*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Almost 300 years after Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca on behalf of Spain, the colonial government was overtaken for good on December 9, 1824 at the Battle of Ayacucho. With King Ferdinand VII weakened in Europe by a military revolt, the uprising managed to secure independence for Peru and the rest of Spanish South America.
The first hints of trouble for the Crown came in 1807, when Napoleon began to sweep through central and western Europe, destabilizing regimes from the Iberian Peninsula to Austria. Peru remained loyal to the Spanish government at the time, realizing it would have to manage itself using local governors appointed by Viceroy of Peru Jose Fernando de Abascal y Sousa. While the motherland wrote the new Spanish Constitution of 1812 with the monarchy in exile, small rebellions were suppressed from 1811 to 1815.
By 1821, independence movements in other nations had spilled over into Peru. Jose de San Martin brought reinforcements from Chile, feeling comfortable enough in his successes to declare Peru free after capturing parts of Lima on July 12th. As Simon Bolivar took charge a year later, the fight shifted deeper into royalist territory.
General Jose de la Serna -- Viceroy of Peru after overthrowing his predecessor -- marched his army in pursuit of the nationalists wherever he could find them. Knowing his soldiers were all he could muster because reinforcements had refused to leave Spain since 1820, de la Serna methodically slashed through the untrained and undisciplined opposition. Time after time, Peruvians fighting for independence were chased from the field.
Bolivar, unbound by the conventions of the Spanish government, was able to turn to his fellow South American revolutionaries for help. As the colonial administration erupted into chaos near the end of 1823 -- Ferdinand managed to upend the Constitutional Government -- Bolivar sensed the opportunity to move into Upper Peru to the south and sent his second-in-command, Antonio Jose de Sucre, to attack during the spring months.
Sucre, aware he could not win a battle based on tactics, forced his army to retreat when he came face-to-face with a royalist attack in early December. Shifting his soldiers closer to Ayacucho, he managed to create a near-evenly matched battle: the rebels only had about 500 fewer men than their royalist counterparts.
As de la Serna and soldiers backing Spanish rule marched toward Sucre and his troops on December 9, 1824, they lost the element of surprise within moments of the opening salvo. A slight hill along the side of the battlefield allowed Sucre to see how the attackers would be forced to attack, allowing him to position his troops to not only meet the enemy, but sweep in behind.
With men on the royalist left running for their lives, the rest of the army slid over in an attempt to counter the advance of the nationalists. Sucre’s units, moving as a cohesive front towards the opposition, overran the king’s men and captured de la Serna. The battle was over, with more than 2,500 royalists dead or wounded.
That afternoon, acting leader Jose Canterac signed off on the end of the Peruvian War of Independence. In Spain, the act would be seen as a conspiracy against the crown, with some historians arguing the results were agreed before the Battle of Ayacucho took place. Temporarily unified, Peru and Upper Peru would separate the following July, with the independent nation of Bolivia being born as a result.
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