Bolivar, who had taken the title of “Dictator of the Western Provinces of Venezuela,” did not think of reestablishing the civil government — the only conditions under which democracies can live without danger.
Continuing Bolivar and South American Independence,
our selection from Histoire de l’Amerique du sud depuis la conquete fusqu’a nos jours. by Alfred Deberle published in 1876. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Bolivar and South American Independence.
Bolivar had taken refuge in Curacao with his cousin, Felix Ribas, where he collected all the refugees in order to take them to Cartagena, a province that had been able to preserve its free dom. He there laid his plan before the Congress. This consisted in making use of all the resources that they might be able to give them, in order to liberate Venezuela and save Nueva Granada at one and the same time. His petition having been considered, the Congress furnished him with money, arms, and pro visions, and Manuel Castillo sent to him five hundred men; these, united with the three hundred Venezuelans who followed him, formed a small army corps under his command of eight hundred men, the second in command being the above-named Ribas. The expedition left Cartagena in January, 1813, and Castillo wanted to march immediately on his own account, advancing toward the east, while Bolivar received orders from the Congress to occupy and hold Barancas, a town on the banks of the Magdalena. Bolivar, who did not wish to remain inactive, resolved to disobey these orders, promising himself to obtain pardon for this fault by covering himself with glory.
He ﬁrst seized Tenerifle, a town situated on the right bank of the Magdalena, then Mompos, and lastly Ocafia, dividing, beating, and dispersing the enemy. When he entered Venezuela, Nueva Granada was already free. The cruelties of Monteverde saved the revolution, obliging the moderates to throw themselves into the arms of the patriots. Recruits arrived from all parts; and already followed by more than two thousand men when he penetrated the Andes in the environs of Pamplona, Bolivar saw many thousands of volunteers united under his banner after he had succeeded in joining Ribas in the territory of Venezuela. Six hundred Granadinos sent by the Congress of Tunja had come with Ribas at the same time that Colonel Briceno, detached in Guadalito, arrived with a body of cavalry. Without loss of time, Bolivar attacked the Royalists at La Grita and afterward at Merida, making himself master of the district of that name; with the same rapidity be occupied the Province of Varinas. In the mean while Marino, that young student who after passing all the military grades in a few months was already named as one of the firmest supports of the revolution, defeated Monteverde, made himself master of the Provinces of Cumana and Barcelona, and took the title of general-in-chief and dictator of the Eastern Provinces of Venezuela.
Favored by these successes, which, however, were an obstacle to his views of unity, Bolivar divided his army into two parts; taking command of one, he placed Ribas in command of the other, and, pursuing the Spaniards closely, beat them in Niquitas, Betioca, Caracha, Barquisimeto, and Varinas, at last reaching Monteverde, whom he totally defeated; he then marched to Caracas, into which capital he made his entry (August 4, 1813) in a carriage drawn by twelve handsome young men; the enthusiasm with which the man, who was henceforth saluted by the title of “Liberator,” was received was indescribable. In a few months he had gone over one hundred fifty leagues and fought fifteen battles besides numerous smaller actions. His glory would have been complete if, in this memorable campaign, he had not retaliated by sanguinary executions of the Spaniards against the horrible cruelties inflicted by Monteverde, whose barbaric acts were no justification of his own.
The liberation of Venezuela appeared to be completely assured, since Bolivar occupied almost half of the captaincy-general and Mariﬁo the rest. The Spaniards held only a few unimportant points, Monteverde being blockaded in Puerto Cabello; it was difficult to foresee that Fortune would turn her back on the South Americans.
Bolivar, who had taken the title of “Dictator of the Western Provinces of Venezuela,” did not think of reestablishing the civil government — the only conditions under which democracies can live without danger; but the echoes of public opinion which reached him gave him to understand clearly the error that he had committed, and he hastened to convoke an assembly to which he gave an account of his operations and plans and tendered his resignation. This was not accepted, the dictatorship being conferred on him until Venezuela should be able to unite with Nueva Granada.
The Royalists, who had not lost all hope, armed the slaves, under a promise of giving them their liberty, the vagabonds, and all who had no visible means of subsistence whom they could meet with. At the head of these bloodthirsty bands was the ferocious Puy, who, after seizing Varinas, shot five hundred patriots there; Puy was lieutenant of Bover, the most dreaded of the adversaries of Bolivar. This Bover, a Castilian by origin, who had been successively sailor, coast-guard, and peddler, and had been imprisoned for his misdeeds, had come to America seeking an asylum from justice. Although his motive is unknown, he en listed in the Royalist ranks, in which he held the rank of captain at the time of the defeats of the Spaniards. He made an appeal to the idlers, the fugitives from justice, the negroes and the mulattoes, and with these organized a body of troops which, from their ferocity, deserved the name of the “Infernal Legion,” in which were many llaneros, barbarians from the plains, herdsmen, and slaughterers accustomed to tame the wildest horses and unrivalled as horsemen. These men of the plains despised the mountaineer who lowered himself by going on foot, as well as the European who could not endure a gallop continued for sixteen hours. They ride bareback and have no other dress than a sort of short breeches or drawers. Stretched out over their horses, with lance in rest and a lasso in the other hand, they fall upon the enemy, and wound and destroy with the rapidity of lightning. No regular cavalry can resist the onset of these Cossacks of the Colombian steppes, who always leave behind them such terrible trails. The cupidity of these nomads had been excited by the promise to distribute the lands of the conquered among them, and thus Bover succeeded very quickly in getting together an army of eight thousand men.
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