a bridge over the Guaytara River and fortified the fords, but Sucre maneuvered with great ability and gained the position on the twenty-third of December. A battalion called Rifles, which was to distinguish itself in later campaigns, was the main instrument of this victory. Sucre pursued, and on another occasion, when the Pastusos were fortified behind a precipice, General Córdoba defeated them on the flank while Colonel Sandes, commanding the Rifles Battalion, attacked the center. Córdoba and Sandes were the heroes of the battle, in which the Pastusos were wholly defeated. Sucre asked the city to surrender, but the Pastusos gathered in one section of the town and fought under Boves with the tenacity that always distinguished them. Finally they were completely defeated and Boves escaped to Brazil.

Bolívar arrived in Pasto on January 2, 1823. He offered guarantees for the persons and property of the inhabitants and asked them to return to the city. They did not do so, and Bolívar was obliged to use  p53 stern measures. All who had taken arms against independence were conscripted in the army and sent away. They died, committed suicide, mutinied, and in their attitude succeeded in winning the admiration of the independents, for the Pastusos were no cowards. Those who remained in the city always gave signs of activity against the cause of freedom.

Sucre returned to Quito, and was received with honor. At this time he came under the influence of feelings which hitherto had not taken a great part in his life. He had lived a soldier's life, devoted to the cause of his country. But now other aspects of his human nature asserted themselves. Relations commenced which later led to his marriage to Doña María Carcelen, Marquesa de Solanda, and the creation of his home in Quito.

The city was placed under the command of General Salom and early in 1823 Bolívar and Sucre left for Guayaquil.

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Statue of Sucre in Quito.
(His Right Hand Points to Pichincha)

The Author's Note:

1 Sucre's narrative of the battle of Pichincha — O'Leary, Vol. II, p144.

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Page updated: 23 Dec 17