José Miguel Carrera

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This name uses Spanish naming customs; the first or paternal family name is Carrera and the second or maternal family name is Verdugo.
José Miguel Carrera
Pintura José Miguel Carrera.jpg
President of the First Chilean Governing Council
In office
November 16, 1811 – October 2, 1814
Personal details
Born (1785-10-15)October 15, 1785
Santiago, Chile
Died September 4, 1821(1821-09-04) (aged 35)
Mendoza, Argentina
Spouse(s) Mercedes Fontecilla
Signature

José Miguel Carrera Verdugo (October 15, 1785 – September 4, 1821) was a Chilean general, member of the prominent Carrera family, and considered one of the founders of independent Chile. Carrera was the most important leader of the Chilean War of Independence during the period of the Patria Vieja ("Old Republic"). After the Spanish Reconquista ("Reconquest"), he continued campaigning from exile. His opposition to the leaders of independent Argentina and Chile San Martin and O'Higgins respectively made him to live in exile in Montevideo. From Montevido Carrera traveled to Argentina where he joined the struggle against the unitarians. Carreras small army was eventually left isolated in the Province of Buenos Aires from the other federalist forces. In this difficult situation Carrera decided to cross to native-controlled lands all the way to Chile to once for all overthrow Chilean Supreme Director O'Higgins. His passage to Chile, which was his ultimate goal, was opposed by Argentine politicias and he engaged together with indigenous tribes, among the Ranquels, in a campaign against the southern provinces of Argentina. After the downfall of Carreras ally, the Republic of Entre Ríos, and several victories against the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Carrera's men were finally defeated by numerically superior forces near Mendoza. Carrera was then betrayed by one of his Argentine helpers, leading to his capture and execution in that city. José Miguel Carrera was of Basque descent.[1]

Early years[edit]

José Miguel Carrera was of Basque descent.[2] He was born in Santiago, the second son (third child, after his sister Javiera and his brother Juan José) of Ignacio de la Carrera y Cuevas and Francisca de Paula Verdugo Fernández de Valdivieso y Herrera. Carrera carried out his first studies in the Convictorio Carolino, the best school in the country at the time. During these years, he became friends with Manuel Rodríguez, classmate and neighbour, future guerrilla leader of the Chilean independence movement.

After school he was sent to Spain by his parents. There he joined the Spanish Army in 1808. He fought well against the Napoleonic forces, obtaining the rank of Sergeant Major and receiving the command of the Húsares de Galicia regiment.

In Spain he also made contact with the United States independence movement and joined the Cádiz Order.

La Patria Vieja ("Old Republic") (1810-1814)[edit]

When he learned about the Junta de Gobierno that had been established in Chile to rule during the absence of the Spanish monarch, he went back to Chile and got involved in politics. As the Carreras were one of the three major political forces, he became part of the government. On 15 November 1811 the Carreras made a coup d'état and José Miguel became the sole ruler of Chile (his brothers were military commanders). Because of his more personal and Chilean-national point of view about Chilean independence, Carrera came and came into conflict with the Lautaro Lodge, whose more Latin-Americanist centered objective was to unite all Latin America in the same way as the United States of America.

During his government, he helped create several Chilean national symbols and institutions: Carrera created the first Chilean Constitution, made the first Chilean flag and coat of arms, and promoted the press by bringing to Chile the first printing press, which directly led to the appearance of the first newspaper in Chile (La Aurora de Chile). Carrera also established September 18 as the national day of independence (which is still celebrated in Chile). He also abolished slavery, rescinded the clergy’s right to legal immunity, and founded the first state-sponsored school in Chile, the Instituto Nacional.

As the Spanish Army and Navy invaded the South of Chile, he became Commander in Chief of the patriotic forces and left the government. He had a successful campaign, expelling the Spaniards from the city of Concepción.

After the Surprise of El Roble, in which Carrera was surrounded and had to jump into a river to save himself (not without first shooting straight at the enemy's head of commander), the government relieved him of his duties and appointed Brigadier Bernardo O'Higgins, who had managed to repel the enemy incursion. Carrera was taken prisoner by the Spaniards but managed to escape, and went on to overthrow the government for the third time.

Bernardo O'Higgins did not acknowledge Carrera and fought against the Carrerian army at the Battle of Tres Acequias (Carrera's youngest brother, Luis Carrera, defeated O'Higgins using a cunning defensive strategy). During this chaos, the Spanish army retook Concepción and advanced towards Santiago. Carrera and O'Higgins decided to re-unite the army; Carrera's plan was to draw the Spaniards to the Angostura del Paine (Paine Narrows), while O'Higgins wanted to make his stand at the town of Rancagua. It was settled to make it at the Angostura de Paine, a gorge that formed an easily defended bottleneck, which seemed to be the most logical plan considering that the local forces were outnumbered. However, at the last hour and against direct orders, O'Higgins garrisoned the Chilean forces at the main square of Rancagua. He and his forces were promptly surrounded, and after an entire day of fighting the Spanish commander Mariano Osorio was victorious in the Disaster of Rancagua, (1–2 October 1814).

Argentina and the United States[edit]

With the defeat of the Chilean forces, many patriots escaped to Mendoza, which was governed at the time by José de San Martín. As San Martín was a member of the Lautaro Lodge, he welcomed O'Higgins and his allies—but not the Carreras, especially as San Martin believed that because of his charisma and popularity, José Miguel represented a potential rival.[citation needed] José Miguel and his brothers were forced to travel to Buenos Aires, where Carlos Maria Alvear, a friend of Carrera since the war against Napoleon in Spain, had just been proclaimed national hero. Alvear would shortly go on to take power in Argentina.

While Alvear was in government, Carrera was in a good position in Buenos Aires. But after Alvear was overthrown, power was taken by members of the Lautaro Lodge,[citation needed] forcing Carrera to leave Buenos Aires for the United States. With the help of Commodore David Porter, and by sheer force of personality, José Miguel Carrera managed to obtain—on credit—five ships with American crews for the Chilean independence enterprise.

However, as he arrived in Buenos Aires with this fleet, the pro-San Martin Argentine government confiscated the ships and put Carrera in prison. During his imprisonment, San Martín organized an army in Mendoza, made up of mainly African slaves[citation needed] and Argentine soldiers, and a token few Chilean irregulars. This group crossed the Andes and defeated the Spaniards in the Battle of Chacabuco, on 12 February 1817.

Carrera received help from the United States' envoy who came with him, Joel Roberts Poinsett, and was able to escape from San Martin's forces,[clarification needed] taking refuge in Montevideo under the protection of Brazilian General Carlos Frederico Lecor. While in Montevideo, his brothers Juan José and Luís plotted against O'Higgins, because of his having betrayed the Carreras to San Martin and the Lautaro Lodge. They were arrested in Mendoza and executed by the command of Bernardo de Monteagudo,[citation needed] after the Royalists defeated San Martin and O'Higgins at the Second Battle of Cancha Rayada. The Lautaro Lodge had already made plans that, in case of defeat, all political enemies—including the Carrera brothers—would be executed.[citation needed] After José Miguel was informed of this, he openly and vociferously began opposing both San Martin and O'Higgins.

Subsequently, Jose Miguel Carrera was one of the main promoters of the Argentine federalist war and fought against the Unitarian government. Carrera and the federalist forces defeated the Directorship government and entered Buenos Aires. On 23 February 1820, they signed the Treaty of Pilar, the document that first established the Argentine federal system. However, because of national rivalries,[citation needed] Carrera is not often recognised in Argentine Historiography.[citation needed]

As a result of this treaty, Carrera received money and troops, with which he marched towards Chile. One of Carrera's principal allies before his death was the Boroanos tribe that had recently migrated from Araucanía to the Pampas. However, he was intercepted in Mendoza and taken prisoner. After a show trial,[citation needed] he was executed on 4 September 1821.

Warrior[edit]

Carrera entered the military career, in Chile, as a mere boy at the age of six. At the age of 22 (1808) he entered the Napoleonic Wars participating in the campaigns of 1808, 1809, and 1810. In Europe Carrera became an elite cavalry officer and a captain in the hussar regiment Húsares de Farnesio. He also became commander of the Húsares de Galicia. He distinguished himself in the Battle of Talavera and was awarded the Cruz of Talavera. He was wounded in the Battle of Ocana. In total he participated in some 20 armed engagements and battles on European soil.

On his return to Chile he led his men in some 10 battles and/or armed engagements against the Spanish Army. Later, following his trip to the US, and in his attempt to return to Chile, from Argentina, he and his men fought the Argentine in a series or armed confrontations and battles some of which were particularly cruel and bloody. Notable in his Argentine campaign was the Battle of Rio Cuarto. In all, Carrera participated in combat in some 40 separate occasions.

Legacy[edit]

Carrera is today considered one of the Chileans Padres de la Patria (Fathers of the Nation).[citation needed] The conflict between followers of O'Higgins and Carrera continues to some extent to this day, when many declare themselves Carreristas or O'Higginistas. Carreristas claim that his figure is not given enough recognition, in comparison with O'Higgins, whom they openly despise.

Apart from ending slavery in Chile, Carrera abolished the titled nobility and ended their legal prerogatives and privileges. He also founded the first free newspaper in the nation, La Aurora de Chile; instituted the first national flag and national seal; and founded the first free secular school, which eventually became known as the Instituto Nacional, its full name being Instituto Nacional General José Miguel Carrera; several Chilean presidents and dozens of senators and parliamentarians have graduated from its halls.

In the Patagonian region in the south of Chile, there is the General Carrera Lake.

All five of Carrera's legitimate offspring married prominently in Chilean society, and their descendants, who number in the few hundred, make up the bulk of the Chilean upper classes.

His grandson, Ignacio Carrera Pinto, was a hero who died during the Battle of La Concepción, in the War of the Pacific.

Another of his descendents was Federico Santa María, who gave his money to build Federico Santa María Technical University, one of the best technical and engineering schools in Chile.

In Cinema[edit]

The life of José Miguel Carrera is shown through the television project Heroes. The series include 6 related movies about Chilean Founding Fathers and Heroes, and in it, José Miguel Carrera was portrayed by Diego Casanueva.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
None
Member of Government Junta
1811
Succeeded by
None
Preceded by
Juan Martínez de Rozas
President of Government Junta
1811
Succeeded by
José Santiago Portales
Preceded by
José Santiago Portales
President of Government Junta
1812
Succeeded by
Pedro José Prado
Preceded by
Pedro José Prado
President of Government Junta
1812-1813
Succeeded by
Francisco Antonio Pérez
Preceded by
Francisco de la Lastra
President of Government Junta
1814
Succeeded by
Bernardo O'Higgins
Military offices
Preceded by
Title created
Army Commander-in-chief
1813
Succeeded by
Bernardo O'Higgins
Preceded by
Bernardo O'Higgins
Army Commander-in-chief
1814
Succeeded by
José de San Martín