Battle of Lake Maracaibo

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Battle of Lake Maracaibo
Part of Venezuelan War of Independence
Acción del castillo de Maracaibo.jpg
Painting by José María Espinosa Prieto (1796-1883)
Date 24 July 1823
Location Maracaibo Lake, Venezuela
Result Decisive Colombian Victory
Belligerents
 Gran Colombia Spain Spanish Monarchy
Commanders and leaders
Gran Colombia José Prudencio Padilla Spain Ángel Laborde

The Battle of Lake Maracaibo also known as the "Naval Battle of the Lake" was fought on 24 July 1823 on Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo between Admiral José Prudencio Padilla and royalist Captain Ángel Laborde.

The battle was won by the republican forces, and was the last battle of the Venezuelan War of Independence and the larger Spanish American wars of independence. The ships belonged to the forces of Gran Colombia led by Simón Bolívar.

The Battle of Carabobo of 1821 is usually seen in the historiography as the culminating battle for Venezuelan independence. Many historians point out that if the Battle of Lake Maracaibo had been a victory for the royalist forces, the Spanish Crown might have set a new front in Western Venezuela from which to attack the republican forces stationed in Venezuela. As a result of the loss, the Spanish Crown did not send any new regiments to Venezuela, and finally accepted Venezuelan independence as a result of this second decisive patriot victory, although it did not formally recognize the new nation for more than a decade afterward.

24 July is a regional holiday of Zulia State.

Battle[edit]

During this Naval Battle, the republican squadron was led by Admiral José Prudencio Padilla against the Royalist forces commanded by Ángel Laborde. After three brief encounters with the Spanish squadron, the republican squadron went to Moporo port, where they spent the first half of July without any major activities until 17 July. When the commander Laborde sent to Padilla an intimation and this rejected it, so the following days were spent in feverish war, where the two commanders kept their ships, concentrating supplies, and training their crews in order to combat.

On 23 July during the afternoon the Royalists went to the west coast of the lake with Captain Chico and anchored between this site and Bella Vista, north of Maracaibo, being in line of battle, but the Republicans remained at sail until the evening and ended up going to Los Puertos de Altagracia, and all the ships in a parallel line to the East Coast, moving their forces to Punta de Piedra.

On the morning of 24 July, the Republican boat commanders were called to the Independent brig where Admiral Padilla gave final instructions to the commanders, making some changes and - still not satisfied - at 10:30, went in person to board the whole squadron, in order to rally their endowments and encourage in an effective manner so that when the time to attack the Royalists, with the utmost boldness and enthusiasm. At 10:40 the wind veered to the northwest and 10 minutes after the signal was prepared to sail, but having loosened the south calling, reserved the decision to raise anchor until it affirmed the breeze where it was favorable, despite all invited to attack the Royalist squadron was anchored at its head in a line parallel to the coast and very close to it.

At 14:00, the commander ordered the subtle forces and continue to weigh on Royalist boats in its class, at 14:20, made the signal to sail, and minutes later, to form the front line to attack simultaneously all enemy ships, observing movements that were agreed. As the brig Mars was located on the windward side and the Independent to leeward, were providing the ride so that it is perfectly formed and follow the line of battle for the implementation of the plan that Padilla had been proposed.

Depiction of the battle from c. 1830

The Republicans ships moved quickly over the Royalist squadron who remained anchored waiting for the attack, the south wing of the squad carrying the Admiral Padilla and the north wing was commanded by Captain Nicholas Joly, cutting off the retreat to the bay. At 15:04, they placed the sign of approaching the opponent, however raised have been answered by all vessels, to show thereby that nothing remained to be done. At 15:45, Royalist fleet squadrons opened fire on the Patriots, but the square of the Great Colombia, continued to advance without firing a shot, until being broken by the cannon fire and musketry. When broken bowsprits the Independent brig, threw themselves over the San Carlos, and began the approach, phase which decided the victory for Republicans.

As a result of the Patriot attack, many Royalist and other vessels were destroyed and captured. Royalists, in the most dire situation, strung cables and tried to escape, but failed in the attempt, because their larger vessels were captured. Most of the crew of the San Carlos jumped into the water and the same fate befell the other ships, except the brig-schooner Esperanza, which was destroyed by an explosion. Ultimately, only three schooners escaped.

At days end, Admiral Padilla ordered his squad to rest at the location where they had the combat. Later he went to the Port of Altagracia to repair the damage to their ships. Republican losses included 8 officers and 36 crew killed, with 14 officers and 150 crew wounded. Royalist casualties were higher, and 69 officers and 368 soldiers and sailors were taken prisoner by the Republicans.

After two hours of fierce battle, victory was obtained, which paved the way for negotiations with the Captain General of Venezuela, who, on 3 August, was forced to hand over the rest of the Spanish ships, The City of Maracaibo, The Fort at San Carlos, The Fort at San Felipe in Puerto Cabello, and all other sites occupied by the Spanish. The Spanish finally evacuated on the 5th and left Venezuelan territory.

References[edit]