Crossing of the Andes

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Crossing of the Andes
Part of the Spanish American wars of independence

Battle of Chacabuco, fought after the Crossing of the Andes
DateJanuary 19 to February 13, 1817
Result Patriot forces successfully enter Chile
Army of the Andes Spain Spanish Royalists
Commanders and leaders
José de San Martín
Miguel Estanislao Soler
Chile Bernardo O'Higgins
Spain Francisco Marcó del Pont
Spain Mariano Osorio

The Crossing of the Andes (Spanish: Cruce de los Andes) was one of the most important feats in the Argentine and Chilean wars of independence, in which a combined army of Argentine soldiers and Chilean exiles invaded Chile crossing the Andes range separating Argentina from Chile, leading to Chile's liberation from Spanish rule.

Led by General José de San Martín, and setting out from Mendoza – then part of the Province of Cuyo, Argentina – in January 1817, the successful crossing of the army took 21 days. Having to manage heights averaging 3,000 mts,[1][2] the feat has been compared to Hannibal's or Napoleon's crossing of the Alps, and is regarded among the greatest of its kind in universal military history.[2][3][4][5][6][7]


The crossing of the Andes was a major step in the strategy devised by General José de San Martín to defeat the royalist forces at their stronghold of Lima, Viceroyalty of Perú, and secure the Spanish American independence movements.[citation needed] The idea of crossing was already developed by secret lodges seeking the independence of South America, and was part of the Maitland Plan designed by Thomas Maitland. San Martín learned of it during his brief time in Britain, before sailing to South America. After becoming aware of the difficulty of attacking the royalist stronghold of Lima across Upper Peru, he decided to proceed with such a plan.

The Captaincy General of Chile had removed their governor in 1810, and replaced him with the First Government Junta, starting a period of Chilean history known as Patria Vieja. However, they would be defeated in 1814 during the battle of Rancagua, and with the Reconquista Chile would become again a royalist stronghold. Bernardo O'Higgins and other Chilean leaders had fled to Mendoza during the new royalist government, which led to O'Higgins being part of the Army of the Andes as well as the Argentine soldiers.

Troops and equipment[edit]

The city of Mendoza, during this time frame, became a factoring headquarters during the pre-crossing. The citizens of Mendoza assisted their troops by manufacturing gunpowder and ammunition. They also learned to make cannons.[citation needed]

The main food of the army was a regional meal called valdiviano. It was prepared with dry meat or charqui, sliced raw onion, potatoes and boiling water. They had designated soldiers who carried the food. These soldiers transported forty tons of charqui; maize cakes; meat; brandy, to counter the nighttime cold; garlic and onion, to deal with the lack of appetite; more than 4,000 cattle for the rest of the campaign; plus cheese and rum.[8]


On the morning of January 19, 1817, San Martin and his army set out from their base camp El Plumerillo and began their journey across the Andes Mountain range. San Martin crossed with 4,000 men, only to end up losing 1/3 of them. The number of auxiliaries reached 1,200.

For the crossing, San Martin split his army into two divisions: The main division, which traveled through the pass of Los Patos, was led by San Martin, Miguel Estanislao Soler and Bernardo O'Higgins. The secondary troop, which traveled through the more southern Uspallata, was led by Juan Gregorio de Las Heras.[8]

Coming to an end[edit]

General San Martin and General O'Higgins leading the crossing of the Andes, painting by Julio Vila y Prades

On February 13, 1817, San Martín, O’Higgins, and their army successfully entered Santiago, Chile, after crossing 500 kilometers of mountain range, and the journey came to an end.[9] The royalist forces, by this time, had advanced north to avoid San Martín's army, but a royalist leader had stayed behind with 1,500 men to advance at a valley called Chacabuco, which was located near Santiago.[10] Thus, the Battle of Chacabuco began.


In 2010 the Argentine and Chilean armies recreated the crossing during the commemorations of the 200 years of Revolution.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "El cruce de la Cordillera de los Andes". Museo Histórico Nacional (in Spanish). Retrieved 2022-05-26.
  2. ^ a b "La ruta de San Martín, el hijo de españoles que cambió el destino de América -". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2022-05-26.
  3. ^ "When the "Hannibal of the Andes" Liberated Chile | Britannica". Retrieved 2022-05-26.
  4. ^ Mitre, Bartolomé (1887). Historia de San Martín y de la emancipación sudamericana (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Ediciones Peuser (published 1950). p. 366.
  5. ^ Gral. José de San Martín, padre de la patria: 150 años (in Spanish). Círculo Militar. 2000. p. 99.
  6. ^ Campos, Omar (2006). El cruce los Andes. Tras las huellas de San Martín (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Dunken.
  7. ^ Galasso, Norberto (2007). Seamos libres y lo demás no importa nada: vida de San Martín (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Ed. Colihue. p. 207.
  8. ^ a b "Chacabuco 1817." Archived 2008-10-29 at the Wayback Machine Glasgow and District Wargaming Society.
  9. ^ Scheina, Robert L. Latin America's Wars.
  10. '^ Robertson, William Spence. "History of Latin-America Nations."
  11. ^ Rememorando el Cruce de los Andes

Further reading[edit]

  • Harvey, Robert. "Liberators: Latin America`s Struggle For Independence, 1810–1830". John Murray, London (2000). ISBN 0-7195-5566-3
  • Rector, John Lawrence (2003). The History of Chile. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • Robertson, William Spence (1922). History of Latin-American Nations. Texas: D. Appleton and Company.
  • Scheina, Robert L. (2003). Latin America's Wars. Brassey's.
  • Van Dyke, Harry Weston (1912). Through South America. Texas: Thomas Y. Crowell Company.