Battle of La Concepción
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (July 2011)|
|Battle of Concepción|
|Part of War of the Pacific|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Captain Ignacio Carrera Pinto †||Colonel Juan Gastó|
|77 soldiers||300 soldiers, 1 000 guerrillas|
|Casualties and losses|
|77 soldiers||250 guerrillas killed + 40 soldiers (injured or killed)|
The Battle of Concepción (Spanish: Batalla de Concepción) was fought on July 9 and July 10, 1882, during the Sierra Campaign of the War of the Pacific. Heavily outnumbered, the Chilean detachment of 77 men under the command of Lieutenant Ignacio Carrera Pinto was annihilated by a 1.300 Peruvian force, many of them armed with spears, commanded by Col. Juan Gasto and Ambrosio Salazar after a 27 hour fight in the small town of Concepcion in the Peruvian Andes.
After the defeat at Miraflores and the invasion of the Peruvian capital city, many Peruvian officers escaped to the mountains and organized resistance. Among these men was Col. Andres Caceres, who successfully gained the sympathies of the farmers who lived totally disconnected from the preceding campaigns.
The Chilean occupation was directed by the recently appointed Admiral Patricio Lynch, who sent a division which divided itself into several columns with the intention to sweep the Andes and to gain control of the towns in the region. The first major force to be sent was a division under the command of Col Ambrosio Letelier, who was successful in his task, yet committed several abuses against the population, he was thus recalled to Lima and sent to Santiago to be court-martialed. The abuses perpetrated by Letelier's division generated discontent and hate of the invading troops, allowing Caceres to increase his troops easily.
In Lima, the Battle of Sangra, took place on June 26, 1881, at the Hacienda de Sangrar, where a Chilean company commanded by José Luis Araneda fought with Peruvian forces commanded by Manuel Encarnación Vento.
On 1882, Col. Estanislao del Canto was sent to the Junin Department with orders to maintain control on the region and to find and eliminate Caceres forces. Del Canto's division had about 2.300 men, and was formed by the "Tacna" 2nd Line, Lautaro and "Chacabuco" 6th Line infantry battalions, one "Yungay Carabiners" Cav. Squadron and one artillery brigade from the 1st Artillery Regt.
At Pucara on February 5, Caceres's and del Canto's forces clashed. On the 22, Caceres defeated his fellow Peruvian Col. Arnaldo Panizo at Acuchimay, taking control of Panizo's army and increasing his own one.
Ambrosio Salazar guerrillas
On February 8 reaches Comas, and Ambrosio Salazar Márquez, was sent by Cáceres to organize a guerrilla in Comas, but his attempt to organize was rejected by the rural farmers.
Chilean sacks in rural ranches in Huancayo, led to the Mayor of Comas asked Salazar to return to their assignment. Added to these facts the previous issue of the Chilean Ambrosio Letelier who committed several abuses against the Peruvian farmers. Ambrosio Salazar weapon to residents in two columns, one of them with 30 guns and 50 men to construct stone traps. They achieved a victory in Sierra Lumi, where they get more weapons and support of the population. Salazar sends a request to Cáceres for support with military forces.
The guerrillas from Comas had to confront the lack of weapons since the peasants were armed only with spears. Then peasants arrested Salazar in early July 1882, when arrives two columns sent by Caceres to reorganize the guerrillas with orders to attack Concepción.
Ambrosio Salazar commanded the column Cazadores de Comas and the Guerrilla Andamarca who accompanied them with spares.
The news of the Chilean situation reached Caceres, who saw an opportunity to decisively destroy the entire division fighting them on their garrisons. Thus, Caceres decided to launch a simultaneous attack on several Chilean garrisons in the Andes. Gasto, with Pucara Nº4 and America battalions, plus the Libres de Ayacucho columns, was to join the Salazar guerrillas (i.e. montoneras) at Comas and to march in direction to Concepcion, meanwhile Col. Maximo Tafur was sent to La Oroya, with the objective to destroy the bridge over there and closing any useful escape route for del Canto. Caceres himself with the rest of his troops would attack the 4th company of the "Santiago" 5th Line Battalion at Marcavalle.
Chilean garrison situation
Del Canto's division was scattered in the southern region of the Peruvian Andes, divided into small groups stationed in several towns and enduring the severe lack of supplies - such as food, clothes, shoes, ammunition, etc. - and heavy casualties due to disease and the cold of these heights. In fact, the most common cause of death in the Chilean division were tifus and frostbite. The Chilean high command was reasonably very concerned about the situation of the soldiers, and asked to Chilean authorities permission to leave the mountains, but these requests fell on deaf ears. The situation turned desperate, so Col. del Canto himself traveled to Lima to ask the authorization to retreat. After the report of Dr. Jovino Novoa about the troops state, the permission to retreat was granted.
After an initial success, the lack of supplies and medicines, combined with a high mortality among Chilean lines due to unknown illnesses and cold temperatures, forced Estanislao del Canto to retreat from the Andes to Lima. So, the plan was to evacuate the division gathering in order the scattered garrisons as the column left the mountains.
The garrison posted at Concepcion was the 4th company of the "Chacabuco" 6th Line Battalion, formed by 77 soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Ignacio Carrera Pinto. Without knowing it, he was promoted to Captain, but he would never receive it. Along with the soldiers traveled two women, one of them pregnant and about to deliver. Also, eleven men were sick at the moment of the battle. The garrison also lacked ammunition, having only one hundred shots per soldier.
Carrera Pinto was waiting for the retiring division in order to join it and continuing refolding from the Andes. An attack wasn't expected, nevertheless he maintained the garrison on an alert status. He did not know that when Col. del Canto finally could leave his position at Huancayo, its south wing was defeated by Caceres' followers at Marcavalle, delaying again the advance of the Chilean troops towards Concepcion. Meanwhile, the montoneras of Ambrosio Salazar and the Peruvian regular forces of Juan Gasto were already gathered at Leon hill and waiting for the attack signal.
By 14:00 of July 9, the Chilean sentries sounded the alarm announcing the presence of enemy troops. The Chileans could contemplate on the surrounding hills the Peruvian troops and several hundreds of farmers who were shouting, ready to penetrate in the town. The Peruvian troops outnumbered the Chilean forces by 17 to 1.
Chilean battle plan
Since he was outnumbered, Carrera Pinto's plan was to fortify the garrison at the town central square, blocking the four corners of it and to resist there until del Canto's arrival. Hence, Carrera Pinto ordered to divide the troops into three sections to defend each one of the entrances to the square, occupying the following positions: on the northern corner, Arturo Perez Canto with the first group; on the northwestern, Luis Cruz Martinez with other twenty soldiers; on the southeastern point, Julio Montt Salamanca with twenty more; and himself, with the remaining sixteen, went to occupy the southwestern corner. When the enemy overpowered these positions, the troops would retreat to the town's church.
On July 8 Salazar's forces left Comas, arriving at night at San Antonio de Ocopa where they made camp. There the Bishop Manuel Teodoro del Valle told about the movement of forces in Concepcion. On July 9 they marched from Santa Rosa Ocopa through Alayo, Quichuay and Lastay. In Concepcion, Salazar decided to attack only with the forces under his command, the column Cazadores de Comas and Guerrilla de Andamarca. The Colonel decided to support it spent in the attack. On the same day the guerrillas from Quichuay and Vilca commanded by the Salazar brothers and guerrillas from San Jeronimo under the command of Melchor Gonzales all arrived to serve as reinforcements.
The Chilean division of Del Canto, after leaving Huancayo, was attacked by Cáceres' Peruvian forces delaying his return to Concepción. In addition to the 13:30 of the same Sunday, Del Canto received a note from Capt. Carrera Pinto indicated that no problems in Concepción.
It was 14:30 when Peruvian forces appeared on the top of the hills of Piedra Parada and El Leon in Concepción.
Peruvian forces began to come down in the direction of the square; Ambrosio Salazar with the guerrillas in the south from El Leon and the soldiers of Juan Gasto from Piedra Parada, encircling the town, raiding the square Chilean and attacking positions. Chilean forces mixed with bayonet attacks on the fire of their rifles.
From one of the flanks, the peasants of Comas advanced towards their enemy. The Chilean soldiers, aligned in a double row formation, opened fire at the incoming forces. In a second attack, this time the Chileans had to endure sniper shots from the ceilings and windows of the surrounding buildings, which caused seven casualties. Carrera Pinto tried a bayonet charge in order to break the siege and escape, but he was wounded in his left arm, leaving him no choice but to fall back to the church and garrison his troops inside.
Juan Gastó installed a command post to direct his forces and as a relief center for the wounded. The Peruvian attack continued, including snipers on the roofs and windows, until all Chileans went back to the center of the square and be a very exposed position retreated to the barracks that neatly walled with furniture. All soldiers took defensive positions, including the wounded.
It was 19:00 when the guerrillas of Orcotuna, commanded by Teodosio Lopez, and Mito, commanded by Aurelio Gutierres, arrived to reinforce the Peruvian troops.
The Chilean Lieutenant, aware of the desperate of their situation, sent three soldiers trying to connect with del Canto's division stationed at Huancayo and to inform of the attack which they were maintaining. Nevertheless, none of them managed to pass the perimeter of Concepcion and were killed. In the dark of night, the Chilean forces to try to leave Huancayo, which they did not do, and returned to the barracks.
Gasto sent a parliamentarian trying to convince Carrera Pinto to surrender, but his plea was refused when the latter sent him a reply letter.
|“||To the Chilean garrison Commander. Present. Considering that our forces, which surround Concepcion, are numerically superior to the ones under your command, and wishing to avoid an obviously impossible fight, I suggest you unconditionally surrender your forces, guaranteeing the respect for your officer's and soldier's lives. In the case of a negative reply, the forces under my command shall proceed with the utmost energy in the discharging of their duties. May God keep you||”|
|“||In the capital of Chile, in one of its main streets, exists immortalized in bronze the statue of the father of our Independence, General Don Jose Miguel Carrera, whose own blood runs through my veins; that's why you will understand that neither as a Chilean nor as a descendant of him will I be intimidated by the number of your troops nor by the obligatory threats. May God keep you.||”|
—Ignacio Carrera Pinto
Second attack and ending
Col. Juan Gastó reported to Ambrosio Salazar that he withdrew from Concepción, leaving Salazar to do the task of taking the barracks. Adding to the attacking troops with eleven people with their own rifles was Dr. Tello Santiago Manrique, who joined the Peruvian troops that night.
Ambrosio Salazar ordered to Cipriano Camacachi and Pablo Bellido to fuel spray roofs of the convent to force out the Chileans, who responded from the windows of the building. The barmaid who was in labour under those unfortunate circumstances, delivered a child.
The Chileans practically exhausted their ammunition trying to contain this new attack. Anyway, the Peruvians managed to set the church ceiling on fire.
Carrera Pinto and the survivors tried to take refuge in a contiguous house to the church and to contain the Peruvians there. One soldier informed him about the Peruvian forces, but he decided to stage yet another bayonet charge, saying: "The Chileans will not surrender! Long Live Chile!!!" After this, he led another bayonet charge with some soldiers, which caused the death of some guerrillas, and as a result Ignacio Carrera Pinto was killed by some Peruvian riflemen.
Salazar's guerrillas occupied the roofs and walls by attacking the Chileans in their last positions inside the church.
The Chilean soldiers took their commanding officer's body and retreated to the burning church again. Another attack from a horde of montoneras managed to perforate the wall of the ardent church but was contained by another bayonet attack of about twelve Chilean soldiers led by 2nd Lieutenant Arturo Perez Canto.
At 07:00 of July 10, guerrillas from Apata commanded by Andrés Avelino Ponce and spear-armed guerrillas from Paccha commanded by Andrés Bedoya Seijas arrived. The guerrillas began to open fire at 2nd. Lt. Cruz Martinez and his troops. At 10:00 and the Chileans did not have ammunition, fire and smoke from their hand made torches forced them to leave the church premises.
At around eleven in the morning of July 10, the Chilean garrison was reduced to only nine soldiers them under the command of the 2nd Lt. Luis Cruz Martinez (15 years old at the time). Another attack caused another 4 dead on the Chilean side. Salazar asked the survivors to accept an honorable surrender.
Cruz Martínez refused this latest offer of surrender, saying "For the fatherland, the Chileans will never surrender!" and after these words ordered a final rifle barriage and later led a bayonet charge with his remaining soldiers and they were all killed by Peruvian gunfire as a result of this. Sadly, Gasto could do nothing to prevent the women and the newborn of being killed and dismembered by his montoneras and several of his soldiers from the battalions. He left the town later in the day.
After a 27 hour battle, the Peruvian Army had more than 40 casualties (injured or killed) based on Ambrosio Salazar's official report. Moreover, 250 guerrillas were also killed in the battle. All the Chilean soldiers were killed.
At noon, the Chilean reinforcement column from Huancayo appeared, which after learning that all 77 Chilean soldiers had died and that two women and a newborn had been killed and dismembered, sent a cavalry troop with orders to kill any man between sixteen and fifty years old and order to burn down the town of Concepcion with torches.
|“||In the city there were only 20 people left; where 18 of them were executed immediately, including an elder Mr. Salazar, while two people managed to escape to the hills. All the houses were looted and burned by the Chilean people.||”|
—Manuel F. Horta, reporter for the newspaper El Eco de Junín. August 26, 1882 
Col. Del Canto ordered to extract the hearts of the four officers: Captain Ignacio Carrera Pinto, Lieutenant Julio Montt and Second Lieutenants Arturo Perez Canto and Luis Cruz Martinez and to send them in formalin to Santiago. The rest of the bodies of the 77 Chileans were buried to a flank of the church. It would be not until 1911 when, in one of Santiago, Chile's churches, the hearts of the 4 officers killed were permanently interred with a marker dedicated in memory to all 77 killed in these two memorable days in Chilean history.
This battle has a strong meaning for both countries. In Chile, every July 9 the Day of the National Flag (Spanish: Día de la Bandera) is celebrated, in remembrance of those who chose to die defending their flag rather than surrendering themselves. For the Peruvians, it is a milestone for their resistance in the face of invaders and a triumph considering how poorly equipped they were. Concepcion is one of Peru's Heroic Cities and on the day of the Peruvian victory, in its honor a national youth Marching band competition is held here.
Every July 9, all across Chile in ceremonies marking the final great Chilean military defeat, the battle is commemorated by the famous Juramento de la Bandera (Pledge to the Flag) recited throughout Chile in memory of this great and memorable battle, by the officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, enlisted personnel, officer cadets and NCO cadets of the Chilean Army to the Flag of Chile, a yearly solemn tradition ever since it was first recited on July 9, 1939.
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- based on Ambrosio Salazar official report
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- Mellafe, Rafael; Pelayo, Mauricio (2004). La Guerra del Pacífico en imágenes, relatos, testimonios. Centro de Estudios Bicentenario.
- Pelayo, Mauricio. "La Guerra del Pacífico". Retrieved 2010.
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- Pelayo González, Mauricio. "La Guerra del Pacífico: Los Héroes olvidados - Campañas terrestres de la Guerra del Pacífico - Campaña de la Sierra - Combate de la Concepción" (in Spanish). www.laguerradelpacifico.cl. Retrieved 2012-06-22.
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- del Canto, Estanislao (1927). Memorias Militares. Imprenta La Tracción.
- Ejército de Chile. "Combate de la Concepción". Retrieved 2009.
- Mellafe, Rafael, and Mauricio Pelayo (2004). La Guerra del Pacífico en imágenes, relatos, testimonios. Centro de Estudios Bicentenario.
- Ojeda, Jorge. "Second campaign to the Junin Department". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. Retrieved 2009.
- Reyno, Manuel, and Edmundo González (1985). La Historia del Ejército de Chile. Estado Mayor del Ejército de Chile.