[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Haga clic aquí para una página en Español.]

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

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!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 1

p1 Introduction

Summary of the Wars of Independence in South America

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.

In order to understand clearly a number of references which must be made in treating of the life of Antonio José de Sucre, it seems well to mention briefly the principal events leading up to the scenes in which Sucre was so distinguished an actor.

Three men stand foremost in those struggles, three men who were the leaders of their respective countries in the battle for freedom. These three did not limit themselves to local action. Each went beyond the confines of his native land to aid other peoples attain their liberty.

Bolívar fought first for Venezuela; he was helped by the inhabitants of Nueva Granada; he conceived the idea of the great independent republic which he baptized Colombia; he added to this child of his genius the lands now forming the Republic of Ecuador; he brought the Peruvian war of independence to a happy end; and on the highest plateaux of the Andes he established the foundations of the republic which today still bears his name, Bolivia.

San Martín fought for the provinces of the Río de la Plata, which became the progressive and cultured Argentine Republic. He crossed the Andes to Chile, there to help the descendants of the ancient Araucanians  p2 to become a free nation. Not satisfied with this, he sailed to Peru and wrought powerfully in the Peruvians' fight for freedom, withdrawing only when the enterprise was wholly in the hands of the genius of Colombia.

O'Higgins fought for Chile. He received the assistance of San Martín, without which his struggle would have been much longer and more painful; then he joined his helper and Bolívar in the supreme work of putting an end, in Peru, to Spain's domain in America, three centuries old.

One cannot write a history of the independence of any one of the South American countries which were under the power of Spain, without paying due tribute to the unselfish contribution of these three national heroes. Still, the admiration justly bestowed upon these should never make the reader forget those others who carried on the struggle, at times in a secondary place and at times in the vanguard, but without whom all the genius of the three protagonists would have ended only in failure.

Artigas is deservedly placed upon the altars of Uruguayan gratitude. So does Páez deserve Venezuela's veneration, and Santander his stronghold in the hearts of the modern Colombians. The legion is as great as was the patriotism that inspired them.

Among these there is one man who stands out, perhaps the equal of the three greatest, in some respects superior to any of them. He was among the most  p3 honest, the purest, the most noble men who took part in the wars of independence on the American continent, Antonio José de Sucre. Almost every one of the other heroes of American independence has, if not a weakness or even a stain, at least a doubtful aspect which requires explanation to the student or interpretation in the light of gratitude. Of almost every one it can be said that a little fault is well forgiven a man who did so much for his country. But not so with Sucre. He needs no defense and requires no interpretation. A simple relation of his life, with a strict regard for the truth, is enough for his glory.

The beginning of the nineteenth century saw the revolt of the Spanish American colonies.

Various agitations had taken place at the end of the eighteenth century. Inspiration came from the United States of America, and the ideas of the French philosophers, coupled with the world commotion caused by the French Revolution, brought about a ferment which assumed different aspects in the various countries of Latin America. The movement started in Caracas in April of 1810. Independence was declared in that city on July 5, 1811. The father of Spanish American independence, don Francisco Miranda, assumed the leadership, but with disastrous results. By the middle of 1812 he was a prisoner of the Spaniards. In 1816 he died in a Spanish prison, and his remains were thrown with those of the worst criminals.

 p4  But Bolívar kept high the torch of liberty and fought with sword and pen. Not only was his task to give his brothers freedom, but in fact it was also to give life to a people who had no real consciousness of their national existence.

In December of 1812, Bolívar issued his memorandum at Cartagena,1 in which he stated the reasons for past failures and requested the help of Nueva Granada in obtaining the freedom of Venezuela.

He then went to Venezuela and won victory after victory. To Spanish cruelties he answered "War to Death," and showed himself as terrible as the enemies of his people had been. Advancing from the west he reached the important city of Valencia, and then Caracas, where he arrived in August, 1813, after having destroyed five armies and obtained victory in six pitched battles over an advance of seven hundred and fifty miles.

These successes, encouraging as they were, proved but the prelude to greater and more difficult struggles. The independents suffered defeat in several places. Brilliant triumphs at Araure, where the Liberator destroyed the royalist army, and at La Victoria, where Ribas crushed the bloodthirsty Boves, did not stem the tide of reaction on the part of the adherents to the Spanish rule.

During February and March of 1814 the contending armies fought at San Mateo, where Antonio Ricaurte  p5 won immortality by heroically sacrificing himself rather than surrender the ammunition and supplies of Bolívar's army. Boves had to retire. He met new defeats at the hands of the patriot Mariño, who was advancing from the west to help Bolívar, and then joined the Spanish Ceballos, who was besieging Valencia.

Mariño was defeated. But afterwards, with his and Ribas' help, Bolívar destroyed the Spanish army under Field Marshal Cagigal, at Carabobo, on May 28th.

Boves was not at Carabobo. He was advancing to avenge Cagigal when Mariño and Bolívar met him at La Puerta. The latter had hastened to his fellow-patriot's assistance. The tables were turned, and Boves wreaked his lust for blood upon the utterly defeated army of independents. Then followed the abandonment of Caracas by Bolívar and most of the inhabitants of the city.

The rout was complete. Ribas was killed. The Liberator was insulted by his best friends and was obliged to sail for Cartagena in the company of Mariño. All his work for Venezuela seemed to have been in vain. Once more the Congress of Nueva Granada expressed his confidence in him. But divisions among the independent soldiers saddened him; he had to resign and went into exile. Meanwhile, the largest and best equipped army sent to America by Spain had landed in Venezuela under the command of don Pablo Morillo.

 p6  From exile, Bolívar wrote his famous Jamaica letter. This must be acknowledged, along with the manifesto of Cartagena and the proclamation of Angostura, as of equal or even greater value than his victories on the field of battle.

Bolívar was as active in gathering new elements to continue the fight for independence as he was with his pen. He organized an expedition which was enlarged by a group coming from Cartagena. He was the supreme head, with Mariño as major general. He touched Margarita Island and then landed at Carúpano. Mariño was sent to fight in the east and Bolívar advanced against Valencia. He met defeat at Ocumare. Deposed by his followers, the Liberator again went into exile, leaving the army under Mariño's command. With the assistance of Pétion, the President of Haiti, he returned to Margarita Island and then to the continent. After a defeat in attempting to reach Caracas, he retreated to Barcelona, where Mariño joined him. He then decided to change his field of action entirely. He sent Mariño to Guyana, and himself crossed the Orinoco to Angostura.

After taking Angostura, Bolívar sought the support of the great leader of the plainsmen, José Antonio Páez, who had conducted a successful guerrilla warfare against the Spaniards. But again he was to be tried by misfortune. OnMarch 15, 1818, he suffered the worst of his defeats at La Puerta, though not without inflicting heavy losses on the royalists. He reorganized  p7 the army with the aid of Páez, and fortified his position in the south. Then followed a period of disaster for the independent army. Mariño had lost Cumaná and rebellion was rife among the troops. At Angostura, Bolívar worked feverishly to reconstruct his army and to suppress discord. He then convoked a Congress, which met in February of 1819. Here the Liberator delivered an address which is his greatest document, and indeed one of the outstanding documents of history.

Reenforced by the foreign legion, and relying on Páez' horsemen, he again invaded the territory of the royalists. At Las Queseras del Medio, Páez covered himself with glory, and from this time on the work of Bolívar was a constant triumph. With his plainsmen he crossed the Andes and inflicted the decisive defeat of Boyacá (August 7, 1819), by which the independence of Nueva Granada was finally assured. After receiving due homage in Bogotá he returned to Angostura to report his victory to the Congress.

On December 17th the Congress decreed the creation of Colombia, to be composed of Venezuela, Nueva Granada and Quito, and Bolívar was elected President. In 1821 the second battle of Carabobo took place, and here the independence of Venezuela was confirmed after more than eleven years of constant fighting.

During these heroic years Antonio José de Sucre was a young and capable subordinate. But such light as his may not be hidden under a bushel. Soon he is to be the maker of treaties and the leader of  p8 armies in campaigns more difficult than any that Bolívar himself had ever undertaken. Through the years he is unchanged; in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, he is the constant lover of freedom, the victorious general of Colombia, and the firm friend of the Liberator.

No study of the life of Bolívar could be called complete without taking into account Sucre's share in Bolívar's great work, and no study of the life of Sucre can be understood without a knowledge of the career of the Liberator. They are associated in the memories and hearts of all American patriots and they share together the homage and admiration of the continent they delivered from foreign domination.

The Author's Note:

1 For this and other geographical references, consult the map at the end of this volume.

Thayer's Note: To make it easier to follow along with the text, the map opens in a separate window.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 21 Dec 17