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Battle of Camarón
Part of the French intervention in Mexico
Camerone.jpg
Battle of Camarón
Date 30 April 1863
Location Hacienda Camarón, near Palo Verde, Mexico
Result Mexican victory, successful French delaying action
Belligerents
Mexico Mexico France France
Commanders
Francisco de Paula Milan Jean Danjou  
Strength
800 cavalry
1200 infantry
3 officers
62 soldiers
Casualties and losses
90 killed, 300+ casualties (wounded) 43 killed, 19 captured of whom 17 wounded. Some died of wounds

The Battle of Camarón occurred on 30 April 1863, between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army. In this battle the French Foreign Legion made its legend. A small infantry patrol led by Captain Jean Danjou, Lt Maudet and Lt Vilain, numbering 62 soldiers and 3 officers was attacked and besieged by a force that may have eventually reached 2,000 [1] Mexican infantry and cavalry, and was forced to make a defensive stand at the nearby Hacienda Camarón, in Camarón de Tejeda, Veracruz, Mexico.

Contents

Background

As part of the French intervention in Mexico, a French army commanded by the Count of Lorencez, was besieging the Mexican city of Puebla. Fearing a logistical shortage, the French sent a convoy with 3 million francs, matériel, and munitions for the siege. The French Foreign Legion detachment was charged with protecting the convoy, and Captain Danjou was assigned the 3rd company of the Foreign Regiment. As the company had no officers, Captain Danjou assumed command.

The battle

On the 30 April, at 1 a.m., the 3rd company — 62 soldiers and 3 officers — was en route. At 7 a.m., after a 15-mile march, they stopped at Palo Verde to rest and "prepare the coffee". Soon after, a Mexican Army force of 600 cavalry was sighted. Captain Danjou ordered the company take up a square formation, and, though retreating, he rebuffed several cavalry charges, inflicting the first heavy losses on the Mexican army that suffered from the French long range rifle.

Seeking a more defensible position, Danjou made a stand at the nearby Hacienda Camarón, an inn protected by a 3-metre-high-wall. His plan was to occupy Mexican forces to prevent attacks against the nearby convoy. While his legionnaires prepared to defend the inn, the Mexican commander, Colonel Milan, demanded that Danjou and soldiers surrender, noting the Mexican Army's numeric superiority. Danjou replied: "We have munitions. We will not surrender." He then swore to fight to the death, an oath which was seconded by the men.

Around 11 a.m. the Mexicans were increased in size by the arrival of 1,200 infantry. The Hacienda took fire but the French had lost all water early in the morning when pack mule were lost during the retreat.

At noon, Captain Danjou was shot in the chest and died; his soldiers continued fighting despite overwhelming odds under the command of an inspired 2nd Lt. Vilain, who held for four hours before falling during an assault.

At 5 p.m only 12 Légionnaires remain around 2nd Lt. Maudet. Soonafter, with ammunition exhausted, the last of Danjou's soldiers, numbering only five under the command of Lt. Maudet, desperately mounted a bayonet charge. Two men died outright, while the rest continued the assault. The tiny group was surrounded and beaten to the earth. Colonel Milan, commander of the Mexicans, managed to prevent his men from ripping the surviving legionnaires to pieces. When the last two survivors were asked to surrender, they insisted that Mexican soldiers allow them safe passage home, to keep their arms, and to escort the body of Captain Danjou. To that, the Mexican commander commented, "What can I refuse to such men? No, these are not men, they are devils," and, out of respect, agreed to these terms.

Order of battle (French)

Officers : Capitaine Danjou, Sous-Lieutenant Maudet et Sous-Lieutenant Vilain.

NCO : Sergent Major Tonel, Sergents Germeys, Morzycki, Palmaert et Schaffner.

Corporals: Berg, Delcaretto, Favas, Magnin, Maine et Pinzinger.

Drummer: Lai.

Légionnaires : Baas, Bernardo, Bertolotto, Billod, Bogucki, Brunswick, Burgiser, Cathenhusen, Catteau, Conrad, Constantin, Dael, Daglincks, Dicken, De Vries, Dubois, Friedrich, Fritz, Fursbaz, Gaertner, Gorski, Groux, Haller, Hipp, Jeannin, Konrad, Kurz, Kunassec, Langmeier, Lemmer, Leonard, Lernoud, Merlet, Rerbers, Reuss, Rohr, Schreiblich, Schifer, Seffrin, Seger, Seiler, Timmermans, Van Den Bulcke, Van Den Meersche, Vandesavel, Van Opstal, Verjus, Wensel, Wittgens et Zey

Aftermath

Thanks to the heroic stand of the Foreign Legion, the French supply convoy made it safely to Puebla. The Mexicans failed to relieve the siege and the city fell on May 17.

Today "Camerone Day" is an important day for the Legionnaires, when the wooden prosthetic hand of Capitaine Danjou is brought out for display and veneration in special ceremonies at the Legion headquarters at Aubagne, France. That day officers prepare the coffee for their men to celebrate the one they didn't have time to drink before the battle.

After hearing of the battle, French Emperor Napoleon III had the name Camerone embroidered onto the flag of the Foreign Legion.

In 1892, a monument commemorating the battle was erected on the battlefield containing a plaque with the following inscription in French :"They were here less than sixty opposed to a whole army. Its mass crushed them. Life rather than bravery gave up these French soldiers at Camerone on 30 April 1863. In memory of them, the fatherland has erected this monument".

Visiting The Site of the Battle

The site of the battle can be visited at the village of Camarón de Tejeda, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. This village was formerly known as El Camarón, and later as Adalberto Tejeda, Villa Tejeda or Camarón de Tejeda.

In the village is a monument erected by the Mexican government in 1964 honoring the Mexican soldiers who fought in the battle. There is also a memorial site and parade ground on the outskirts of the village. The memorial has a raised platform, which covers the resting place of the remains of French and Mexican soldiers disinterred in the 1960s. The surface of the platform has a plaque in Latin. Diligent search of the area has failed to locate the plaque with the oft quoted 1892 French language inscription referred to above. (See cited References below for description and photos of the monuments and memorials).

Every year on 30 April the Mexican government holds annual ceremonies at the memorial site, with political speakers and a parade of various Mexican military units. The village holds a fiesta on the same day. The ceremonies are sometimes attended by representatives of the French military, and the site is also visited by retired veterans of the French Foreign Legion. (See cited References below for description and photos of the ceremonies). It is also tradition that any Mexican soldiers passing by the area turn towards the monument and offer a salute.

The village of Adalberto Tejeda (also known as Villa Tejeda, Camarón de Tejeda, or simply El Camarón) is located on secondary roads about 25 to 30 km west of the town of Soledad de Doblado, Veracruz, and about 64 km. west of the city of Veracruz. The 1964 monument is in the center of town. The memorial and parade ground, known as El Mausoleo (the Mausoleum), is a few blocks away on the edge of the village, near the town cemetery. The coordinates of the village of Adalberto Tejeda are Lat. 19.0216°; Long. -96.6154.

References

  • Brunon, Jean. Camerone. Paris, Editions France, 1981.
  • Patay, Max. Camerone 1863. Paris, Socomer editions, 1988.
  • Ryan, James W. Camerone. The French Foreign Legion's Greatest Battle. Westport, Conn., Praeger, 1996.

Reference with photos and descriptive narrative relating to visiting the site of the battle:

External links

Coordinates: 19°01′00″N 96°37′00″W / 19.016666666667°N 96.616666666667°W / 19.016666666667; -96.616666666667

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