Battle of Pavón: Wikis


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The Battle of Pavón was a key battle of the Argentina civil wars fought in Pavón, in Santa Fé Province, Argentina, on September 17, 1861, between the Army of Buenos Aires, commanded by Bartolomé Mitre, and the National Army, commanded by Justo José de Urquiza.

It led to the end of the Argentine Confederation ("Confederación Argentina"), and to the incorporation of Buenos Aires Province as a dominant member of the country.




Political postures

During most of the 19th Century, Argentine history was defined by the theoretical, political and military confrontation between two postures:

  • On one side the porteños from Buenos Aires wanted to impose their hegemony over the whole country.
  • On the other, the people from the provinces wanted to decentralize the nation, giving state autonomy to the provinces.

One difference between porteños and people from the provinces is that the former did not aligned directly with the two political parties of the time, Unitarians and Federalists existed both in the capital and in the provinces. Even though they were against each other politically, when it came to defend their own local interests, they joined to confront their common enemy (be it the capital or the provinces, whatever the case may be).

From the Battle of Caseros, or more exactly from the porteño revolution of 11 September 1852, the country was divided into the Confederación Argentina and the State of Buenos Aires, confronted by an intermittent civil war. The Battle of Cepeda (1859) and the Unión San José de Flores Pact, from 1860 had united Buenos Aires province with the rest of the country, at least in nominal form. In reality they had not solved the issue as both sides believed they would confront each other again. in the future.

Conflicts in the interior

If during president Urquiza's government, the interior provinces had been at peace, with the notable exception of San Juan, where a political crime served as catalyst for the civil war that ended at Cepeda, things changed when president Santiago Derqui took the post.

  • Several local caudillos, generically unitarians, had been at peace with the central government. With the new president, they publicly became part of the opposition: such was the case with Manuel Taboada from Santiago, or José María del Campo in Tucumán.
  • Córdoba's governor Mariano Fragueiro maneuvered poorly in his relations with the opposition, and when the situation became violent, Derqui intervened in the provincial government (Derqui was originally from Córdoba).
  • The gravest situation developed again in San Juan, where governor Virasoro was deposed and assassinated with the support of some porteño politicians, among them future president Sarmiento who was from San Juan. President Derqui sent federal troops to intervene in that province, but the new governor, Antonino Aberastain, confronted them with his militia. Aberastain was defeated and assassinated which allowed the porteños to accuse Derqui of having provoked the crime.

Elections in Buenos Aires

To cement the union of the rebel province to the nation, they elected — in Buenos Aires — provincial deputies for the national legislature. It was flawed as it was run in accordance with the electoral laws of Buenos Aires, not the national government. The new deputies where rejected in Congress, and the Senators staged a walkout in solidarity.

President Santiago Derqui issued a decree to establish new elections in Buenos Aires. The provincial authorities rebelled and annulled the Pact of San José.

Civil war

Congress considered this an act of sedition and Derqui gave Entre Ríos's general and ex-president Urquiza the post of commander in chief of the national forces to return the rebel province to the fold. At the same time, the porteño governor Mitre was commander in chief of the Buenos Aires army.

There were several attempts at mediation, from individuals, and foreign governments, all failed due to Mitre's and Derqui's intransigence. Urquiza, tried until the last moment to preserve the peace and declined to take the initiative against the porteño army, as was the request of his colonels Ricardo López Jordán and Prudencio Arnold.

President Derqui organized an army in Córdoba, gathering an heterogeneous group of infantry units. These forces were augmented by Urquiza's, with people from Entre Ríos, Corrientes and Santa Fé provinces plus some porteño emigrants; with the majority of these forces being cavalry. In total the federalist army had about 17,000 men, where 8,000 came from the center provinces and 9,000 from Entre Ríos, Buenos Aires, and Santa Fé's volunteers.

Mitre's army was made of 22,000 men and 35 artillery pieces, plus a considerable numeric superiority of arms and artillery and infantry training.[The British had supplied the artillery pieces and the trained British artillery crews to operate them]

Derqui advanced up to Rosario, where he left command in the hands of general Urquiza while Mitre advanced to the north of his province and invaded Santa Fé province.

The battle

The armies clashed by the Pavón creek, (40 km (25 mi) south of the city of Rosario, in Santa Fé province, about 260 km (162 mi) northwest of Buenos Aires. Urquiza formed his troops in a defensive position, forming an extended line due east of the Domingo Palacios ranch. On the wings he formed his cavalry.

Arriving at 800 m (2,625 ft) from the ranch, Mitre deployed his infantry, preparing for an assault on the enemy's center. But Urquiza's artillery started combat, opening great gaps in the porteño infantry, easy targets due to their colorful uniforms.

Combat lasted only two hours, during which the federalist left wing under colonel major Juan Saá, with the Santa Fé and renegade porteño men of Ricardo López Jordán, completely vanquished the porteño First Cavalry, under general and ex-Uruguayan president Venancio Flores, chasing them past Arroyo del Medio (a creek forming the border between Buenos Aires and Santa Fé provinces). The porteño Second Cavalry, under the command of veteran general Manuel Hornos, offered more resistance; but it had to retreat, leaving behind most of their heavier weapons and supplies plus many prisoners. The right wing, under general Miguel Galarza steamrolled the small left-wing cavalry of Buenos Aires.

In the federalist center, instead, composed by untrained militia from the interior of the country, was forced to retreat by the better trained and equipped porteño infantry battalions.

Seeing the center's collapse, Urquiza abandoned the field of battle without adding the 4,000 men from Entre Ríos that he had maintained in reserve, and marched to Rosario, then following to San Lorenzo and Las Barrancas. At that point he received information of his cavalry's victory but he did not return.

Historians have attempted to explain his retreat but there is no satisfactory answer. The most common reason is attributed to Urquiza's being ill and another saying that he mistrusted president Derqui and feared treason.

Urquiza's unexpected decision left the field open to the porteño army, which had retreated to San Nicolás de los Arroyos. Mitre decided then to consolidate his position before marching later on Santa Fé.


The battles of Cepeda, Caseros and Pavón were possibly some of the armed conflicts with the most significance in Argentine history, by the institutional consequences, as by the realignment of almost every other political actor after each of the battles.

After seeing Urquiza's inaction, Mitre gathered his troops. Part of the federalist cavalry advanced to Pergamino, occupying the town. After a reaction from the porteño cavalry, the federalists retreated back to Santa Fé, and Mitre started his advance into that province. Several months had passed from the date of the battle.

In the following months, the porteño advance was unstoppable. The only federalist army capable of opposing them was Urquiza's, but he did not act and almost dismantled it.

Seeing the interior being invaded, Derqui resigned and took refuge in Montevideo. A few weeks later vicepresident Pedernera declared the national government dissolved. Starting on that moment, Mitre projected his influence in the whole country: all the federal governors — with the notable exception of Urquiza — were deposed in the final weeks of the year and the first few weeks of 1862. Some were deposed by local unitarians, counting on the closeness of the porteño army, and others directly by the porteño army who invaded those provinces. The ones that avoided that fate united together to accept that the national government was over and left to Buenos Aires governor Bartolomé Mitre the task of national reorganization.

Mitre was elected president of the nation by means of new elections organized by the new governors where the federalist candidates were forbidden. Together with Mitre the porteño central power was felt, taking the ministries and a good part of the seats in Congress.

The country's capital, which had been relocated to Paraná, was against moved to Buenos Aires. The national government had to accept being a guest of the Buenos Aires city government. The location of the new national capital allowed the porteños to defend their interests very effectively.

In the following years, Argentina maintained a nominally federal organization, but the strength and preponderance of Buenos Aires was unbroken.



  • Ruiz Moreno, Isidoro J.. El misterio de Pavón. Editorial Claridad. ISBN 950-620-172-2. 
  • Pérez Amuchástegui, A. J.; others (1972). Crónica Argentina. Buenos Aires: Editorial Codex. 
  • Luna, Félix; others (1999). Grandes Protagonistas de la Historia Argentina. Buenos Aires: Editorial Planeta. 

External links


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