Battle of Puebla

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Not to be confused with Siege of Puebla (1847) or Siege of Puebla (1863).
Battle of Puebla
Part of the French intervention in Mexico
The Battle of Puebla marked one of the most significant episodes in Mexican military history.
Depictions of the battle showing Mexican cavalry overwhelming the French troops below the fort at Loreto
Date May 5, 1862
Location Puebla, Mexico
Result Mexican republican victory[1][2]
Political victory for Mexican republicans[1]
Belligerents
Mexico Second Federal Republic of Mexico France French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Mexico Ignacio Zaragoza France Charles de Lorencez
Strength
4,500-12,000[3] 6,500 soldiers[3][4]
Casualties and losses
83 killed,
131 wounded,
12 missing
462 killed,
~300 wounded,
8 captured

The Battle of Puebla took place on 5 May 1862 near the city of Puebla during the French intervention in Mexico. The battle ended in a victory for the Mexican Army over the occupying French forces. The French eventually overran the Mexicans in subsequent battles, but the Mexican victory at Puebla against a much better equipped and larger[5] French army provided a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and also helped slow the French army's advance towards Mexico City.

The Mexican victory is celebrated yearly on the fifth of May. Its celebration is regional in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla,[6][7][8][9] where the holiday is celebrated as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (English: The Day of the Battle of Puebla).[10][11][12] There is some limited recognition of the holiday in other parts of the country. This holiday remains very popular in the United States where it is celebrated annually as Cinco de Mayo.

Background[edit]

The 1858–60 Mexican civil war known as The Reform War had caused distress throughout Mexico's economy. Upon taking office as the elected president in 1861, Benito Juárez was forced to suspend payments of interest on foreign debts for a period of two years. At the end of October 1861 diplomats from Spain, France, and Britain met in London to form the Tripartite Alliance, the main purpose of which was to launch an allied invasion of Mexico, take control of Veracruz, its major port, and force the Mexican government to negotiate terms for the repayment of its debts and for reparations for alleged harm to foreign citizens in Mexico. In December 1861 Spanish forces landed in Veracruz; the British and French followed in early January. The allied troops occupied the port city of Veracruz and then advanced to Orizaba. The Tripartite Alliance fell apart by early April 1862 when it became clear that the French wanted to impose harsh demands on the Juarez government and provoke war. The British and Spanish troops withdrew from Mexico in April 1862 leaving the French to march on Mexico City. Napoleon III wanted to seize the opportunity presented by the American Civil War to set up a puppet Mexican regime.

Event[edit]

Map of the battle's terrain

The French expeditionary force at the time was led by General Charles de Lorencez. The battle came about by a misunderstanding of the French forces’ agreement to withdraw to the coast. When the Mexican people saw these French soldiers on the march, they took it that hostilities had recommenced and felt threatened. To add to the mounting concerns, it was discovered that political negotiations for the withdrawal had broken down. A vehement complaint was lodged by the Mexicans to General Lorencez who took the effrontery as a plan to assail his forces. Lorencez decided to hold up his withdrawal to the coast by occupying Orizaba instead, which prevented the Mexicans from being able to defend the passes between Orizaba and the landing port of Veracruz. The 33-year-old Mexican Commander General, Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, fell back to Acultzingo Pass where he and his army were badly beaten in a skirmish with Lorencez's forces on 28 April. Zaragoza retreated to Puebla which was heavily fortified – it had been held by the Mexican government since the Reform War. To its north stood the forts Loreto and Guadalupe on opposite hilltops. Zaragoza had a trench dug to join the forts via the saddle.

Lorencez was led to believe that the people of Puebla were friendly to the French, and that the Mexican Republican garrison which kept the people in line would be overrun by the population once he made a show of force. This would prove to be a serious miscalculation on Lorencez's part. On 5 May 1862, against all advice, Lorencez decided to attack Puebla from the north. However, he started his attack a little too late in the day, using his artillery just before noon and by noon advancing his infantry. By the third attack the French required the full engagement of all their reserves. The French artillery had run out of ammunition, so the third infantry attack went unsupported. The Mexican forces and the Republican garrison both put up a stout defense and even took to the field to defend the positions between the hilltop forts.

As the French retreated from their final assault, Zaragoza had his cavalry attack them from the right and left while troops concealed along the road pivoted out to flank them badly. By 3 p.m. the daily rains had started, making a slippery quagmire of the battlefield. Lorencez withdrew to distant positions, counting 462 of his men killed against only 83 of the Mexicans. He waited a couple of days for Zaragoza to attack again, but Zaragoza held his ground. Lorencez then completely withdrew to Orizaba.

Aftermath[edit]

The Battle of Puebla was an inspirational event for wartime Mexico, and it provided a stunning revelation to the rest of the world which had largely expected a rapid victory for French arms.[13]

Slowed by their loss at Puebla, the French forces retreated and regrouped, and the invasion continued after Napoleon III determinedly sent additional troops to Mexico. The French were eventually victorious, winning the Second Battle of Puebla on 17 May 1863 and pushing on to Mexico City. When the capital fell, Juárez's government was forced into exile in the remote north.[13]

With the backing of France, the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian became Emperor of Mexico in the short-lived Second Mexican Empire. "Some have argued that the true French occupation was a response to growing U.S. power and to the Monroe Doctrine (America for the Americans). Napoleon III believed that if the United States was allowed to prosper indiscriminately, it would eventually become a power in and of itself."[14]

Fort Guadalupe

Celebration[edit]

On 9 May 1862, President Juárez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday,[15][16][17][18][19] regarded as "Battle of Puebla Day" or "Battle of Cinco de Mayo". Although today it is recognised in some countries as a day of Mexican heritage celebration, it is not a federal holiday in Mexico.[20]

A common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day,[21] the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.[22] Mexico celebrates Independence Day on the 16th of September, commemorating the beginning of the war of Independence (September 16, 1810, Grito de Dolores).[23] Mexico also observes the culmination of the war of Independence, which lasted 11 years, on the 27th of September.

Since the 1930s, a re-enactment of the Battle of Puebla has been held each year at Peñón de los Baños, a rocky outcrop close to Mexico City International Airport.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Christopher Minster (2011). "Latin American history: Cinco de Mayo/The Battle of Puebla". About.com. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Booth, William (5 May 2011). "In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo a more sober affair". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Cinco de Mayo". Mexico Online. 2007-04-25. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  4. ^ DeRouen, Karl R.; Heo, Uk (2005). Defense and security: a compendium of national armed forces and security policies. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 472. ISBN 978-1-85109-781-4. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  5. ^ The following sources are mentioning that Zaragoza was heading 12,000 troops : see The Cinco de Mayo and French Imperialism - HICKS Peter, Fondation Napoléon, and General Gustave Léon Niox book, Expédition du Mexique : 1861-1867, published in 1874 by Librairie militaire de J. Dumaine, p. 162 Read online
  6. ^ "Cinco de Mayo". Mexico Online: The Oldest and most trusted online guide to Mexico. 
  7. ^ Lovgren, Stefan (2006-05-05). "Cinco de Mayo, From Mexican Fiesta to Popular U.S. Holiday". National Geographic News. 
  8. ^ List of Public and Bank Holidays in Mexico April 14, 2008. This list indicates that Cinco de Mayo is not a día feriado obligatorio ("obligatory holiday"), but is instead a holiday that can be voluntarily observed.
  9. ^ Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in México Accessed May 5, 2009
  10. ^ Día de la Batalla de Puebla. 5 May 2011. "Dia de la Batalla de Puebla: 5 de Mayo de 1862." Colegio Rex: Marina, Mazatlan. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  11. ^ Día de la Batalla de Puebla (5 de Mayo). Guia de San Miguel. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  12. ^ Happy “Battle of Puebla” Day. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  13. ^ a b Beezley, William H. (2011). Mexico in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-19-515381-1. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  14. ^ Cinco de Mayo. Calendar Updates.[unreliable source?]
  15. ^ Did You Know? Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in USA than Mexico. Tony Burton. Mexconnect. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  16. ^ Cultural adaptation: the Cinco de Mayo holiday is far more widely celebrated in the USA than in Mexico. Geo-Mexico. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  17. ^ 25 Latino Craft Projects: Celebrating Culture in Your Library. Ana Elba Pabon. Diana Borrego. 2003. American Library Association. Page 14. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  18. ^ 7 Things You May Not Know About Cinco de Mayo. Jesse Greenspan. May 3, 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  19. ^ Congressional Record - House. Page 7488. May 9, 2001. Retrieved 29 April 2013. Note that contrary to most other sources, this source states the date Juarez declared Cinco de Mayo to be a national holiday was 8 September 1862.
  20. ^ Statement by Mexican Consular official Accessed May 8, 2007.[not in citation given]
  21. ^ Adam Brooks. "Is Cinco De Mayo Really Mexico's Independence Day?". NBC 11 News. Retrieved 2008-09-18. [broken citation]
  22. ^ [1] Retrieved February 6, 2009.[dead link]
  23. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2011). "The World Factbook: Mexico". CIA. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  24. ^ Geo-Mexico (2010). "The Battle of Puebla is re-enacted each year on Cinco de Mayo (May 5), but in Mexico City". Geo-mexico.com. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 19°03′00″N 98°12′00″W / 19.0500°N 98.2000°W / 19.0500; -98.2000