Battle of La Concepción


Battle of La Concepción

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict= Battle of Concepción


description=
partof= War of the Pacific
date= July 9, 10 of 1882
place= Concepción, Perú
result= Peruvian victory
combatant1= flag|Chile
combatant2= flag|Peru|1825
commander1=flagicon|Chile Colonel Ignacio Carrera Pinto
commander2=flagicon|Peru|1825 Colonel Juan Gastó
strength1= 77 soldiers
strength2= 300 solders, 1 000 guerrillas
casualties1= 77 soldiers
casualties2= 291 soldiers and guerrillas

The Battle of Concepción (Spanish: "Batalla de Concepción") was a battle between a Chilean patrol and Peruvian forces during the War of the Pacific. Heavily outnumbered, the garrison of 77 Chilean soldiers led by Lieutenant Ignacio Carrera Pinto was completely annihilated by a 1.300 Peruvian force commanded by Col. Juan Gasto after a 27 hour resistance between July 9 and July 10, 1882 in the small town of Concepcion in the Peruvian Andes.

This battle has a strong meaning for both countries. In Chile, every July 10 is celebrated the Flag's day (Spanish: "Día de la Bandera"), remembering those who preferred to die defending their flag fighting to the end instead of surrender themselves.

Background

After the fall of the Peruvian capital city, many officers escaped to the mountains and organized the resistance from the Andes heights. Between this men were Col. Andres Caceres, who successfully gained the sympathies of the Indian farmers who lived totally disconnected from the precedent campaigns. The tactic developed from now on was to fight a guerrilla war attacking in small groups scattered in the entire Andes.

The Chilean occupation was directed by the now Adml. Patricio Lynch, who in response of this new strategy sent a division which divided into columns with the intention to sweep the Andes and to gain control of the towns in the region. The first force to be sent was Ambrosio Letelier's division, which was successful in his task, yet committed several abuses and in consequence called to Lima and sent to Santiago and courtmarshalled. From this campaign emerges the Battle of Sangra, engagement that took place on June 26, 1881, at the "Hacienda de Sangrar", where a single company of the "Buin" 1st Line Battalion successfully held off an assault of 500 Peruvian soldiers and "montoneras". The abuses perpetrated by Letelier's division generated discontent and hate to the invading troops, allowing Caceres to increase his troops easily.

Then, on 1882, Col. Estanislao del Canto was sent to the Junin Department in order to maintain control on the region and trying to find and eliminate Caceres' guerrillas. Del Canto's division had about 2.300 men, and was formed by the "Tacna" 2nd Line, Lautaro and "Chacabuco" 6th Line infantry battalions, one "Carabineros de Yungay" Cav. Squadron and one artillery brigade from the "Artillery Nº1" Regt. This force obtained an early success as it's vanguard encountered Caceres' rear troops at Pucara on February 5, forcing him to retreat to Ayacucho [Official Report of the battle of Pucara, by "Tacna" 2nd Line Battalion and division Commander Col. Estanislao del Canto] . On the 22, Caceres defeats the also Peruvian Col. Arnaldo Panizo at Acuchimay, taking control of Panizo's army and increasing his own one.

Del Canto's situation

Del Canto's division was scattered in the southern region of the Peruvian Andes, divided into small groups stationed in several towns and enduring the severe lack of supplies - such as food, clothes, shoes, ammunition, etc. - and heavy casualties due to decesases and the cold of these heights. In fact, the most common cause of death in the Chilean division were tifus and frostbite [cite web | url=http://www.geocities.com/blautz_9000/articulos/bajas.htm | author= Ojeda, Jorge | accessdate= 2008| title= Casualties of the Center Division] . The Chilean high command was reasonably very concerned about the situation of the soldiers, and asked to Chilean authorities permission to leave the mountains, but this requests fell on deaf ears. The situation turned desperate, so Col. del Canto himself traveled to Lima to ask the authorization to retreat. After the report of Dr. Jovino Novoa about the troops state, the permission to retreat was grantedcite book |title= La Guerra del Pacífico en imágenes, relatos, testimonios |author= Mellafe, Rafael; Pelayo, Mauricio |year= 2004 |publisher= Centro de Estudios Bicentenario] .

Caceres' offensive

The news of the Chilean situation reached Caceres, who saw an opportunity to decisevily destroy the entire division fighting them on their garrisons. Thus, Caceres decided to launch a simultaneous attack on several Chilean garrisons in the Andes. Gasto, with Pucara Nº4, America battalions and the Libres de Ayacucho columns, was to join the Indian guerrillas (i.e. "montoneras") at Comas and to march in direction to Concepcion, meanwhile Col. Maximo Tafur was sent to La Oroya, with the objective to destroy the bridge over there and closing any useful escape route for the retiring del Canto's division. Caceres himself with the rest of his troops would attack the 4th company of the "Santiago" 5th Line Battalion at Marcavalle.

Chilean garrison situation

After an initial success, the lack of supplies and medicines, combined with a high mortality among Chilean lines due to unknown illnesses and cold temperatures, forced Estanislao del Canto to retreat from the Andes to Lima. So, the plan was to retire the division gathering in order the scattered garrisons as the column left the mountains.

The garrison posted at Concepcion was the 4th company of the "Chacabuco" 6th Line Bn., formed by 77 soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Ignacio Carrera Pinto. Without knowing it, he was promoted to Captain, but would never received it. Along with the soldiers travelled two women, one of them pregnant and was about to deliver. Also, eleven men were sick at the moment of the battle. The garrison also lacked of ammunition, having only one hundred shots per soldier.

Lt. Carrera Pinto was waiting to the retiring division in order to join it and continuing refolding from the Andes. An attack wasn't expected, nevertheless he maintained the garrison on a alert status. He didn't know that when finally Col. del Canto could leave his position at Huancayo, it's south wing was defeated by Caceres' followers at Marcavalle, delaying again the advance of the Chilean troops towards Concepcion. Meanwhile, the "montoneras" of Ambrosio Salazar and the Peruvian regular forces of Juan Gasto were already gathered at Leon hill and waiting for the attack signal.

On July 9, by 14:00 hrs. the Chilean sentries sounded the alarm announcing the presence of enemy troops. The Chileans could contemplate on the surrounding hills the Peruvian troops and several hundreds of Indians who were shouting, ready to penetrate in the town, the numerical inferiority was 1 to 17 against the Chileans.

Chilean battleplan

Due to be outnumbered, Carrera Pinto's plan was to fortify the garrison at the town central square, blocking the four corners of it and to resist there until del Canto's arrival. Hence, Carrera Pinto ordered to divide the troops into three sections to defend each one of the entrances to the square, occupying the following positions: on the northern corner, Perez Canto with the first group; on the northwestern, Martinez with other twenty soldiers; on the southeastern point, Montt with twenty more; and himself, with the remaining sixteen, went to occupy the southwestern corner. When the enemy overpowered this positions, the troops would retreat to the town's church.

The battle

The orders were carried out quickly and the Chileans prepared themselves for the imminent attack; suddenly the shout stopped and a tomb silence surrounded the town, single from time to time being interrupted by a punch of a window or loose door to the wind.A parliamentarian in white flag showed itself by the Southeastern corner of the seat and he approached where he was colonel Ignacio Carrera Pìnto, it was a surrender message: Quote|“Central Army. Separate military command of the Vanguard Division. La Concepcion, July 9, 1882.

"To the Chilean garrison Commander. Present. Considering that our forces, which surround Concepcion, are numerically superior to the ones under your command, and wishing to avoid an obviously impossible fight, I suggest you unconditionally surrender your forces, guaranteeing the respect for your officer's and soldier's lives. In the case of a negative reply, the forces under my command shall proceed with the utmost energy in the discharging of their duties. May God keep you"”|Juan Gasto

The Chilean official responded in a note he himself gave to the emissary, with the following phrase:

Carrera Pinto explained them what happened and his refusal to surrender. Suddenly, from one of the flanks a mass of Comas natives advanced towards the enemy position, the Chilean soldiers formed in double row opened fire at the hordes of natives who fell to the firings and backed down. This tactic had an initial success, since the easy target these frontal charges represented, and combined with bayonet charges managed to maintain the attackers out of the square for an hour. In a second attack, this time the Chileans had to endure sniper shots from the ceilings and windows of the surrounding buildings, which caused seven casualties. Carrera Pinto tried a bayonet charge in order to break the siege and escape, but he was wounded in his left arm in this attempt, leaving him no choice but to fall back to the church and lock the troops inside.

The Chilean Lieutenant, aware of the desperate of their situation, sent three soldiers trying to connect with del Canto's division stationed at Huancayo and to inform of the attack which they were maintaining. Nevertheless, none of them managed to pass the perimeter of Concepcion and were killed and soon beheaded in the sight of the troops garrisoned in the church, coming to dance as a lesson with the heads of their compatriots in the ends of the lances, all the participant natives were lowered accurately.

The night arrived at La Concepcion and the battle stopped for a while. The barmaid who was in labor under those unfortunate circumstances, delivered a child in the kitchen of the church, increasing the grief of the garrison. The soldiers mounted guard and suddenly realized that the ceiling of the church was being dew with paraffin. Obviously, the intention was to burn the Chilean garrison with church and everything. A mass of "montoneras", armed with torches ran into the square and the Chileans practically exhausted their ammunition trying to contain this new attack, but the Peruvians managed to set the church ceiling on fire.

Carrera Pinto and the survivors tried to take refuge in a contiguous house to the church and to contain the Peruvians there, but in an attempt to break the siege in another bayonet charge, Ignacio Carrera Pinto was shot to death. The Chilean soldiers, took their commanding officer's body and retreated to the burning church again. Another attack from a horde of "montoneras" managed to perforate the wall of the ardent church but were contained by another bayonet attack of about twelve Chilean soldiers to the control of 2nd Lieutenant Arturo Perez Canto.

The ending

68 Chilean soldiers had died, only 9 of them under the command of the 2nd Lt. Luis Cruz Martinez plus the women were left. The situation could not be more hopeless for the Chileans. Another attack caused another 4 dead soldiers. Juan Gasto pleaded with the survivors to accept an honorable surrender, but the Chileans launched a bayonet charge and were subsequently killed.

Aftermath

The victory cost the Peruvians almost 18 hours of battle, tens of line soldiers, a couple of hundreds of dead Comas indians and an operational delay. At noon appeared the Chilean reinforce column from Huancayo, which recognizing the macabre spectacle did a search by bordering hills putting to death to those who crossed them in their way. Col. Del Canto ordered to extract the heart of the four officers: Captain Ignacio Carrera Pinto, Lieutenant Julio Montt and Second Lieutenants Arturo Perez Canto and Luis Cruz Martinez and to send them in formalin to Santiago. The rest of the bodies of the 77 Chileans were buried to a flank of the church.

Notes


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