Giacomo Belbo, character from the Foucault's Pendulum, felt that he had lost every opportunity in his life to prove himself how courageous he could be. The opportunity to show himself that he was not a "mediocre coward". He recalls, for example, a time when his street gang was about to confront their foes, but in the end there was no fight because the two leaders reached a 'treaty'. Could have that have been The Occasion? In case there was a fight, was he going to face it or run off? He blamed destiny for not presenting himself the chance to prove it, then and many times more in his life. He was afraid, also, that he could have failed to notice when the opportunity came, or that he was born a decade too early, or a decade too late. "
I write", could have written Belbo, "
but writing does not redeem me of this sense of utter spinelessness."
Surprising myself, I've learned recently that not only persons, but also nations, can face that which Belbo calls "The Opportunity". Argentina faced hers between 1806 and 1807, in an event that eventually defined what "being Argentinean" means. That country, then a Spanish colonial possession, stood alone against and defeated the most powerful army of the time. Here's how it happened:
* * *
The board is set...
The Bourbon Reforms, a series of changes imposed by the Spanish Crown on the political and economic structure of the South American colonial possessions in 1776, forced the administrative decentralization of the colonies by the establishment of the River Plate Viceroyalty, with capital in Buenos Aires. The motives that lead the Spaniards to enforce this were simple. The (formerly) single capital of the Spanish colonial Empire in America, Lima, was a stronghold to secure both the silver mines of Potosí (Bolívia) and the access to the Pacific Ocean. Buenos Aires, by its turn, was a commercial post that had been serving mostly as a point through which the consuming goods entered the territories and the precious metals were departed to Spain. Loose control on Buenos Aires by the Spanish Crown, however, lead to a situation in which the main source of wealth to the city’s commerce men was not trade with the metropolis, but bottle-legging with the British “pirate” ships.
As Spain was facing economic difficulties, they sought to promote reorganization on the colony’s economy, to “fix” such inconsistencies, consequently augmenting the flow of wealth coming from here. This, of course, displeased many of the Argentineans landlords (who were selling a certain share of their production to the British without having to pay any taxes, and buying goods from them at much lower prices) and the creole elite in Lima, whose political and economic influence were diminished by the reforms. Both groups, then, started to organize themselves apart from the Crown’s authority, forming embryonic political parties, establishing backstage commercial agreements with the British, and enthralling themselves into other ‘subversive’ activities.
So, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the situation was such that the Crown’s impersonators in South America had lost most of their moral and practical authority, and the conditions for a revolt against Spanish rule were set. The British Navy Commmodore Home Popham provided the ignitable substance with which the Argentinean caudillos put fire on the country: foreign invasion.
It can be said that it all started when the France-England war, which had begun in 1803, came to involve Spain. Since the official beginnings of the hostilities, the Spanish king Carlos IV tried to maintain his country in a state of transparent neutrality, thus eluding the obligations of his alliance with France. For this, Spain firmed a treaty with France according to which they would pay Napoleon 6,000,000 francs per month, as a price for the neutrality.
On May 7, 1804, William Pitt (son) took the leadership of the British government; eleven days after that, Bonaparte proclaimed himself as the Emperor of France. The two men who embodied the wrestle of their nations to override one another were put face to face, in a confrontation that was supposed to define the military and consequently economic supremacy on Europe.
Regarding Spain's tentatives of avoiding conflict with both France and Britain, William Pitt said:
The very nature of this war does not permit us to distinguish between neutrals and foes… the distance that put both apart is so short that any unexpected happening, any fear or suspect, will oblige us to consider them as equals.
In such circumstances, Spain’s 'detachment' could not endure.
On October 5th, 1804, a Spanish maritime convoy loaded with silver, coming from the River Plate, was encircled by British ships under the command of William Cornwallis. The Spanish convoy was seized and sent to Plymouth. Some weeks after, Admiral Nelson captured three Spanish frigates near Barcelona.
Despite the fact that the two countries were not formally at war, England started to build plans to attack Spanish possessions in the New World. On October 12, the Prime Minister William Pitt authorized the Commodore Home Popham to draft a detailed document, drawing a project of the military operations that would be necessary to separate the Spanish colonies from the metropolis. The operation would involve a certain Fernando Miranda, a Venezuelan creole who had been managing to get support from England to promote South American independence from Spain. Pitt, however, made it clear to Popham that in case their war with Spain was not concretized, the operations in South America would be abandoned. Popham assured Pitt that Miranda approved that ‘however’.
The main objective of the operation would be Venezuela and New Grenada. Popham introduced a secondary plan, that of invading the River Plate Viceroyalty, arguing that the Spanish officials in the colony could make Buenos Aires the citadel of resistance in case they attacked only from north. Popham suggested that British forces should attack Buenos Aires with a force of 3,000 men, and that troops should be transferred from India and Australia to attack Valparaíso (Chile), Lima and Panama. Miranda would be the operative chief in Venezuela, and Popham in Buenos Aires.
The idea, held by both Miranda and Popham, was not that the British would take control of South America (Miranda would not jump on this), but merely to liberate the creoles from Spanish tenet, and to establish two or three military posts in the continent. The South American market, then, would be opened to British commerce.
When the draft plan was completed, it was sent to the Viscount of Melville, general chief of the British naval forces. Melville, however, refrained to hand a formal answer, a definitive authorization, because by these days England was about to confront a severe threat. Bonaparte was gathering an army of about 200,000 men on the other side of the Channel, which was being set to raid mainland Britain. That forced the British to concentrate all their forces on the defensive moves, and the plans to override Spanish rule in America were temporarily put aside.
Apart from that, Russia had engaged negotiations with Britain to form a new European coalition designed to stop Napoleon megalomania. As a condition for such an alliance, the Russians demanded that Spain was included in the pact. William Pitt, then, was compelled to hold off any actions against Spanish colonies in America, even after Spain officially declared war on Britain, on December 12, 1804. Under constant complains of Miranda, Pitt declared him that the political situation in Europe had not yet became "mature" for the operation.
* * *
The pieces are moving...
July 1805. Home Popham, who was by then on service in Plymouth, got to know that the Dutch colony of Cape of Good Hope, down in Africa’s extreme south, was poorly defended, and headed to London in order to convince Pitt to support an attack on that city. Popham considered that Britain should not lose such a precious opportunity, specially in this case, because it was a matter of attacking and seizing a key point of communication between England and her possessions on India. Pitt agrees with him, noting that it would be disastrous to them if the French, who had already considerable naval forces on the Southern Atlantic Ocean, could take control of Cape of Good Hope.
The British military expedition sent to seize the Cape was composed of a little less than 6,000 men. The General David Baird was nominated the attack force's commander, and Home Popham was designated as the scout armada's chief. William Pitt repeated to Popham that no agressive action should be carried agains any Spanish ship or city, while the negotiations with Spain were still on course. However, Pitt assured Popham that, should the negotiations come to fail, the plan drafted almost a year before would be endorsed, and an attack on South America's Spanish colonies would be seriously considered.
While on travel to South Africa, the British convoy made a pit stop in Salvador to replenish the ships with food and potable water. There, Popham learned, by mean of an British trader that was going back from Montevideo to London, that Buenos Aires and Montevideo where equally very scantily fortified and, even more relevant, that the inhabitants of both cities would oblige the Spanish guard to capitulate before they could turn a sole gunshot. The only thing lacking to Home Popham was the ‘OK’ from the Prime Minister; all other conditions for a successful assault were in place. At least he would assume so.
The hearsays regarding the British armed mission did not take too long to hit the River Plate Viceroyalty. In the United States, Pennsylvania diaries, relying on reports from North American traders that had contacts in the River Plate, gave reports of a triumphant British invasion of Buenos Aires, four months before it actually took place.
In Buenos Aires, anxiety was spreading. The Viceroy Rafael de Sobremonte mobilized all the official defense force to protect the city against an invasion that he deemed as imminent. That, however, was not quite entirely correct. The British forces, when they leftSalvador, did not head towards the River Plate, but to the Good Hope Cape, as the British previously decided. The conquer of the African city in the first days of January, 1806, was all smooth and undemanding: only an hour or two of combat with the Dutch forces and the Saint George Cross banner was already floating in the city’s only garrison. “Mission accomplished”, thought David Baird. “Well, maybe not yet.”, measured Popham. The British seamen were held in reserve on Cape’s waters, waiting for orders from the motherland either to return to Britain or to raid Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
A month after that, in February, the British obtained an outstanding victory against the combined navies of both France and Spain, in the famous Battle of Trafalgar. Little time after, however, Napoleon’s army overwhelmed the Russian and Austrian armies at the not less legendary Austerlitz.
These two events brought a new circumstance to Popham plans. Spain was now utterly coupled to its alliance with France, and the British no more had motives to believe that they could isolate Bonaparte by attracting Spain to an alliance beside with the Russians.
Popham, then, convinced David Baird that an attack on Buenos Aires was in order, and asked him to deliver reinforcement to abet the raid. Baird ceded the Scottish 71st regiment of infantry, formed by about 1,000 soldiers under the orders of William Barr Beresford. On April 14th, 1806, the convoy departed in route to Buenos Aires.
Precisely a month after that, the visage of the first British ship is seen at the surroundings waters of Montevideo; a fast lightweight ship came ahead with the mission of recognizing the state of affairs for the attack. Two weeks after, the entire British convoy is already anchored some miles away from the River Plate. On June 13th, in a meeting aboard the ship “Narcissus”, Popham and Beresford discussed whether they should attack first Montevideo or Buenos Aires. At first, Beresford was inclined to try on Montevideo, as that city provide more defense points that could serve as a stronghold to the them in case they were obliged to face a popular uprising against them in Buenos Aires. Popham, instead, was in favor of a direct attack on Buenos Aires, both because of the moral factor (B.A was the capital of the Viceroyalty, and its fall could be seen as “game over” by the Spanish forces all over the colony), and, perhaps more importantly, because they received hints that there was an immense load of silver stocked in Buenos Aires, which would be sent to Spain in weeks. That apparently, dissipated all remaining doubts regarding which city should be attacked first.
The Viceroy ordered Santiago de Liniers, newly empowered as the commander of the defense taskforce, to put the cannons in the shores near the Buenos Aires inlet. On June 25, the British ships arrived at the scene, and the alarm cannons roared over the river. Extreme disorder reigned in the city, as a mass of men hurried to the military quarters to receive weapons and instructions, after the previous day's convocation by Sobremonte. At the end of the day, however, the crafts raised veils and headed towards Quilmes. There, in the next day, the first British troops started to land on Argentinean soil.
The landing continued trough the day, unopposed. Twenty light boats carried men and arms from the ships to the shore, all day. In the evening, the operation ended, and the commandant Beresford reviewed the troop: one thousand and six hundred men, whose only heavy armament were eight artillery cannons. The duty of such small assembly of professional combatants was to overcome an entire city of more that 40,000 inhabitants, and they fulfilled it.
Early in the next morning, Beresford ordered the troops to set up for the assault. At eleven o’clock, they started to march: the mêlée was about to happen.
* * *
We come to it at last...
Sobremonte sent 600 militiamen, under the command of Pedro Arce, to stop the British attack. They were very poorly armed carabineers and swordsmen, and gathered behind the three cannons with which they were supposed to stop the advance of the British forces. Under such conditions, the clash could not have another outcome. The troops of the 71st regiment escalated the banks of the River and put the militiamen on the run. From that point onward, chaos spread through the Buenos Aires defense forces, comprised in its near totality by units of neighbors, which lacked the most basic military training. Sobremonte, by no means more prepared or courageous than his subordinates, made a final attempt to break Beresford’s advance, by burning the Galvéz Bridge (nowadays Puente Pueyrredón), which gives access to the city by south. When the British reached the opposite margin, however, they had no problem in improvising a bridge made with the boats that the defenders had abandoned in the place.
In that same day, Sobremonte manifests to Pedro Arce his intentions of abandoning Buenos Aires to the invaders and fleeing to Córdoba, where they had plans to organize a counter attack. The Viceroy observed, from backwards, the advance of the British troops, which by now had clear way into the city. Sobremonte was in charge of the defense cavalry, which after the reinforcements coming from Olivos, San Isidro and Las Conchas, numbered to 2,000 men. Nevertheless, Sobremonte avoids combat, and withdraws towards the city’s center. When they and his 2,000 bodyguards went there, they surprisingly turned west and leaved Buenos Aires. Their march, which soon received the reinforcement of his own family, proceeded in successive steps, until they reached Córdoba.
Meanwhile, confusion reigned in Buenos Aires. The militiamen, gathered in a rush a few days before the invasion, could not couple with the much better organized and skilled Scottish 71st, and they run off at practically every scuffle. The impersonators of the Spanish monarch sat on their chairs in the Fort of Buenos Aires, merely waiting for the British officers to arrive to surrender formally the city.
Shortly after midday, a British lieutenant sent by Beresford expressed the will of the winners: The city should surrender unconditionally, and all resistance must cease. The British, by their turn, promised to keep respect for the religion and properties of the city’s inhabitants. The Crown’s representatives did not hesitate much before approving such terms. By the end of the day, Buenos Aires and its 40,000 residents were “delivered” to an “army”, a handful of 1,600, which have had barely flared any shot.
When the British troops arrived at the Plaza de Mayo, Beresford tried to give an impression of might, and ordered his men to march in widely spaced columns, so they could fill the area of the square. The last minute trick could not blind the neighbors to the reduced figure of invaders that were by the Fort. By the next day, the British flag was already floating over the Fort’s mast.
Notwithstanding the formal handing of the city by its constituted authorities, the British senior official knew all too well that the enterprise was not yet over. They knew that indignation coursed amid the populace, both because the blatant cowardice of the Spanish representatives and the annoying smallness of the number of troops to which they had lost their city. Popham and Beresford, then, decided to call London to send reinforcements.
That said, it was apparent to everyone that Beresford’s situation was anything but comfortable. Positioned at the city’s main square, in a highly populated area, right now the British forces were exactly at the monster’s belly, and it was starting to throb.
Rafael de Sobremonte was nowhere to be seen it Buenos Aires, and his absence was very convenient (to him). His departure to Cordoba had very much thwarted the civil Creole leaders and the people all alike. Conspirers begun to plot, plotters to intrigue, intriguers to connive, and one thing grown to be certain: should the British be expelled, Sobremonte would not in any case return to Buenos Aires as ruler. Already the constitute power of the Crown was being set aside in favour of the ad hoc military leaders. A plan to excavate and fill with explosive tunnels below the main facility occupied by the British was set. Eventually, the plan became irrelevant within the havoc of battles that take the city short later on, but it served as a means to select and congregate the local leaders that eventually took the political tenet of the colony. Amongst them, the most prominent where Felipe Sentenach, Gerardo Estevé, José Fornaguera and Juan de Dios Dozo. They established that, in case of victory, they would call a “Cabildo Abierto” (sort of an Open General Assembly), to decide the future of the colony.
On July 16th, 1806, the two men that would eventually become the most important in the retake of Buenos Aires and on the political reorganization of the colony held a meet in Montevideo: Santiago de Liniers and Juan Martin de Pueyrredon. Liniers was a French born military official who was under orders of the Spanish Crown for more than thirty years then, and Pueyrredon was a native "bonairense", a commerce lad, educated in Paris, and with an Irish ancestry. On that meet, they accorded that Pueyrredon should return secretly to Buenos Aires and start organizing the résistance there. In the meanwhile, Liniers, with the help of the Uruguayan Ruiz Huidobro, began drafting forces in Montevideo.
In the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Pueyrredon was gathering forces amongst the vecinos (neighbours) in San Isidro, Morón, Pilar and Luján environs (now incorporated to the city) and training them at a farm owned by a Spanish Catholic priest. Note that in this gathering it was pictured a very atypical voluntary class association, between the Church, the landlords and the working men of the colony (according the draft list documents preserved in some museums in Buenos Aires, most, if not all, of the enlisted where poor, journeymen, handicraftsmen and even Indians. The assembly and training phase was quick, by the end of July, there was already as much as one thousand men ready (or so) to defend the city.
On the night of July 31st, Beresford learned about the presence of Pueyrredon near Buenos Aires, and immediately ordered 550 men of the Scottish 71st regiment, under the command of Sir Denis Pack, to march against the Argentines. Once more the task was somewhat easy for the British: it was short an ambush, a simple two side wrap up, and the Argentines begun to retreat to the outer fields, leaving three to five cannons and some armaments back. No casualties were reported on the British side, and about twelve on Argentina’s.
Argentinean historic tradition tells us that the following scene took place at that battle: As the Argentineans were “tactically retreating”, Juan Martin de Pueyrredon charged boldly and alone against the British line when his horse was struck by a cannonball, and fell dead over Pueyrredon’s left leg. Then, just out of night’s gloom, Lorenzo Lopez, a low grade official (if they had any grade), entered in the scene, picked the injured Pueyrredon up and disappeared with him in the dark, saving his life.
Tradition aside, what is certain is that this combat did not make any difference on the future of the invasion. All except fifteen of the Argentineans coped to escape the surprise mug; among these five was a German catholic soldier serving in the 71st, deserter, who was taken captive to the city and executed as model some days later.
On August 4th, Santiago de Liniers arrived at the shoreline of the River Plate with the men he gathered in Montevideo. They landed down off the crafts under a hammering rainfall, circumstance that eventually thwarted Beresford from using the same tactics he used against Pueyrredon a few days before: coming out by surprise to take the attacking forces on the open fields around the city. Beresford had the option to either face the tempest or to wait for Liniers to reach the city, and he wrongly chose to stay. Liniers, having no choice but to march on, was not granted with the opportunity to err.
Liniers’ march endured for four days, on August 10th, they reached the vicinity of Corrales de Miserere (today Plaza Onze, then a few kilometres west from Buenos Aires). In the Fort, Beresford waited, but not coolly, as the signs of social distress against the British occupation where clearly swelling up. News of the impeding come of Liniers’ army agitated everyone: the commerce men decided to shut their shops, and a food shortage was becoming imminent. Revolt was no more restricted to unfriendly gossip, now the British soldiers were attacked daily and as Liniers army was approaching the city, enthusiastic neighbourhoods seeking revenge for the invasion were inflating his army. Now the whole city was in turmoil, waving circularly around the Fort where Beresford men where enclosed. British military outposts around the city were being destroyed, its guarding soldiers killed pitilessly.
On August 12th, the combined forces of Liniers and Pueyrredon finally reached the limits of the Main Square, the only place in the city where the British were still in control. The Argentine commanders had then lost control over their own troops. The attacks against the British positions were then being carried chaotically, furiously, and the argentines were pouring in into the square, shooting from rooftops and from inside church towers. A vision from Hell, in reality. Beresford tried a last minute move off the Fort, seeking to secure a corridor to the decks to evacuate his soldiers to the boats, where Popham stood, but this manoeuvre was averted by a patrol under the command of Pueyrredon himself, which cut off all possible ways out the Fort. Beresford was defeated, he had only to choose whether he would fight to the bitter end or otherwise to surrender. He choose the later, confident that the reinforcements he called from London where about to arrive.
Thus, on August 12th, 1806, the Argentines accomplished the retaking of Buenos Aires. The foreign ships lingering around the inlet, however, were a clear sign that the British were far from giving up, quite on the contrary. Almost every military force under the United Kingdom's flag in the Chilean coast, in Southern Africa and in the Caribe were drawn to the River Plate, place of the city that was most desired by the British on that part of the New World; a new attack was only a matter of time.
* * *
And what a city Buenos Aires was in those days, folks. I said city? More like a sizzling boiler! The whole town was burning to fires of warfare. It was then feverishly setting up its defences, and freshly gathered regiments of vecinos were being trained at each but the littlest square in the city. Later, they earned the right to choose by ballot their own superiors; a detail that one must deem was unforeseen and most likely never to be repeated again in that country’s record. As for the military hardware, most of the weaponry at their disposition was taken off Beresford’s army when he was overcome. The lack of gunpowder that preoccupied Liniers and Pueyrredon some months ago was now a non-issue, since a full shipment of it was recently brought from Chile by a perilous road through the Andes cordilleras.
Queries for help from Madrid did not take long to show its vainness. All of them were answered with something as laconic as "you must defend the city as you may. You are on your own". And how could it be differently? England’s victory in Trafalgar granted her full supremacy over Spanish waters. In many a way, hence, England contributed to the formation of Argentine as an independent country.
In the meanwhile, Gen. Samuel Auchmuty conducts the British forces in a new charge, this time against the Uruguayan city of Maldonado. This attack was but groundwork for the seizure of Montevideo, which Auchmuty accomplished some weeks later. The defence of Montevideo was under the responsibility of the very same Rafael de Sobremonte, who had one last chance to show his utter weakness: he refused to send any forces against the army of Popham, then stationed at Maldonado. That decision distressed the native representatives in the council, who then compelled Sobremonte to sign an order of combat. Santiago de Liniers was encamped near Colonia when he received orders to send immediately to Montevideo nearly everyone of his regiment. So he did, but his two thousand strong militia was of little or no effect against the almost 7,000 British who came rolling from Maldonado. Montevideo was easily taken.
Liniers then hurried back to Buenos Aires, where the Cabildo was deciding whether to send more troops to Montevideo or to keep them to secure Buenos Aires from the unavoidable attack. The news of the fall of Montevideo put an end to all hesitation: there was nothing left to do but to stay on and prepare the resistance.
Beresford, who was being held captive in Buenos Aires, managed to escape from prison with the help with a Creole who believed that the British captain would be of more help to the cause of independence if he were free. In a change of plans caused by Napoleon’s newly proclaimed “commercial blockade” against England, the British, however, did not intend to give the colonies any sovereignty, but to be the land’s new master. Beresford ran swiftly to Montevideo, and engaged again in preparations for the new planned invasion. Popham, the origin of the whole plan, by his part, was back to old England, where he should explain in a military court his behaviour in the first invasion.
At that point, Montevideo had been turned in an immense bazaar to a massive amount of British stuff, which kept coming and coming in ships departing from Europe. Now that adventure was becoming quite motivating to the British, nearly asphyxiated by their main quarrel with France.
June 1807. Robert Craufurd arrived at the shores of the River Plate, coming from the Cape City. He brought with him the last regiment that Whitelock believed to be lacking for a successful assault on Buenos Aires. In Montevideo, the circumstances were becoming bleak to the British: popular hostility towards them was swelling, much to their surprise: "weren’t those messy natives supposed to be grateful to us in support of the splendours of free trade?" Our time’s understudying of antagonists suddenly uncovers its lineage.
In fact the environment was so inhospitable that Whitelock concluded that the attack should be held with no further delay, Craufurd’s men were not even authorized to step down from the boats. By the twenty-eighth day of June 1807, eight thousand British soldiers started to land on the Western margin of the River Plate. The battle for Buenos Aires was about to begin.
The movements that were taken from then on were curious. The landing of the British troops was carried on a few kilometres south of Buenos Aires. At that time, Liniers men were on San Isidro, a locality west of the city and, between the two arrangements, there was the Galvez Bridge, the single most important passage into the city in the south side. As the British start heading towards the bridge, Liniers took the perhaps exceedingly risky step of moving all his troops at once on the way to the bridge, in an attempt to prevent Whitelock from crossing it. The British were moving slowly through the marshes near the banks of the river; they had scarcely any horses, so still the heaviest cannons were being pushed on by human force. They were, however, closer to the bridge than Liniers, so they would eventually reach that site at the same time, and that would be such a battle, there in the open.
"Would", because Whitelock, in a surprising and astonishing move, eluded Liniers’ forces and moved away from the bridge, apparently now aiming to breach into the city by west, which was the side that Liniers was defending before. Thus the Argentine was forced then to split the defence forces in two (considering that they counted with just about 2,000 men, a split should be considered as a last option, only). A little less than half of Liniers men stayed to guard the bridge, and the rest departed in hunt for the Britishmen. Quite sharp a move by Whitelock, right? Indeed, but what his men were about to meet once they go into Buenos Aires was certainly not what they expected.
Whitelock did too partition his forces in two, four thousand circled the south wing of the city and attacked by west, the other four thousand crossed the Riachuelo (a little river that borders the city in the south) a few kilometres up from the Galvez Bridge in an undefended passageway, and entered the city as well. Apparently, Whitelock sought to embrace the main defensive garrison of Buenos Aires, the Fort near the main square. The column that was entering from south was then given orders to march blindly into the city, with rifles locked so they would not waste ammo, until they reached the square. The other column should enter by west and advance a little more cautiously, cleaning the way as they go, since the path they should follow was more tightly guarded. Both of them were swindled.
Buenos Aires was much more strongly defended that the British seem to think. In every residence, every school edifice, every balcony there were snipers and teenagers with bottles of inflammable oil and stones and small bunches of militiamen, surging out of nowhere, all inflicting massive loss to the British forces. The streets of Buenos Aires became soaked with bodies of British soldiers. When the south column arrived at the square, its number had shrunken to about 1,800 men, and these were fairly frightened. Two colonels, David Pack and Henry Cadogan, put a last attempt to reach the square, but the regiments they lead suffered heavy losses as defenders concealed into the building of the National College targeted them. Those of the British who lasted took shelter on a church and a government facility, but those buildings were invaded and the British were slain almost down to the last one.
The war was over. Two days after, a final arrangement was made between Whitelock and Santiago de Liniers: the British would leave not only Buenos Aires but Montevideo as well. As a concession, Liniers included in the rendition term that all of Beresford men that were still being held prisoners should be freed to go with them.
I can almost hear Pueyrredón chatting with Liniers while they stand on a balcony in the Fort, while the last British ship fade away in a gazed afternoon horizon:
--Puesto, amigo frances, a los ingleses canallas los echamos a su casa! No voltarán jamás, esto yo te lo garanto!
--Non, Juan, lo echo es que, en el momento en que yo les vi llegando a nuestras tierras, yo supe que ellos no partirán jamás... - while glancing at Pueyrredón Manchester-made coat.