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 Expoits in New Granada

 Bolivar flees to Curacao

 

 

 

Monteverde  soon had good reason to regret having let Bolivar escape. The future Liberator landed at Curacao, then in the possession of the British, on the 28th August 1812. He was almost penniless, for, owing to informalities in the papers of the ship by which he arrived, all his property on board was seized by the customs, and Monteverde had sequestrated his Venezuelan possessions. He is said to have talked of going to England to seek employment in the Peninsula under Lord Wellington. Whatever his real intentions, his financial difficulties prevented any such scheme. At Curacao he found some of his companions who had escaped from La Guaira, and others had accompanied him.

 

Bolivar joins the revolt in New Granada (Columbia)

It was not long before, having succeeded in borrowing some money in Curacao, Bolivar was again off to offer his services to the republican government at Cartagena. He arrived there in the middle of November 1812, and at once set to work at his new enterprise of inspiring energy amongst the separatists of the republic, and of acquiring a position amongst them which might hereafter enable him to come to the aid of Venezuela. For the moment, the fire of revolution in his own country had been stamped down, though it was still smoldering. In Cartagena he hoped to fan the flame into a blaze involving all the neighbouring provinces.

 

Bolivar issues his Cartagena Manifesto,

giving his reasons for the failure of the

First Venezuela Republic

 

In this period, Bolívar wrote his Cartagena Manifesto. In this, after explaining his own position and his desire to help New Granada, Bolivar states what to him appear to have been the main causes of the Venezuelan failure. To begin upon, there had been a deal too much leniency on the republican side ; he was thinking of his own differences with Miranda on this subject. Then there had been too much theory, and too little practical work ; " we had," he writes, " philosophers for leaders, philanthropy in place of legislation, dialectics instead of tactics, and sophists for soldiers." Instead of well-trained soldiers, the republican leaders had endeavoured to compel the service of yokels, thus raising useless bands of militia and ruining the agriculture of the country. Curiously enough, Bolivar strongly opposes, for his own country, the idea of the " nation in arms," though he admitted its success against mercenary troops in France and North America. Perhaps he was right, looking to the peculiar circumstances of his country, and recognising in his heart of hearts that the revolution, as yet, had little root amongst the general population, and would never have been started but for the influence of ideas imported from Europe and North America by men like Miranda and himself. Then he denounces the federal Congress, which he blames as an instrument of dissolution and civil war rather than of union, which, in his opinion, was only to be attained by a centralised republic.

 

Success in New Granada by disobeying orders

, plans to liberate Venezuela

 

 

 

In the meanwhile, Bolivar was given a command under Labatut (a French adventurer who had escaped from La Guaira after Miranda's fall) by the Cartagenians  in the expedition which was to attempt the conquest of Santa Marta. The appointment was by no means acceptable to the Frenchman. By way of getting rid of his subordinate, Labatut posted him at Barranca, a small place on the western (left) bank of the Magdalena, some fifty or sixty miles from its mouth.

 

Bolivar had strict orders to remain there, guarding Labutut's rear in the advance on Santa Marta. Those orders he disobeyed as soon as Labatut's back was turned. He set out with 200 men for Tenerife, some thirty miles farther up the river on the opposite bank. The Spanish garrison, surprised by Bolivar's sudden arrival, evacuated the place and fell back towards Valle de Upar, south of Santa Marta. After compelling the submission of Tenerife to the republican government, Bolivar continued his march up the river, through a country of grass and marshes, to Mompox, some 150 miles from the mouth of the river. On the way he cleared out all the small Spanish posts on the left bank of the great river. Mompox in those days was an important place, and in it Bolivar was received with enthusiasm, on 27th December 1812. Here he gathered in many recruits, and was able to leave for Banco, traveling by boats on the river, with 500 men. Banco,  though fortified, was evacuated by its Spanish garrison, who retired up the river Cesar towards Valle de Upar. Still pushing on, Bolivar, after defeating a royalist detachment at Chiriguana, reached Tamaleque, Puerto Real,  and finally Ocafia, an important place well above the valley of the Magdalena in the foothills of the Eastern Cordilleras. He had gained a very considerable and important success,

 

It was now time for Bolivar to call a halt and endeavour to regularise his very irregular position. Labatut was furious at his disobedience of orders, all the more so because it had redounded to the glory of a man of whom he was jealous. He issued orders for Bolivar's immediate return to Barranca, orders to which the successful lieutenant replied by detailing his victories, without any promise of obedience. Labatut appealed to Torices at Cartagena, demanding Bolivar's trial by court martial. But Torices, appreciating the advantages gained at the cost of insubordination, refused the request, even when Labatut hastened to Cartagena to back it in person.

 

Bolivar, therefore, had matters all his own way, and rose immensely in the estimation of the Cartagenians. He now considered himself on the high road to carrying out his greater scheme of invading Venezuela from the west.

 

By the 9th February he was able to start back for Ocana, armed with the sanction of Torices, and ready to march eastwards with 400 men — truly a miserable force with which to set out, but Bolivar relied upon gathering recruits after his first successes. The march from Ocana to Cucuta involved crossing the great eastern branch of the Colombian Cordilleras. Perhaps the feature that strikes the traveler most in the Colombian Andes is the apparent simplicity of general outline, combined with a most remarkable wildness and savagery of detail. Mountains which are seemingly rounded and easy hills, prove, on closer acquaintance, to offer the greatest difficulties to transit.

 

But Bolivar's enthusiasm and energy carried them along with him. At one place the way was barred by royalists holding heights which, properly defended, were impregnable. It was only by stratagem that Bolivar succeeded in opening the road. He sent a countryman round by a difficult and dangerous path over the shoulder of the hill of which the Spaniards held the summit. He was, as Bolivar intended, captured by the enemy and searched. On him was found a despatch, addressed to a fictitious officer, supposed to have been sent by Castillo to attack the position in rear, in combination with Bolivar's attack in front. The Spanish commander promptly resolved to march back on Salazar, in order to surprise the detachment supposed to be marching on his rear. When he found out that the force was imaginary, and attempted to return to his old position, it was too late, for Bolivar was installed there. Thence the republicans marched without opposition to Salazar. After defeating e Spanish military at  commander of Maracaibo, Ramon Correa at San Jose, Bolivar found himself close to the Venezuelan border .

 

Monteverde's activities in Venezuela

since the departure of Bolivar

 

Venezuela since Bolivar's hurried departure seven months previously. Monteverde had an excellent opportunity of conciliating the country, which, exhausted by recent events, and by the losses of the earthquake, looked only for peace and reasonably good government. This opportunity he allowed to escape him, and, by indiscriminate arrests of well to do people, and by persecutions of the poor as well as the rich, soon exasperated the whole population. He had raised some hopes by promising to introduce the Constitution of Cadiz, as stipulated in Miranda's capitulation ; but, when he at last published it, he soon made it clear that the constitution was a dead letter when it happened to run counter to his own absolute authority. Everywhere there was consternation and oppression of Americans by Spaniards, though many of the best of these latter clearly saw the mistake, and openly lamented it. Still, Monteverde had undoubtedly succeeded in reducing the rebellious provinces to subjection. He was now threatened by Bolivar in the east and in the west.

 

 

 

 

 

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José Tomás Boves