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Battle of Puebla

The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862 near the city of Puebla, Mexico during the French invasion of Mexico. It was a major Mexican victory, and is commemorated in the Mexican holiday the Cinco de Mayo.

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Background In late 1861 Napoleon III of France sent his troops to Mexico, supposedly to collect debts owed by a previous Mexican government which Mexican President Benito Juarez had agreed to pay, but only in installments over time. Napoleon III's troops took the port city of Veracruz on December 8, 1861. It soon became apparent, however, that their actual goal was not collection of debts, but rather the control of Mexico.

The Combatants French General Conde de Lorencez[?] commanded 6,000 to 6,500 well trained troops.

Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza commanded some 2,000 to 4,000 forces. Less than 1,000 were regular Mexican army; these were suplimented with local militias, hastily conscripted men of Puebla, and untrained volunteers.

The Battle

The pass leading to Puebla was protected by Fort Loreto and and Fort Guadalupe. Zaragoza had defensive trenches dug across the road and linking the forts.

The Mexicans were aided by the weather, as the rain made the ground muddy slowing the movement of French artillery.

General Lorencez was at first contemptuous of the Mexican troops, assuming they would quickly flee from heavy fighting. He therefore directed his first charge directly at the Mexican center. The Mexicans held their ground and drove the French back.

The French regrouped and launched two more charges, both of which were similarly defeated.

The Mexicans then counter-attacked, including a force of Zapotec Indians, many armed only with machetes but who none the less succeded in overrunning part of the French lines. Porfirio Diaz (later to be President of Mexico) led a well disiplined company of Mexican cavalry which flanked the French.

The French then pulled back some distance as dark fell. General Lorencez waited two days for a Mexican counter-offensive, but Zaragoza did not wish to attack the French in open country where he would lose his defensive advantage. Unwilling to risk another attack on the Mexican position, Lorencez then withdrew his forces back to Orizaba[?].

Aftermath On May 9, 1862, President Juarez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, the Cinco de Mayo.

The French realized their forces were inadiquate to their intended task, and were eventually reinforced with an additional 30,000 troops. In 1863 the French again marched towards Mexico City -- this time bypassing Puebla on their route-- and succeeded in taking the capital and installing the puppet regime of Emperor Maximilian.

While the Battle of Puebla did not stop the French takeover of Mexico, it was an important victory for the Mexicans none the less. It greatly raised Mexican morale and strenghtened determination to resist the invasion. It gave the Juarez government more time to prepare, and while they were forced to abandon Mexico City and retreat to the north of the country, they continued to maintain a working government which was recognized as the legitmate government of Mexico by many foreign nations, and eventually succeeded in defeating Maximilian and his allies in 1867.

The Mexican victory surprised much of the international community, demonstrating the Mexican resolve not to be governed by a foreign monarch and that the Mexicans could defeat one of Europe's best armies.

The Battle of Puebla was also of historic importance in that it quashed Napoleon III's hopes of a quick take over of Mexico, which he could then use as a base to aid the Confederates in the American Civil War.

See also:

List of battles - List of battles 1400 BC-600 AD - List of battles 601-1400 - List of battles 1401-1800 - List of battles 1801-1900 - List of battles 1901-forward

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