Battle of Puebla

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Battle of Puebla
Part of the Second French intervention in Mexico
1872 oil-on-canvas depiction of the battle by Francisco P. Miranda, showing Mexican cavalry overwhelming the French troops below the fort at Loreto.
Date5 May 1862
Result Mexican Republican victory [1] [2]
Political victory for Mexican republicans [1]
Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Second Federal Republic of Mexico Support:
Flag of the United States (1861-1863).svg United States (Union)
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg Second French Empire
Flag of Mexico (1864-1867).svg Mexican nobility Support:
Flag of the Confederate States of America (1861-1863).svg Confederate States (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Mexico (1823-1864, 1867-1893).svg Ignacio Zaragoza Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg Charles de Lorencez
4,500 [3] 6,500 soldiers [3] [4]
Casualties and losses
83 killed,
132 wounded,
12 missing
172 killed,
304 wounded,
35 captured

The Battle of Puebla (Spanish : Batalla de Puebla; French : Bataille de Puebla) took place on 5 May 1862, near Puebla City during the Second French intervention in Mexico. The battle ended in a victory for the Mexican Army over the occupying French soldiers. The French eventually overran the Mexicans in subsequent battles, but the Mexican victory at Puebla against a much better equipped and larger [5] French army provided a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and also helped slow the French army's advance towards Mexico City.


The Mexican victory is celebrated yearly on the fifth of May. Its celebration is regional in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla, [6] [7] [8] [9] where the holiday is celebrated as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (English: The Day of the Battle of Puebla). [10] [11] [12] There is some limited recognition of the holiday in other parts of the country. In the United States, this holiday has evolved into the very popular Cinco de Mayo holiday, a celebration of Mexican heritage.


The 1858–60 Mexican civil war (known as The Reform War) had caused major distress throughout Mexico's economy. When taking office as the elected president in 1861, Benito Juárez was forced to suspend payments of interest on foreign debts for a period of two years. At the end of October 1861 diplomats from Spain, France, and the United Kingdom met in London to form the Tripartite Alliance, with the main purpose of launching an allied invasion of Mexico, taking control of Veracruz, its major port, and forcing the Mexican government to negotiate terms for repaying its debts and for reparations for alleged harm to foreign citizens in Mexico. In December 1861, Spanish troops landed in Veracruz; British and French followed in early January. The allied forces occupied Veracruz and advanced to Orizaba. However, the Tripartite Alliance fell apart by early April 1862, when it became clear the French wanted to impose harsh demands on the Juarez government and provoke a war. The British and Spanish withdrew, leaving the French to march alone on Mexico City. Napoleon III wanted to set up a puppet Mexican regime.


Map of the battle's terrain Puebla map.png
Map of the battle's terrain

The French expeditionary force at the time was led by General Charles de Lorencez. The battle came about by a misunderstanding of the French forces' agreement to withdraw to the coast. When the Mexican Republic forces saw these French soldiers on the march, they took it that hostilities had recommenced and felt threatened. To add to the mounting concerns, it was discovered that political negotiations for the withdrawal had broken down. A vehement complaint was lodged by the Mexicans to General Lorencez who took the effrontery as a plan to assail his forces. Lorencez decided to hold up his withdrawal to the coast by occupying Orizaba instead, which prevented the Mexicans from being able to defend the passes between Orizaba and the landing port of Veracruz. The 33-year-old Mexican Commander General, Ignacio Zaragoza, fell back to Acultzingo Pass where he and his army were badly beaten in a skirmish with Lorencez's forces on 28 April. Zaragoza retreated to Puebla which was heavily fortified – it had been held by the Mexican government since the Reform War. To its north stood the forts Loreto and Guadalupe on opposite hilltops. Zaragoza had a trench dug to join the forts via the saddle.

Battle of Puebla, 5 May 1862 Batalla del 5 de mayo de 1862.jpg
Battle of Puebla, 5 May 1862

Lorencez was led to believe that the people of Puebla were friendly to the French, and that the Mexican Republican garrison which kept the people in line would be overrun by the population once he made a show of force. This would prove to be a serious miscalculation on Lorencez's part. On 5 May 1862, against all advice, Lorencez decided to attack Puebla from the north. However, he started his attack a little too late in the day, using his artillery just before noon and by noon advancing his infantry. By the third attack the French required the full engagement of all their reserves. The French artillery had run out of ammunition, so the third infantry attack went unsupported. The Mexican forces and the Republican garrison both put up a stout defense and even took to the field to defend the positions between the hilltop forts.

As the French retreated from their final assault, Zaragoza had his cavalry attack them from the right and left while troops concealed along the road pivoted out to flank them. By 3 p.m. the daily rains had started, making a slippery slope of the battlefield. Lorencez withdrew to distant positions, counting 172 of his men killed against only 83 of the Mexicans. He waited a couple of days for Zaragoza to attack again, but Zaragoza held his ground. Lorencez then completely withdrew to Orizaba.


The Second Battle of Puebla in 1863 Siege de Puebla - 29 mars 1863.PNG
The Second Battle of Puebla in 1863

The Battle of Puebla was an inspirational event for wartime Mexico, and it provided a stunning revelation to the rest of the world which had largely expected a rapid victory for French arms. [13]

Slowed by their loss at Puebla, the French forces retreated and regrouped, and the invasion continued after Napoleon III determinedly sent additional troops to Mexico. The French were eventually victorious, winning the Second Battle of Puebla on 17 May 1863 and pushing on to Mexico City. When the capital fell, Juárez's government was forced into exile in the remote north. [13]

With the backing of France, the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian became Emperor of Mexico in the short-lived Second Mexican Empire.

Fort Guadalupe Fuerte-guadalupe-puebla.jpg
Fort Guadalupe


On 9 May 1862, President Juárez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] regarded as "Battle of Puebla Day" or "Battle of Cinco de Mayo". [19]

A common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day, [20] the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico. [21] Mexico celebrates Independence Day on the 16th of September, commemorating the beginning of the war of Independence (September 16, 1810, the "Cry of Dolores"). [22] Mexico also observes the culmination of the war of Independence, which lasted 11 years, on 27 September.

Since the 1930s, a re-enactment of the Battle of Puebla has been held each year at Peñón de los Baños, a rocky outcrop close to Mexico City International Airport. [23]

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  1. 1 2 Christopher Minster (2011). "Latin American history: Cinco de Mayo/The Battle of Puebla". Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  2. Booth, William (5 May 2011). "In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo a more sober affair". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  3. 1 2 "Cinco de Mayo". Mexico Online. 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
  4. DeRouen, Karl R.; Heo, Uk (2005). Defense and security: a compendium of national armed forces and security policies. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 472. ISBN   978-1-85109-781-4 . Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  5. The following sources are mentioning that Zaragoza was heading 12,000 troops : see The Cinco de Mayo and French Imperialism - HICKS Peter, Fondation Napoléon, and General Gustave Léon Niox book, Expédition du Mexique : 1861-1867, published in 1874 by Librairie militaire de J. Dumaine, p. 162 Read online
  6. "Cinco de Mayo". Mexico Online: The Oldest and most trusted online guide to Mexico.
  7. Lovgren, Stefan (2006-05-05). "Cinco de Mayo, From Mexican Fiesta to Popular U.S. Holiday". National Geographic News.
  8. List of Public and Bank Holidays in Mexico Archived 2009-04-16 at the Wayback Machine April 14, 2008. This list indicates that Cinco de Mayo is not a día feriado obligatorio ("obligatory holiday"), but is instead a holiday that can be voluntarily observed.
  9. Cinco de Mayo is not a federal holiday in México Accessed May 5, 2009
  10. Día de la Batalla de Puebla. 5 May 2011. "Dia de la Batalla de Puebla: 5 de Mayo de 1862." Archived 24 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Colegio Rex: Marina, Mazatlan. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  11. Día de la Batalla de Puebla (5 de Mayo). Guia de San Miguel. Archived 2012-05-12 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  12. Happy “Battle of Puebla” Day. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  13. 1 2 Beezley, William H. (2011). Mexico in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN   978-0-19-515381-1 . Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  14. Did You Know? Cinco de Mayo is more widely celebrated in USA than Mexico. Tony Burton. Mexconnect. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  15. Cultural adaptation: the Cinco de Mayo holiday is far more widely celebrated in the USA than in Mexico. Geo-Mexico. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  16. 25 Latino Craft Projects: Celebrating Culture in Your Library. Ana Elba Pabon. Diana Borrego. 2003. American Library Association. Page 14. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  17. 7 Things You May Not Know About Cinco de Mayo. Jesse Greenspan. May 3, 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  18. Congressional Record - House. Page 7488. May 9, 2001. Retrieved 29 April 2013. Note that contrary to most other sources, this source states the date Juarez declared Cinco de Mayo to be a national holiday was 8 September 1862.
  19. Statement by Mexican Consular official Accessed May 8, 2007.[ failed verification ]
  20. Adam Brooks. "Is Cinco De Mayo Really Mexico's Independence Day?". NBC 11 News. Retrieved 2008-09-18.[ full citation needed ]
  21. Retrieved February 6, 2009. [ dead link ]
  22. Central Intelligence Agency (2011). "The World Factbook: Mexico". CIA . Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  23. Geo-Mexico (2010). "The Battle of Puebla is re-enacted each year on Cinco de Mayo (May 5), but in Mexico City". Retrieved 17 November 2011.

Coordinates: 19°03′00″N98°12′00″W / 19.0500°N 98.2000°W / 19.0500; -98.2000