Battle of Boyacá

The Battle of Boyacá in Colombia, then known as New Granada, was the battle in which Colombia acquired its definitive independence from Spanish Monarchy, although fighting with royalist forces would continue for years.

Brigade Generals Francisco de Paula Santander and José Antonio Anzoátegui led a combined republican army of Colombians and Venezuelans, complemented by the British Legion, to defeat in two hours a Royalist Colombian-Venezuelan forces led by Spanish Colonels José María Barreiro and Francisco Jiménez.

Simón Bolívar credited the victory to the British Legion declaring that "those soldier liberators are the men who deserve these laurels" when offered laurels after the victory.

The battle occurred 150 km from Bogotá in the Andes Mountains, in a place know as Casa de Teja, close to a bridge over the Teatinos River and 3 roads heading to Samaca, Motavita and Tunja, an area which is now part of the Boyacá Department.

The battle

On August 7, 1819, after securing a narrow victory at Vargas Swamp Battle, both armies headed towards Bogotá, which was lightly defended. The capture of the capital in hands of the Patriot Army would effectively cut off the advance of the republican army and give the strategic initiative to its opponents. At 6:00 a.m., the Spanish forces departed from Motavita towards Casa de Teja, a segment of only 25 km which the Spaniards completed in 7 hours 30 minutes, at an average speed of 18 minutes per kilometer. At 10:00 a.m. General Santander's forces departed from Tunja toward Casa de Piedra and the road to Bogota. The distance was 16 km, which the Patriot forces completed in 4 hours at 15 minutes per kilometer.

The Republican forces split in two: the vanguard reached Casa de Teja at 1:30 p.m., while the rearguard stopped a kilometer and a half behind to get some rest. Shortly before 2:00 p.m., Capitan Andres Ibarra and his forces spotted Casa de Teja and the vanguard of the Republican Army. The Spaniards spotted him too, and Coronel Sebastian Dias, chief of the vanguard of the Spanish army ordered follow and shoot what he believed was only a small observation force. They returned and General Santander ordered Lieutenant Coronel Paris attack the Republican forces.

The Spanish vanguard crossed a strategic bridge over the Teatinos River and took attack positions there, meanwhile the full force of the Patriot army at command of Santander had reached Casa de Piedra. The Spanish rearguard was still several meters behind, so General Anzoátegui ordered to block the way between the vanguard and the rearguard of the Spanish forces. The rearguard, outnumbered, retreated to a small hill close to Casa de Piedra.

Simón Bolívar's forces arrived from Papia, after the Vargas Swamp battle. He ordered a flanked attack on the Spanish rearguard: battalions Barcelona and Bravos de Paez were to attack on the right side while the Britanica and Rifles legion attack on the left. The enemy assumed battle positions, in the center 3 artillery pieces surrounded by royal battalions 12 and 22 and on the wings, cavalry units. Outnumbered, the Spanish rearguard forces began to retreat without any clear direction, so Bolívar's ordered lances units to attack the center of the Republican infantry, while a full cavalry squadron ran aways the battle via the road towards Samaca. Bareiro attempted to break the blockage of the Patriot forces and rendezvous with the Spanish vanguard but heavy enemy fire forced him and his forces to surrender.

Meanwhile, one kilometer and a half behind Casa de Piedra, the Patriot vanguard managed to cross on foot the river and were approaching to the back of the Republican vanguard force. Once it had reached them, the vanguard forces engaged battle, while the rearguard attempted to cross the river on force, using bayonets. The Spanish forces fled, leaving on the bridge their leader, Coronel Juan Taira. As the assembly of enemy hostages began, the battle was over shortly after 4:00 p.m.

At least 1,600 troops and several of the Spanish commanders, including Barreiro himself, were captured at the end of the battle. New Granada's liberation was assured by this victory, which left the road to Bogotá and the city itself practically undefended, as the survivors headed towards other locations. After the battle, Santander and Anzoátegui were promoted to Divisional General. For order of Santander, Coronel Barreiro and 38 more were executed in Bogotá on October 11, 1819.

The bridge in question, el Puente de Boyacá, is no longer in use but it has been maintained as a symbol of the Independence of South America.

Historical consequences and legacy

  • The final defeat of Royal forces in the New Kingdom of Granada and the weakening of the rest of the forces in all America.
  • The royalist understand that the patriots were worthy of respect for their courage and heroism.
  • The end of Spanish control over the American provinces, with the escape of viceroy Juan de Samano.
  • The following freedom of all provinces in the New Kingdom.
  • The creation of Greater Colombia.
  • The start of an autonomous government in the former Spanish provinces.
  • The independence of Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and the creation of Bolivia.

Viceroy Juan de Samano was informed of the defeat and manage to escape and flee to Spain, which brought to an end the reign of the Spanish Empire in north of Latin America. In commemoration of this battle, August 7 is a national holiday in Colombia. On this date every 4 years the elected President of Colombia is proclaimed in the Casa de Nariño. Taking advantage of this date, the Colombian capital, Bogotá, start the usual celebrations in commemoration of the birth of the city, in August 6, 1538.

References and links

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