Battle of Salta

Last updated
Battle of Salta
Part of the Argentine War of Independence
Battle of Salta.jpg
Battle of Salta
DateFebruary 20, 1813
Location 24°43′53.01″S65°23′46.08″W / 24.7313917°S 65.3961333°W / -24.7313917; -65.3961333 Coordinates: 24°43′53.01″S65°23′46.08″W / 24.7313917°S 65.3961333°W / -24.7313917; -65.3961333
Result Decisive United Provinces victory
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg United Provinces of South America Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spanish Empire
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Viceroyalty of Peru
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg Manuel Belgrano Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Juan Pío de Tristán   White flag icon.svg
3.000 soldiers
12 cannons [1]
3.400 soldiers
10 cannons [1]
Casualties and losses
103 dead
433 injured [1]
481 dead
114 injured
2,776 prisoners
10 cannons
2,118 muskets [1]
Argentina location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Argentina

The Battle of Salta took place on February 20, 1813 on the plains of Castañares, north of the present-day Argentine city of Salta, during the Argentine War of Independence. The Army of the North, under the command of general Manuel Belgrano, defeated for the second time the royalist troops of general Pío de Tristán, after their victory in the previous September at the Battle of Tucumán. The unconditional surrender of the royalist troops ensured Argentine control over most of the northern territories of the former Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.



Belgrano had taken advantage of the victory at Tucumán to reinforce his army. In four months he improved the discipline of his troops, improved training and recruited sufficient men so as to duplicate their numbers. The artillery abandoned by Tristán in the previous battle helped Belgrano to fill his lack of equipment. At the beginning of January, he started a slow march towards Salta. On February 11, on the banks of the Juramento River, the army swore an oath of loyalty to the Assembly of the Year XIII which had started sessions in Buenos Aires a few days before, and to the national flag.

Tristán, in the meantime, had taken the time to fortify Portezuelo pass, the only access to the city through the hills from the southeast, a tactical advantage that supposedly would make the attempt impossible, except for the local area knowledge that the new conscripts brought to the rebels. Captain Apolinario Saravia, a local from Salta, offered to guide the army through a high path that led to Chachapoyas, which would allow them to connect with the north road that went to Jujuy, in an area where there were no similar fortifications. Under cover of rain the rebel army made a slow march through the rough terrain, hindered by the difficulty off moving equipment and artillery. On February 18 they reached a field where they encamped, while the captain, disguised as a native wrangler guided a mule train loaded with firewood to the city, with the intention of reconnoitering the positions taken by Tristán's army.


On the 19th thanks to the intelligence from Saravia, the army marched on the morning with the intention of attacking the enemy troops the next morning at dawn. Tristán received news of the advance, and placed his troops to resist, placing a column of fusiliers on the side of San Bernardo hill, reinforced his left flank, and placed the 10 artillery pieces he had. On the morning of February 20 he ordered a march in formation, with the infantry on the center, one column of cavalry on each flank and a strong reserve led by Martín Dorrego. The first encounter went for the defenders, as the left-flank cavalry had difficulties reaching the enemy shooters due to the highly steeped terrain. Before noon Belgrano ordered an attack by the reserves on those positions, while the artillery used grapeshot on the enemy. Dorrego, at the head of the cavalry led an advance towards the fence that surrounded the city. The tactic was successful; columns of infantry under the command of Carlos Forest, Francisco Pico and José Superí broke the enemy lines and entered the city streets, closing the royalist retreat on the center. The retreat was hindered by the same fence they had erected as part of their fortifications. Finally they congregated on the main square, where Tristán decided to surrender, ordering the ringing of the church's bells. An envoy negotiated with General Belgrano that the next day the royalists would abandon the city on formation, with war honors, after relinquishing their weapons. Belgrano guaranteed their integrity and freedom in exchange for swearing not to raise arms against the rebels. Tristán later on would change sides and fight for the independentists in Bolivia. The prisoners captured before the surrender were later freed in exchange for the men that Goyeneche had captured in Upper Peru.

The 2,786 men remaining with Tristán surrendered the next day, giving up more than 2,000 muskets, swords, pistols, carbines, 10 cannons and their supplies. The generosity of Belgrano, who embraced Tristán and allowed him to keep his command symbols – they were personal friends, having been classmates at the University of Salamanca, been roommates in Madrid and loved the same woman [2] – would cause surprise in Buenos Aires, but the decisive victory silenced the critics and earned him a prize of 40,000 pesos granted by the Assembly. Belgrano declined, asking that the money be used instead to build schools in Tucumán, Salta, Jujuy and Tarija.

Governor Feliciano Chiclana placed a wooden cross on the common grave where the 480 royalist and 103 independentist troops were buried with the inscription "A los vencedores y vencidos" (To the victors and the vanquished). Today the place is marked by the February 20th monument, designed by Torquat Tasso  [ es ] and made of stone from a local quarry. The reliefs on the sides were designed by the famous sculptor and local salteña Lola Mora.

Belgrano's army would continue to the north, to fight the forces of Joaquín de la Pezuela. Two major defeats at Vilcapugio and Ayohuma, would end the second campaign of the Army of the North.


Related Research Articles

José de San Martín Argentine military leader and Libertador

José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras, known simply as José de San Martín or El Libertador of Argentina, Chile and Peru, was an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern and central parts of South America's successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire who served as the Protector of Peru. Born in Yapeyú, Corrientes, in modern-day Argentina, he left the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata at the early age of seven to study in Málaga, Spain.

Manuel Belgrano 18/19th-century Argentine military leader, economist, politician, and journalist

Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano y González, usually referred to as Manuel Belgrano, was an Argentine economist, lawyer, politician, journalist, and military leader. He took part in the Argentine Wars of Independence and created the Flag of Argentina. He is regarded as one of the main Libertadores of the country.

Argentine War of Independence

The Argentine War of Independence was fought from 1810 to 1818 by Argentine patriotic forces under Manuel Belgrano, Juan José Castelli and José de San Martín against royalist forces loyal to the Spanish crown. On July 9, 1816, an assembly met in San Miguel de Tucumán, declared full independence with provisions for a national constitution.

Battle of San Lorenzo 1813 battle in the Argentine War of Independence

The Battle of San Lorenzo was fought on 3 February 1813 in San Lorenzo, Argentina, then part of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. A Spanish royalist force under the command of Antonio Zabala was defeated by the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers, under the command of José de San Martín. This battle was the baptism by fire for this military unit, and for San Martín in the Spanish American wars of independence.

Jujuy Exodus

The Jujuy Exodus was an episode of the Argentine War of Independence. It was a massive forced displacement of people from the Jujuy Province, by orders of General Manuel Belgrano, conducted by his patriot forces that were battling a Royalist army. The population was compelled to leave under the threat of execution.

Martín Miguel de Güemes

Martín Miguel de Güemes was a military leader and popular caudillo who defended northwestern Argentina from the Spanish during the Argentine War of Independence.

Pío de Tristán 18/19th-century Peruvian Royalist politician and military leader

Juan Pío de Tristán y Moscoso was a Peruvian general and politician who served as the second President of South Peru from October 12, 1838 to February 23, 1839. He was nominally the last viceroy of Peru, serving in that capacity from December 1824 to January 23, 1826, but not exercising power.

Battle of Vilcapugio

The Battle of Vilcapugio was an action fought on October 1, 1813 during the second Campaign of Upper Peru in the Argentine War of Independence, where the republican forces led by General Manuel Belgrano were defeated by a royalist army, led by Joaquin de la Pezuela.

Battle of Ayohuma

The Battle of Ayohuma was an action fought on 14 November 1813, during the second Upper Peru Campaign of the Argentine War of Independence. The republican forces of the Army of the North, led by General Manuel Belgrano were defeated by the royalists, commanded by Joaquín de la Pezuela.

Battle of Yavi

The Battle of Yavi took place on November 15, 1816, and was one of the military battles to obtain Argentina's independence from Spain.

Battle of Huaqui Battle of the Bolivian War of Independence

The Battle of Huaqui, was a battle between the Primera Junta's revolutionary troops and the royalist troops of the Viceroyalty of Peru on the border between Upper Peru,, and the Viceroyalty of Peru on June 20, 1811.

José Manuel de Goyeneche, 1st Count of Guaqui Spanish noble

José Manuel de Goyeneche y Barreda, 1st Count of Guaqui was a Spanish soldier and diplomat.

Battle of Tucumán

The Battle of Tucumán was a battle fought on 24 and 25 September 1812 near the Argentine city of San Miguel de Tucumán, during the Argentine War of Independence. The Army of the North, commanded by General Manuel Belgrano, defeated the royalist troops commanded by General Pío de Tristán, who had a two-to-one advantage in numbers, halting the royalist advance on Argentina's northwest. Together with the Battle of Salta, on 20 February 1813, the victory at Tucumán allowed the Argentine troops to reaffirm the borders under their control.

Eustaquio Díaz Vélez Argentine general

Eustoquio Antonio Díaz Vélez was an Argentine military officer who fought in the British invasions of the Río de la Plata, participated in the May Revolution and fought in the war of independence and Argentine civil wars.

Army of the North

The Army of the North, contemporaneously called Army of Peru, was one of the armies deployed by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata in the Spanish American wars of independence. Its objective was freeing the Argentine Northwest and the Upper Peru from the royalist troops of the Spanish Empire. It was headed by Hipólito Vieytes (1810), Juan José Castelli (1810–1811), Juan Martín de Pueyrredón (1811–1812), Manuel Belgrano (1812–1814), José de San Martín (1814), José Rondeau (1814–1816), Manuel Belgrano (1816–1819) and Francisco Fernández de la Cruz (1819–1820).

The Battle of San Roque was part of the Argentine Civil War. It was fought on the Primero River, near the city of Córdoba, Argentina, on 22 April 1829. The Federalist forces of Córdoba Province governor Juan Bautista Bustos were defeated by the Unitarian forces of General José María Paz. As a result of his victory, Paz assumed the office of provincial Governor.

The Battle of Tacuarí was a battle in Southern Paraguay between revolutionary forces under the command of General Manuel Belgrano, member of the Primera Junta government of Argentina, and Paraguayan troops under colonel Manuel Atanasio Cabañas, at the time at the service of the royalists.

Battle of Pequereque

The Battle of Pequereque was a clash which took place on 19 June 1813, during the second Upper Peru campaign of the Argentine War of Independence, between scouting forces of the United Provinces Army of the North and the royalist Army of Peru. The republican cavalry of the Army of the North, led by Colonel Cornelio Zelaya, prevailed over the royalists, under the command of Colonel Pedro Olañeta.

Flag of Macha

The flag of Macha is the name given to a pair of flags of Argentina found at a chapel in the hamlet of Titiri, near the village of Macha, north of Potosí, Bolivia. They are considered to be the first physical flags created by Manuel Belgrano, who in November 1813 hid the standards to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. They were discovered in 1885. Bolivia kept one of those flags at Sucre; the other was given to Argentina in 1896 and is currently kept at the National Historical Museum. Tucumán Province has used it as provincial flag since 2010. The flag preserved in Argentina is a triband of blue, white and blue bands, like the modern flag of Argentina, but the one kept in Bolivia is a triband of white, blue and white.

Juan Felipe Ibarra

Juan Felipe Ibarra was an Argentine soldier and politician. He was one of the caudillos who dominated the Argentine interior during the formation of the national state, and ruled the province of his birth for decades.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Camogli, p. 224
  2. Frías, Bernardo (1971). Historia del General Güemes y de la Provincia de Salta (in Spanish). Depalma - Buenos Aires.