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Battle of Yungay

The Battle of Yungay (or Yungai) effectively destroyed the Peru-Bolivian Confederation created by Bolivian Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz on 1836. On January 20, 1839; the Restoring Army led by Chilean General in Chief Manuel Bulnes decisively defeated the Confederate Army commanded by Santa Cruz after six hours of combat in the battlefield of Yungay, in northern Peru, 200 km north of Lima.

The Chilean victory at Yungay effectively brought the Peru-Bolivian Confederation to an end, and Andres de Santa Cruz exiled himself in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The Peruvian government paid the debt contracted with Chile due to Chilean aid on the restoring campaign, also giving decorations and awards to Chilean and Peruvian officials . Also, Peruvian officers who served under the Confederation - among them Guillermo Miller, Mariano Necochea, Luis Jose Orbegoso, Domingo Nieto - were banned from the Peruvian army.

The victory of Yungay is remembered by the Chilean Army with the Hymn of Yungay, and by Peru with the creation of the Ancash Department.


The first Chilean incursion into Peruvian territory during the war between Chile and the Peru-Bolivian Confederacy didn't have the expected results, since Rear Admiral Manuel Blanco Encalada, finding little support and help to the restoring cause, signed the Treaty of Paucarpata on November 17, 1837. By signing this pact, Chile agreed to resume the commercial trade and the Confederation would recognize and pay the Chilean efforts in the Peruvian independence war.

Upon Blanco Encalada's return, however, the Chilean Parliament and the public opinion rejected the truce and organized a second expedition of 5,400 soldiers under General Manuel Bulnes, along with 600 expatriate Peruvians under General Agustin Gamarra serving as reinforcements.

Andres de Santa Cruz, the Bolivian Marshal, responded immediately reinstating the hostilities. The second Chilean campaign had more success than the first one as the Restoring Army marched into Lima, after defeating confederate General Orbegoso at the battle of Portada de Guias on August 21, 1838. Also, the Chilean Fleet secured sea domination in the Battle of Casma.

Despite this victory, and forced by the lack of supplies and disease, the Restoring Army marched to Huacho in the North Peruvian territory abandoning the capital city by November of 1838, as news arrived indicating that Santa Cruz was closing with an outnumbering army to Lima. Afterwards, Santa Cruz entered into the city under popular ovation, then proceeded to follow Bulnes' forces.

Both armies engaged in the Combat of Buin, on January 6, 1839, in the confluence of the Buin and the Santa rivers, with indecisive results, since Bulnes continued marching north and Santa Cruz resumed the persecution seeking to deliver a final blow to the Chilean expedition to cement Confederation's dominance in the region.

Thus, Santa Cruz advanced to capture and occupy Yungay, intending to cut the Chilean supply lines and strangle the Chilean Expedition. His intention wasn't to obliterate the Restoring Army, but rather to force Bulnes to sue for peace, and surrender to a superior Peruvian force. Bulnes had other plans however, knowing that returning empty-handed was not an option after the failure of the previous force under Blanco Encalada.

The Contenders

Both armies had approximately 6,000 men, although the numbers favoured slightly the side of the Confederation and Santa Cruz. The Chilean Expedition, on the other hand, suffered the decimation of some battalions by plagues during its occupation of Lima, the capital of the North-Peruvian Republic. Comparably equipped, the main difference was in the preparation of the troops, the knowledge of the terrain, and the obvious differences between invaders and defenders.

Confederation Army

The Confederacy Army was made up of veterans of internal battles from both Peru and Bolivia. It was generally supported by the population of Peru and possessed strong supply lines thanks to the site of the battle. Its commanding officer, General Andres de Santa Cruz; was regarded as a resourceful tactician and a capable leader. His army had about 6,000 men divided into three divisions, adding up nine infantry battalions and two cavalry regiments.

Chilean Army

The Chilean Expedition had the experience of Gen. Manuel Bulnes and the Peruvian defectors, and a poorly equipped but well trained army. On the other hand, it was not popular with the locals and was hampered due to disease, bad morale, and some less experienced units. This army of 5,400 soldiers was conformed by nine infantry battalions and three cavalry regiments grouped into four divisions.

Preliminary moves

Both armies marched under the rain, with the restoring force establishing near Tarar from where it marches towards San Miguel, while Santa Cruz after detaining in Tarhuaz, occupied the town of Yungay on January 13.

On the night of January 19, Santa Cruz sent Colonel Rodriguez Margarinos to observe the Chilean positions. Besides, ordered to Bolivian Colonel Anselmo Quiroz with 600 soldiers to assume positions on the Pan de Azucar hill top, while Colonel Fructuoso de la Pena advanced to the Punyan summit with another 200 soldiers.

On January 20, with the sunrise, Gen Bulnes marched with his four divisions to Yungay, whilst Santa Cruz deployed his army by the Ancash river, with Herrera's division on the right wing, in the middle was set the artillery and behind it the cavalry led by General Perez de Urdinea. Finally, Moran's division was stationed on the left flank.


Both forces were separated by a short valley formed by the Santa river and the mountains, with the Punyan, Ancash and Pan de Azucar hill at the far end of this site, behind these highs lies the deep Ancash glen, followed by the confederate trenches.

The battle

Confrontation on the Punyan and Pan de Azucar hills

Bulnes decided to start attacking the Punyan confederate positions. In order to do so, the Aconcagua Battalion was dispatched to clear out the hill, who climbed and forced Pena's confederate companies to retreat. After them, Bulnes sent on the Portales, Valdivia and Huaylas battalions.

At 09:00, a column of 400 soldiers under Jeronimo Valenzuela and formed by companies of the Carampangue, Santiago, Valparaiso and Cazadores de Peru battalions, were sent to the Pan de Azucar hill to assail Col. Quiroz' positions. The restoring troops began the slowly climbing of the hill slope under heavy confederate fire.

With the Carampangue Battalion company led only by a sergeant - a female officer, Candelaria Perez - because the unit had all its officers down, and with the other battalion companies decimated, finally the Chilean soldiers reached the summit and bayoneted the confederates out of the Punyan hill, annihilating Quiroz' forces. All of the confederate soldiers and officers were killed, including Quiroz himself. Valparaiso Battalion Sergeant Jose Alegria raised the Chilean flag on the Pan de Azucar summit.

Manoeuvres on the Ancash Glen

Marshall Santa Cruz sent Col. Deheza's battalion to reinforce Quiroz at Punyan hill, marching through the Ancash glen, but in their route encountered and engaged the Colchagua Battalion led by Col. Urriola, forcing the Chileans to refold with a bayonet charge. Bulnes ordered the Portales Battalion to aid Urriola, manoeuvre that obliged the Bolivians to pull away from the glen to Herrera's positions with a third of it initial soldiers dead.

With the Pan de Azucar and Punyan hills conquered, Gen. Bulnes planned a frontal attack on Santa Cruz army, arranged in a line of trenches on the opposite side of the Ancash river. So, the Chilean forces converged on the river edge, and the Colchagua and Valdivia battalions were dispatched to engage the confederate right flank guarded by Herrera's division, while the Portales, Cazadores de Peru and Huaylas battalions were ordered to onset Col. Moran's division. The five cannon battery of Col. Marcos Maturana allocated on the Punyan hights began to fire and slowly to dismantle the confederate trenches. Due to the bridge over the Ancash had been destroyed, the restoring forces had to descend to the river shore and march across it.

When the Restoring Army crossed the river, the battle was joined on the entire front line, with the restoring army in the open and the confederates firing upon them from the trenches. From this protected position, the confederate divisions thwarted the restoring attack.

At 14:30, Gen. Pedro Bermudez drove his 3rd of Bolivia Battalion in a bayonet charge upon the Portales Battalion, which started to cede under the Bolivian pressure, breaking the restoring line. Following, the cavalry was sent to cut the Chilean retreat while the infantry forwarded from their protecting positions to attack the restoring troops in the open field.

Decisive blow

Having witnessed the Chilean retreat, Gen. Bulnes took command of the Valparaiso Battalion and crossed the Ancash heightening Col. Garcia's unit. Likewise, the Santiago and half Huaylas battalions strengthened the Chilean right wing, allowing the releaved units to gather up and resume the attack. A few confederate battalions managed to return to their trenches.

Perez de Urdinea's cavalry crossed the river and collided with Baquedano's Cazadores a Caballo Cavalry Regiment. As a result of this clash, taking place near the confederate line, Baquedano was wounded and forced to retreat, only to attack again now with five cavalry squadrons, making Perez de Urdinea to regroup with the confederate infantry trying to retreat to their trench line. On a third massive charge, Baquedano broke Santa Cruz' left flank and the entire confederate front collapsed.

With both armies now engaging in the gap between the trenches and the water, the confederates tried to resist but were outflanked and completely vanquished. The disbanded troops were persecuted by the Chilean cavalry and killed. According to Gonzalo Bulnes, 277 confederate troops were found dead on the road between Manco and Yungay. Santa Cruz, followed by his generals Riva Aguero, Cerdena and Miller, left the battle field around 15:00


This was a harsh defeat for the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. Santa Cruz had around 3,000 casualties, including 2 generals, 9 colonels, 100 officers and 2,500 soldiers, equivalent to a 50% of its effective force. The Restoring Army lost 1 general, 39 officers and 622 soldiers.

The Battle of Yungay brought as a consequence the end of the Peru-Bolivian Confederacy, with the Chilean Expedition reoccupying Lima in April. On August 25, 1839 General Agustin Gamarra assumed the Presidency of Peru, officially declaring the dissolution of the Confederation and the Union of the North and South Peru. Santa Cruz was exiled, first to Guayaquil, Ecuador, then to Chile and finally to Europe, where he died in Beauvoir, France, on September 25, 1865. He was 72.

See also

Battle formations at Yungay


The Birth of the Confederation

Chilean Army

Basadre, Jorge; La segunda campana restauradora de Guia a Yungay

Santa Cruz el condor indio
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Battle of Yungay

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