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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

Bolivar caused Piar to be seized


style="text-align: justify;"> 1817

[Sidenote: Return of Bolivar]

[Sidenote: General Piar shot]

[Sidenote: O'Higgins]

[Sidenote: San Martin]

Bolivar landed on the north coast of Venezuela on the first day of the new year. His landing place, Barcelona, was a small town at the foot of the Maritime Andes, so unprotected against attack that he resolved to leave it at once. He marched his force in the direction of Santa Fe in New Granada, hoping to push through to Peru. Marino and Piar, two insurgent leaders operating in the south, joined forces with Bolivar, and brought 1,200 additional men. By the time their joint column had penetrated well into Orinoco, the three leaders were at odds with each other. Piar tried to incite revolt among his followers. Bolivar caused Piar to be seized, and after a drum-head trial had him shot. In the meanwhile a Spanish force had swooped down on Barcelona, and massacred the inhabitants. Things were at this pass when the standard of revolt was once more raised in Chile by Bernado O'Higgins. He was a natural son of Ambrosio, and had just returned from school in England. At the time the supreme command of the revolutionary forces was given to him this famous South American leader was still a young man, as was his chief lieutenant, MacKenna. By his clever handling of the campaigns

that followed he won the title of "El Primer Soldado del Nuevo Mundo"--the first soldier of America. It was still at the outset of his career, in 1817, that help came to the Chileans from Buenos Ayres across the Andes. The man who brought this aid was San Martin.

At Mendoza, on January 17, San Martin reviewed his little army of 5,000, all Gaucho horsemen, as lightly clad and provisioned as the Indians of the Pampas. The women of Mendoza presented the force with a flag bearing the emblem of the Sun. San Martin held the banner aloft, declaring it "the first flag of independence which had been blest in South America." This same flag was carried through all the wars along the Pacific Coast. And under its tattered shreds San Martin was finally laid to rest sixty years later.

[Sidenote: Battle of Chacabuco]

[Sidenote: Acuoncagua]

Marching from Mendoza, San Martin made a feint of crossing the Andes by way of Planchon, thereby inducing a Spanish column under Captain-General Marco del Ponte to concentrate at Talca. During the progress of these movements, San Martin and his followers crossed the mountains by the steep route of Putaendo and Cuevas. Three hundred miles of the stiffest mountain riding were covered in less than a fortnight. Early in February, San Martin's army, now barely 4,000 strong, descended upon Villa Nueva. On February 7, they fought their first battle on Chilean soil with the Spanish outposts at Chacabuco. Driving the Spaniards before him, San Martin, advanced into the plain, and presently joined forces with O'Higgins' infantry. New mounts were provided for the cavalry. At the strong post of Acuoncagua the Spaniards made a stand, but they were outnumbered by the insurgents. San Martin delivered a frontal attack, while O'Higgins outflanked the enemy with an impetuous charge, with the result that the whole Spanish force was routed beyond recovery. The officers fled to Valparaiso. By the middle of February, San Martin entered Santiago de Chile. A new republican junta was formed and complete independence of Spain was declared. O'Higgins assumed the position of dictator.


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