Battle of Vilcapugio

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Battle of Vilcapugio
Part of Bolivian War of Independence
Argentine War of Independence
Plano Vilcapugio.jpg
Old map of the battle
Date1 October 1813
Location Bolivia
19°2′12.79″S66°35′31.19″W / 19.0368861°S 66.5919972°W / -19.0368861; -66.5919972 Coordinates: 19°2′12.79″S66°35′31.19″W / 19.0368861°S 66.5919972°W / -19.0368861; -66.5919972
Result Royalist victory
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg United Provinces of South America
Flag of Bolivia (state, 1825-1826).svg Republiquetas
Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Spanish Empire
Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Viceroyalty of Peru
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Argentina (alternative).svg Manuel Belgrano Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Joaquín de la Pezuela
3,400 soldiers
14 cannons
3,500 soldiers
12 cannons
Casualties and losses
350 dead 200 dead

The Battle of Vilcapugio (Quechua : Sacred Well) [1] 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.

Upper Peru former region in South America that in 1825 became Bolivia

Upper Peru is a denomination for the land that was governed by the Real Audiencia of Charcas. The denomination originated in Buenos Aires towards the end of the 18th century after the Audiencia of Charcas was transferred from the Viceroyalty of Peru to the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776. It comprised the governorships of Potosí, La Paz, Cochabamba, Chiquitos, Moxos and Charcas.

Argentine War of Independence 1810-1825 armed conflict in South America

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.

Manuel Belgrano Argentine politician and military leader

Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano y González, usually referred to as Manuel Belgrano, was an Argentine economist, lawyer, politician, 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.


Second Upper Peru campaign

After the Army of the North's victories during the Battles of Tucumán and Salta, the campaign against the royalists in Upper Peru was restarted upon the insistence of the government in Buenos Aires. Despite being ill with malaria and having to command a company of new conscripts with insufficient artillery, Belgrano accepted the commanding post.

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).

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.

Battle of Salta battle of the Argentine War of Independence

The Battle of Salta took place on February 20, 1813 on the plains of Castañares, north of the present-day Argentina 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's army was supported from Oruro province by Colonel Baltasar Cárdenas and the 2,000 poorly organized natives under his command, and Colonel Cornelio Zelaya with forces from Cochabamba. Both colonels had orders to raise the aboriginal populations against the Spanish authorities. Knowing that the royalist army did not have enough mules to move its artillery and provisions, Belgrano planned to use a pincer movement to attack, confidently believing that Pezuela's lack of mobility would be a decisive factor.

Oruro Department Place in Oruro, Bolivia

Oruro is a department in Bolivia, with an area of 53,588 km2 (20,690 sq mi). Its capital is the city of Oruro. According to the 2012 census, the Oruro department had a population of 494,178.

Cochabamba City & Municipality in Bolivia

Cochabamba is a city and municipality in central Bolivia in a valley in the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cochabamba Department and the fourth largest city in Bolivia, with a population of 630,587 according to the 2012 Bolivian census. Its name is from a compound of the Quechua words qucha "lake" and pampa, "open plain." Residents of the city and the surrounding areas are commonly referred to as cochalas or, more formally, cochabambinos.

Pincer movement military tactic

The pincer movement, or double envelopment, is a military maneuver in which forces simultaneously attack both flanks (sides) of an enemy formation.

The battle

At the end of September 1813, most of Belgrano's army arrived to the plain of Vilcapugio, a plateau surrounded by high mountains several miles north of Potosí. The royalist troops were encamped further west at Condo-Condo under the orders of Pazuela and Major Saturnino Castro, which allowed them to take by surprise and utterly defeat Cárdenas' native troops at Ancacato, 23 km north of Belgrano's headquarters. Castro also obtained documents from Cárdenas giving instructions to Belgrano. With these documents Pezuela was able to interrupt Belgrano's plans and began his advance on the mountains on 1 October, long before Zelaya's cavalry from Cochabamba could join the republican army at Vilcapugio. Belgrano's army veterans from the North contained the left flank and center column of the royalist army and forced them to back down to the point that Pezuela had in mind, by a moment, to send a message to the Viceroy of Peru intimating that the battle had been lost. His own left flank, however, remained in action and defeated Belgrano's right column. Had the Northern army continued to persist in pursuing the Spanish troops, victory would have been secured, but the arrival of the royalist cavalry commanded by Saturnino Castro made the rebels panic, causing them to disperse. [2] The royalist army reorganized itself and appropriated all of its artillery, continuously shelling the few soldiers left in Belgrano's encampment. As result of the battle, 350 rebels and some 200 royalists were killed.

Potosí City & Municipality in Bolivia

Potosí is a capital city and a municipality of the Department of Potosí in Bolivia. It is one of the highest cities in the world at a nominal 4,090 metres (13,420 ft). For centuries, it was the location of the Spanish colonial mint.


Belgrano and Eustaquio Díaz Vélez had decided that Vélez would march to the south to Potosí to reunite with the dispersed troops, while Belgrano would gathered the remains of his army near the town of Macha, some 65 km to the east.

Eustaquio Díaz Vélez Argentine general

Eustoquio Antonio Díaz Vélez, 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.

Santiago de Macha or Macha is a Bolivian locality in the department of Potosí, Chayanta Province, Colquechaca Municipality, Macha Canton. Macha had a population of 1,850 in 2001 and the canton was inhabited by 8,769 people. Most of the young adults works abroad, and the marketplace of the village opens only on Sunday. The main economic activity of Macha is subsistence agriculture.

Díaz Vélez took command over the troops in Potosí after Vilcapugio with the rest of the army on the left flank of the enemy. At this point the troops reorganized themselves to pursue the Campaign of Alto Perú according to the orders from the government of Buenos Aires.


  1. López, Vicente Fidel (1881).La revolucion argentina: su origen, sus guerras, y su desarrollo político hasta 1830, Volume 1. Imprenta y librería de Mayo, de C. Casavalle, p. 21 (in Spanish)
  2. El brigadier Pezuela y su segundo, Ramírez, acudieron velozmente a contener la dispersión y reparar tamaño desorden; pero como la reserva había huído también sin disparar un solo tiro, todos sus esfuerzos habrían sido estériles si la Divina Providencia no protege a las armas de España guiando a Castro al combate en tan crítico momento. García Camba, Andrés (1846). Memorias para la Historia de las armas españolas en el Perú. Sociedad tipográfica de Hortelano y compañia, V. II, page 105. (in Spanish)

See also

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.

Action of Tambo Nuevo

The Action of Tambo Nuevo, also known as Hazaña de los Tres Sargentos was a successful cavalry raid carried out between 23 and 25 October 1813, during the second Upper Peru campaign of the Argentine War of Independence, by a small detachment of Dragones of the Army of the North. The targets were the headquarters of royalist Colonel Saturnino Castro at Yocalla, and later a forward outpost on Tambo Nuevo.

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.

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