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Crossing of the Andes

The Crossing of the 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 leading to Chile's liberation from Spanish rule. The crossing of the Andes was a major step in the strategy devised by Jose de San Martin to defeat the royalist forces at their stronghold of Lima, Viceroyalty of Peru, and secure the Spanish American independence movements.

Setting out from Mendoza (then part of the Province of Cuyo) in January 1817, their goal was to enter Chile without being noticed, through unexpected paths, so as to attack the royalist forces by surprise. The ultimate objective was the liberation of Chile from Spanish rule with Argentine forces. Led by Jose de San Martin, the crossing took twenty-one days.


The idea of crossing the Andes was already developed by lodges seeking the independence of South America, and was part of the Maitland Plan designed by Thomas Maitland. San Martin 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 the Upper Peru, he decided to proceed with such 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

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.

The main food of the army was a regional meal called valdiviano. It was prepared with dry meat or charqui, sliced raw onion, 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, cheese and rum.

The Crossing

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. It was a devastating blow to the troop.

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, and Bernardo OHiggins. The secondary troop, which traveled through the more southern Uspallata, was led by Juan Gregorio de Las Heras.

Coming to an End

On February 13, 1817, San Martin, OHiggins, and their army successfully entered Santiago, Chile, after crossing 500 kilometers of mountain range, and the journey came to an end.Scheina, Robert L. ''Latin America's Wars. The royalist forces, by this time, had advanced north to avoid San Martins army, but a royalist leader had stayed behind with 1,500 men to advance at a valley called Chacabuco, which was located near Santiago.Robertson, William Spence. "History of Latin-America Nations."' Thus, the Battle of Chacabuco began.


On 2010 the Argentine and Chilean armies recreated the crossing during the conmemorations of the 200 years of Independence

See also

Chilean Independence

ArgentinaChile relations


Glasgow & District Wargaming Society

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Crossing of the Andes

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