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Miguel Hidalgo (Part 2)


War of Independence

From Dolores, the rebel force moved on San Miguel, gathering support along the way like a rolling avalanche. In the process the movement began to be openly anti-Spanish rather than pro-Ferdinand, and Hidalgo dropped his own pretence to loyalism in favour of outright support for Mexican independence. So, what began as a conservative reaction turned into a popular, largely Indian, anti-colonial revolution. The army then moved on Guanajuato, the provincial capital, where Antonio Riano, the governor, attempted to organise a defense. But he was only able to assemble some 500 men, Creole and Spanish, against an Indian force now estimated at 20,000 strong. The town fell to onslaught on 28 September, during which many of the defenders were massacred.

The rebel army then moved south-east towards Mexico City, close to which General Felix Calleja had placed some 3000 cavalry and 600 infantry at the pass of Las Cruces. In the ensuing Battle of Las Cruces the tiny defending force faced 80,000 rebels. The Royalists managed to hold off the advance in two days of hard fighting, assisted by the fact that Hidalgo's men had scarcely any firearms. But in the end they were defeated by sheer weight of numbers, and 200 survivors of the battle fell back on Mexico City, now virtually defenceless. As he did not have confidence in the discipline of his newly recruited army and did not feel he could control looting or useless violence, Hidalgo did not press his advantage, and the rebels moved away from the capital, to the north-east in the direction of Valladolid, present-day Morelia, and from thence on to Guadalajara.


Defeat and execution

Calleja, with an enhanced Royal army, followed in close pursuit, finally forcing Hidalgo and Allende to make a stand on the banks of the Calderon River, where a battle was fought on the morning of January 16 1811. Although numerically weaker, Calleja's force was far better armed. Hidalgo, moreover, had organised his own forces badly, ignoring the advice of the more experienced Allende. Under sustained attack by cavalry, infantry and artillery, the rebel army collapsed in panic when one of the Royalist shells struck an ammunition wagon. Calleja's victory was complete.

Allende, who had grown increasingly frustrated with Hidalgo during the campaign, a mood that was compounded by the murderous indiscipline of the Indian army, promptly relieved his chief of command, and carried him northwards with his tiny remaining force, towards the American border, where he hoped to gain the help and support of President James Madison. However, on March 21, he was intercepted by Royalist forces, and the two leaders taken prisoner.

The four leaders of the revolution – Hidalgo, Allende, Jiménez and Aldama – were held in the Federal Palace of Chihuahua and executed by firing squad, three of them on June 26, 1811 and Miguel Hidalgo on July 30, 1811 at Chihuahua's Government Palace. Prior to his death, Hidalgo expressed regret for the bloodshed unleashed by the revolt, though he remained firm in his conviction that Mexico had to be free. The corpses of the four leaders were decapitated and their heads were put on the four corners of the Alh?ndiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato, intended as a way to intimidate the insurgents.

Hidalgo and the other three leaders' heads were on display in the city until 1821, when Mexico finally won its independence. Hidalgo's decapitated body was disinterred from his burial place in the San Francisco Temple in Chihuahua and re-buried in Mexico City after independence had been won.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com

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