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Battle of Puebla
Part of the French intervention in Mexico
The Battle of Puebla marked one of the most significant episodes in Mexican military history.
Depictions of the battle showing Mexican cavalry taking over the French troops below the fort at Loreto.
Date May 5, 1862
Location Puebla, Mexico
Result Decisive Mexican victory
Belligerents
Mexico Mexico France France
Commanders
Mexico Ignacio Zaragoza France Charles de Lorencez
Strength
4,500 soldiers, mostly veterans of the Reform Wars 1857-1860, include Zappadores, Infantry, Cavalry and 18 guns in 3 batteries of artillery. (Civilian forces not substantiated) 6,040 soldiers, includes Chasseurs à Pied, Chasseurs de Vincennes, Chasseurs d'Afrique, 99th Infantry, 2nd Zouaves, Marine, Naval Infantry, and 12 guns Artillery, 6 guns Mountain Howitzer
Casualties and losses
83 killed
131 wounded
12 missing
462 killed
300+ wounded
8 captured

The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862 near the city of Puebla during the French intervention in Mexico. The battle ended in a victory for the Mexican Army against the occupying French forces. The victory is celebrated today during the festivities of Cinco de Mayo (5th of May).

Contents

Background

In late 1861 Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, sent troops to Mexico, alongside Spanish forces, to collect debts owed by a previous Mexican government. President Benito Juárez had announced the annulment of these debts, and vowed to pay nothing to European powers. Napoleon’s troops occupied the port city of Veracruz on December 8, 1861. Soon thereafter, the accompanying British and Spanish forces returned home, having established a truce with Mexico.

The battle

Map of the Battle's terrain.

The Battle of Puebla, May 6, 1862, was a single, important victory for the Mexican people over the occupying French Army.

The French Army 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 people saw these French soldiers wandering about with rifles, they took it that hostilities had recommenced. 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 Seguín, fell back to Alcuzingo Pass, where he and his army were badly beaten in a skirmish with Lorencez’s forces on April 28. Zaragoza retreated to Puebla, which was heavily fortified. Puebla had been held by the Mexican government since the Wars of Reform in 1860. To its north lie the forts Loreto and Guadalupe on opposite hilltops. Zaragoza had a trench dug to join the forts via the saddle.

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 May 5, 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 its 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 badly. By 3 p.m. the daily rains had started, making a slippery quagmire of the battlefield. Lorencez withdrew to distant positions, counting 462 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.

Follow up

Although the European intervention was slowed by their loss at Puebla, the invasion continued and was ultimately successful. The following year, French forces captured the capital of Mexico City, forcing Juárez's government into exile in northern Mexico, and the Austrian Archduke Maximilian became ruler of the short-lived Second Mexican Empire.

Fort Guadalupe today

On September 16, 1862, President Juárez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, regarded as "Battle of Puebla Day" or "Battle of Cinco de Mayo". Although today it is recognized in some countries as a day of Mexican heritage celebration, it is not a federal holiday in Mexico.[1] A common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day,[2] which actually is September 16 (dieciséis de septiembre in Spanish),[3] the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.[4]

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ Statement by Mexican Consular official Accessed May 8, 2007.
  2. ^ Adam Brooks. "Is Cinco De Mayo Really Mexico's Independence Day?". NBC 11 News. http://www.nbc11.com/cincodemayo/2990178/detail.html. Retrieved 2008-09-18.  
  3. ^ [1] Retrieved February 6, 2009.
  4. ^ [2] Retrieved February 6, 2009.

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