Battle of Sangrar
|Battle of Sangrar|
|Part of War of the Pacific|
|Republic of Chile||Republic of Peru|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Captain José Araneda||Colonel Manuel Vento|
|Casualties and losses|
|63 dead or wounded||4 dead and 37 wounded|
The Battle of Sangrar or Combat of Sangra was fought on June 26, 1881 in the Peruvian central Andes, during the Letelier expedition, the first of its type during the sierra campaign of the War of the Pacific, sent to eliminate the Peruvian resistance growing over there after the fall of Lima and conducted by Andrés Cáceres. An 80 men Chilean detachment led by Cpt. Jose Araneda successfully held off an outnumbering attacking force commanded by Col. Manuel Encarnación Vento at Sangrar.
After defeating the Peruvian army at Chorrillos and Miraflores and entering into Lima on early 1881, the Chileans are busy trying to restore order in the Peruvian capital city, at that time under the command of Gen. Pedro Lagos. Since signing a treaty ceding territory was rejected, Chile is obliged to eliminate all resistance in order to force peace under its terms. Therefore, an expedition directed by Lt. Col. Ambrosio Letelier is sent to the mountains in order to destroy the resistance organized by Gen. Andrés Cáceres.
In April, the Letelier expedition is sent by train to Chicla, from where it's planned to move onto Cerro de Huasco and Huancayo seeking to seize control of the Junín Department.
Letelier's expedition force has been scattered in small garrisons through every town across the Peruvian mountains. Taking advantage of this strategy, these garrisons are surrounded by thousands of Indian montoneras which are risen against the Chilean Army after suffering several abuses by Letelier's forces. It became essential to the Chileans to reorganize the troops, gather them up and withdraw as soon as possible to north in order to fall back from the mountains, avoiding a possible defeat.
The chosen rendezvous point for the retreat is the mountain pass of Las Cuevas, which needs to be guarded until the division arrival to ease the crossing to Casapalca. This pass is between the towns of Quillacanca y Quillacocha, above 3,500 over the sea level.
A company of 80 men led by Cpt. José Araneda of the "Buin" 1st Line Battalion is ordered to hold the position until Letelier could pass through. This detachment consists of one captain, three corporals, 78 soldiers and one child who plays the company's horn adding up 83 effectives.
After a perilous march, the Chileans reached their destination, establishing on a nearby farm called Hacienda Sangrar in order to secure shelter from the wind chill and the snow. The farm is property of Norberto Vento, who manages to make Caceres send officers with their Indian montoneras to eliminate the trespassers. 730 men between professional and irregular soldiers and 1,000 guerrillas are sent under orders of Col. Manuel Vento, son of the farm owner.
Araneda decides to leave only 14 men at Las Cuevas as sentries, and sends Sgnt. Bisivinger, a corporal and 5 soldiers for food to Capillayoj, and Cpl. Oyarce and 4 men to west as sentries. The rest are posted at "Sangrar". Meanwhile, Letelier has to retreat due to extremely bad weather conditions to Oroya, passing through Piedra Parada to Casapalca, leaving Araneda isolated and waiting for troops that will never arrive.
After many hardships, Vento's forces begin to come down from Colac's Throat, encountering with Bisivinger's patrol, killing all of them after a short but fierce fight before giving any signal of the attack. However, the gunshots have been heard by the Chileans at Sangrar, allowing them to reunite and assume defensive positions.
On the afternoon of June 26 the attack over the Chilean garrison begins. Araneda has already divided his men as it follows: 15 men at Las Cuevas under Sgt. Blanco, 4 officers and 50 soldiers distributed between the chapel and the main farm house.
Several hundreds of Indians climb the hills trying to assail the soldiers at Las Cuevas, but are repelled by Blanco, who waits for the proper time to rendezvous with the rest of the detachment at the farm, but the attacker's flow is steady, cutting any escape routes. The same thing happens at Sangrar, but the soldiers are behind stone walls, shooting from a safe position and inflicting several casualties to his enemies.
After more than three hours of combat, Guzmán's group has to fall back to the chapel, with four dead and seven wounded. A similar thing occurred at Sangrar, where the combat is very harsh, until the Peruvians withdraw to regroup, giving the Chileans a rest for a while.
At this point, an honorable surrender is offered Araneda, promising all kinds of guaranties. But Araneda knows that the Indians would dismember them if doing so. Also, they don’t feel defeated, because of having a good amount of ammunition. Hence, Araneda refuses the offer. The montoneras attack again forcing the Chileans to retreat.
Since taking the position is taking so much time, Vento begins to wonder if the division will arrive in any time. His troops and montoneras are exhausted because of the fighting and the extensive march across the mountains. They could not get anything to eat or drink because of the fighting more than expected.
So, he orders his troops to attack continuously, ordering to set the chapel on fire to force its defenders out. The Chileans bayonet their way out from their burning shelter, attempting to reunite with Araneda. Since being outnumbered, Guzman doesn’t reach his objective, so deviates his soldiers to Las Cuevas to join Blanco's men. Blanco takes a horse and rides to Casapalca seeking reinforcements. After informing the situation, two companies of the 3rd Line and Esmeralda battalions are dispatched to the area.
Inside the farm, the Chileans believe that they have been left alone and would have to resist to the death. The Peruvians believe that in any time Letelier will arrive with the bulk of his forces.
Araneda realized that his only hope is to deceive the Peruvians, if not, it would be his end. They should convince their enemy that many soldiers are standing yet, so resolved to shout his orders as loud as he could so they could be heard by the Peruvians.
Simultaneously, Araneda's men began an intense shelling against the Peruvians. The soldiers ran to the windows to shoot from there. Trying not to waste precious time, the wounded reloaded the rifles, leaving them ready for being fired. This process was repeated over and over again.
Also, he though in another plan to mislead Vento. Araneda writes a letter to himself, signed by Letelier, saying that the latter with his division will arrive at Sangrar that day, and throws it near to the Peruvian position, whom hopefully would believe it.
Luckily for him, his plan works and the Peruvians become desperate to end this extenuating fight as soon as possible. A final attack is launched to the main farm house, but the attackers are once more repelled counting 38 casualties.
Araneda manages to survive along with less than fifteen soldiers but held his position, allowing a safe retreat from the mountains. Peruvian casualties are 42 according to later reports, with four dead and 38 wounded. After this encounter, the Chilean division abandons the Peruvian sierra through Chicla and returns to Lima, where Patricio Lynch is in charge now of the occupation. Also, Letelier has to face charges for abuses against the population. A consequence of his acts was the rise of the Andes against Chile, making it harder to achieve a total capitulation. This would be consummated only two years later on the fields of Huamachuco.
For Peruvian historians, this is a Peruvian victory, killing almost the entire garrison, but letting go one soldier after cutting his ear. Also, in their version have only 4 dead and 38 wounded.
- Cáceres, Zoila Aurora. La Campaña de La Breña(), p. 204 y 207.
- Memoria Chilena. "Combate de Sangra". Retrieved 2010. Check date values in:
- Pelayo, Mauricio. "Combate de Sangra". Retrieved 2010. Check date values in:
- Reyno, Manuel; González, Edmundo; Gómez, Sergio (1985). Historia del Ejército de Chile. Estado Mayor del Ejército de Chile. p. 251.
- Mellafe, Rafael; Pelayo, Mauricio (2004). La Guerra del Pacífico en imágenes, relatos, testimonios. Centro de Estudios Bicentenario. p. 300.
- Reyno, Manuel; González, Edmundo; Gómez, Sergio (1985). Historia del Ejército de Chile. Estado Mayor del Ejército de Chile. p. 252.