Bolivar returns to Venezuela or the Admirable Campaign
"March at once, there is no other alternative to marching.
If you do not, either you will have to shoot me, or I shall infallibly shoot you."
"March at once, there is no other alternative to marching.
If you do not, either you will have to shoot me, or I shall infallibly shoot you."
Bolivar had, with much difficulty, extracted from the Congress of New Granada a grudging permission for the continuation of his advance beyond the Venezuelan border into the provinces of Merida and Trujillo. They had made him a brigadier-general, but had proposed to hamper his movements and restrain the extent of his march by attaching a commission to him. He had started long before the commissioners reached him.
When Bolivar reached La Grita, he found Castillo gone, but he also found that commander had been working vigorously against the invasion of Venezuela, holding a council of war on the subject, and endeavouring to get the Government of New Granada to withhold their promised assistance. As for the leading division, it was now under the command of Francisco de Paula Santander, a warm supporter of Castillo, and a man by no means inclined to obey Bolivar
" March at once," said he peremptorily to Santander ; " there is no other alternative to marching. If you do not, either you will have to shoot me, or I shall infallibly shoot you." The division indeed marched, but without Santander, who excused himself from rejoining it, much to Bolivar's relief.
Bolivar left La Grita,Venezuela on the 17th May., 1812 .
Bolivar reached Merida, Venezuela on the 23rd, the whole population rising against the Spaniards as he progressed. It is here he commissioned Vicente Campo Elias, a Spaniard by birth , who so hated Spaniards that he vowed tp kill evert Spaniard in Venezuela and then kill himself so no more would remain .
War to the Death " Guerra a muerte "
In the midst of the rejoicings at this provincial capital came the news that Antonio Nicolas Briceflo, surnamed " El Diablo,"had been captured and shot by the Spanish general Yanez, an event which is of importance, mainly, as being the immediate cause of Bolivar's declaration of the " Guerra a muerte " against the Spaniards.Bricefio was a hot-headed, enthusiastic Venezuelan who had accompanied Bolivar to Cartagena. Against the advice and wishes of his chief, he set out on an independent expedition, with an inadequate force of 143 men, breathing vengeance against the Spaniards and proclaiming loudly that he would give no quarter. He was as good as his word, for two unfortunate Spaniards who fell into his hands were promptly decapitated by his orders. It is said that he sent the heads of his victims, one to Bolivar and the other to Castillo. With them he sent letters, the first line of which was written with the blood of the victims instead of with ink. Marching for the plains of the Upper Apure, he was surprised, before reaching Guadalito, by Yanez, his force was destroyed, himself made prisoner and carried off to Barinas. Considering their treatment of the two Spaniards, it is hardly surprising that Yanez should have shot Bricefio and his fellow-prisoners. This, however, gave Bolivar an excuse for proclaiming a war without mercy, which he had long contemplated .
It will be remembered that he had fallen out with Miranda on account of what he considered the too great leniency of the Venezuelan commander-in-chief. He had again, in his manifesto at Cartagena, urged the employment of measures of unstinted severity. Now, on the 15th June 1813, after taking possession of Trujillo, he issued his proclamation of war to the death. The gist of it is in the concluding words : " Spaniards and Canary Islanders ! reckon on death, even if you are neutral, unless you work actively for the liberty of America. Americans ! count on life, even if you are culpable."
This terrible order it is difficult, notwithstanding the pleas of Bolivar's admirers, not to reckon as one of the most serious blots upon his character and humanity. Few unprejudiced persons, probably, will hold that a decision can on any grounds be excused which contemplated the wholesale massacre not only of prisoners of war, but even of Spaniards who desired to remain neutral, and which was, as will be seen later, actually carried into action in this sense. No Spaniard could hope to escape unless actively a traitor to his own party.
It is true that Bolivar, in many instances, did not carry out his own decree, and, as we shall see presently, he appears to have repented of the order not very long after its issue. He finally rescinded it in 1820, in agreement with his opponent Morillo. It may be also true that Tizcar, on the Spanish side, had already issued a similar order, which was the immediate cause of Bolivar's decision.
That Bolivar did not hesitate to carry out his threats was soon shown. In reporting his proceedings to the Congress of New Granada (14th August 1813), he wrote: "After the battle of Tinaquillo, I marched without delay by the towns of Tocuyito, Valencia, Guayos, Guacara, San Joaquin, Maracay, Turmero, San Mateo and La Victoria, where all the Europeans and Canarians, almost without exception, have been shot
Bolivar had apparently already begun to repent of his declaration of war to the death in late July he issued a proclamation to the Spaniards and Canary Islanders offering them terms, and urging them to abandon Monteverde.
Bolivar's march to Caracas continues
Bolivar reached Guanare on the 1st July, after crushing a detachment of fifty Spaniards as he issued from the mountains on to the plains of Barinas. He had marched by a little-known and difficult pass, by which his arrival was evidently not expected.
Bolivar now turned northwards against the two forces remaining in that direction — those of Oberto at Barquisemeto, and of Izquierdo at San Carlos. Before marching, he sent a detachment towards the plains of Calabozo to divert attention in that direction. Leaving a battalion in Barinas to guard his rear, he himself marched, on the 1 6th July, for San Carlos, at the same time sending Ribas against Oberto at Barquisemeto. Ribas, marching by Tocuyo, came upon Oberto on the 2d July, drawn up in a good position on the plain of Los Horcones, between Tocuyo and Barquisemeto.
The Spanish force was particularly strong in the fact that three-fourths of it consisted of European troops, whilst only one-fourth was American. The fight was short but sanguinary. Ribas was at first repulsed, but then, pushing in with the bayonet, completely defeated the enemy, capturing the four guns which he had. Ribas, after occupying Barquisemeto, marched eastwards to rejoin Bolivar. The latter, meanwhile, had reached San Carlos unopposed on the 28th July; for Izquierdo, who had 1500 men, hearing of the ruin of Oberto at Los Horcones, had retired on Valencia. At San Carlos Bolivar remained two days to draw in his detachments and rearguard. On the Spanish side, meanwhile, Monteverde, as already mentioned, had only just escaped capture by Piar at Maturin in the east, and had made his way to Caracas on the 6th July. Hearing of Bolivar's advance, and successively of the defeats of Marti, Tizcar, and Oberto, and of the retreat of Izquierdo, he ordered the last named to hurry to Valencia, whither Monteverde himself went.
Bolivar left San Carlos on the 30th July with 2300 men, taking the direction of Tinaquillo, where he heard the royalists were.
Bolivar defeats Izquierdo, road to Caracas open, Monteverde flees
On the night of the 30th, Izquierdo camped at Los Pegones, Bolivar about fifteen miles south of him, at Las Palmas. At 2 A.M. Bolivar heard from his cavalry that the enemy was 1000 strong, and about to advance. Forcing the pace, the republican leader, on coming up with the enemy, found him already retreating. The cavalry were sent in pursuit as far as the plain of Los Taguanes, where Izquierdo formed for battle. Bolivar had now to await the arrival of his infantry for the attack. Both forces advanced simultaneously. Bolivar sent his cavalry, which was on his right, to get round Izquierdo's left on the open plain. The latter, seeing himself in danger of being cut from Valencia, began to retreat in good order, which was maintained for six hours.
Then a fresh threat of the republican cavalry broke him up, and in the disordered flight which ensued he lost two hundred prisoners, many muskets, and much ammunition. Some of his infantry deserted, many were killed or wounded, and the whole force was almost annihilated. Izquierdo, mortally wounded, fell into Bolivar's hands, and died at San Carlos from his wounds.
Monteverde, at Valencia, had only just time to escape to the fortress of Puerto Cabello. So hurried was his flight that even his correspondence was left behind. Amongst it was a letter from Zerberiz, a subordinate commander, in which he calmly advocates leaving alive none of " those infamous Creoles who foment these dissensions." On the 2nd August, Bolivar occupied Valencia, whence the road to Caracas was now open. Bolivar considered the campaign practically over, except for the siege of Puerto Cabello, which could hardly hold out long.
Bolivar sent a force under Girardot, who had greatly distinguished himself at Taguanes, to threaten the place and keep Monteverde from breaking out. Then, on the 3rd August, he set out on his march for Caracas, between which and himself there was now no hostile force.
March on Caracas, royalist flee
Caracas the utmost confusion prevailed, for Monteverde was gone to Puerto Cabello, and Fierro the governor had no idea of organising resistance. Instead, he decided to send envoys to Bolivar to treat for a capitulation. On the 4th August, Bolivar reached La Victoria, where he was met by Fierro's envoys, headed by his old friend and benefactor, Don Francisco Iturbe, the man to whom he owed his passport after the surrender of Miranda.
The terms eventually agreed upon were as follows : — (1) The inhabitants of Caracas to be allowed to choose their own form of government. (2) Security of life and property for all Spaniards, including the garrison, together with the right to a passport to leave Venezuela at any time within two months of the capitulation. (3) Surrender to Bolivar of Caracas itself, of La Guaira, and of all other towns in the province. (4) The capitulation to be sent to Monteverde at Puerto Cabello for ratification within twenty- four hours.
The envoys returned to Caracas with the capitulation, only to find that, in their absence, there had been a regular stampede of the Spanish authorities and their sympathisers, headed by Fierro himself. Altogether, it was said, some six thousand persons had followed Fierro to La Guaira, without waiting to see what terms would be granted by the victor. Many of them had embarked there and left the country, or gone to Puerto Cabello. After all, the terms were at least as good as could be expected under the circumstances. Fierro's action in thus leaving the capital at the mercy of the mob must certainly be condemned. He had not even ratified the terms of the capitulation arranged by his emissaries. Doubtless his flight was largely due to fear of the enforcement of Bolivar's decision as to the " guerra a muerte," of which, as we have said, he had already shown signs of repentance.
The Liberator enters Caracas - The Second Republic (1813-14) Declared
On the 6th, 1813 August, Bolivar and his troops entered Caracas in triumph, the commander being for the first time saluted by the populace with the title of " Liberator." On all sides he was surrounded by crowds shouting, " Long live our Liberator ; Long live New Granada ; Long live the Saviour of Venezuela." Wreaths of laurels and of flowers were offered in profusion, salutes were fired, bands played, and everyone treated Bolivar as a sort of tutelary deity of Venezuela. Bolivar declares a Second Republic .
The Government of the Second Republic
Openly opposed to a Federal government, as unsuitable to the circumstances of a people struggling to throw off a foreign yoke, he had set up a provisional government, which was practically nothing but an absolute autocracy, with Bolivar himself at its head as Dictator. No one else had any real power, though there were many hungering for it. Under these circumstances, it is not in the least surprising that there should have been a rapid spread of hostility to Bolivar, and of intrigue against him. It was not from the lower classes that he had to fear opposition, for they had no politics. His opponents were men of his own class, the wealthy and influential Creoles, who, one and all, with true South American vanity, considered themselves at least equal in ability to Bolivar, whose advancement they envied and resented, feeling that, under him, they were in no better position than they had been under the Spanish rulers.
However sweet the plaudits may have sounded to Bolivar, he had much to do to set things in order after the disappearance of all semblance of government with Fierro and his officials. After reestablishing order, and providing for the safety of the public offices, magazines, and parks, which had been left unguarded, and in some cases had been partially pillaged, he issued the proclamation which was always made wherever he arrived under similar circumstances. In it he announced the reincarnation of the republic under the auspices of the Congress of New Granada.
He invited foreigners to settle in the country, offering them full protection and safety, which it was certainly beyond his power at this time to guarantee. Then he appointed secretaries to the different departments, and drew out a scheme for the provisional government. Tomas Montilla was Secretary for War, R. D. Merida Secretary for Justice and Police, whilst A. M. Tebar held the portfolios of the " State " department, and, temporarily, of finance. Cristobal Mendoza was made governor of Caracas, and Ribas military commandant. Lastly, Bolivar organised a Commission, consisting largely of Spaniards, whose mission was to proceed to Puerto Cabello and demand Monteverde's ratification of the capitulation of La Victoria. Monteverde, expecting reinforcements from Cuba and Puerto Rico.
The military positron of Bolivar
Bolivar's position was none too strong. He held, it is true, Caracas, Valencia, La Guaira, and many other towns ; he had so far been victorious in every action with the Spaniards since he left Cartagena ; he knew of the successful advance of Marino and Piar in the eastern districts. Nevertheless, there were many causes of anxiety on the other side. In his advance from Trujillo, Bolivar had beaten Tizcar, Marti, Oberto, and Izquierdo, but had left untouched the force of Yanez beyond the Apure ; Monteverde, blockaded in Puerto Allow by an insufficient force, was still a danger in the probable event of his receiving reinforcements from Cuba and Puerto Rico. The province of Coro was unsubdued, and still strongly royalist, and the case was the same in Maracaibo. Guayana also was un- touched, and, with its opening to the sea, and continuous water communication by the Orinoco, with its supplies of food, and its recruiting area amongst the wild cowboys of the vast plains, was a splendid base for royalist operations.
Whilst Bolivar was conquering western Venezuela and setting himself up as Dictator there, Marino and Piar had been almost equally successful in the east. The former had proclaimed himself Dictator of the Eastern Provinces, and was not in the least inclined to cede the supremacy to Bolivar. He and his companions had started their conquests before Bolivar left New Granada, and they had done almost as much as he had. It was not as if Bolivar had previously exercised supreme command
Bolivar ordered a close blockade of Puerto Cabello, and wrote to Marino for help. Meanwhile, he freely confiscated the property of Spaniards and Canary Islanders. On the 16th August,1913 he marched, at last, for Puerto Cabello. The moment he turned his back on Caracas, the slaves and Spaniards in the valley of the Tuy broke into a revolt, which was only partially put down by Francisco Montilla. Arrived at Valencia, Bolivar thought it necessary to divide his forces. He sent Tomas Montilla with 600 men towards Calabozo, where the royalist caudillo of the llanos José Tomás Boves was organising a force ; another 600 were sent, under Ramon Garcia de Sena, against Reyes Vargas and the priest Torrellas, who had 1000 men towards Coro. These two detachments of republicans were presently to unite and march against Yanez, who, operating from Apure, was preparing to reconquer Barinas. Bolivar himself, marching to Puerto Cabello, succeeded in taking the outlying forts and confining Monteverde to the fortress itself. In one of these fights was captured Zuazola, a Spanish commander, whose cruelties had made him specially obnoxious to the republicans. Bolivar offered Zuazola in exchange for Jalon, one of his own officers, a captive in Monteverde's hands, but the Spaniard refused, saying he would kill two Creoles for every Spaniard executed. Zuazola was hanged, in full view of the garrison of the fortress, and Jalon was spared .
Monteverde leaves Puerto Cabello
On the 16th September, 1813 news both good and bad reached Bolivar. The good news was that Garcia de Sena had defeated Reyes Vargas, the bad that Monteverde had received, by sea from Puerto Rico, a reinforcement of 1300 men under Colonel Salomon. On the night of the 17th September, Bolivar, raising the siege of Puerto Cabello, fell back on Valencia. Monteverde promptly issued from Puerto Cabello, leading an advance guard of 500 men of his own troops, and leaving Salomon to follow. Bolivar defeats them in a skirmish at Barbula on Sept 30, 1813 where his followers Atanasio Girardot is killed .Afterwards Bolivar wins a battle with only 1000 men against Salomon and Monteverde at Las Trincheras. Monteverde was severely wounded in the jaw during the retreat, and was now once more shut up in Puerto Cabello, where his wound compelled him to yield the command to Salomon. Monteverde would leave the country toward the end of 1813 and took no important part in Venezuelan affairs afterwards . To Monteverde as Captain-General succeeded Cajigal, a Spanish gentleman, humane, and moderate, who, in 1812, might have been successful in pacifying the country, but was too much of a diplomat, and too little of the rough soldier, for these later days.
Bolivar found Salomon a more reasonable person to deal with than Monteverde ; for, when Father Ortigosa was sent to propose an exchange of the prisoners taken at Barbula and Las Trincheras against republicans in Puerto Cabello, on equal terms, Salomon agreed, and did not even except Jalon, whom Monteverde had so recently threatened to hang.
In the centre of a circle of enemies standing at various distances, most of them considerable, from him, should have impressed upon him that safety lay in keeping his forces united, and falling in succession upon his adversaries, beginning with the nearest, Rosete. Instead of that, he committed the fatal mistake of dividing his troops.
Urdaneta was sent westwards with one force to gather in the troops of Garcia de Sena and those at San Carlos for operations against Ceballos, the Spanish commander in Coro, and later against Yanez. At the same time, Campo Elias was sent southwards towards Calabozo, to deal with Boves and Morales, who had destroyed Montilla's force at Calabozo. About this time also, Bolivar wrote to Marino, the Dictator of the East, inviting him to a conference at Caracas for the arrangement of the mutual position of the two leaders. But before Marino could possibly arrive, if he were willing to come, Bolivar found himself called away from the capital by news of disasters. The force of Garcia de Sena, now commanded by Valdes in consequence of the illness of Garcia, had been beaten at Yaritagua, not far from Barquisemeto, by Ceballos, issuing from Coro with 1300 men. Shortly before, another republican commander, Aldao, had suffered defeat at Bobare, west of Barquisemeto.
José Tomás Boves (Oviedo, Asturias, September 18, 1782 - Urica, Venezuela, December 5, 1814) and the Llaneros,
Jose Tomas Boves
With all due allowance for South American exaggeration, it is impossible not to regard Jose Tomas Boves as one of the most atrocious ruffians who have ever disgraced any country. Born in Spain, at Gijon, about 1770, and then surnamed Rodriguez, he was in early life a pilot. Then he emigrated to Venezuela, where he became half pirate, half smuggler, and, in 1809, was sentenced at Puerto Cabello as a "sea-robber" (" ladron del mar "). Thanks to the kindly intervention of two Spanish gentlemen, his imprisonment was commuted to simple detention at Calabozo, in the plains between the Orinoco and the northern hill tract of Venezuela.
At the outbreak of the revolution in 18 10, he changed his name to Boves, and joined the insurgents. Getting again into prison, he quarreled with his friends, and transferred his services to the royalists, who had released him in 1812. He raised a body of cavalry and turned bandit in the King's interest — and his own. It was he who raised the insurrection of the negro slaves in 1812. When Bolivar entered Caracas in 1813, Boves joined Cajigal, the Spanish commander in the east, at Barcelona, and marched with him for Guayana, before the advance of Marino and Piar. But, instead of crossing the Orinoco with Cajigal, he persuaded that commander to leave him to collect forces amongst the inhabitants of the plains, with whom his residence at Calabozo had rendered him familiar.
These " Llaneros," as they were called, were a half wild, uncivilised race, largely of mixed Spanish and Indian blood, living widely scattered in solitary huts, or in small groups of huts. They were cattle-breeders by occupation, subsisting mainly on the flesh of their herds, often unseasoned even with salt, which was scarce in these inland plains. The cattle being practically wild, had, when required for use, either to be lassoed, or else ridden down on horseback, and cast by a dexterous twist of the tail, which was a special accomplishment of the Llaneros. As a consequence of this necessity, the Llaneros were also breeders of horses, which they rode magnificently. They were skilled in the use of a long spear, which they wielded lying along the near side of the horse, thus affording practically no mark above the animal for an enemy to aim at. They were capable of being made into a very terrible cavalry of an extremely irregular type. To reckless bravery they added absolute ignorance and illiteracy. To discipline generally they were entire strangers, and it was only when one of themselves, a man such as Paez, of whom much will be heard presently, was able by a strong personality to take the lead, that they could be commanded at all.
Naturally, to such men it was of very little consequence whether the government at Caracas was represented by Monteverde on behalf of Spain, or by Bolivar the Dictator of the Republic. Neither monarchy nor republic could do much good, or much harm, to men living under these conditions, having no property beyond the cattle and horses which they alone could manage, and scattered over vast plains, covered with long grass and seamed with rivers, watercourses, and morasses, in the midst of which they could defy pursuit by any punitive force. Under ordinary circumstances, they had no special predilection for or object in fighting ; but they were as susceptible as any other half-civilised race to the attractions of plunder, and it was this motive which alone, for the present at least, could enlist them on either side. They had nothing to gain in the way of liberty, of which they enjoyed as much as they could desire.
The ferocity of Boves
Boves, starting on the collection of his force, was a man quite ready to offer to the Llaneros great prospects of plunder, unhindered by any scruples on the part of the commander. His previous career raises a presumption against any tenderness of conscience on his part. He was, moreover, a perfect monster of cruelty, who seemed to delight in useless bloodshed for its own sake. Stories innumerable are told of his ferocity. Briceno Mendez relates that Boves was in the habit of tying his victims to posts, and exposing them naked to the rays of the tropical sun and the torment of tropical insects, often aggravated by a previous flogging, which left the wretched creatures a mass of sores on which the flies settled. There the poor wretches were left, so far as Boves was concerned, to die of hunger and thirst. One other famous story of his brutality may be related. He had ordered the decapitation of an old and harmless prisoner, not even a soldier, when the man's son, a mere boy, fell at Boves' feet, imploring mercy for his father. " Will you," was the reply, " submit to have your ears and nose cut off, in order to save your father's life ? " The boy accepted, and bore unflinchingly this terrible torture. All that Boves did was to order both father and son to be beheaded, the one as a rebel, the other as a potential enemy.
On the other hand, to give Boves what little credit is due to him, he was, considering his opportunities, an able leader. On his own followers he imposed an iron discipline in the field, treating cowardice or disobedience amongst them with the same severity which he meted out to the enemy. His courage was admitted by friends and enemies alike. Wherever the fighting was most desperate there was Boves to be found, dealing death on all sides and exposing himself without a shadow of fear. Such a man had little difficulty in gathering round him, besides the savage Llaneros, every ruffian and jail-bird in the country. So desperate and depraved were his men that even the Spaniards nicknamed them the " Infernal Division."
Boves had, as already mentioned, destroyed the force which Bolivar had sent against him under Montilla in August 1813. He had subsequently been heavily defeated by Campo Elias at Mosquitero. Now, at the close of 1813, he was threatening the valley of the Aragua and Caracas itself with a force of 4000 men from Calabozo.
Boves victory at La Puerta
As a final blow to the republican cause, came the news that Boves, advancing from Calabozo, had encountered Campo Elias at La Puerta and completely defeated him. Boves, who had been severely wounded, in order to secure the fruits of his victory, pushed forward Rosete, with a strong column, into the valley of the Tuy, where Ocumare was taken and sacked, many of its inhabitants being massacred. Rosete, like many of the Spanish leaders, was of low origin, being in fact in 1 8 1 2 the keeper of a miserable tavern. It was men of this stamp who were responsible for many of the Spanish cruelties. Amongst the higher classes there was no doubt cruelty, but some of them, men of the stamp of Cajigal or Salomon, could not be accused of such atrocities.
The news of Boves' victory filled Caracas with horror and consternation. Bolivar, almost alone, retained hope. The news reached him when he was in front of Puerto Cabello. He at once hastened to Valencia with a large part of the besieging troops, ordered the fortification of the already famous position of La Cabrera, and placed it in charge of Campo Elias, who had reached Valencia after his defeat at La Puerta. To Ribas at La Victoria Bolivar sent instructions for his conduct as advanced guard, and to Urdaneta in the west he wrote to hurry up the pick of his division. Bolivar himself, with all the troops he could collect, marched to meet the new and terrible enemy. He could expect no help, at present .
Boves attacks Victoria
On the 12th February,1814 Boves, with his army of Llaneros and ruffians, fell furiously upon Ribas at Victoria, which was prepared for defence. The fighting raged for hours with the utmost desperation. The houses and the streets were converted into a veritable shambles, deluged with the blood of royalists and republicans. By four o'clock in the afternoon the outnumbered patriots had been driven into the centre of the town, and their end seemed to be at hand, when suddenly a cloud of dust was seen in the west. It indicated the approach of Campo Elias with his troops from La Cabrera. Sending on an advance guard under Montilla, Campo Elias followed as quickly as possible, and attacked Boves with such fury that in an hour Victoria was cleared and Boves driven back in disorder on to the neighbouring heights. He is said to have lost 1000 men. He now received reinforcements from Cura during the night .
On the morning of the 13th Ribas, his men encouraged by their success of the previous day, assumed the offensive, driving Boves from his position and capturing guns, muskets, ammunition, and large quantities of supplies. Prisoners there were none, for quarter was not given when the fierce Campo Elias was present. This victory was everywhere announced to the patriots with the greatest satisfaction, and Bolivar, in a proclamation, awarded unstinted praise to Ribas and his men.
A plan for a rising of the Spanish prisoners in
Caracas and La Guaira discovered
The Liberator now used part of Ribas' force to observe Boves, whilst the general himself was sent with the rest against Rosete, who had fortified himself in Yare, near Ocumare in the Tuy valley. Ribas executed his mission with complete success, putting Rosete to flight and reoccupying Ocumare. The streets of that town exhibited a ghastly spectacle, for they were strewn with the dead and dying inhabitants massacred by Rosete. Neither sex nor age had been spared by the savage Spaniard, and a large proportion of the victims were women and children. Ribas captured Rosete's correspondence, which included, it is said, a plan for a rising of the Spanish prisoners in Caracas and La Guaira. An iron was also found which Rosete used for branding Americans on the forehead with the letter P (patriot). A similar iron had been taken at Araure bearing the letter R (republican).
Bolivar's position at Valencia, before the defeat of Boves and Rosete, had been a very critical one, and it was the immediate cause of a measure taken by him, which it is impossible not to regard as a terrible crime. The position at Caracas and La Guaira was equally difficult, for they were threatened by the advance of Boves and Rosete ; every man was required to fight, and it was difficult to spare guards for the numerous Spanish prisoners at both places. It will be remembered that, when Fierro fled from Caracas and embarked at La Guaira, in the beginning of August 1813, great numbers of Spaniards had been captured by the republicans at both places. The prisoners are stated to have numbered 4000 or more, and were confined partly at Caracas, partly at La Guaira. They were not by any means all soldiers, but comprised numerous peaceable citizens, merchants, and others. Had Monteverde ratified the capitulation signed by Fierro's emissaries, these prisoners should have been released, and it was pointed out to him that, under the Trujillo proclamation of war to the death, they were all liable to execution if he refused ratification. But he would not yield.
I order you to shot all the prisoners
- estimated 800 executed
On the 8th February, 1814 Bolivar received a report from Leandro Palacios, governor of La Guaira, saying that there was imminent danger from the multitude of Spanish prisoners in the place, combined with an insufficient garrison. Bolivar's reply was terrible in its brevity and its ferocity. I order you,"he wrote on the same day, " to shoot all the Spanish prisoners in those dungeons, and in the hospital, without any exception whatever." Similar orders were issued to the civil and military commanders in Caracas.
The executions took place without any semblance of trial, on the 14th, 15th, and 1 6th February, at La Guaira and Caracas simultaneously. O'Leary gives the total number of Spaniards and Canary Islanders thus executed as 800 .
The prisoners were made to make a great funeral pyre on which to burn their bodies. When it was ready, the prisoners were brought up in batches and done to death by the soldiers with bayonet, axe, and poniard, and their bodies, still quivering, were thrown upon the fire. Many of them, he says, were men who had saved the lives of patriots at the risk of their own. This massacre is ghastly enough in all conscience, even according to the least exaggerated account as to numbers and details, and its horror is aggravated by the admitted facts that many of the victims were innocent even of having borne arms .
The whole attempted justification is practically based on two grounds : (i) the atrocities of the enemy, justifying reprisals in the same form ; (2) the danger of the position, with Boves and Rosete threatening Caracas, and backed by conspiracies among the prisoners.
Bolivar vs Boves -
death of Campo Elias
On the 20th February, Bolivar established his headquarters at his own farm of San Mateo in the Aragua valley. He commanded but 1200 infantry and 600 cavalry, and, as Boves' great strength lay in his numerous Llanero cavalry, the Liberator's object was to draw him into the hilly country. He was, at the same time, hard put to it to keep a check on the royalist guerillas about the Lake of Valencia, threatening his communications with the blockading force in front of Puerto Cabello under D'Elhuyar, as well as with Escalona at Valencia, and Marino, now slowly coming up from the east. On the 25 th, Boves with 7000 men, chiefly cavalry,attempted to pass the river Aragua at Cagua, near San Mateo, but was checked by Mariano Montilla, and retired at night. On the 28th, Boves again advanced against a heavy- fire from the trenches with which Bolivar had garnished his position. The royalist loss was heavy, but Boves continued the fight all day. At night, being wounded himself, he once more fell back on the heights behind him. In this day's action Bolivar lost a good officer in Colonel Villapol, a Spaniard by birth, who had joined the independent party. A still greater loss was that of Campo Elias, who was wounded, and died a fortnight later.
Boves was, after this, lying wounded at Villa de Cura, when the attempt by a young officer, Cedeno, sent by Bolivar with twenty men to try and capture him, failed. On the 9th March, news arrived of the return of Rosete, now recovered from his recent defeat at Yare, to the Tuy valley, whence he seriously threatened Caracas, now practically undefended. Boves also, cured of his wound, was preparing a fresh attack on San Mateo. Bolivar now sent Montilla, with 300 men, to Caracas with drums beating and making a great show, so as to alarm the Spaniard for his right flank. When he discovered that he had been fooled, Boves was furious. His next attack, on the 11th March, was again repulsed. Nothing more happened till Bolivar, making a night march, fell upon Boves at daybreak on the 7th, inflicting a severe blow on him.
Antonio Ricaurte saves Bolivar by igniting a
powder magazine at San Mateo
Once more, on the 20th March, Boves, rendered desperate by the news that Marino was at last approaching, furiously attacked Bolivar. Beaten off, he renewed his efforts on the 25th, directing them specially against the park and hospital, which were defended by Antonio Ricaurte, a young Granadian. The house in which was the hospital was the dwelling-house of the farm. It was to be assaulted by a special column, whilst Boves diverted attention by vigorous attacks all along the line. Boves himself, riding with desperate valour into the very midst of the fighting, and hurling against the patriots his reckless Llaneros, led charge after charge.
Meanwhile, his assaulting column had got in silence round the flank of the enemy, and only came into view when it was close upon the hospital. Now it was that Ricaurte heroically sacrificed himself. First he removed the wounded, then ordered all his men to evacuate the house. He alone remained behind. Even Bolivar thought there was nothing left but to die fighting as the Spaniards charged with shouts of victory on the key of his position.
They were already entering the house when a fearful explosion occurred. Ricaurte had fired the powder magazine, blowing himself, the empty house, and a large part of Boves' column to destruction. His gallantry saved the battle, for Boves, witnessing the destruction of his column, retired once more to the heights. On the 30th, he raised this siege of San Mateo, moving off by the road leading to San Sebastian and Villa de Cura. But, though Boves was beaten off, Bolivar had suffered losses which he could ill afford. Two hundred officers and 1500 men were hors de combat, as the result of the prolonged defence.
Bad news, too, came in, telling of the defeat of Urdaneta at Barquisemeto by Ceballos and Cajigal with 1 000 men from Coro. Unable to make a stand at San Carlos, Urdaneta fell back on Valencia, whence he reported to Bolivar that he expected to be attacked. Bolivar implored him to defend himself to the death, as Valencia contained all the magazines and ammunition. Meanwile, Urdaneta was to send 200 men to D'Elhuyar's besieging force at Puerto Cabello. Bolivar promised that, as soon as Marino's arrival enabled him to crush Boves, he would return to rescue Urdaneta. Valencia was attacked by Ceballos and Cajigal, who now had 3000 men, and, on the 30th and 31st March, nearly the whole town was captured.
Attack on Valencia
On the latter day, Marino had met Boves at Bocachica, defeated him, and driven him back by Gui'gue and the south side of the lake on Ceballos at Valencia. Then he marched to join Bolivar at Victoria. Boves, though his rearguard was harassed by Bolivar's cavalry, arrived at Valencia with 3000 men, thus raising the besieging force to 6000. The garrison of Valencia was still holding out in the centre of the town, though suffering from the want of water, very hard pressed, and much reduced by desertions. It was the 2nd April when Boves reached Valencia, where the fight against Urdaneta raged all day. By evening, the defenders were reduced to the most desperate straits. Attacked on all sides, their position riddled by artillery, they had almost abandoned hope, when suddenly the attacks ceased. Ceballos' courage had failed him on the arrival of the defeated Boves, and at the prospect of the appearance of Bolivar and Marino behind him. As a matter of fact they only met that day at Victoria, but Ceballos abandoned his attack on Valencia and fell back towards Tocuyito.
After a cordial meeting with Marino on the 2nd April, Bolivar reached Valencia on the 3rd with reinforcements, only to find the place out of danger. On the 5 th, he was back at Victoria, whence, after persuading Marino to advance on Valencia, he paid a flying visit to the lines in front of Puerto Cabello. When he got back once more to Valencia, he found that Ceballos and Boves had separated, the former having gone to San Carlos, whilst Boves had marched for Calabozo to recuperate. Bolivar now organised a force of 2000 infantry and 800 cavalry, partly his own men, partly Marino's. He left Marino in command, and himself returned to Puerto Cabello. Marino, marching on San Carlos, had to halt at Tinaco, ten miles short of that place, waiting for artillery and supplies. Then, hearing a false report that Ceballos had evacuated San Carlos, Marino advanced through a hostile country, despite the warnings of Urdaneta, who knew the state of the country better.
On the 1 6th April, Marino found himself on the plain of Aroa, short of ammunition, and faced by 2500 men drawn up in line of battle. First of all his cavalry was defeated, then Cedefio's men, overtaken by panic, gave way, and the troops were driven back to Tinaco, which they reached on the morning of the 1 7th. Marino was not to be found, for he and others had made off as soon as Cedefio's men yielded. As they passed Tinaco they had destroyed the park and carried off the horses. At Palomeras, as the troops continued their retreat on Valencia, they found the artillery wagons had been fired by Marino to prevent their capture. There, too, were found Marino and Cedeno, whom the troops rescued from a handful of Spaniards surrounding them on a hill.
Bolivar was celebrating the anniversary of the April outside Puerto Cabello, and preparing to assault the place, when he received exaggerated accounts of Marino's defeat, representing the force of the Dictator of the East as utterly destroyed. Yet he did not lose hope. Turning to Palacios, he said, " Our position becomes more critical, we are alone to control the furious torrent of devastation ; but we will stop it." Then he returned to Valencia, where he found the disaster was not quite so bad as he had believed. He at once proposed to start again to fight Ceballos. That general, however, as Bolivar learned, had been again reinforced by troops brought by Cajigal from Coro, and was at the head of 3000 men.
On the 10th May he was at Valencia again ; on the 12th he reviewed his troops ; on the 17th he was on the plain of Carabobo in presence of the enemy. He had got together 5000 men, but those who had come with Marino were unreliable and deserted freely. Urdaneta, meeting a body of 200 such deserters who had lost their way, brought them back in custody of his own troops. By way of example, all their leaders were shot at Valencia, and one in every five of the rank and file.
Bolivar reorganises army
Bolivar reorganised this army in four divisions, the right wing under Bermudez, the left under Valdes, centre under Florencio Palacios, and the cavalry under Freites. Urdaneta was chief of the staff, whilst Marino and Ribas were seconds in command under Bolivar.
Perhaps Marino might have made difficulties about being reduced to this position had he not felt how completely he had put himself out of court by his fiasco at Aroa.
There was no fighting worth mention till the 28th May. On that day the battle began at 1 P.M. and was decided by 4 P.M., when Cajigal, forced back on to the heights, found himself unable to defend them, and was driven back in disorder with very heavy loss. His infantry was almost entirely cut up or captured, whilst there remained in Bolivar's hands the whole of the Spanish artillery, 500 muskets, 9 standards, 4000 horses, and large stocks of munitions of all sorts. The colonel of the Spanish regiment " Granada " was captured, and several other leaders were killed. Cajigal, Ceballos, Calzada, and others fled towards Barinas.
When the pursuing victors under Urdaneta reached San Carlos, they found that the barbarities of Calzada there had been as great as those of Rosete at Ocumare. He had spared neither sex nor age, nor did he treat a priest any better than a layman.
Bolivar splits up army
Bolivar, after his victory, again committed the fault of splitting up his army, instead of keeping it united for the destruction of Boves and the capture of Puerto Cabello, which still held out in face of a very feeble blockading force. Urdaneta was sent westward to recover the country which had been lost, Ribas went back to Caracas, Marino and Jalon were sent towards Cura to face Boves. Bolivar himself went to Caracas.
Boves Defeats Bolivar at La Puerta
On the 12th June, Marino, hearing of Boves' approach, advanced to La Puerta, a place of peculiar ill-omen for the republicans in this campaign. Marino had but 2300 men when Boves, on the 15 th, showed only a small portion of his force. Marino, thinking he had only an equal force before him, proposed to attack. At that moment, Bolivar, arriving from Caracas, took over the chief command. He was not to blame for the dangerous position into which Marino had got himself, and he proposed to retire. It was too late, for Boves, who had concealed his numerous cavalry in the neighbouring ravines, fell upon Bolivar with immensely superior forces, and simply swept him off the field, with a loss of nearly half the republican force. Boves, as usual, massacred his prisoners
Marino escaped with difficulty. Bolivar and Ribas got away also to Valencia, and thence to Caracas, where they arrived on the 6th June.
Boves besieges Valencia,
beheads 100s after truce,
On that day Boves was in Victoria, where he also divided his troops, sending 2000 to Caracas under Gonzales, and marching on Valencia himself with the main body. After beating and massacring the force at La Cabrera, he laid siege to Valencia, on the 19th June, with 3000 men. The place was held by Escalona, who fought desperately, hoping to be succoured by Bolivar or Urdaneta. Boves was furious, and sent the most ferocious threats to the garrison, but Escalona would not yield. By the 22nd, the Spaniards had fought their way far into the city.
On the 24th June, Boves learned that D'Elhuyar, finding himself now between two fires, had raised the siege of Puerto Cabello and embarked with his troops . Ducoudray-Holstein says he was informed by witnesses on both sides "that the column of Colonel Gonzales did not exceed 550 men; that the second, under Colonel Mendoza, was less" for La Guaira. Leaving Morales in charge of the attack on Valencia, Boves marched for Puerto Cabello, where he procured fresh supplies of ammunition, was joined by Cajigal, Ceballos, and Calzada with 1 200 men, and then returned to Valencia, where he now had 4000 men. In the town there was a mere handful of defenders, hard pressed by the attack, and suffering grievously from hunger and thirst. They still held out gallantly till the 9th July, when, after a salute of twenty-one guns fired by the royalist batteries, a white flag announced the advent of emissaries from Boves.
They reported the occupation of Caracas by the royalists, and the retreat from it of Bolivar. The negotiations which ensued ended in the conclusion of a capitulation by which the lives, property, and liberty of the defenders were guaranteed. Next day Boves entered the place, and, with atrocious profanity, swore in the presence of the Holy Sacrament to respect the lives of all. Immediately he was in possession of the arms deposited in the great square, disregarding alike the terms of the capitulation and his solemn oath, he brutally massacred Espejo, the governor, 90 of the principal inhabitants, 65 officers, and 310 troops.
Caracas in panic -
evacuation of an estimated 20,000 from Caracas
'Emigration of 1814' Emigración a Oriente
We must now return to Bolivar, who, on reaching Caracas on the 16th June after his defeat at La Puerta, found the capital in a terrible state of panic and disorganisation. His own military position was desperate, owing mainly to his foolish dispersion of his forces after Carabobo. With Urdaneta far away in the west, cut off from Caracas by Boves at Valencia, there was nothing to be hoped for from that direction. The Liberator assembled the people and endeavoured to inspire some hope in them ; he demanded from the churches all the plate not actually required for use. All his measures were in vain, and an early attack was threatened by Gonzales, now approaching from Victoria. From the south, Caracas was threatened by the guerilla Machado, moving over the Pass of Ocumare. With the few troops Bolivar could command, the defence of the capital was impossible. He saw that he must evacuate it to prevent further disaster, and his own capture.
On the 6th July, after wasting some troops in a useless attack on Gonzales, the Liberator set out on his retreat eastwards to Barcelona, leaving to the mercy of Boves all who elected to remain behind. Mercy with Boves of course meant massacre, pillage, and confiscation. Cajigal, at least, was a man of moderation, and he was now Captain-General in name. In reality, he was powerless, and all authority was vested in Boves and Morales. The contempt with which Boves treated his nominal chief is illustrated by his brief report to Cajigal of his victory at La Puerta : " I have recovered the arms, ammunition, and the honour of the Spanish flag, which your Excellency lost at Carabobo." So trying was his position with this ruffian that Cajigal withdrew to Puerto Cabello, rather than submit to the open shame of sanctioning what he could not prevent. He duly reported Boves' misdeeds to the Spanish government, which, quite satisfied with success, had nothing but praise for them.
Boves enters Caracas - looting and executions
It was the 16th July when Boves entered Caracas. As usual, his first act was to promise oblivion of the past. This was very shortly followed by general orders for the shooting of all who might be held to be accomplices in the death of Spaniards. Bands of assassins roamed through the city, murdering, robbing, and committing every other atrocity.
Boves purses Bolivar
Boves himself set out, on the 26th July, in pursuit of Bolivar. Bolivar had twenty days' start of his pursuers, and he needed it all, for he was not marching with a mobile army. He had, indeed, some 2000 troops, including D'Elhuyar's force, which had arrived from Puerto Cabello at La Guaira and Caracas, but he was also accompanied by a large part of the population of Caracas, on whom the prospective terrors of the march had less effect than the anticipation of the horrors of an occupation by Boves. The roads to be traversed were bad at their best ; now, in the height of the rainy season, they were mere lines of mud and slush. There was no accommodation for housing this multitude of people of all classes, all ages, and both sexes. Ladies, accustomed to comfortable living, found themselves, after a long day of tramping through a sea of mud or over rugged, rocky roads, compelled to lie for the night in the open, drenched to the skin by the pitiless rain, without even a fire, and almost starving.
Bolivar reaches Barcelona
Despair drove them to desperate deeds, and they were constantly haunted by the dread of being left behind to fall into the hands of the royalist guerrillas. Mothers, unable longer to nourish, or even to carry, their children, were seen to hurl them over precipices, rather than leave them to die by the roadside. All the horrors of the retreat from Moscow were here, except the cold, which was made up for by the rain. For twenty days this miserable " Emigration of 1814," as it was called, dragged on until Barcelona was reached, just as Boves was starting in pursuit from Caracas. By that time, the emigrants had been terribly reduced in numbers by the hardships of the road, by famine, and by fever.
Morales, Boves' second in command, leading the pursuing force by El Chaparro, appeared, on the 17th August, before Aragua, south of Barcelona. The place was fortified and occupied by Bermudez, with 1000 men sent back from Cumana by Marino, who had accompanied the flight to Barcelona
Morales attacked in the morning of the 18th August. The fortifications enabled Bolivar and Bermudez to hold out for some hours. Apparently there was some disagreement between them, for Larrazabal says that Bolivar wanted to use his cavalry, which was good, in the open country behind the river Aragua, but was compelled to give way to Bermudez, who was all for a passive defence of the town.
The fighting in Aragua streets was furious for seven hours. Then the republicans were driven out and put to flight. Bolivar, with some of the remnants, made for Barcelona, whilst Bermudez took the direction of Maturin .
Barcelona refuses Bolivar,
Bolivar goes to Cumana
When Bolivar reached Barcelona with the few worn- out troops from Aragua, he found the inhabitants bent upon opening their gates to Morales, rather than risk the horrors of a sack. It was hopeless to attempt a defence under these circumstances, so Bolivar, accompanied by Ribas and Piar, set out for Cumana .
When Bolivar reached Cumana, he found it almost deserted. Marino, hearing of the disaster of Aragua, had proclaimed martial law (scarcely necessary under the circumstances one would have thought), and, in agreement with his officers, resolved to fall back on Guiria, almost the extreme point of Venezuela. The position at Guiria was good, and at the worst there was always a possibility of escape to the British colony of Trinidad, which was in sight just across the landlocked Gulf of Paria. The inhabitants of Cumana were invited to emigrate to Guiria on the ships which had come back to Cumana when the siege of Puerto Cabello was raised.
Accounts of what happened at Cumana
, fate of the treasure from Caracas
What happened at Cumana it is very difficult to ascertain with certainty. Let us first take the account put forward by Bolivar and Marino themselves in the Cartagena Gazette of the 30th September 1814. According to this, Marino was in great straits, abandoned by his troops, part of whom had embarked on board the squadron commanded by Bianchi, an Italian adventurer, who, it was reported, had decided to sail away with all the treasure brought from the churches of Caracas. Bolivar and Marino were, therefore, obliged to embark with him in order to save the property. Arriving at the island of Margarita, and afterwards at Carupano on the mainland, they found those places in a state of anarchy,
He also says that they could not land at Margarita because Arismendi, who commanded there. threatened to shoot them as deserters, a threat which was repeated by Bermudez, whom they found at Carupano.
Larrazabal's account is again different. He says Bianchi sailed whilst the leaders were holding a council of war in Cumana, the Italian meaning to appropriate the treasure. Bolivar and Marino sailed after him, and succeeded in coming to an arrangement, under which he disgorged part of his plunder, which he pretended he had seized on account of arrears of pay of himself and his fleet. Under this arrangement, Bianchi returned two-thirds of the treasure, and gave up to Bolivar and Marino part of the fleet. The arms and stores were to be landed in Margarita by Bianchi, who thus had left to him three ships and 40,000 or 50,000 pesos in treasure. The two remaining ships carried Bolivar and Marino to Carupano, where they arrived on the 3rd September. Afraid that Bianchi, repenting of his bargain, might attack him, Bolivar anchored under cover of the shore batteries. When Bolivar and Marino landed, they found Ribas and Piar in possession. These two accused them of desertion, and Ribas even put Marino in confinement.
From all this confusion of accounts, all that seems possible to infer with certainty is that the two Dictators were in very bad odour with their subordinates who, perhaps, having witnessed the failure of the leaders, thought they could do better themselves, and, at any rate, were determined to get rid of Bolivar and Marino.
Ribas marckes out to meet Boves, the death of Boves Dec 5 1814, Ribas captured and executed
Boves was in Cumana on the 16th October, his passage everywhere marked by rivers of blood. Amongst the republicans there was disunion ; for the men of the east objected to the supremacy in command of Ribas, whilst those of Caracas and the west equally disliked being under Bermudez. These two disagreed in their views of what was expedient ; for Bermudez wished to await Boves at Maturin, whilst Ribas was for marching to meet him. This latter opinion eventually prevailed, and, on the 5th December, 3000 republicans met a larger force under Boves at Urica. The result was disastrous, and but few of the patriots succeeded in escaping to Maturin. But the victory cost the Spaniards dear, for Boves, ever in the forefront of the battle, dealing death in every direction, refusing quarter to all, was killed by a republican spear which pierced his body.
The unfortunate Ribas, after his utter defeat at Urica, fled to Maturin, where his ruin was completed. Thence he tried to make his way, with two of his officers, to the plains of Caracas. Broken and ill, he halted for a few hours in the mountains near the valley of La Pascua. Thence he sent a negro servant to seek provisions in the town. The man betrayed his master to the royalists who seized Ribas asleep and carried him to the town. There he was slain to the accompaniment of insulting words and gestures. His head was sent in an iron cage to Caracas, and exposed on the road to La Guaira, wearing the Phrygian cap which he used as an emblem of liberty. He was Bolivar's uncle by marriage, and was for long one of his most trusted chiefs, but, in the end, his ambition brought him into collision with the Liberator, and resulted in his death. Venezuela, with the exception of a few guerillas under Cedefio, Monagas, and Zaraza, was in the power of the royalists. What had become of Urdaneta will be related presently. The coast was now in part blockaded, from Trinidad to Yrapa, by a Spanish squadron under Gabazo, which stopped all emigration in that direction.
Thus rose and fell the second republican government in Venezuela.
Bolivar returns to Cartagena
Bolivar and Marino, without touching anywhere on the way, landed at Cartagena on the 25 th September 1814. Castillo, the bitter enemy of the former, was soon busy representing that to Bolivar alone was due the loss of Venezuela to the republican cause. The Liberator's justification of his own conduct is contained in a manifesto of the 30th September .