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Chapter 5

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 7

p73 Chapter VI

The Campaign of Southern Peru.
A Masterful Retreat.

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.

While Sucre was defending Callao with his usual diligence and attending to all the details that were never too insignificant to receive his personal attention; while he spent sleepless nights in watching, studying and planning to keep up the morale and discipline of his army; while he oversaw the operations of the various small parties that were conducting guerrilla warfare in his support; and while he kept up a constant correspondence with Bolívar asking for additional men and provisions, his resources dwindled so that at last he found it impossible to secure supplies in Peru without engaging the credit of Colombia. He did not hesitate, and in this way was able to raise 300,000 pesos and obtain provisions from the profiteering merchants who were doing business at the expense of their country.

Early in July Sucre was at last able to send three thousand men under the Peruvian General, Alvarado, to help Santa Cruz in the south. Callao remained protected by a small army composed mostly of Colombians, and another small force was sent to Trujillo to protect the federal Government. A new auxiliary expedition of Chileans was expected on the Peruvian coast at any time. Some Chileans were already on  p74 Peruvian soil, and these were to reënforce the contingent that was expected.

The instructions to General Alvarado were inspired by the prudence and experience which Sucre had gained in long campaigns. He was ordered to stop at the port of Chala, where General Miller was gathering horses, mules and cattle. If horses were ready, he was to land, unless he found that the march to Cuzco would be too difficult on account of bad roads, lack of provisions, or the presence of the enemy in large numbers. In this case he was not to land, but would proceed to the port of Quilca. From Quilca, he was to move to Arequipa, an important town of the south. If Arequipa was in the hands of the patriots, he was instructed to join them. If it was in the hands of the enemy he should try to capture it. In case he deemed his resources insufficient for that operation, his instructions were to join Santa Cruz, or rather to place himself behind Santa Cruz' army in order to act as a reserve. He was to act entirely under Santa Cruz' orders, but if Santa Cruz failed to give him instructions, he was to help in every possible way, endeavoring at all events to do all possible harm to the enemy. If any friction arose between him and Santa Cruz he was not to enter into any discussion, but was to return to Callao. He was to keep the transports always ready for use until strong bases of operations could be secured. For the rest, he was given freedom of action with no other limitation than the order not to place  p75 himself in a position where retreat was impossible, and not to undertake a battle against an equal or superior army.

All territory taken from the enemy was to be organized in accordance with the instructions of the Peruvian Government and placed under employees appointed provisionally in the name of the Government of Peru. Great activity was recommended. The population was to be treated with all due regard,

"and resources for the continuation of the war shall be asked of them in the mildest manner, without using force except when absolutely necessary."

As a result of Sucre's activities Canterac found his position in Lima a very difficult one. The patriots were masters of Callao and of the sea. They had an army fighting in the south and a strong reserve in the north at the Colombian border. Their commander-in‑chief was at Callao, and guerrillas were everywhere. No rest was given the royalists and all Peru was a field of battle.

Canterac had been in the capital less than a month when he learned of Sucre's campaign against Cuzco. He thought of withdrawing from Lima and raising the siege of Callao. Meanwhile the Viceroy, who was at Cuzco, gave urgent orders to send General Valdez to that city with part of the army. Canterac was to withdraw to the valley of Jauja and then to the south  p76 in order to watch the movements of the patriots, while the Viceroy advanced against the independent army. Consequently, early in July, Valdez left Lima, but skirmishes continued for some days longer.

The siege of Callao lasted twenty‑two days of constant fighting. The Peruvians supported Sucre with all their souls and the common people were always at his side ready to undertake the most dangerous enterprises. Like Bolívar, he knew how to inspire those about him to heroism. History mentions with honor the name of a young native called José Olaya, who went back and forth between Lima and Callao with messages from the patriots to those who were helping secretly in Lima. One night he was taken prisoner by the royalists and dragged before Canterac. When ordered to tell the names of the persons to whom the communications were to be delivered, he refused to answer and was whipped. His lips remained closed and not a tear came into his eyes. The torture continued but his silence was unbroken up to the moment that his heroic soul left his body and went to give an account of his sacrifice. After the capture of Lima he was awarded the rank of second lieutenant as though he were alive, and a decree was issued to the effect that at the call of the roll, for fifty years, the commander of the garrison should answer his name, "Present in the mansion of the heroes." There is a monument to his memory in Chorrillos, a suburb of Lima.

Canterac and his army evacuated Lima on July p7717th, and soon after the independent army took possession amid the rejoicings of the people. Sucre immediately put the Government into the hands of the Marquis de Torre Tagle until the legitimate authorities should arrive from Trujillo. General Valdez was put in command of the independent forces at Lima.

As the Liberator could not at that time go to Peru because of constant trouble in the Pasto region, Sucre had general authority to act as seemed best under the circumstances. In consequence, he decided to leave Callao in order to join Santa Cruz with some of his men and three thousand Chileans who were expected from Valparaíso, and ascend the Peruvian plateau, which he recognized as the key to American independence.

The independent Valdez was instructed to use Lima as his base, follow the retreating Spanish army and take possession of Jauja and adjoining towns in case they were weakly protected. In case this was impossible, he was to maneuver so as to keep the enemy engaged in that section, thus facilitating operations in the south. His principal instruction was to observe the strictest impartiality and neutrality as regards the political questions of the country. In case any serious difficulties arose, he was directed to leave the city at once with his troops, in order to avoid demoralization and indiscipline, and go into action against the royalists.

These difficulties appeared all too soon. Torre Tagle  p78 decided to usurp power, finding support among the numerous enemies of President Riva Agüero. The representatives who were on the side of the President were expelled from the country. Riva Agüero, at Trujillo, protested against such action and made ready to regain power by an appeal to force. The Congress assembled at Lima issued a decree declaring Riva Agüero a traitor to his country, and elected Torre Tagle President.

On the first of September, when the crisis was most acute, there suddenly appeared at Callao a ship with a man on board who was no less than Bolívar himself. The populace of Lima, frantic with enthusiasm, rushed to the highway connecting Lima and Callao, and the Liberator was received in triumph as the savior of Peru. Even his professed enemies came to his side at once and declared that the salvation of the country was in his hands.

Congress immediately issued a decree authorizing Bolívar to settle as he saw fit the discord between Riva Agüero and Torre Tagle, and on September 10th gave him supreme military authority over the entire Republic, and instructed Torre Tagle to act in conformity with Bolívar's orders.

Meanwhile, Sucre had landed in Chala on August 3rd. He supposed that Santa Cruz had doubtless attacked Arequipa and Cuzco, both of which were poorly guarded by the royalists, or had fought the royalist army in the vicinity, commanded by Olañeta and  p79 only about one thousand strong. At Chala he received horses and cattle gathered by General Miller, and moved toward Cuzco, where he expected to join Santa Cruz. But the latter had acted with great negligence and had allowed the Spanish General, Carratalá, time to get together several small forces and organize an army of three thousand men who were in readiness to act in conjunction with Valdez and Olañeta. Learning of the situation, Sucre decided to proceed to Quilca and there strengthen his army, with the purpose of attacking Carratalá at Arequipa. He sent instructions to Santa Cruz to plan his own movements so as to insure the best success of the operations. His main purpose, of attacking Cuzco, had to be abandoned because of the fact that Canterac, having withdrawn from Lima, was in a position to guard the south.

The three thousand men expected from Chile did not arrive, and fifty days were wasted during which Sucre really did not know what Santa Cruz was doing. At last the Peruvian General informed him that his purpose was to attack one by one the forces of Olañeta, Carratalá, Valdez and the Viceroy, La Serna. With sufficient reason, Sucre believed that these four armies would unite and crush Santa Cruz. To avoid this catastrophe, he moved quickly toward Arequipa. The territory he had to cross is nothing more than a desert, where the soldiers sank to their knees in the sand. Many losses were suffered on account of the condition  p80 of the country. In spite of this, the garrison left by Carratalá abandoned Arequipa and proceeded to join General Valdez, who was coming from the direction of Jauja. On September 1st, the day on which Bolívar landed at Callao, Sucre took Arequipa. There he concentrated all available forces and prepared to move either to join Santa Cruz or to attack the enemy, as circumstances required. Informed of the loss of Arequipa, Canterac advanced southwards, gathering reënforcements on the way. But the Viceroy ordered him not to attack the city, but to take a position on the opposite side of the Apurimac River or to establish a line of defense to be extended up to Lake Titicaca. Orders to cooperate in his plans were sent to Carratalá, Valdez and Olañeta. With the consolidated armies the Viceroy intended to annihilate Santa Cruz and his force of five thousand men, which was at Desaguadero.

Sucre devoted his time at Arequipa to clothing and increasing and drilling his army; and rid the surrounding country of enemies. He gathered provisions and prepared either to help the Peruvian army under Santa Cruz whose blunders were a constant source of worry to him, or to attract the attention of the Spaniards towards himself, thus facilitating the operations of Santa Cruz. He offered assistance to the latter but the vain Peruvian General, who had repulsed Valdez in the battle of Zepita, near Desaguadero, refused to unite his army with the Colombian  p81 soldiers, principally to avoid having Sucre as commander‑in‑chief. Sucre, certain that Santa Cruz would be destroyed by the Spaniards, wrote Bolívar and Riva Agüero from Quilca and Arequipa, asking them to send the army of the center in accordance with his instructions given before he left Callao. Thus he hoped to prevent the royalists of Cuzco from attacking Arequipa or General Santa Cruz.

We can picture the operations directed by this wise General over a vast territory. The Spaniards, veterans as they were, had their center of operations in Upper Peru, and Sucre was combining the independent forces throughout the territory so as to counteract the expert movements of the royalists. His plans never failed to coincide with Bolívar's ideas, for these two great generals never differed on any essential point. Bolívar trusted Sucre as he trusted no one else. His prophecy was fulfilled: Sucre was the man who most closely approached him in genius and singleness of purpose.

Among Sucre's difficulties, one of the most irksome was the delay in the arrival of the Chilean reënforcements. He wanted at least two thousand infantry from Chile, as well as horses and military supplies. He expected to have under his command his three thousand Colombians, the Peruvian army of five thousand, and two thousand Chileans. With this force he would attack and was sure to overwhelm the royalists and put an end to the American wars of independence.  p82 But with Santa Cruz constantly making mistakes and the Chileans not arriving, his situation was becoming unbearable.

After the Battle of Zepita Valdez joined Olañeta, a fact which was as important as a victory. Santa Cruz was obliged to retreat to Oruro and the last requested the proffered help from Sucre. Sucre immediately moved toward Puno (on the western shore of Lake Titicaca), taking great chances, contrary to his habitual caution, for the sake of helping the Peruvian General.

Canterac and the Viceroy moved swiftly against Santa Cruz who, although he had five thousand men, permitted La Serna to cross the River Desaguadero, a very difficult operation which could have been prevented by a small force. On the following day the Viceroy joined Olañeta, who was in command of two thousand five hundred men. In this predicament, there was nothing for Santa Cruz to do but retreat towards Puno. The royalists moved more quickly than he, overtook him and converted his retreat into a disastrous rout.

But even in this hopeless situation, Sucre was not the man to give up, and with his usual activity he pressed on toward Puno, so as to protect the city and incorporate into his army whatever might have been left of Santa Cruz' after his collapse. He learned that the remnants of the defeated army were going towards the city of Moquegua, and he proceeded in that direction,  p83 but on his way he received news that practically the whole force had been destroyed. There was nothing to do except to withdraw to Arequipa and then make use of his boats. His three thousand could never hope for success against ten thousand royalists, well organized and elated by their recent success.

Later, about October 1st, Sucre was advised that Santa Cruz had succeeded in collecting about two thousand of his men. Hope was revived for a moment, but the report was not true. Santa Cruz had only about nine hundred men, wholly without morale, who could be of very little use. Sucre wrote the Liberator:

"Nobody knows why Santa Cruz' army has been lost. It was lost in the most disgraceful manner. It is only through luck that I have not lost my own soldiers, who might have been included in the ruin of the Peruvian Army."

He then decided to go by sea to Ica and there join the army of the center, in accordance with his first plan in case of a defeat. The retreat proved difficult. The royalists attacked Arequipa, but the gallant Miller protected Sucre's movements, and the army was saved.

The whole campaign had consumed three months. It had been disastrous to the cause of independence, but it had increased the glory of Sucre, who acted with sagacity and withdrew with his men, unscathed. He wrote Bolívar offering to remain in the south to divert the attention of the enemy and thus permit him  p84 to organize the campaign of the center and to carry it to a successful end. But at that time Bolívar was engaged in serious problems of the administration of the country and was facing constant difficulties arising from the attitude of Riva Agüero in the northern provinces. Realizing this, and in view of the fact that the Chilean expedition failed to arrive, Sucre left Ica and went to Lima for an interview with the Liberator. Then he went to the north of Callao to help Bolívar in his plans to curb Riva Agüero by force and to continue the campaign in the mountains.

Sucre asked the Government of Peru to submit him to trial in order to clarify his conduct of the campaign in the south. The Government answered him, denying his petition and declaring that he had earned the respect of the country, for "if indeed he has not gathered laurels on the fields of Arequipa, he has not tarnished the fame he had obtained in Battle for Colombia." "In this campaign," says Paz Soldán, "Sucre displayed his prudence and patriotism, and covered himself with honor."

This, the first chapter of Sucre's activities in Peru, lasted from May to November, 1823, and was divided into three parts: first, the evacuation of Lima; second, the defense of Callao and the reoccupation of Lima; and third, the operations in the south. When informed of Bolívar's arrival in Peru, he wrote him (October 11, 1823): "It is true that without your presence Peru would be lost. But who knows how much Peru will  p85 cost you?" Future events were to prove that Sucre's fears were well-founded. As for himself, his greatest personal desire was not to command any more united armies. His Colombians were good enough for him.

The south was not abandoned entirely. Santa Cruz remains there and the Chileans were still expected to arrive in that region.

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Page updated: 21 Dec 17