Who was José de San Martín?
José de San Martín, the ‘’El Libertador’’ of Argentina, Peru, and Chile, was a Spanish-Argentine general. He was instrumental in winning the independence of the southern and central parts of South America from the Spanish Empire. He gave up the Viceroyalty of the ‘Río de la Plata’ at an early age to pursue studies in Malaga, Spain. He is known for his war strategies that led to the victories of ‘the Battle of Chacabuco’ and ‘the Battle of Maipú,’ which liberated Chile from royalist (the Latin American and European supporters of the various governing bodies of the Spanish Monarchy) rule. He eventually crushed the Spanish rule in Lima and was hence hailed as the ''Protector of Peru'' and the national hero of Argentina. Martín met Simon Bolivar at Guayaquil, Ecuador, on July 22, 1822, after which Bolivar took the charge of liberating Peru. The minutes of the meeting are not known, as it was a closed-door meeting. San Martin abruptly left the country after resigning from the command of his army, and also excluding himself from the military and politics, and sailed for Europe in 1824.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on February 25, 1778, in Yapeyu (present-day Argentina), José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras was the fifth and the youngest son of Juan de San Martín, a failed Spanish soldier; and Gregoria Matorras del Ser. His family moved to Buenos Aires when he was four years old.
In 1783, his father, Juan, moved to Spain and settled in Madrid. Sometime later, the family moved to Malaga and San Martín was enrolled in 'school of temporalities.' He joined the Regiment of Murcia in 1789, even before finishing the six-year-long elementary education.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Martín started him military career as a cadet in the 'Murcian Infantry Unit.' He served in several Spanish campaigns in North Africa and France. He also served in the navy during the War of the Second Coalition. His ship was captured by British forces and he was their prisoner for some time. He became a captain in 1804.
In the 'War of Oranges,' in 1801, he fought for Spain against Portugal.
He participated in the blockade of Gibraltar, while he quickly moved up in ranks.
After France had invaded Spain in 1808, he fought in the Peninsular War and was made the adjutant-general.
In 1808, Martín served the Sevilla (Seville) junta, and his gallantry in the 'Battle of Bailén' (1808) earned him the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In 1811, he was inducted into the 'Lodge of Rational Knights.' Martín resigned from the Spanish army, and in September 1811, went to South America to join the independence movement in Argentina.
He became the commander of the Sagunto Dragoons after the 'Battle of Albuera' (1811).
In 1812, he traveled to Buenos Aires to serve the United Provinces of the 'Río de la Plata.' To prove his loyalty, Martín organized a corps of the 'Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers' that year to suppress the Spanish royalists in Peru who were threatening the Argentinian government.
In 1813, he again defeated a Spanish force that had encroached on the Parana River. The victory made him the head of the armed forces in Buenos Aires.
Continue Reading Below
Martín was one of the leaders of the secretive group 'Lautaro Lodge,' which aimed at independence for the entire Latin America. He was ordered to relieve General Manuel Belgrano of Argentina's "Army of the North" in Tucumán. The general was persuaded by the viceroy of Peru and was defeated at the 'Battle of Ayohuma' on November 2, 1813.
Martín assumed his duties in January 1814 and soon built up a trained and formidable fighting force to attack Upper Peru.
He realized that the troops needed to cross the Andes in the south and liberate Chile, to lay the siege on Peru. The troops decided to invade from the south and by sea.
Invasion of Chile
Martín became the governor of the Province of Cuyo in 1814 and decided to support Chilean independence leader Bernardo O'Higgins over Chilean general Jose Miguel Carrera and his brothers.
In July 1816, President Juan Martín de Pueyrredón approved Martín's plan to attack Peru from the south.
Crossing the Andes
In January 1817, Martín's well-trained and well-equipped Army of the Andes set off. He fooled the Spanish forces in Chile who had planned to attack him while crossing a pass that they had expected him to choose.
Martín's army passed through the south far from where the Spanish forces had expected.
However, extreme weather conditions made the crossing challenging. Martín stuck to the plan with a meager casualty; his forces entered Chile unopposed in February 1817.
The Battle of Chacabuco
As soon as they realized the dupe, the Spanish forces scrambled to drive away Martín 's Army of the Andes out of Santiago. Governor Casimiro Marcó del Pont made efforts to delay the entry until the Spanish cavalries could arrive.
Continue Reading Below
The two forces finally met at the 'Battle of Chacabuco' on February 12, 1817. Martín crushed the opponent and made a triumphant entry in Santiago.
The Battle of Maipu
Despite the victory at Santiago, Martín wanted the Spanish to be removed from Peru to gain absolute independence for Argentina and Chile. He moved back to Buenos Aires to acquire resources.
Unfortunately, he soon had to move back to Chile as Royalist, and Spanish forces in southern Chile with the support of the cavalries were threatening Santiago.
Martín quickly took the patriot forces under his command and attacked the Spanish at the Battle of Maipu of April 5, 1818.
With Martín's glorious victory at Maipu, Chile was liberated and ensured no further attack from Spain.
After securing Chile, Martín finally set off to Peru where he established a navy for Chile, as the Santiago and Buenos Aires governments were virtually bankrupt. He struggled to explain the Chileans and Argentines the benefits of Peru's liberation. He was successful in the task.
In August 1820, he left Valparaiso with a modest army.
Martín and his army headed toward Lima and successfully laid siege on Pisco (September 7, 1820) and Huacho (November 12, 1820).
Since Lima people dreaded slaves and Indians more than they did the Argentines and Chileans, Martín was welcomed in the city. He made a triumphal entry on July 12, 1821.
Continue Reading Below
Martín was honored with the title of "Protector of Peru" on August 3, 1821, after securing Peru's independence on July 28. He set up a government under which the economy stabilized, slaves were released, the Peruvian Indians were freed, and censorship and the inquisition were abolished.
The Guayaquil Conference
Venezuelan military and political leader Simón Bolívar and his close friend, general, and politician Antonio José de Sucre chased the Spanish out of northern South America.
On July 26, 1822, Martín and Bolívar met for 'The Guayaquil Conference' in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The meeting, however, ended in a hostility between the two men.
To maintain the peace, Martín stepped down and let Bolívar have the credit of crushing the last Spanish opposition.
Martín by then had become a controversial figure in Peru. Some wanted him as the king, while some opposed him. Hence he had to retire abruptly.
By September 1822, he had left Peru and returned to Chile. He then traveled to Argentina to see his ailing wife. Unfortunately, she had died before he could reach her.
Martín and his young daughter Mercedes Tomasa then moved to France.
Personal Life & Death
Martín lived a Spartan life. Though he was loyal to his wife, María de los Remedios de Escalada, he had a clandestine affair in Lima.
He was on a heavy dose of laudanum, a form of opium to heal his wounds. The dosage eventually caused him hallucinations.
Martín died on August 17, 1850, and was buried in the crypt of the 'Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne.'
Martín's remains were finally buried in a stately tomb at the 'Buenos Aires Cathedral,' where it was brought in 1878.