French intervention in Mexico
Clockwise from left: French assault during the Second Battle of Puebla; French cavalry seize the Republican flag during the Battle of San Pablo del Monte; depiction of the execution of Emperor Maximilian I by Édouard Manet.
|Commanders and leaders|
|Benito Juárez|| Napoleon III
Maximilian I †
|Casualties and losses|
|Total: 12,000 Mexicans dead,
|Total: approx. 12,000 dead|
The second French intervention in Mexico (Spanish: Segunda intervención francesa en México), also known as the Maximilian Affair, Mexican Adventure, the War of the French Intervention, the Franco-Mexican War or the Second Franco-Mexican War, was an invasion of Mexico by the Second French Empire, supported in the beginning by the United Kingdom and Spain. It followed President Benito Juárez's suspension of interest payments to foreign countries on 17 July 1861, which angered Mexico's major creditors: Spain, France and Britain.
Emperor Napoleon III of France was the instigator, justifying military intervention by claiming a broad foreign policy of commitment to free trade. For him, a friendly government in Mexico would ensure European access to Latin American markets. Napoleon also wanted the silver that could be mined in Mexico to finance his empire. Napoleon built a coalition with Spain and Britain while the U.S. was engaged in a full-scale civil war.
The three European powers signed the Treaty of London on 31 October, to unite their efforts to receive payments from Mexico. On 8 December the Spanish fleet and troops arrived at Mexico's main port, Veracruz. When the British and Spanish discovered however that France planned to seize all of Mexico, they quickly withdrew.
The subsequent French invasion resulted in the Second Mexican Empire,[a] which was supported by the Roman Catholic clergy, many conservative elements of the upper class, and some indigenous communities; the presidential terms of Benito Juárez (1858–71) were interrupted by the rule of the Habsburg monarchy in Mexico (1864–67). Conservatives, and many in the Mexican nobility, tried to revive the monarchical form of government (see: First Mexican Empire) when they helped to bring to Mexico an archduke from the Royal House of Austria, Maximilian Ferdinand, or Maximilian I. France had various interests in this Mexican affair, such as seeking reconciliation with Austria, which had been defeated during the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, counterbalancing the growing American Protestant power by developing a powerful Catholic neighboring empire, and exploiting the rich mines in the north-west of the country.
- 1 1862: Arrival of the French
- 2 1863: The French take the capital
- 3 1864: Arrival of Maximilian
- 4 1865: Beginning of Republican victories
- 5 1859-1867: American Diplomacy and Involvement
- 6 1866: French withdrawal and Republican victories
- 7 1867: Republicans take the capital
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
1862: Arrival of the French
The British, Spanish and French fleets arrived at Veracruz, between 8 and 17 December 1861 intending to pressure the Mexicans into settling their debts. The Spanish fleet seized San Juan de Ulúa and subsequently the capital Veracruz on 17 December. The European forces advanced to Orizaba, Cordoba and Tehuacán as it had been agreed in the Convention of Soledad. The city of Campeche surrendered to the French fleet on 27 February, and a French army, commanded by General Lorencez, arrived on 5 March. When the Spanish and British realised the French ambition to conquer Mexico, they withdrew their forces on 9 April, their troops leaving on 24 April. In May, the French man-of-war Bayonnaise blockaded Mazatlán for a few days.
The French army suffered an initial defeat in the Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862 (commemorated with the Cinco de Mayo holiday) against the Mexican forces commanded by General Ignacio Zaragoza. The pursuing Mexican army was then contained by the French at Orizaba, Veracruz, on 14 June. More French troops arrived on 21 September, and General Bazaine arrived with more reinforcements on 16 October. Tampico, Tamaulipas, was occupied by the French on 23 October, with Xalapa, Veracruz, taken peacefully on 12 December.
1863: The French take the capital
The French bombarded Veracruz on 15 January 1863. Then, on 16 March, General Forey and the French Army began the siege of Puebla.
On 30 April, the French Foreign Legion earned its fame in the Battle of Camarón when the small infantry patrol unit, led by a one-handed Captain named Jean Danjou, numbering 62 soldiers and three officers was attacked and besieged by Mexican infantry and cavalry units numbering three battalions, about 3000 men, and was forced to make a defence in Hacienda Camarón. Danjou was mortally wounded in the defense of the hacienda, and the last of his men mounted a glorious bayonet attack fighting to nearly the last man, leaving three survivors. To this day, 'Camerone Day' is still the most important day of celebration for Legionnaires.
The French army of General François Achille Bazaine defeated the Mexican army led by General Comonfort in their attempt to relieve the siege of Puebla, at San Lorenzo, to the south of Puebla. Puebla surrendered to the French shortly afterward, on 17 May. On 31 May, President Juárez fled the city with his cabinet, retreating northwards to Paso del Norte and later to Chihuahua, where the government-in-exile remained until 1867, taking the treasure of the state with them.
French troops under Bazaine entered Mexico City on 7 June 1863. The main army entered the city three days later led by General Forey. General Almonte was appointed the provisional President of Mexico on 16 June, by the Superior Junta (which had been appointed by Forey) The Superior Junta with its 35 members met on 21 June, and proclaimed a Catholic Empire on 10 July. The crown was offered to Maximilian, following pressures by Napoleon. Maximilian accepted the crown on 3 October, at the hands of the Comisión Mexicana, sent by the Superior Junta.
1864: Arrival of Maximilian
The French under Bazaine occupied Guadalajara on 6 January 1864, and troops under Douay occupied Zacatecas on 6 February. Further decisive French victories continued with the fall of Acapulco on 3 June, occupation of Durango on 3 July, and the defeat of republicans in the states of Sinaloa and Jalisco in November.
Maximilian formally accepted the crown on 10 April, signing the Treaty of Miramar, and landed at Veracruz on 28 May (or possibly 29 May) 1864 in the SMS Novara. He was enthroned as Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, with his wife Charlotte of Belgium, who had taken the name Carlota. In reality, he was a puppet monarch of the Second French Empire. Maximilian was very much the product of the progressive ideas in vogue in the West at the time. He favoured the establishment of a limited monarchy sharing powers with a democratically-elected congress and inspired laws that abolished child labour, limited working hours, and abolished a system of land tenancy that virtually amounted to serfdom among the Indians. This was too liberal to please Mexico's conservatives, while the liberals refused to accept a monarch, leaving Maximilian with few enthusiastic allies within Mexico.
1865: Beginning of Republican victories
The French continued with victories in 1865, with Bazaine capturing Oaxaca on 9 February (defeating the city's defenders under General Porfirio Díaz). The French fleet landed soldiers who captured Guaymas on 29 March. However on 11 April, republicans defeated Imperial forces at Tacámbaro in Michoacán. In April and May the republicans had many forces in the states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua. Most towns along the Rio Grande were also occupied by republicans. The Belgian volunteers were defeated by the republicans at the Second Battle of Tacámbaro on 11 July.
The decree known as the "Black Decree" was issued by Maximilian on 3 October, which threatened any Mexican captured in the war with immediate execution. This was the later basis of his own execution. Several high-ranking republican officials were executed under this order on 21 October.
1859-1867: American Diplomacy and Involvement
As early as 1859, American and Mexican efforts to ratify the McLane-Ocampo Treaty had failed in the bitterly divided Senate. Such a treaty would have allowed American construction and protection in exchange for a payment of $4 million to the heavily indebted government of Benito Juarez. On December 3, 1860, President James Buchanan had delivered a speech stating his displeasure at being unable to secure Mexico from European interference:
“European governments would have been deprived of all pretext to interfere in the territorial and domestic concerns of Mexico. We should have thus been relieved from the obligation of resisting, even by force, should this become necessary, any attempt of these governments to deprive our neighboring republic of portions of her territory, a duty from which we could not shrink without abandoning the traditional and established policy of the American people.”
United States policy had not changed during the French occupation but the American Civil War prevented any active involvement. President Abraham Lincoln had expressed his sympathy to Latin American republics against any European attempt to establish a monarchy. Shortly after the establishment of the Maximilian Government in April 1864, United States Secretary of State William H. Seward while maintaining American neutrality, expressed American discomfort of the establishment of a monarchy in Mexico: “Nor can the United States deny that their own safety and destiny to which they aspire are intimately dependent on the continuance of free republican institutions throughout America.”'
On April 4, 1864, Congress passed a joint resolution:
“Resolved, &c., That the Congress of the United States are unwilling, by silence, to leave the nations of the world under the impression that they are indifferent spectators of the deplorable events now transpiring in the Republic of Mexico; and they therefore think fit to declare that it does not accord with the policy of the United States to acknowledge a monarchical government, erected on the ruins of any republican government in America, under the auspices of any European power.”
Near the end of the American Civil War, the 1865 Hampton Roads Conference briefly saw a proposal for a North-South reconciliation by a joint action against the French in Mexico. In 1865, through the selling of Mexican bonds by Mexican agents in the United States, the Juarez Administration was able to raise between $16-million and $18-million dollars for the purchase of American war material. In 1866 General Philip Sheridan had been in charge of transferring additional supplies and weapons to the Liberal army, including some 30,000 rifles directly from the Baton Rouge Arsenal. By 1867, Seward shifted American policy from thinly-veiled sympathy to the republican government of Juarez to open threat of war to induce a French withdrawal. Seward had openly invoked the Monroe Doctrine which at the time he later stated in 1868, "The Monroe Doctrine, which eight years ago was merely a theory, is now an irreversible fact."
1866: French withdrawal and Republican victories
In 1866, choosing Franco-American relations over his Mexican monarchy ambitions, Napoleon III announced the withdrawal of French forces beginning 31 May. The Republicans won a series of crippling victories taking immediate advantage of the end of French military support to the Imperial troops, occupying Chihuahua on 25 March, taking Guadalajara on 8 July, further capturing Matamoros, Tampico and Acapulco in July. Napoleon III urged Maximilian to abandon Mexico and evacuate with the French troops. The French evacuated Monterrey on 26 July, Saltillo on 5 August, and the whole state of Sonora in September. Maximilian's French cabinet members resigned on 18 September. The Republicans defeated imperial troops in the Battle of Miahuatlán in Oaxaca in October, occupying the whole of Oaxaca in November, as well as parts of Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and Guanajuato. On 6 December the Austrian and Belgian volunteers disbanded and were supposed to join the Mexican Army; however, 3500 of the 4648 volunteers did not enlist, and tried to flee the country.
1867: Republicans take the capital
The Republicans occupied the rest of the states of Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and Guanajuato in January. The French evacuated the capital on 5 February.
On 13 February 1867, Maximilian withdrew to Querétaro. The Republicans began a siege of the city on 9 March, and Mexico City on 12 April. An imperial sortie from Querétaro failed on 27 April.
On 11 May, Maximilian resolved to attempt an escape through the enemy lines. He was, however, intercepted before he could carry out this plan on 15 May and, following a court-martial, was sentenced to death. Many of the crowned heads of Europe and other prominent figures (including liberals Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi) sent telegrams and letters to Mexico pleading for Maximilian's life to be spared, but Juárez refused to commute the sentence, believing that it was necessary to send a message that Mexico would not tolerate any government imposed by foreign powers.
Maximilian was executed on 19 June (along with his generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía) on the Cerro de las Campanas, a hill on the outskirts of Querétaro, by the forces loyal to President Benito Juárez, who had kept the federal government functioning during the French intervention. Mexico City surrendered the day after Maximilian was executed.
The republic was restored, President Juárez was returned to power in the national capital, yet there was little change in policy given that Maximilian had upheld most of Juárez's liberal reforms.
After the victory, the Conservative party was so thoroughly discredited by its alliance with the invading French troops that it effectively ceased to exist, and the Liberal party was almost unchallenged as a political force during the first years of the "restored republic". In 1871, however, Juárez was re-elected to yet another term as president in spite of a constitutional prohibition of re-elections, provoking one of the losing candidates, Porfirio Díaz (a Liberal general and a hero of the French war, but increasingly conservative in outlook) to launch a rebellion against the president. Supported by conservative factions within the Liberal party, the attempted revolt (the so-called Plan de la Noria) was already at the point of defeat when Juárez died in office on 19 July 1872, making it a moot point. Díaz ran against interim president Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, lost the election, and retired to his hacienda in Oaxaca. Four years later, in 1876, when Lerdo himself ran for re-election, Díaz launched a second, successful revolt (the Plan de Tuxtepec) and captured the presidency, which he effectively held through eight terms until 1911.
|Divisions and disembarkation of allied troops|
French expeditionary force, 31 December 1862
At its peak in 1863, the French expeditionary force counted 38,493 men :740 (which represented 6.25% of the French army). 6,654 :231 French died, including 4,830 from disease. :231. Among these losses, 1,918 of the deaths were from the regiment of the French Foreign Legion:267.
Général de Division Forey
:95–96 Not yet arrived:
Belgian Voluntary Troops 1864–65
16 October 1864
14 November 1864
16 December 1864
27 January 1865
15 April 1866
16 July 1866
Hungarian Voluntary Corps December 1864
Egyptian Auxiliary Corps January 1863
Spanish Expeditionary Force January 1862
|History of Mexico|
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- INTERVENCIONES DE FRANCIA EN MÉXICO Guerras de
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to French Intervention in Mexico.|
- Chronology of the Mexican Adventure 1861–1867
- Bibliography for the French intervention in Mexico
- Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico by M.M. McAllen. Trinity University Press 2014. ISBN 978-1-59534-183-9