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The Battle of Caseros: the perfect story

Understanding this fight of February 3, 1852, the largest Latin American armed deployment of the mid-nineteenth century, means understanding the destinies of a country and a continent.

La Batalla de Caseros

 Pax Rosista had an end, in Sarmiento's words, as Pax Romana had.   And as in classical history, you too  Brutus , Rosas will be betrayed by his sword, Urquiza.  In 1850 the blue eyes of the  Restorer of the Laws  saw in the distance the only threat, imperialist Brazil. Error. Under their feet everyone plotted, not only the unitarians in Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro, and both the Buenos Aires estanciers and the coastal farmers understood that the nationalist model of the Rosist regime was a stumbling block for business with foreign/British capitals . Rosas hacienda wasn't the barn of the world. And in this new paradigm was the key to the National Organization, which rather than suppressing the warlords (Urquiza was in its own way), was a new model overcoming quasi-vicerreinal perimid protectionism. One of the first measures of victor Urquiza was the immediate liberalization of rivers, and the nationalization of foreign customs “ The question of the treasure,” writes Ernesto Quesada about the public ark sustained during the time under exports saladeras, and which would decline from there with sheep exploitation and financial income - is, in the bottom, the axis of the whole Argentine policy from emancipation to the present. Civil struggles, partisan dissensions, political complications, the burning of unitarians and feds, of Buenos Aires and provincians, the warlord itself, all were born from there and gravitated around it. To touch that question is to step on “hot sand”: to clarify it, is to find Ariadne's thread that will guide us in the labyrinth of politics”  The handling of the famous “Box” grids at the bottom of Caseros and further, still.

 Justo José de Urquiza e n 1850 lived his appointed hour.  A successful and modern governorate in its province, financed by smuggling the products of its extensive rural establishment via Uruguay, with an ambitious plan of schools, and agricultural colonies, the first in the country, and complemented by military posts (military service was This pseudomilitarized, quasi-autonomous State of Buenos Aires, was supported by Rosas because Urquiza had bloody liquidated the unitary/imperialist confederation between the Argentine coastal provinces, Paraguay, Uruguay and Rio Grande do Sul in 1845.  But in that victorious position he aligned the discola Corrientes, who always opposed the governor of Buenos Aires, first with Joaquín Madariaga, then Benjamín Virasoro. Simultaneously, the unitarians Esteban Echeverría and Juan Bautista Alberdi in their exiles try to bring the positions of Urquiza and Brazil closer. Even the imperials in April asked Governor Urquiza about the possibility of the passage of his army in the event that Rosas declared war “ I can't do that without betraying my homeland... I would erase with that ignominious stain my record,” replied an offended Urquiza, that some months later, he would learn all his resources to invade the Brazilian armies . It is those same months that Rosas obliges entrerrians to liquidate their currencies at the Banco de Buenos Aires (sic), with an unconvertible currency, and prohibits the production of gunpowder, the main coastal industry behind leather and tasajo. And it is those same days that Urquiza signed an agreement with Corrientes, Uruguay and Brazil, and that it committed a strong Brazilian loan to pay for the Argentine State. The one who collected this money was Urquiza.  

 On May 1, 1851 the famous pronouncement of Urquiza occurred, which in principle was to accept Rosas's everlasting triquiñuela of renouncing Argentine representation abroad . It also replaces the well-known “unitary savages die” with “die the enemies of the National Organization” It was a declaration of war. Sarmiento points out that there was an earlier version where Emperor Pedro II “ established a humiliating article stating that Brazil had imposed as a bribe the condition of rebelling a head of province, which would be a stain for history argentina. The Emperor gladly agreed on this posthumous modification, and the document was redone, without erasing the stain or memory,”  closes the Sanjuanino who ended up being another enemy of Urquiza. To all this, let's say that Brazil also aspired to the liberation of the Paraná River for its southern provinces, resigned from malagana Uruguay by British pressure — and wished to underground this slave empire some of the rights to blacks that Rosas promoted plus some illusions of the feds to return Paraguay, and part of Bolivia, to the Argentine Confederation.  Like Rosas, the guarantor of laws for the possible nation in the Sarmiento desert, Urquiza, the architect of the national organization of Alberdi, are statesmen of his time, and their contradictions.  

Despite the longings of Urquiza and the unitary publicists, the provinces remained faithful to Rosas. Even more after he declared war on Brazil on August 18, although he took care of leaving out Urquiza, who had already invaded the Oriental Band and would almost without resistance defeat Manuel Oribe's army. This Uruguayan independence general had besieged Montevideo for almost a decade, cradle of repeated conspiracies against the Rosist regime, financed by French and Brazilians — and Urquiza  “Send the Republic in a long period of social upheaval and upheaval; save the land of fratricidal war; to accompany her in the glorious defense of her rights... was the mission that the Argentine peoples imposed on me and accepted recognized,” I addressed a message to Governors Rosas, who ruled with iron hands of lives and economies since 1835,  “when the tranquility of the Republic promised me, that is when the crazy traitor Urquiza raised the flag of rebellion and anarchy... it was sold to the Brazilian government... I can not refuse the continuation of my government -weigh - that I longed for retirement to a subordinate position... I will fight together with the Argentine virtuosos... consolidate independence, rights, honor and national future” Popular expressions of support succeeded in different parts of the country, and Buenos Aires went to the contest slowly and uncoordinated, none of its most loyal officials as Oribe himself, or freeing his fate to Pascual Echagüe in Santa Fe. Rosas seemed to have sent an early farewell message.


 “ The only thing he lacked was Offenbach's music”  

The military campaign that overthrew an Argentine government, “free peoples from the tyrannical domination of Rosas,” began in Montevideo. There came the Entrerrians, Correntinos, Brazilians, European mercenaries, antirosists, former feds who passed to the unitarians — seduced by the initial good treatment of Urquiza although there were rather few deserters as the division of Aquino would show, and Uruguayans.  In various respects, this invader Large Army of South America was a trial at the scale of the Triple Alliance Army that would devastate Paraguay fifteen years later, as command difficulties, military differences and nationalist misgivings.   Brazil took care with his squad to block the rivers and take over the islands, including Martín García, and disabled the batteries in the Paraná of a now erratic Lucio N. Mansilla, hero of the Battle of the Return of Obligado.  The 28,000 men of the multinational army clearly differentiated between the poncho gauchos, red the entrerrianos and celestial the Correntinos, and the Brazilian infants, dressed as for a parade, and the antirosistas, dressed in the European way  “I was the only officer of the ejé Argentine man who in the campaign had a strictly European team severity,” recalls Sarmiento, who together with Bartolomé Mitre presented themselves to Urquiza with the self-proclaimed rank of lieutenants colonels, and the Sanjuanino awarded himself the position of newsletter with a stipend in charge of the Argentine government, “Chair, spurs, burnished sword, buttoned levite, gloves, French quepi,  paletot  instead of poncho, all I was a protest against the Gauchesque spirit... it was a part of my campaign plan against Rosas and the warlords, discussed with Mitre... willing to make him  triumph over the Chiripá  ... details of my cultured, elegant and European propaganda in those armies of wild appearances” preaching Civilization and Barbarism to unsuspected — and ridiculous boundaries, the object of laughter and chanzas by Urquiza, especially for the “sperm candles — whale” Mexican observer Carlos Pereyra noted that “the only thing he lacked was Jacques Offenbach's music ( author of operatic farce) to immortalize himself in every stage of the Universe” Everything happened at the slow pace of this powerful force was approaching Buenos Aires, with several opportunities for the vanguard to be harassed, something Rosas resisted inexplicably, except for some isolated aftershocks of the federal Hilario Lagos in Luján. There were also defections in the top commanders of the Argentine Confederation, and General Ángel Pacheco was leaving his defensive positions “to retire to his stays” “Pacheco is betraying us,” Colonel Bustos tells Rosas on January 27, and he decides to ignore us. to the warnings about an agreement with Urquiza from his unfair commander “ Let's quit work for tomorrow” was Rosas's response that sniffed the return of the taba of history. Against it.  

“It was first about the sad disappointment we have just experienced about the spirit that we had supposed to animate the province of Buenos Aires,” says a conversation Uruguayan Captain César Díaz with Urquiza, in the transit through Pergamino and Chivilcoy, burned fields in retinas and smell, “The general complained and rightly so that he had not found in it the least cooperation. The slightest sign of sympathy...” If it hadn't been, he said, the interest I have to promote the organization of the republic, I should have kept an ally of Rosas, because I am convinced that he is a very popular man in this country ”” closed Urquiza, who will be & of the few who would maintain a discreet monthly payment to Rosas in exile, and Díaz added, “the prestige of his power in 1852 was so great... and the people's confidence in the superiority of his genius had never abandoned him,” he topped over the Chief of the Gauchos, as he was known to Roses — and I feared — in Europe.  Thirty years later, writer Cunninghame Graham said that in the pulperías of the borders of Bahía Blanca, the humble and peasants toasted with a “Viva Rosas!  ”

 Homemade, the mother of all battles 

The Restorer of the Laws never doubted his popular ancestry but his destiny seemed cast, partly by a misunderstanding of the new economic reality of the world, in another, because he was overgrown and tired.  He was not the first Conqueror of the Desert of 1833 but a bureaucrat who spent whole days without leaving Palermo.   And he trusted his old instincts more than on the councils of his Junta de Gierra, among them the unitary that became federal to defend the fatherland in 1845, Martiniano Chilavert. Several of his generals recommended to retreat to Buenos Aires, who was in the spirit of the clouds against the “savage and traitor Urquiza,” and resist with the resources of a rich province, isolating the logistics of the invading force — something similar to the successful strategy against Lavalle in 1841 “Colonel Chilavert, you are a patriot,” Rosas replied on February 2, 1852, “ This battle will be decisive for all. Urquiza, me or any other prevailing, must immediately work on the National Constitution on the existing bases (something that the Treaty of Saint Nicholas actually did even with the smoking canyons of Santos Lugares, and with Roses already in England) Our real is the Empire of Brazil, because it is Empire,”  and we Republicans and Feds, joined their officers.

 “ As for the battle,” Sarmiento wrote the day after February 3, 1852, “can be read in Bulletin No. 26 a very interesting novel that we had the honor of composing Mitre and I ” There are even historians like Jorge Abelardo Ramos who call it “simacro” anyway, there was a fight that stretched about five hours between the multinational army, commanded by Urquiza, and the 23,000 men Rosas gathered between militiamen and veteran soldiers, fed up with guerting “Soldiers! Today... you will fight for freedom and glory Soldiers! If the tyrant and his slaves separate you, teach the world that they are invincible... this is the duty he imposes on you in the name of the Fatherland, your general and friend,” said Urquiza, and opposite Rosas, which was perfectly visible due to the short distance that the formidable armies were, said Iacute; to serene, “Colonel Chilavert, be the first to break your fires on the imperials you have at your forefront,” cutting the enemy, to the Brazilians.  Chilavert would be the first to unload the artillery at nine o'clock in the morning and, also, the last one that would resist until the end, and about three o'clock in the afternoon, the attacks of the imperials . Rosas again chooses his enemies, “the macaques”, disparaging the English emissary Gore, who would take him home in the hours of defeat,  after renouncing the Buenos Aires governorate in Hueco de los Sauces - the current Plaza Garay in Constitution. And close a chapter in the History of the Nation.  

There were two thousand dead, a truly low number by the number of fighters, and the majority were concentrated among the imperials and gauchos, and the center of the Rosistas camp, defended by Chilavert until he ran out of ammunition — and sent to search for the scattered ones on the battlefield.  Chilavert understood perfectly what it was: in Brazil the battle of Caseros is considered a triumph of Brazilian weapons, something true since the rest of the army commanded by Urquiza had a lacky performance, in fact the governor of Entre Ríos himself charged to the head of a battalion, and the subsequent parade of the imperials in Buenos Aires on February 20, a claim for the defeat of the Empire in Ituzaingó on that same date but in 1827  — in several versions there is a mantle of piety towards Urquiza for this humiliation. In his favor, the entrerriano made them parade to the trot, from balconies they shouted “murderers”, and prevented them from taking away the flags obtained in the War against Brazil. As a prize for the bravery of Chilavert, who even without weapons faced the soldiers of the Great Army until it was reduced, Urquiza the next day, after a brief dialogue, one that tells him traitor of the unitarians, the other who responds that the only traitor was Urquiza who received Brazilian money and ntilde; or to overthrow an Argentine government, he comes out to the cry “Fuse it immediately! “and they kill him with gunshots and butts, with a Chilavert who resists to his last breath.  There would be days without burial, like the almost 1500 feds in Caseros, several completed after the ceasefire, such as Claudio Cuenca, who attended the wounded, or Martín Santa Coloma, hero of Vuelta de Obligado y Quebracho, killed by order of Urquiza himself . The entire Aquino division, which had defected refusing to fight alongside the Brazilians, was hung in Palermo.  In subsequent days 500 people were killed and Buenos Aires was looted by a multinational army, in a unique and unrepeatable event for the Buenos Aires.  

No, the fall of Rosas had not changed Urquiza, nor the country. A fan of the order was replaced by another very similar, Urquiza  owner of economy and lives on the Litoral , who had in mind an organization in mind. on the national level to orient progress towards free trade, with federal roots.  In that parade Brigadier General Urquiza stubbed to enter with poncho and band punched through Florida, on Rosas's horse, for the horror of Buenos Aires's high society. And the unitarians, the emigrants and the Rosistas joined without cracks against the winner of Caseros,  battle the starting point of the Constitution, and the origin of the consolidation of Buenos Aires's hegemony.

Sources: Rube, J. H.  Towards Caseros. 1850-1852 . Buenos Aires: Editions La Bastille. 1975; Saenz Quesada, M.  Argentina. History of the country and its people . Buenos Aires: South American. 2001; Sarmiento, D.F.  Campaign in the Large Army . Buenos Aires: Kraft. 1957; Saldias, A.  History of the Argentine Confederation  Three Volumes. Buenos Aires: Hypamerica. 1986.

Publication Date: 03/02/2021

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