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Bicentennial of Peña de Tópaga Combat and Vargas Swamp Battle (1819 - 2019)

Bicentenario del Combate de la Peña de Tópaga y de la Batalla del Pantano de Vargas (1819 - 2019)

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  • Sub Teniente Lope María Justo Joseph de Buróz y Tovar (1799 - 1822)
    Sub Tte. del Batallon de Valerosos Cazadores: Lope Maria Justo Joseph de Buroz y Tovar (1799-1822) Era cuñado del General Carlos Soublette, quien habia casado con Doña Olaya Buroz
  • General en Jefe José de la Cruz Carrillo y Gámez Terán, General, Procer (1788 - 1865)
    General en Jefe Nace en Trujillo. Sus restos estaban en la Capilla del Santisimo Sacramento de la Santa Iglesia Matriz de Trujillo. Esta en el Panteón Nacional. El General Cruz Carrillo, nacido...
  • Francisco de Paula Santander y Omaña (1792 - 1840)
    Francisco José de Paula Santander y Omaña (Villa del Rosario, 2 de abril de 1792 - Bogotá, 6 de mayo de 1840) fue un estadista, jurista, revolucionario, militar y político, prócer de la Independencia...
  • General Joaquín Paris Ricaurte, Prócer (1795 - 1868)
    Héroe de la Independencia de Colombia Ver mas acerca del General Joaquín París Ricaurte
  • General José Antonio Anzoategui (1789 - 1819)
    Nació en Barcelona (Edo. Anzoátegui) el 14 de noviembre de 1789 y murió en Pamplona (Colombia) el 15 de noviembre de 1819. Durante su vida fue oficial del Ejército venezolano en la Guerra de Independ...

a. Combate de la Peña de Topaga – Combat of Rock of Topaga (July 11th, 1819)

b. Acción del Pantano de Vargas - Vargas Swamp Battle (July 25th, 1819)

Synopsis

The Vargas Swamp Battle (July 25th,1819) was an armed conflict (between Republican and Royalist forces) that took place on the surrounding plains of Paipa, between Corrales de Bonza and Tunja, south-east of the River Mongui, where Bolivar forced Barreiro to take shelter on taking the vantage point locations after the Combate de la Peña de Topaga (July 11th, 1819), or Combate de Gameza, a fortnight before (11th-12th July). This was the climax of the Liberating Campaign of New Granada, https://www.geni.com/projects/Bicentennial-Campa%25C3%25B1a-Libertadora-de-la-Nueva-Granada-1819-2019/55115 which tipped the balance of the final victory towards the Republican side (Bolivar's patriot forces). This was also the cornerstone of the final emancipation of Colombia, and the realization of Bolivar's most sublime dreams.

With all the odds against his army, after a treacherous crossing of the Andes, Bolivar managed to cut the supply and communication lines of General Jose Maria Barreiro, Coronel Jose Maria Barreiro Manjón a young, well prepared but inexperienced Spanish Officer, (a favourite of General in Chief Pablo Morillo, Mariscal de Campo, Teniente General, I conde de Cartagena,​ I marqués de La Puerta, Pablo Morillo y Morillo, (H.M.R.) ), from reaching Bogota, in the final days of the Liberating Campaign (August 2nd – August 5th), driving Barreiro to have to face-off combat at Puente de Boyaca on August 7th, 1819.

Imperative is to bring to the awards' podium the courageous British Legions, https://www.geni.com/projects/British-Legions-South-American-Wars-Portal/54226 which in the final hour as a rouged infantry backed up by a head-on, brilliant calvary assault led by Colonel Juan Jose Rondon, Coronel Juan José Rondón Delgadillo, Procer and a simultaneous flank attack led by Lieutenant Colonel Lucas Carvajal, (no geni profile) sealed the outcome of this glorious battle.

Simon Bolivar, Simón Bolívar, El Libertador y 3er. Presidente de Venezuela on referring to Rondon, Coronel Juan José Rondón Delgadillo, Procer in the first anniversary of this gallant battle (1820) would say : « Tomorrow is Saint Rondon's Day » in a dash of improvised humor, but of solemn gratitude also.

Prelude

In Tame, the Liberator Simón Bolívar decides what route to take to launch the Liberating Campaign, from there he writes to the patriot chiefs, taking part in other movements related to the Campaign. At that time, there were two roads used by the scarce local trade: the Salinas and the Labranza Grande. These roads presented high risk, since Royalist troops roamed the area, and had all the inhabitants in a constant state of siege and total fear, the Spaniards having been the undisputed authority in those lands , dells and valleys for years on end, disposing of all the available resources as they had pleased.

On June 12th, 1819, the troops of General Simon Bolivar met in Tame with the troops of New Granada under the command of General Francisco de Paula Santander, Francisco de Paula Santander y Omaña . There it was decided that the Liberating Campaign would continue along the route to Pore, using the Labranza Grande road. And so the Liberator decided to cross the Páramo de Pisba. When arriving at Paya, the patriot army found a strong, well-guarded Royalist garrison. The passage of the Páramo was totally merciless to the troops, who were highly affected by the difficult conditions that the land and climate presented them. A large number of soldiers were lost in the crossing, either because of the cold, hunger, disease or dissension. The cavalry suffered catastrophic losses, because all the animals that the army was carrying were lost on the way, reason why the division of cavalry of the army would cease to exist during the crossing. The firearms had to be loaded very carefully to prevent the cartridges from being damaged by the wet weather.

History

From Tame to Pore the army skirted the mountain range, still on the lower plains (June 19th-22nd) then taking the road to Labranza Grande through Mercote but upon reaching Paya (June 30th) they found strong Royalist opposition, which was taken-on by General Santander. The very thought of finding more enemy forces made Bolívar decide to cross the Páramo de Pisba, which represented high risks due to the difficulties of the terrain and the unforgiving weather conditions of the journey.

Getting colder day by day as the troops made their way higher up the mountain, enduring countless hardships, many men were lost in the abyss, due to famine, fevers and death. The only thing that held their morale was the encouragement Bolivar gave them, motivating them to move forward: no effort was too great for him to stoop-up the will of the most battered soldier, going out of his way to help accommodate a load on a mule, or encourage the tired soldiers carrying their own gear. The hardships of the tough mountain pass left many dead but the strongest made it through. Captain Daniel Florencio O'Leary, General Daniel Florencio O'Leary Burke recalls in his memoirs a woman in labour during the treacherous walk up the mountain pass, giving birth on a very cold, windy and wet night, and seeing her walk with her son wrapped-up in a blanket in her arms the next day !. The cavalry had arrived without a single horse, the provisions were abandoned for lack of mules to transport them, the infantry could not keep the cartridges dry in the middle of the copious rains, the weapons were dirty and useless.

On July 5th Santander arrived with the vanguard of the army in the town of Socha on the eastern slope of the Páramo, while Anzoategui got there the next day. The people in the villages were supportive of the rebel cause and helped the army recover from the toils and hardships of the Pisba Pass crossing (3,200 mts a.s.l.).

The Liberating Army was organized as follows: The troops under General Francisco de Paula Santander, Francisco de Paula Santander y Omaña to be the Vanguard Division; all the troops of cavalry and infantry from Venezuela would form a single division commanded by General Jose Antonio Anzoategui, General José Antonio Anzoategui which would be called the Division of Rearguard; for its part, the Artillery Corps would be under the command of Colonel Bartolomé Salom.

When the Spaniards learnt of the invasion, they immediately sent reinforcements to the invaded region of Sogamoso. General Barreiro presented two columns of 800 men each in Corrales and Gameza, along the Chicamocha River on both sides of the Sogamoso Valley. Here took place direct confrontations, and it was where General Justo Briceño General Josef Justo María Briceño Otálora defeated the Royalists while Spanish General Jose Maria Barreiro did not engage further in the fight, hoping to muster larger forces.

Due to the well defended Royalists positions at Tasco the patriot command decided to concentrate the entire army to invade Zerinza and Santa Rosa. Santander and Anzoategui marched, while General Carlos Soublette, General Carlos Valentín José de la Soledad Antonio del Sacramento Soublette y Xerez de Aristeguieta, 8º Presidente de Venezuela concentrated on Tasco. They continued advancing and with this daring action they entered the provinces of El Socorro and Pamplona, dominating the Sogamoso Valley.

General Justo Briceño, General Josef Justo María Briceño Otálora in Corrales and the vanguard of the army commanded by Santander in Gámeza forced the Royalists to fall back to Peña de Tópaga, in a series of combats known as the Battle of Gámeza.

a. Peña de Tópaga Combat

At Puente Reyes the 'Guides' acted bravely and patriotically, half-recovered, having rejected both the Spanish cavalry and the infantry, but they had to endure the pain of watching Lieutenant Francisco Villegas die fighting, who had fought at the Battle of Queseras del Medio https://www.geni.com/projects/Bicentennial-of-the-Battle-of-Queseras-del-Medio-1819-2019/53595. The Patriots finally arrived in Gámeza and the Spanish returned to Sogamoso. This Battle left a balance of 300 royalist and 76 patriot casualties. In the hacienda of Santa Bárbara, in Tasco, Jose Antonio Arredondo, Tte. Cnel. Jose Antonio Arredondo, Procer died and two other soldiers were wounded in this battle.

The undisputed hero of this combat was Captain Juan José Reyes Patria, General Juan José Reyes Patria Escobar

On July 11th, 1819, towards 11:00 am in the morning, the patriot battalions and Spanish forces faced each other on either side of the Reyes Bridge, over the River Gámeza, which marks the limit between the Municipalities of Gámeza and Tópaga. On this bridge a bloody encounter between a Spanish official and Captain Juan José Reyes Patria took place that day. When the patriot rearguard arrived, General Simon Bolivar planned the attack placing at the front the Hunters Battalion, commanded by General Francisco de Paula Santander, Francisco de Paula Santander y Omaña and Colonel Antonio Arredondo, Tte. Cnel. Jose Antonio Arredondo, Procer, followed by the first Battalion companies Rifles, Barcelona and Braves of Paez. The first line and three Venezuelan battalions, all crossed the bridge at point blank range fire of the adversary. Colonel Eusebio Carvallo (no geni profile) fell mortally wounded carrying the flag and here also some other soldiers died.

General José María Barreiro and his troops were located in the trenches known as Peñón de las Águilas, in Tópaga, located five blocks from the bridge, and when they saw that the Patriots were charging, they prepared riders and opened fire on the patriot ranks, which were enraged and resolute to die fighting. They were led by captains Vegal, Gómez and Lobo Guerrero, and in the middle of the unyielding fire that they were sustaining at Peñón de las Águilas they had to fight it out hand-to-hand several times. They managed to get closer to where the fire was spewing-out from, and Lobo Guerrero, in a major effort, was able to crown the height, but was knocked down by a discharge. The chiefs of the Hunters Battalion were quick to order a bayonet charge, but Barreiro at that moment gave the retrieval order, whereupon the Generals of the Battalion started chasing them with great vigor causing many casualties in the enemy ranks, specially when they entered the dell of the Monguí River, three kilometers from the Peñon de las Aguilas, at the site known as Molinos de Tópaga.

It was 4:00 in the afternoon when Bolivar at seeing that no one could pass to Sogamoso ordered the return to Gámeza. Barreiro proceeded to retaliate and ordered their pursuit, but the Vanguard, converted now in Retaguardia, managed to defend themselves despite the fact that Colonel José Antonio Arredondo, Tte. Cnel. Jose Antonio Arredondo, Procer and General Santander were injured. In this retreat lost their lives Ramón Barrantes and Manuel Alderete. On the other side of the bridge over the River Gámeza, before the Battle of Tópaga started, a Spanish officer challenged the patriots. This enraged Captain Juan José Reyes Escobar, a member of one of the Guard (Guias, better translated as "Guides") squadrons, who on advancing to the bridge, on which only two people fitted, braided in a fight to the death with the grievous officer.

Reyes suffered a gash wound, the oozing blood from the laceration enraged him even more, and under real danger of death attacked with daunting fierceness the Spaniard, striking him with one sure blow of his sword, so that both head and body of the adversary fell to the river. General Simón Bolívar, aware of the heroic and gallant behavior of Captain Juan José Reyes, called him to his presence to congratulate him. When asked what his name was, he replied:

<<I'm Juan Reyes, sir>> . <<You>>, answered Bolivar, <<..with your name must honor not the kings, but the homeland ... from now on, your surname in the Army will be Patria>>, for which reason he went down in history with the surnames: Reyes Patria.

By the beginning of 1819 the young Juan José Reyes had acquired the rank of Lieutenant of Cavalry, and commanded the body of exploration called avant-garde head, similar to a scout: assigned the tasks of reconnaissance of the enemy army, positions, numbers and to gauge on the type of geography that the advancing army had to go through. His knowledge of the area were guarantee of the fulfillment of such mission; work that he carried out with energy and fearlessness regardless of whether it was along the roads flooded on the low plains or on the high mountain rugged-path of the Páramo de Pisba . Captain Juan José Reyes Patria fought at the battles of the Vargas Swamp (Pantano de Vargas) and of the Boyacá Bridge (Batalla de.Boyacá). After this scuffle, the Liberating Army retreats to Tasco again on July 12th and enters Corrales de Bonza on July 20th, deployed in battle order seeking the encounter with Barreiro, but the latter was always shunning away from the fight, always seeking protection on higher grounds, avoiding another direct confrontation, and hoping to receive reinforcements from the Viceroy Juan de Sámano, in Bogotá.

b. The Vargas Swamp Battle

In this situation, on the morning of July 25th, the people of Granada (the villagers) moved towards Paipa with the intention of cutting off the communications of the royalist army with Santa Fé de Bogotá. Barreiro noticed this movement, then he also deployed his troops and moved almost parallel to Bolivar, managing to locate his army on the hill of El Picacho (today Cerro Bolivar), from where he dominated the passage of the Liberating Army through the Vargas Marsh (Swamps). By July 25th, the patriots had managed to increase their strength to 2,600 men, so Bolívar decided to take his troops on the path of Salitre de Paipa to attack the enemy on his back (rear guard) or force him to abandon their defenses. But to the east of the Pantano de Vargas, the Royalist forces quickly blocked his path. The patriot army was deployed right in front of the royalist's positions, but with disadvantages of terrain, which the Spaniards knew how to use to their advantage to attack. When the troops advanced east of the Pantano de Vargas, the royalists came to block their way. The two sides were now locked in a deadly stalemate.

The patriot troops were fully deployed in front of the Spanish ones. The latter, however, had the advantage of terrain and at least 3000 troops, number that would tilt the battle odds to their favor. Bolivar sent two infantry battalions under the command of Anzoategui on the right and the rest of the infantry led by Santander on the left, leaving the cavalry at his command in the rear. Barreiro, in turn, located his forces in three columns, taking advantage of the slanted terrain.

At 11 o'clock in the morning the fight began. The two battalions of Anzoategui advanced on the right but were attacked and forced to retreat by the Spaniards. Upon observing this situation, Bolivar ordered Santander to attack from the left, which reduced the pressure of the two battalions on the right, giving them time to regroup and attack again, pushing back the Royalist army, making them abandon the conquered terrain. Bolivar's idea was to incite Barreiro to send his reserves into battle with each setback of his troops. After two hours of combat, the Royalist troops forced the left of the patriot's, who were under the command of Santander who continually exposed to the fire from their bayonets, was forced to retreat, but Bolivar ordered a counter-offensive that recovered the lost terrain. An enemy soldier fired at the back of General Santander; Colonel Paris, General Joaquín Paris Ricaurte, Prócer on taking down the soldier, verified that the projectile had not done damage. Luckily Santander was unscathed.

The last-minute-saving-tactic improvised by General Simón Bolívar consisted in reserving all his cavalry, British Legion and llaneros (plains' men). They would be locked away during the initial stages of the fight in the courtyard of a farm located at the foot of the plateau that had become his observation post. It consisted also of sending the rest of his troops by successive batches, with orders to fight-and-die for yards, if need be, knowing fully well that they were not able to resist in the face of mounting pressure from the Spaniards. The result was that with each antagonistic draw-back of the patriots, Barreiro was teased into using his reserves against them, thus slowly and inevitably debilitating his forces.

Two hours into the battle, the Royalists right flank shuns off the patriot's left from the height at the east of the battlefield under Santander's control, but Bolivar organizes a counterattack with the scattered avant-garde troops, regroups them and attacks, regaining the lost land again. At this time Bolivar sent the British Legion into battle, under the command of Colonel James Rooke, Colonel James Rooke, Procer who charged against the enemies. This movement stopped the advance of the Spanish troops, who nevertheless continued to fight fiercely. The llanero Francisco Sajona, from Tequia was killed on this charge Francisco Sanoja y Figueredo. Then the Royalist leader (Barreiro), in order to repel them and finish them off once and for all, used the rest of his troops. The patriots retreated in disarray and confusion and thought themselves lost, with a fierce enemy who was stepping-on their heels and whose wrath multiplied at the prospect of an imminent triumph.

At six in the afternoon, when the patriot defeat was ominous, Bolívar decided to send the last reserves of his army, made up of llaneros led by the Venezuelan Colonel Juan José Rondón. That was when Bolívar shouted the historic phrase "Colonel, You Save the Homeland!", To which the colonel replied "That is because Rondón has not fought yet".

Behind him, fourteen llaneros dragged by the example and the voice: "May the brave follow me!" nailed their spurs on their mounts. Fourteen beasts that arose in the middle of the enemy ranks to pierce with their spears the frightened infantry that were quickly engulfed by the rest of the plains' men (llaneros) cavalry that followed closely the heroic charge of Colonel Rondón.

The 14 spear-men (15 with Rondón at the helm) who participated in the calvary attack were:

1. Captain Julián Mellao (Venezuelan), Coronel del Ejercito Libertador Julian Mellado Lineros, Procer 2. Captain Valentín García (Granadino), Antonio Valentín García de Tejada y del Castillo 3. Captain Miguel Lara (Granadino), Miguel Maria LARA RIERA, son of Coronel Miguel María LARA MELÉNDEZ (b.1766 - ) 4. Captain Domingo Mirabal (Venezuelan) 5. Captain Celedonio Sánchez, possibly a native of San Carlos Cojedes, Venezuela (Venezuelan). Present at the Battle of Queseras del Medio, April 02nd, 1819. 6. Lieutenant José de la Cruz Paredes (Venezuelan), General José de la Cruz Paredes Angulo, Prócer de la Independencia 7. Lieutenant Rozo Sánchez (Granadino) 8. Lieutenant Pablo Matute (Granadino) 9. Lieutenant Pedro Lancheros (Granadino) 10. Sub. Lieutenant Bonifacio Gutiérrez (Granadino) 11. Sub. Lieutenant Saturnino Gutiérrez (Granadino) 12. Second Lieutenant Miguel Segovia (Venezuelan) 13. Second Lieutenant Pablo Segovia (Venezuelan) 14. Sergeant Inocencio Chincá (Granadino), Sargento de Segunda José Inocencio Chincá, Procer Neogranadino

Sergeant Inocencio Chincá's in the middle of the battle killed the Spanish Captain Ramón Bedoya with a spear, but was mortally wounded by him, dying 3 days later.

In this action of the cavalry, the Venezuelan officers Lieutenant Colonel Leonardo Infante,Tte. Cnel. Leonardo Infante, Procer and Lieutenant Colonel Lucas Carvajal also conspicuously stood out. General Santander would later express: «... the glory of the Marsh of Vargas belongs to Colonel Rondón and Lieutenant-Colonel Carvajal, General Lucas Carvajal, Procer; no other should be granted this honor but them on that glorious day, these most renowned of brave men «. It was in this way that Rondón followed initially by fourteen (14) more llaneros, to which later the other riders who had not yet fought further joined, undertook the fight, facing single-handedly the Royalist army, which was already disorganized and antagonized, making it face total defeat and forcing their complete withdrawal from this decisive battle.

What The Defeat Meant To the Royalists

With this heroic action, the army of Bolivar manages to snatch the victory from the hands of the Spaniards, at the turn of the tide, in the Marsh of Vargas (Vargas Swamp, or Pantano de Vargas).

The enemy defeated falls back to Paipa and Molinos de Bonza. Subsequently, the patriot army lodges in the field and on July 26th falls back to its original Corrales de Bonza's positions before the battle. This cruel but crucial battle results in 500 casualties in the royalist army and 350 more in the patriot army; forging the basis that would give definitive freedom to the Nueva Granada only 12 days later, on August 7th, 1819 in the final battle at the Boyacá Bridge.

Barreiro then withdrew the remaining troops to Paipa and Molinos de Bonza, as was said, while Bolívar's army returned victorious to Corrales de Bonza the next day.

Colonel Rooke was critically wounded in combat, and would die a few days later, in a convent in Belencito, in the current department of Boyacá. Colonel John Mackintosh, John / James MacKintosh his second-in-command, would take over the 1st Rifles Hussars Division. After this battle, this elite squad would be called the «Albion Battalion», and a few days later would earn the rights to the colors and banners of the «Boyacá Battalion» in the ensuing battle to come.

The short-term consequences were enormous, since they served as a military and psychological stimulus to the liberating forces, demoralizing and making the Spaniards retreat.

The road now laid open to one great and final battle for the liberation of Colombia: Boyacá,

Ref: Juan de Sámano, Virrey de Nueva Granada

Ref: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Mar%C3%ADa_Barreiro_Manj%C3%B3n

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Project created on July 14th, 2019. 11:19 am by Pedro Baldo ARR