Cinco de Mayo – Celebrating the Decisive Battle of Puebla

THE DECISIVE BATTLE OF PUEBLA.

Mexico’s children everywhere are celebrating today the 59th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla; popularly known as the Cinco de Mayo — 5th of May.

To Americans in general, and to Texans particularly, this battle is of peculiar interest because of its decisive effect in checking the French invasion of Mexico at a most critical time for America. Taking advantage of the fact that the American Union was engaged in civil war, Napoleon III, pursuing his plan to give the French empire supremacy in the New World as well as in the Old, had begun war against the Juarez government of Mexico, in support of the self-styled “government” of Miramon which had been defeated and overthrown in December, 1860, in the battle of Calpulapan.

Previous military operations had resulted in the advance of the French army under Gen. Lorencez, together with a Mexican “conservative” force under Gen. Taboado, to the town of Amazoc, just east of Puebla, on May 2, 1862. The next day, the Mexican national army under Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza — who was born on the Bay of Espiritu Santo, Texas, in 1829 — retreating before the French advance, entered the City of Puebla. On the 4th, Lorencez advanced to Los Alamos, within sight of PUebla, where he camped astride the Vera Cruz road. He had about 6,000 French troops, and 300 Mexican cavalry. The same day, Zaragoza made his preparations for defense. The Arteaga division — commanded temporarily by Gen. Negrete — occupied the Loreta and Guadalupe forts, northwest of Puebla. The infantry of the Toluca brigade of Gen. Berriozabal continued the line from Guadalupe toward the Vera Cruz road. The San Luis Potosi brigade extended the line to the right. The extreme right, on the Amozoc road, was held by the Oaxaca division of Gen. Portorio Diaz. The Mexican cavalry was placed near Azcarate’s brickyard. The artillery was commanded by Gen. Rodriquez. The city itself was held by Tapia’s bridgade, commanded temporarily by Gen. Escobedo. The total Mexican force was about 5,000 men, a great number of whom were recruits.

The French advanced at 4 o’clock in the morning of May 5th, a strong column marching to the northwest for the attack on the forts of Guadalupe and Loreto. After cannonading the forts for two hours, an assault was made on them; the French massing between the two forts as they advanced. Meanwhile, Berriozabal had been sent with his infantry to reinforce Negrete at the forts, together with some cavalry under Gen. Alvarez. After a hard fight the French were repulsed, and retreated. Another French column arriving at this moment, the lines were reformed, and a second, and much more determined attack was made on the two forts and the Resureccion chapel south of Guadalupe. This attack, and a following one, also were repulsed; the Mexican cavalry charging upon the defeated assailants.

On the southeast front, Gen. Diaz ???s? sustained a hard attack, which ???iled like the others. The French returned to their Los Alamos camp at nightfall, and a few days later retreated to Orizaba, followed by Diaz for some distance.

The French loss was 131 killed, and ?45 wounded and sick. The Mexican loss was 87 killed, 132 wounded and 12 missing. By order of Juarez, the sound prisoners were sent back to the French lines; and later all sick and wounded also were returned, provided with money for the journey. All French medals and decorations taken were returned; the Mexicans keeping only one French flag, captured from a famous ????? regiment. This banner is still in the citadel of Mexico.

The result of the battle was decisive for Mexico. It delayed the occupation of the City of Mexico for more than a year, and led to the failure of the French expedition and of Maximilian’s empire. Gen. Zaragoza, the victor, was given a sword by his country, and received other honors; but worn out by the strains of the campaign, he died at Puebla on the following 8th of September. The city where he died is known officially as Puebla de Zaragoza. There are many other places in Mexico which bear his name.

San Antonio Express (San Antonio, Texas) May 5, 1921

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