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21: The Grand Marshal of Ayacucho

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Of Bolívar's generals, the most brilliant was Antonio José de Sucre, victorious in the Battle of Pichincha, which liberated Ecuador, and in the great military triumph of Ayacucho,(1) where, by overcoming an enemy force double his own, he liberated Perú forever and consolidated the independence of the South American continent. Subsequently he became President of Bolivia, and later, at the Battle of Tarqui, halted the Peruvian invasion of Colombia. At the age of thirty-five, while in the zenith of his career, he was the victim of a cowardly assassination, and his death hastened that of the Liberator Simón Bolívar, who died in the same year.

Many elements contributed to, the extraordinary character and to the military and political genius of this outstanding leader, who in the course of his public career became General, Magistrate, Legislator and Diplomat. The adversity of his early military life, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, tempered his character. In subsequent years, he acquired a vast store of invaluable experience while serving under the superb direction of his esteemed mentor and leader, Simón Bolívar.

Sucre was, moreover, descended from a long line of illustrious military men, some of whom also served with distinction as administrators for the Spanish Crown. In the fifteenth century Juan de Sucre had served as Master of Ceremonies for King Philip the Handsome, son-in-law of Queen Isabella. Carlos de Sucre, Marquis de Preux, a Fleming, was the first of the family to arrive in the Spanish American colonies, toward the end of the seventeenth century, having been appointed by King Charles 11 to the post of Governor and Field Marshal at Cartagena de Indias. His son, the great grandfather of the Grand Marshal, also named Carlos de Sucre, served as Governor of Santiago de Cuba, and was Acting Governor of Cartagena de Indias from 1723 to 1728. Five years later he went to Venezuela, then known as "Tierra Firme," as Governor and Field Marshal of the Provinces of Barcelona and Cumaná (at that time called "Nueva Andalucia"). Sucre's grandfather, Antonio de Sucre, was Colonel of the Militia of the Province, and his father, Colonel Vicente Sucre y Urbaneja, was Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Garrison of"Nueva Andalucia." When Caracas rebelled against Spain on April 19, 1810,(2) Colonel Sucre joined the patriots, and the Revolutionary junta appointed him General-in-Chief of the Republican Army at Cumaná.

Antonio José de Sucre was born in the city of Cumaná on February 3, 1795, the seventh of nine children of his father's first marriage. Two years after the death of his first wife, when Antonio was nine years old, the elder Sucre remarried, and there were nine children of this marriage.(3) As the schools in Cumaná were inadequate, the youth was sent to Caracas, and, upon the completion of his elementary education, was enrolled in the military engineering school founded and directed by the Spanish Colonel .Tomás Mires. In July of 1810, three months after the Caracas rebellion, Sucre enlisted in the Patriots' Army in Cumaná. This was the beginning of a military career which over the next twenty years would bring him the highest honors and glory that history can bestow.

The Forge of Heroes, 1810-1820

In 1810, when Sucre enlisted in the ranks of the Patriots' Army, at the age of fifteen, he had no way of knowing that during the next ten years he would witness the agony of his fatherland, and that his unhappy country would suffer a blood-bath which would destroy one-third of the population. The following year he became a member of Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda's General Staff, where he served until July 1812. With Sucre in Western Venezuela were a group of young patriots: Bolívar, Soublette, Austria, Ribas, Gual and others, who would later become famous for their glorious deeds.

This campaign was the "baptism of fire" for these future heroes. The struggle against .almost insurmountable odds formed the character of these young men, and strengthened their determination to liberate Venezuela from the Spanish yoke.

The years from 1810 to 1820 were a period of adversity, filled with overwhelming defeats for the patriots, with the exception of 1813, the year of Bolívar's "Admirable Campaign," and the invasion of Eastern Venezuela by Marińo. Upon Miranda's capitulation in July 1812, and the collapse of the first Venezuelan Republic, Sucre returned to Cumaná, where he joined the High Staff of General Santiago Marińo at the beginning of 1813. Marińo invaded Eastern Venezuela with a handful of young patriots, among whom were the Bermúdez brothers, Manuel Valdés, Manuel Piar and others, and in the course of the year succeeded in liberating the Provinces of Barcelona, Cumaná and Margarita. In that campaign Sucre was promoted to Captain and acted as First Aide-de-Camp to Marińo.

In 1814, Sucre, Bermúdez and Valdés went with Marińo's troops from Eastern Venezuela to the Tuy Valleys in the west, where they joined the army of Bolívar. In this new campaign the patriots were victorious in a few encounters with the Spaniards. However, at the Battle of La Puerta (June 15, 1814) they suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of General Boves, the "Asturian tiger." In this battle Sucre lost his eldest brother, Pedro, who was executed by the victors. A worse defeat followed, at the "Villa de Aragua de Barcelona"(4) (August 17, 1814), the bloodiest battle of the war, where the Royalists killed not only the prisoners, but also a large number of the civilian population. Losses on both sides in dead and wounded totaled about 5,000. Another similar slaughter took place at Cumaná in October 1814, where the relentless General Boves defeated the Patriot General Manuel Piar, and killed large numbers of the unfortunate inhabitants.(5) As a result, the population of Cumaná, which had numbered 16,000 in 1810, was reduced to only 5,200, of whom more than 3,000 were women.

Defeated again, Sucre escaped to Margarita Island. From there he went to Cartagena, where he joined an engineering battalion under the Colombian Commander Luis de Pombo.(6) At the time he was only twenty years of age. In December of 1815, when Cartagena surrendered to a powerful Spanish Army of 10,500 men under General Pablo Morillo, Sucre again succeeded in escaping, this time to Haiti, where Bolívar had emigrated. In this series of misfortunes Sucre was not alone, but one of a group of heroes including Montilla, Soublette, Salom, Plaza, Piar, Palacios and others, who under General Francisco Bermúdez kept alive the spark of liberty amid the ashes of the dying Republic.

When some of the Venezuelan officers in Haiti tried to rebel against the supreme authority of Bolívar, Sucre, not wishing to participate in the conspiracy, left for the island of Trinidad. After a stay of seven months, he left that island for Venezuela, in September 1816. Upon approaching the Güiria coast he was shipwrecked, but was miraculously rescued by some native fishermen. In Venezuela he rejoined his former chiefs, Marińo and Bermúdez, and on July 17, 1817, as a Lieutenant-Colonel, took part with Bermúdez, Cedeńo and other officers in the surrender of Angostura (today Ciudad Bolívar). Three months later, Bolívar appointed Sucre Chief-of-Staff in General Bermúdez' Army, which was quartered at Cumaná. He remained there until the end of 1818.

In 1819, while Bolívar was absent from Angostura, having gone to Nueva Granada (Colombia), Sucre was promoted to Brigadier-General by the Vice-President of the Republic, Francisco Antonio Zea. At the time he was twenty-four years of age. An incident regarding this promotion is related by the then Captain Florencio O'Leary, Aide-de-Camp to Bolívar. He tells that after the battle of Boyacá (August 7, 1819) the Liberator, en route to Venezuela, was traveling down the Orinoco River, when his vessel passed a small craft going upstream. Bolívar asked, "Who travels on that boat?," and received the answer, "General Sucre." To which Bolívar replied hotly, "There is no such General!," ordering both vessels to tie together. Sucre then explained that, although he had been promoted to General, possibly because his services justified it, he had never thought of accepting that rank without previous approval from General Bolívar. O'Leary continues: "Instantly realizing the rebuff, Bolívar offered his apologies (to Sucre) and from that moment they became the best of friends-these two men who later were to be mainly responsible for the liberation of South America."(7) Upon his arrival in Angostura, Bolívar confirmed Sucre in the rank of General.

The Bolívarian Epic, 1820-1830

At the beginning of 1820 Bolívar sent Sucre to the Island of St. Thomas to purchase arms and ammunition. Concerning this mission, the Liberator wrote to Santander in Bogotá on July 22, 1820: "Sucre accomplished this task with energy and efficiency."

It was during this year that Sucre bade farewell forever to his former chiefs Marińo and Bermúdez and entered upon the most important period of his life, under the command and superb direction of the Liberator Simón Bolívar.

Following Bolívar's orders, Sucre traveled from Guayana to Cúcuta on the Colombian border, a distance of more than 700 miles, transporting 3,000 muskets across tropical rivers swollen by seasonal rains and over the narrow mule paths of the Andes. He accomplished this mission with his customary energy and promptness. O'Leary relates the following anecdote of the occasion when, on or about September 18, 1820, Sucre went on horseback to the outskirts of Cúcuta to greet Bolívar, who was returning from the siege of Cartagena:

Upon seeing him (Sucre) approaching and not knowing him, I asked the Liberator who the poor horseman was who was coming to meet us. "He is," Bolívar answered, "one of the best officers in the Army .... Although it may seem strange, he is not yet known and his excellent qualifications are not yet recognized. I am determined to bring him into the spotlight, being convinced that some day he will excel me.

One month later, Bolívar, with Sucre on his staff, occupied the Provinces of Mérida and Trujillo. It was at this latter city that Sucre, as Acting Minister of War, was appointed by Bolívar to head a delegation, which included Colonel Briceńo Mendez and Lieutenant-Colonel José Gabriel Perez, to negotiate an armistice and a treaty to regulate the war with the Spanish Commissioners sent by General Pablo Morillo. The two treaties between the Spaniards and the Patriots were signed on November 25, 1820. The first established a six-month armistice. Referring to the second, Bolívar later wrote:

This treaty is worthy of the spirit of General Sucre. His beneficent genius, his kindness and mercy,, drafted it. It will be as enduring as the name of the `Conqueror of Ayacucho'.

Two days later, Sucre was in the small entourage which accompanied the Liberator to the famous meeting between Bolívar and Morillo in the nearby village of Santa Ana.

After visiting Barinas at the beginning of 1821, Bolívar and Sucre, by then promoted to Chief of Staff of the Liberating Army, left for Bogotá. When the future Marshal crossed the border into Colombia, he could not realize that he would never again tread the soil of his beloved fatherland Venezuela. Fate would take him to other countries and, following his assassination nine years later, his remains would be buried in a foreign land.

In Bogotá Bolívar appointed the young general Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Colombian Army quartered in Popayán; but shortly thereafter he was ordered to proceed to Guayaquil (founded in 1537 by Francisco de Orellana) an Ecuadorian port on the Pacific, which had declared its independence from Spain on the 9th of October, 1820. Bolívar considered that province, which had been under the old Viceroyalty of Santa Fe (Bogotá), an integral part of Colombian territory, while Perú, its neighbor to the south, strongly desired to annex it.

On April 4, 1821, Sucre embarked for Guayaquil from the Colombian port of Buenaventura, with a contingent of 400 troops, arriving a month later. Here, separated from the guidance and counsel of the Liberator by more than one thousand miles, the twenty-six-year-old future Marshal would have to act on his own as General-in-Chief. Here also he would begin the most heroic epic of his life, wherein he would display the full range of his political and military genius.

The problems which confronted Sucre upon his arrival in Guayaquil were overwhelming. Part of the populace favored annexing the Province to Perú; others favored annexation to Colombia; while the Governing junta preferred to remain neutral in order to decide, at the opportune moment, in favor of the nation offering the most advantageous terms. By masterly political skill, Sucre obtained an agreement from the Junta to place Guayaquil under the protection of Colombia and the Liberator. However, as the other provinces in the territories of the interior, including Quito,(8) were still controlled by the Spaniards, Sucre hastily organized a small army with which he marched toward Quito on June 29, 1821, succeeding en route in defeating a contingent of some 1,000 enemy troops at Yaguachi a month later.

But Sucre's victory was of short duration because six weeks later, on September 12th, he was defeated at Huachi (between Ambato and Quito) by the main body of the Royalist Army under Spanish Captain-General Melchor Aymerich. This, was to be the only defeat suffered by Sucre, and it was due chiefly to a tactical error on the part of his second in command, General Mires, an Aide-de-Camp of Bolívar. From this defeat

Sucre returned to Guayaquil with only 100 soldiers; the rest had perished in the battle or had been taken prisoner.

This misfortune did not dishearten Sucre, whose tenacity and strength of character had been steeled by ten years of reverses in Venezuela With great political skill he obtained a three-month armistice from the Spaniards, in order to gain time to organize a new army. Regarding this armistice, Bolívar wrote later:

The mastery of General Sucre obtained an armistice from the Spanish General which in effect represented a victory. This skilful negotiation was largely responsible for the Battle of Pichincha (which took place six months later), for without it that famous epic would not have occurred.

During these three months Sucre organized an army of some 1,500, including the "Paya" battalion of 500 soldiers, which arrived in Guayaquil from Colombia in October 1821 with Colonel Diego Ibarra, an aide-de-camp of the Liberator. At that time Sucre also wrote to General José de San Martín at Lima, Perú, asking for military assistance in the form of troops and equipment for the Quito campaign, and San Martín promised to send reinforcements.

Having completed his military arrangements, Sucre and his small army left Guayaquil by boat on January 22, 1822, heading for the port of Machala, some fifty miles from Guayaquil, on the other side of the Guayas River. From Machala he went to Saraguro and Ona, some 60 miles away by mule trail over the coastal hills. At the latter settlement his army was augmented to about 2,600 soldiers (2,200 infantry and 400 cavalry) by the addition of the Peruvian troops sent by San Martín, which were under the command of Peruvian Colonel Andres de Santa Cruz.(9) On February 22nd, -he occupied the city of Cuenca, about 50 miles from Ona, and remained there about six weeks, awaiting the arrival of the Liberator, who was enroute from Colombia with reinforcements. Sucre then expected to march to Quito with the two armies. However, as Bolívar did not arrive, Sucre left Cuenca and, on April 19th, reached Riobamba, (a city of about 12,000 inhabitants,) some 80 miles away.

The Andean terrain which this army traversed between Cuenca, Riobamba and Quito is among the most rugged in the world. There the Andes divide into two gigantic branches between which the foothills are marked by inter-Andean plateaus, on which are located the cities of Cuenca, Riobamba (over 8,100 feet above sea level), Ambato, Latacunga and Quito. Here the Andes are higher than in Colombia and Venezuela, with perennially snow-capped volcanoes: Chimborazo, 21,500 feet high; Illiniza, 17,600 feet high; Cotopaxi, 19,500 feet high, its summit crossed by the Equator; and Pichincha, 15,750 feet high. On his march Sucre had to cross the Azuay Cordillera, through bleak snow-covered regions lashed by fierce storms which left soldiers and horses buried in snow. In this inhospitable terrain Sucre had to provide food and shelter for more than 2,500 troops.

Two weeks after leaving Riobamba the army arrived at Latacunga, about 50 miles distant, where Sucre was joined by Colonel José María Córdoba, who had come from Colombia with 200 soldiers, accompanied by Florencio O'Leary, another aide-de-camp of the Liberator. Latacunga is about 60 miles from Quito. It took the troops four days to travel the 48 miles between Latacunga and the Chillo Valleys, (located 12 miles from Quito) as they had to cross narrow gorges and torrential streams, where both men and horses were mired, and to descend to the depths of steep ravines and then climb to the frozen mountain summits. The soldiers slept in the open, often on the edge of precipices. Regarding this campaign, the Liberator wrote as follows:

General Sucre overcame difficulties which seemed insuperable; nature offered him unendurable privations, hardships and obstacles, which the versatility of his genius conquered.

On the foothills of the imposing Pichincha, (at about 11,800 feet over sea level,) facing Quito, on May 24, 1822, Sucre succeeded in defeating 3,000 soldiers of the Spanish Army. The battle began at six in the morning and lasted only four hours. The Patriots captured enormous booty: 1,900 muskets, 14 guns, a large quantity of ammunition and several flags, and took 1,200 prisoners, including 160 officers. The Royalists suffered 600 casualties in dead and wounded, while those of the Patriots were only 340. On the following day, after the capitulation, Sucre and his army occupied Quito. Three weeks later, the Liberator Simón Bolívar made his triumphal entry into the city. As a reward for the glorious victory at Pichincha, he promoted Sucre to Major-General and appointed him head of the Quito Department. On June 21st, Bolívar wrote the following to General Juan Escalona:

Here we are in Quito, free and Colombian .... General Sucre has covered himself with glory, and all the people worship him; he will administer this immense territory to the borders of Perú.

At one of the parties in Quito celebrating this victory Sucre met Maríana Carcelén y Larrea, Marquesa de Solanda and Marquesa de Villarrocha, who was to become his wife. She was seventeen and he twenty-seven. The Marquesa was exceedingly beautiful and delicate in appearance, tall and slim, with a fair complexion and black hair; she was also very wealthy. But the future Marshal did not stay long in Quito; around the middle of November 1822, Bolívar, dispatched him to quell a new insurrection of the Pastos, which he subdued before the end of the year. In January 1823 Sucre returned to Quito, and in March, having fallen deeply in love, he and the charming Marquesa became betrothed, agreeing to wed as soon as circumstances permitted. The youthful hero could not know that his betrothal would last nearly six years, as he would not return to Quito until September 30, 1828; nor that his fate would take him to countries far from his fiancee; nor yet that when at last he and the Marquesa married, their honeymoon would last but one year, being abruptly ended by his treacherous assassination.

In April (1823) the Liberator sent Sucre to Perú as his military and diplomatic representative. Upon arriving in Lima, he found the Peruvian nation in complete chaos-both political and military. The Peruvian Army had been defeated by the Spaniards at Moquegua, in Southern Peril, and the Congress in Lima was in conflict with the Executive Powers.(10) While in Arequipa, in Southern Peril, a city which he had captured from the Spaniards, Sucre was informed of the arrival of Bolívar in Perú, and he immediately departed for the capital. Here the Liberator appointed him General-in-Chief of the Colombian troops, with instructions to quarter them in the foothills of the White Cordillera. Following these orders, Sucre established his General Headquarters in Yungay, stationing some of the troops in Huaylas, and the rest near the coast. In a frenzy of activity the young General organized small factories in the sierra valleys, for the weaving of cloth, made of local wool and dyed indigo blue, for the coats and trousers of the soldiers' uniforms. In makeshift arsenals there were manufactured cartridge boxes of tin, as well as saddles, bridles and lances for the cavalry. These workshops also repaired muskets and gun carriages.

Describing the manifold activities of Sucre in this campaign, the Peruvian historian José María Rey de Castro wrote in his "Memoirs," published in Guayaquil in 1883:

With eager interest Sucre used to ask advice of the noteworthy neighbors and patriots who visited him, and who, attracted by his affable manner and cordiality, were pleased to offer him their services, sparing no effort to furnish him with all the information necessary to obtain a clear picture of the local situation and of the countryside where he had quartered his army. They were charmed by his youth, his gentleness, sincerity and generosity ... His daily attire was a military frock coat without any insignia of his rank.

And, concerning the admirable organizing ability of the future Marshal in this campaign, Bolívar wrote:

... He again took command of the army, which he quartered in Huaylas Province ... there he demonstrated his economic talents by providing the Colombian troops with comfortable and pleasant accommodations. He established the most rigid discipline for the maintenance of the army, at the same time mitigating the sacrifices imposed on the populace by the exacting military demands with his inexhaustibly merciful ways and his boundless forbearance....

Meanwhile, the chaos in the Peruvian nation had reached its climax. On February 5, 1824, the Argentine garrison at the port of Callao surrendered the forts to the Spaniards, while President Torre Tagle, his entire cabinet, his official entourage, and more than 318 high-ranking officers of the Peruvian Army, went-over to the enemy, delivering Lima, the capital of the country, into their hands. As a result of this counter-revolution, the Spaniards controlled the largest and wealthiest segment of Perú, from the Argentine border to the Desagüadero River, and from this river, which separated Alto from Bajo Perú, to the fertile Jauja Valley, while the patriots were confined to the northern provinces of Trujillo, Huaylas and Cajamarca. As the Spanish forces amounted to about 20,000 men, while the Patriot Army numbered scarcely 6,500 to 7,000, Bolívar had repeatedly requested additional reinforcements from the Colombian Government. Most of these arrived in Perú after the victory at Ayacucho.

This was the situation when there occurred a development favorable to the Patriots. The Spanish garrison of Alto Perú, consisting of about 4,500 soldiers under General Pedro Antonio de Olańeta, revolted against Viceroy La Serna, whose General Headquarters were in Cuzco. Olańeta supported the autocratic rule of King Ferdinand VII, while La Serna favored the Spanish Parliamentary system. The Viceroy made the fatal error of weakening his army by sending his lieutenant, General Gerónimo Valdés and some 5,000 troops to subdue Olaiieta. Although Valdés succeeded in defeating Olańeta in this venture, his troops had to travel some 750 miles between Potosí, in Alto Perú, and Cuzco. Valdés returned to the Viceroy with only 3,000 soldiers, having lost the rest through sickness, desertions and battle casualties.

When Bolívar learned of the Valdés expedition and realized that the army of the Viceroy had been further weakened by the quartering in Jauja of some 7,000 troops under Spanish General José de Canterac, he decided not to wait for the reinforcements from' Colombia, but to begin his campaign at once. Following the Liberator's instructions, Sucre had three times crossed the passes over the mountains, examining the ground over which the Patriots' Army had to march. With his customary energy he repaired the most difficult crossings, built bridges, and constructed shelters, duly provided with food, fodder and cord wood, in the places where the troops were to spend the night. Jauja is situated beyond the White Cordillera, which the Patriots' Army had to cross at altitudes of over 16,000 feet. This formidable barrier of the Andes comprises the most rugged and inhospitable terrain in the world-its narrow mountain paths virtually impassable, being steep, slushy and precipitous.

In his "Memoirs" the Argentine General William Miller wrote of this crossing:

From the beginning of the campaign Sucre showed outstanding judgment in the arrangements he made to expedite the march of the Army to Pasco.(11)

And General O'Leary, Bolívar's Aide-de-Camp, states:

Sucre was the right-hand man of the Liberator, and the chief pillar of the Army. Energetic, methodical and prompt in the performance of his duties, he was, indefatigable in his tasks; three times he crossed the dread Andes in the most severe weather. Amid the vicissitudes of the journeys his self-denial was the greatest of his virtues. With extraordinary energy and perseverance he secured resources from the most remote places, and it has been truthfully said that Sucre, in the fulfilment of his duties, explored inaccessible corners of the Cordillera never before trod by human feet. Nature itself appeared to yield to such a display of pertinacity, and even the ruinous effects of the climate in those inhospitable regions were conquered by the foresight and assiduity of this preeminent man.

As a result of Sucre's provident care, 8,700 men made the journey safely, arriving at Cerro de Pasco on August 1, 1824. Five days later the Patriots' cavalry defeated the Spanish cavalry of Canterac's army on the plains of Junín, located some 1.3,500 feet above sea level. This was the most important battle of the Wars of Independence in Spanish America, fought in hand-to-hand combat, where not a single shot was fired. Sucre did not actually participate in this engagement, as he was in the rear with the infantry. After the battle, Bolívar sent him to the territories in the rear of the army, to organize hospitals, secure provisions and fodder, open communications with the coast, and create a new army corps with recruits and the sick released from the hospitals. Concerning this mission, Bolívar later wrote:

After the Battle of Junín General Sucre again devoted himself to the improvement and relief of the Army. The hospitals were provided by him, and the platoons of soldiers who came to join the Army were helped by this same general. Such solicitude gave the Army 2,000 additional soldiers who would have perished in want without the care of the one who had directed his watchfulness to such merciful service. To General Sucre any sacrifice for humanity and for the fatherland is a glory. There is not a kindly deed undeserving of his heart. He is the soldier's General.

On the 6th or 7th of October, 1824, Bolívar left for the coast, with the intention of re-capturing Lima and establishing the siege of Callao. He placed the Supreme Command of the "United Army" in the hands of Sucre. Following instructions from the Liberator, he quartered his troops in the Province of Cotabambas, near the Apurimac River, on whose farther side was located the Cuzco Department, Headquarters of the Spanish Viceroy. Meanwhile, Viceroy La Serna, whose army had been reinforced by the return of General Valdés ' troops from Potosí, decided to mobilize his forces and attack the Patriots. Since his troops numbered twice those of the Patriots, he was confident of defeating them.

Almost simultaneously, Sucre decided to return with his troops to the Province of Andahuaylas and to Huamanga (today Ayacucho), as the supplies of food and fodder in the Cotabambas Province were quite limited. This movement of the Patriots' Army over some sixty leagues (about 180 miles) in twenty days, marching almost parallel to the enemy over extremely rugged terrain, was superbly, executed by our hero. Of this maneuver the Liberator wrote:

The march of the 'United Army', (Colombians and Peruvians together with a few Argentines and Chileans) from the Cotabambas Province to Huamanga is an outstanding operation, possibly comparable to the greatest achievement presented by military history. Our army was inferior by one-half to that of the enemy, whose material advantages over us were overwhelming. We were compelled to march single file across steep rocks, gorges, river, summits, and abysses, always facing the enemy's army, which was always superior to ours.

On December 3, 1824, six days before the Battle of Ayacucho, the vanguard of Sucre's forces was attacked from ambush by various Spanish battalions, while crossing the Corpahuaico ravine. The casualties of the Patriots in this encounter were some 300 to 350 dead and wounded, and also the loss of some equipment. Aroused by the resounding blow inflicted on the Republicans, the Viceroy decided to give them the "coup de grace" at the first opportunity.

The Patriots' Army arrived at the village of Quinua, on the Ayacucho plain, on December 6th, and rested there for three days. Meanwhile, the Spaniards, having reached the Cundurcunca Hill (which rises some 700 feet above the Quinua plain), decided to attack the following day despite the fatigue of their troops from continuous marching.

The Battle of Ayacucho

The battlefield is a convex and gently sloping plain, about 700 yards wide at the foot of the mountain and about 850 yards wide at the other end; its length is about 1,325 yards and its altitude is about 11,200 feet above sea level. The Patriots' Army encamped on the plain numbered 5,750 men, and the Spaniards, on the slopes of Cundurcunca Mountain overlooking the savannah, had about 9,000 men.(12)

Although the forces of the enemy were almost twice those of the patriots, the brilliant strategy of Sucre gave him the victory in less than two hours. An enormous booty of Spanish equipment, ammunition and baggage was taken. In addition, the patriots captured two Major-Generals (one of whom was the Viceroy), four Field Marshals, ten Brigadier-Generals, sixteen Colonels, 68 Lieutenant Colonels, 484 Majors and Sergeants, and more than 2,000 soldiers. Spanish casualties were 1,800 in dead and wounded, while those of the patriots amounted to only 310 dead and 609 wounded.

The capitulation signed on the battlefield the same day delivered all of the Peruvian territory to the patriots. This victory, which was to be the last major battle against the Spaniards, was also responsible for the consolidation of the Independence of the South American Continent. Of the Ayacucho victory, Bolívar wrote:

The Battle of Ayacucho is the summit of the American glory and the work of General Sucre. Its disposition was perfect and its execution superhuman. In one hour, prompt and skilful tactics destroyed the victors of fourteen years, an enemy perfectly organized and expertly commanded ... General Sucre is the Father of Ayacucho! It is he who has shattered the shackles with which Pizarro bound the Incas. Posterity will show Sucre with one foot on Pichincha and the other on Potosí, carrying the cradle of Manco-Capac, and gazing on the chains of Perú torn asunder by his sword.

Among the honors that Sucre received for his outstanding victory four are particularly noteworthy. On December 27, 1824, Bolívar, in the name of the Peruvian Government, promoted him to "Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho." On February 11, 1825, the Colombian Congress presented him with a gold sword inscribed: "The Congress of Colombia to General Antonio José de Sucre, Conqueror at Ayacucho, year 1824"; Sucre gave this sword to the Liberator. And the Municipality of Lima also presented him with a gold sword,(13) mounted with some twelve hundred diamonds, and a marshal's uniform embroidered with gold thread and embellished with thirtynine solid gold buttons. Moreover, on February 28, 1825, the Peruvian Congress, upon confirming his promotion to Grand Marshal of Ayacucho, awarded him a compensation in cash or in state lands of 200,000 pesos. This was effected by transferring to him the title to the farm "La Huaca" in the Chancay Valley, free of encumbrances and taxes. On the battlefield of Ayacucho Sucre promoted Córdoba and Lara to Major-General, and recommended to Bolívar that Silva, Carvajal, Sandes and Otero be promoted to Brigadier General.

After remaining at Huamanga (today Ayacucho) about two weeks, Sucre left for Cuzco, some 250 miles distant, arriving there on December 29, 1825. In Cuzco he found the Pizarro Standard of 1533 which he sent to the Liberator, and which remains to this day in the Bolívarian Museum at Caracas. Three weeks later, on January 19, 1825, Sucre left Cuzco for La Paz,(14) where he arrived in mid-February. With 3,500 troops he went from there to O"ruro, to attack Spanish General Olaneta, who occupied Potosí on March 30th with a small army of 3,300 soldiers. The engagement never took place, as Olaneta was killed four days later, while trying to quell a revolt of his troops, who then joined the patriot forces.

When Sucre and his troops invaded the provinces of Alto Perú (Charcas, La Paz, Cochabamba, Potosí and Santa Cruz), he found their political situation rather uncertain, because in 1778 the Spanish Government had transferred them from the dominion of the Viceroyalty of Perú to the direct jurisdiction of the Buenos Aires Viceroy. However, as a result of the Charcas insurrection of 1809, these five provinces were reincorporated into Perú, and in the ensuing confusion they were neglected by both Viceroyalties. The Republican authorities in Buenos Aires had indicated their willingness to abide by the popular vote of Alto Perú if the inhabitants proclaimed their independence. After several letters exchanged with Bolívar, Sucre called on the five provinces to name their representatives to a General Assembly. At its installation on July 5, 1825, in the city of Chuquisaca, the Assembly proclaimed their independence, changing the name of Chuquisaca to "Sucre" and that of Alto Perú to "Bolivia." This act was subject to the approval of the Peruvian Congress, which was granted.

In the absence of Bolívar, Sucre was named Acting President of the new republic of Bolivia and, when the Bolivian Congress was installed on May 26, 1826, in accordance with the Bolivian Constitution drafted by the Liberator, Sucre was appointed (August 1828), President for life. However, in accepting the Presidency, he exacted the condition that he would rule for only two years. His government was a model of honesty and organization, whereby he displayed his outstanding talents as a politician, diplomat and administrator. He organized the Treasury and its revenues, and was so thrifty in all departments of the administration that the salaries of all government employees and of the army were paid punctually; moreover, the troops were adequately quartered and provided with food, uniforms and equipment. In spite of meagre revenues, he not only met all the expenses of the budget, but was also able to make some extraordinary disbursements for the purpose of repatriating the auxiliary troops to Colombia, and amortizing a considerable part of the external debt of the new country to Perú. In the field of education he established schools and colleges and organized a military academy. In the Justice Department he created several courts independent from the Civil Administration.

Unforeseen events caused Sucre to resign the Presidency on April 18, 1828, four months before the expiration of his two-year term of office. When Bolívar left Perú in September 1826, never to return, the new Peruvian Government, coveting the annexation of the Bolivian provinces, began to sow the seeds of dissension among their inhabitants. One of the devious schemes it employed was to send a strong contingent of troops to the Bolivian border under General Agustín Gamarra (a Sucre subordinate at Ayacucho), to demand the immediate repatriation of all Colombian forces quartered in Alto Perú. Sucre agreed to repatriate them through the Peruvian port of Arica. With the departure of these troops from Bolivia, the only garrison left in the capital was a small force of soldiers, who subsequently were suborned with Peruvian money. This enabled the conspirators and a handful of foreign adventurers to make an assault on the barracks in the early morning of April 18, 1828, in which the commander was killed, and, with the help of the small garrison, to rebel against the government. When Sucre attempted to quell this revolt by going to the barracks with a few aides-de-camp and policemen, accompanied by Minister of the Interior Infante, he received slight wounds to his head and right arm, while two of his aides-de-camp wereseriously injured.

This revolutionary plot was defeated three days later by a platoon of troops from Potosí, opportunely summoned by Minister Infante, and most of the rebels were killed. However, during the consequent disorder in the capital, the Peruvian Army invaded Bolivia, and the Government, in order to rid its territory of the raiders, was forced to accept the humiliating conditions imposed by the Peruvians.

Upon resigning the Presidency, Sucre appointed General José María Perez de Urdininea to be Acting President until Congress convened in August. Two days later, on April 20, 1828, he was married to the Marquesa in Quito by proxy, through his friend Ecuadorian Colonel Vicente Aguirre.When the Bolivian Congress met on August 2nd, Sucre formally resigned from office, and left immediately for Ecuador. He arrived in Guayaquil with only 1,000 pesos to his name. For, over the past, five years, while managing the public treasuries of Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia with the greatest integrity, he had with his customary magnanimity Dońated his Colombian income to his family in Cumaná, and had distributed to the widows and orphans of the patriots of Ayacucho the special reward of 25,000 pesos given him by the Bolivian Congress. In a letter to Bolívar Sucre said:

My good fortune has placed me outside the sphere of Napoleon's Generals, about whom it has been said that after they became wealthy, they did not want to work. As for myself, I have nothing except what is my wife's,(15) and I am satisfied. She will supply me with my daily needs, and I will give her the military honors that I possess, for I will even reject all titles.

On September 30, 1828, Sucre joined his wife in Quito, little knowing that they would have less than one year together. In January 1829, he left her to take charge of the Tarqui Campaign, but returned five or six weeks later. In November of that year he again left Iota Maríana, this time to attend the sessions of the Colombian Congress (called the "Admirable Congress" by Bolívar), which was to assemble in Bogotá in January 1830. She would never again see him alive. Six months later, at the end of June, his remains were returned to Quito-for he had been the victim of one of the most infamous assassinations in the annals of history.

The Battle of Tarqui

Bolívar's Peruvian enemies were not content with their Bolivian adventure and the repatriation of the Colombian troops quartered in Perú, who had been convicted of insubordination. Intent upon annexing the Province of Guayaquil to the territory of Perú, they decided to invade southern Colombia, and sent out an expedition of some 8,000 men, led by General José de La Mar, President of Perú and Commander-in-Chief of the Army; General Gamarra was his second-in-command. Both La Mar and Gamarra had fought as subordinates of Sucre at Ayacucho.

Realizing that war with Perú was imminent, Bolívar, upon being informed of Sucre's arrival in Quito, appointed him Supreme Military and Civilian Chief of the Southern Provinces, which included Quito and Guayaquil. In his letter to Sucre he said:

All of my powers, good and bad, I delegate to you. Whether you make war or peace, whether you save or lose the South, you are the arbiter of its fate, and it is in you that I have placed

all my hopes!"

And ended with the words:

Be happy a thousand times, my dear General-but even a thousand times more glorious! This is the wish of one who esteems you most in this world-but not so much as you deserve.

Between October 1828 and January 1829, the Colombian Army in the south had been organized by another of Bolívar's lieutenants, General Juan José Flores (later the first President of Ecuador), who was appointed General-in-Chief under Sucre. Flores was accompanied by a group of heroes of theColombian and Venezuelan Wars of Independence, among whom were: Colonel Febres Cordero, Chief of the General High Staff; Colonel O'Leary; Generals Heres, Sandes, Luis Urdaneta, Brown, Leon and Guevara; and Commander Camacaro.(16)

The Patriots' Army, with only 3,800 infantry and 600 cavalry, was about half the size of the Peruvian forces. Upon joining his troops in Cuenca, (about 200 miles south of Quito) Sucre issued a proclamation on January 28, 1829, which said in part:

...Colombians! National dignity and the tranquillity of the southern peoples require an honorable peace or a glorious victory. We have offered peace to the enemy. Victory will be achieved by the points of your lances and bayonets!

On the 26th of February, after various skirmishes with the enemy, Sucre decided to attack with his entire force, despite its numerical inferiority. The First Colombian Division arrived at "Portete del Tarqui" before daylight. The plain of Tarqui, (located at about 12 miles south of Cuenca) where the battle took place, is at the foot of the defile ("Portete") and is located on a rise facing a gorge at the foot of which runs a brook fordable only in single file. On one side the terrain is extremely rugged; on the other, thick woods extend past a hill and through the defile of "Portete del Tarqui," to the village of Giron at the other end of the plain. The enemy outposts were deployed in almost impregnable ambuscades at either side of the ravine, well concealed by the woods towering above the gorge. The main body of their troops was quartered on the plain, expecting the fierce attack of its vanguard to give the "coup de grace" to the Colombians.

Without waiting for the arrival of the Second Division, which had been delayed, Sucre attacked with only the First Division, numbering about 1,500 men, and succeeded in dislodging the enemy from their formidable positions. General Flores was the hero of the battle. He took possession of the hill, where he confronted Peruvian General La Mar and the main body of his army, which had been reinforced by three battalions under General Agustín Gamarra. When the Second Division arrived, it was already daylight, and the 1,500 Colombians were fighting 5,000 Peruvians. One hour later the entire Peruvian Army had been routed from the battlefield, leaving behind some 1,500 casualties in dead, wounded and prisoners, including sixty officers. The Colombian casualties were only 360, and Sucre's forces seized enormous booty, including 3,000 muskets, ammunition, stores and flags. On the battlefield, the "Grand Marshal" promoted Flores to MajorGeneral and Colonel O'Leary to Brigadier-General, as they had been largely responsible for the splendid victory.

With great magnanimity Sucre granted Peruvian General La Mar a generous capitulation, under the terms of which the remnants of the Peruvian Army were permitted to return to their country within twenty days. Moreover, within the same period, the Peruvians were to deliver back to Colombia the port of Guayaquil and all the Colombian ships captured there. This had not been done at the expiration date of March 11th; but an Armistice of Peace was subsequently signed by the two nations in Guayaquil on July 21, 1829, the same day that Bolívar retook the city. This peace treaty was fulfilled by both governments two months later. Of the 8,000 Peruvians who had invaded Colombia, because of casualties suffered at Tarqui as well as desertions, only 2,000 returned to their country. The Tarqui campaign, which had lasted one month, was Sucre's last military achievement. He returned to Quito at the beginning of March 1829,(17) and a few days later the Liberator arrived. Sucre was then thirty-four years of age, and Bolívar forty-six. Within a year both would be dead. Bolívar a victim of tuberculosis and Sucre viciously assassinated.

A short while after, the Southern Departments of Colombia appointed Marshal Sucre their representative to the forthcoming Constitutional Congress, called by Bolívar: "Admirable Congress," which was to meet in Bogotá early in the following year. On November 10, 1829, the day before he left for Bogotá, Sucre made his last will and testament, which he delivered sealed to his friend General Vicente Aguirre.

The Congress, consisting of forty-seven representatives, began its sessions on the 20th of January 1830, under Marshal Sucre, who had been elected President. As Venezuela had declared its independence from Colombia(18) two months prior, on November 26, 1829, one of the first acts of the Congress was to send a Peace Commission to Venezuela, naming Sucre and Monsignor Esteves, Bishop of Santa Marta, for this mission. Upon crossing the Venezuelan border, while en route to Caracas, the two commissioners were summarily ordered by the Venezuelan authorities to return to Colombian territory, and the Venezuelan Government had sent General Marińo with a contingent of troops to enforce the mandate. Sucre was greatly angered by this affront, not only because

of the involvement of Marińo, who held a military rank inferior to his, but even more because he was prohibited from setting foot on the soil of his fatherland. He stated this in writing to General Marińo.

After several fruitless meetings held on the 18th and 21st of April, between the Colombian and Venezuelan Commissioners, both Sucre and the Bishop, having failed in their mission, returned to Bogotá. Sucre then resigned from the Congress, and left for Quito on May 13, 1830, the very day that Ecuador seceded from Colombia.(19) While en route, the Marshal learned of Ecuador's secession and wrote his friend General Vicente Aguirre from Popayán on May 27th, saying in part:

Colombia cannot continue under its present system of organization unless it is united as a confederation of the three large states. Venezuela agrees to this, and also Nueva Granada ...

And further recommending:

...moderation and discipline so that all Colombians may settle their differences calmly and without the threat of civil wars.

This was his last letter-eight days later he was assassinated.

The Berruecos Crime

Brigadier-General José María Obando, the Commanding General of Cauca, was an avowed enemy of Sucre, and determined to eliminate him. The execution of the Marshal was delegated to a subordinate, Colonel Apolinar Morillo, (Venezuelan) who engaged as his accomplice a half-caste highway bandit and guerrilla fighter named José Erazo. Three of Erazo's peons were also involved. They plotted to ambush Sucre on the morning of June 4, 1830, in the Berruecos mountains a few miles from the small hamlet of La Venta (today La Unión), where the Marshal had spent the previous night. (The author of this chronicle visited personally the site where the assassination took place.) The steep and narrow road between La Venta and Berruecos is treacherously slippery because of the almost constant rains of the highlands. After crossing some hills, this path descends to the cold and bleak district of Berruecos. In addition to the dampness of the wooded terrain, the trail is shrouded in the perennial fog of the mountains. Sucre's retinue comprised seven persons: two muleteers with the baggage, a little ahead of the others; two sergeants, one being the Marshal's orderly; a representative to the Congress from Cuenca, and his servant; and Sucre himself. The group were traveling single file over the narrow path, when they arrived at "La Jacoba" at the center of the thick woods. Here the assassins were waiting in concealment, and when Sucre approached, he was struck by three of their bullets, two inflicting superficial wounds to his head and one piercing his heart. He fell from his mule, which was shot in its neck, and died almost instantly. His body remained there for twenty-four hours, as his companions, fearful of a similar fate, had fled in panic.

The following day Sucre's orderly, a negro sergeant named Lorenzo Caicedo, with some help from others, buried the body and marked the makeshift grave with a cross formed of branches. When the widow received news of the assassination, she promptly brought Sucre's remains from Berruecos to. Quito, where they were interred in secret in the oratory of the chapel of"El Dean," one of her haciendas. Subsequently, she had the remains transferred, also in secret, to the "Carmen Bajo" Convent in Quito; where they were placed facing the main altar of the church. Seventy years later, in April 1900, Sucre's remains were discovered and, their authenticity scrupulously verified, transferred to the Quito Cathedral on June 4th, in a sumptuous parade led by the Executive and his Ministers, the high dignitaries of the Church and the diplomatic corps. At the time the Government ordered the building of a crypt, but, it was not inaugurated until thirty-two years later, on August 4, 1932. This mausoleum consisted of a monolith of granite from the quarries of the Pichincha volcano, and weighed about nine tons. Its cover, on which a cross is carved in high relief, was so heavy that thirty persons were required to move it into place.

Two nations have tried without success to obtain the remains of "El Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho." Bolivia claimed them in 1845, and Venezuela in 1876 and 1894, and a third time in 1900 when they were discovered in Quito. At the Pantheon in Caracas, where repose the remains of Bolívar and his Generals, there is a splendid sarcophagus assigned to Sucre, which remains empty.

General Antonio José de Sucre was the "right-hand man" of the Liberator Simón Bolívar. Perhaps the best assessment of his superb military genius can be found in Bolívar's own words, in a statement made in 1829 to Perú de la Croix ("Diario de Bucaramanga"):

Not our own fatherland, nor even the whole of Spanish America, has ever produced a warrior with the resourcefulness and ability of Sucre-to maneuver and quarter his troops, and on the field of battle to choose swiftly and accurately the best opportunity and manner of effecting deadly strikes against the enemy--his singular faculty for engaging the enemy in battle on any terrain, ever certain of finding the means of destroying it, always moving strategic forces to the decisive place, even though inferior in numbers. These remarkable qualities ... account for his enormous prestige in the Army.


Sucre's Last Will and Testament. This document, dated November 10, 1829, and opened June 19, 1830, named his daughter Teresa (four months old), or his wife, upon surviving the daughter, as heir to about fifty per cent of his estate; a third was left to his brothers and sisters in Cumaná; and about a fifth was to be distributed by his Aide-de-Camp Colonel Pedro de Alarcón in accordance with special instructions. His assets, which were free of encumbrances, were appraised at $276,000.00, as follows:

Item Pesos
A Farm and a House 37,000.00
Creditors in Bolivia 12,000.00
Hacienda "La Huaca" in Perú 206,000.00
Overdue Rentals on this Farm 5,000.00
In Jewels: a Silver Canteen 1,000.00
A Sword of Gold with Diamonds, from the Municipality of Lima; and a Medal, Mounted with Diamonds, Given by the Bolivian Congress 15,000.00
Total 276,000.00
or $276000 = dollars.
(Note: The silver canteen and other jewels, as well as any effects of his luggage that his Aide-de-Camp Colonel Alarcón desired were left to him.)

Fate of Sucre's Assassins. General Obando was killed in a revolution thirty-one years after the assassination. During the interim he participated in various rebellions, and spent several years in exile in Perú; in 1853 he became President of Colombia, but was overthrown a year later.

Apolinar Morillo was the only one of the assassins to be executed for the crime; on November 30, 1842, he was shot in the main square of Bogotá. José Erazo took part in a revolution, not connected with the assassination, and subsequently died in prison in 1842. The three peon accomplices had been poisoned by Erazo and Morillo to eliminate them as possible witnesses.

Sucre' s Widow. One year after the assassination of the Marshal, the Marquesa was married again, to Colonel Isidoro Barriga, a native of Bogotá. As she had suffered enormous losses in wealth, her second husband compelled her to seek financial assistance from the Bolivian Government; this was denied in a humiliating way. In 1861, the son of this marriage forced her to again write the Bolivian Government, with the same negative results. The Marquesa died a few months later, on December 15, 1861-thirty-one years after the assassination of

El Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho

1. As a reward for the magnificent victory at Ayacucho (December 9, 1824), the Peruvian Congress honored Sucre with the title of "Grand Marshal of Ayacucho." At the time he was twenty-nine years of age.

2. Caracas had declared its provisional independence from the Spanish authorities, due to the imprisonment by Napoleon of King Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII.

3. The fourth daughter of this second marriage, Margarita Sucre Marquez, was the grandmother of the Bolívarian historian Vicente Lecuna.

4. Bolívar's small army was defeated by Morales, second in command to Boves, at the head of 8,000 llaneros. This reverse compelled the Liberator to leave Venezuela for the second time, on September 8, 1814.

5. Sucre was not there. His stepmother and a brother .were killed, and two of his sisters were raped by the victors. Three years later Sucre was to experience the loss of another brother, Captain Francisco de. Sucre, executed at Cariaco by Spanish General José de Canterac in June 1817. Seven years later, on December 9, 1824, Sucre, victorious at Ayacucho, displayed unusual generosity toward the defeated Spanish Generals and their General-in-Chief José de Canterac, and furnished them with safe conduct and the necessary facilities to return to Spain, forgetting that it was this same Canterac who had shot his brother Francisco at Cariaco.

6. In his memoirs, Pombo describes the future Marshal as: "A young Venezuelan of medium height and slim build, with fair complexion and dark hair, a well-shaped nose and piercing eyes, well-mannered, reserved and unassuming."

7. In his book "Sucre, Citizen of America," published in 1943, the Cumanes historian J. A. Cova relates the following concerning the above anecdote: "The allegation of O'Leary that in 1819 Sucre was practically unknown to Bolívar has been since refuted. In a letter addressed to Sucre from Angostura on October 19, 1817, Bolívar says in part: 'I shall never forget your wishes to come with me to the West. I promise you that, as soon as Cumaná is free from agitators and enemies, I will bring you to my side, and I will not do this as a favor but as a necessity, or better still, to satisfy my heart, which appreciates you and knows your merits.'"

8. The City of Quito, which was the residence of the Spanish Captain General Melchor Aymerich, is situated at an altitude of 9,300 feet above sea level. Its population at the time was about 40,000. The distance between Quito and Guayaquil, on horseback, was some 300 miles.

9. Santa Cruz was 30 years old, Sucre 27.

10. In this brief chronicle we have omitted a description of the conciliatory powers displayed by Sucre during this period, until the arrival of the Liberator in Lima on September 1, 1823.

11. Pasco: A small mining settlement situated some 600 miles from Cajamarca, at an altitude of 14,300 feet above sea level.

12. This brief chronicle has omitted a detailed description of the battle, but a complete account may be found in "Campańas de Junín y Ayacucho" (Caracas, 1941), written by the great Bolívarian historian Vicente Lecuna.

13. This sword, together with a medal with diamonds from the Bolivian Congress, was included in Sucre's last will and testament with a value of 15,000 pesos (15,000 dollars).

14. La Paz: A city in Alto Perú, today Bolivia, about 12,000 feet above sea level.

15. Dońa Maríana Carcelén y Larrea, Marquesa de Solanda, was heiress to the fortune established by Don Pedro Sánchez de Orellana, consisting of the Haciendas Chisincha, Santa Ana, Conocoto, Turubamba and Chillogallo, as well as several houses in Quito.

16. Camacaro died in the Battle of Tarqui. In 1824, at the Battle of Junín, he had rescued the gravely wounded Argentine General Necochea, who had been taken prisoner, by carrying him off on the rump of his horse.

17. A few months later, on July 10, 1829, the Marquesa gave birth to the first and only child of the Grand Marshal, a daughter who was baptized Teresa. She lived only two years and four months, perishing in an accident.

18. Six months later Ecuador would also declare its independence, thus leaving Colombia divided into three nations.

19. When Ecuador became independent from Colombia, General Juan José Flores became its first President. Flores, a native of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, was seven years younger than Sucre and his subordinate in rank; he died thirty-four years later, while attempting to quell a revolution.

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