On November 20, 1845, the Combate or Battle of Vuelta de Obligado took place on the Paraná Rivera few kilometers north of the city of San Pedro in the province of Buenos Aires, the planning of the defense and the direction of the troops was in charge of General Lucio Norberto Mansilla.
On November 17, 1845, the Anglo-French fleet with fifteen armored warships with revolving artillery turrets escorting 100 merchant ships up the Paraná River. Months earlier, Juan Manuel de Rosas, in his capacity as head of international relations for the Argentine Confederation; he had appointed his brother-in-law and Chief of the San Nicolás military garrison, General Mansilla, as commander of the defending forces against an almost certain invasion.
Mansilla’s military background
Mansilla was born in Buenos Aires on March 1, 1792. His father, Andrés Ximénez de Mansilla, of Spanish origin, was one of the most courageous defenders of Buenos Aires during the English invasions, losing his life in 1807 during the second incursion. Lucio also participated, at the age of 14, in the Defense of the city and was part of the Tercio de Gallegos. In 1807 he fought at Miserere and in the street fights of July 5 and 6. In 1809 he obtained his Surveyor’s degree and opened a school of Mathematics.
In 1810 it was put at the disposal of the noble cause of May. In his own words: “…to the cry of FREEDOM, I put on my sword, abandoning the rosy future, and the social position obtained, and I put myself at the service of my country“. In 1812, as a lieutenant, he fought alongside Artigas against the Portuguese. He participated in the siege of Montevideo under orders from Rondeau. During the 1813 attack on the fortress of “El Quilombo” on the banks of the Yaguarón River, a rifle bullet went through it, seriously injuring it. He was recommended by the Government for his courage and published in the Gazeta for his heroism.
Sovereignty and geopolitical strategy 175 years after the Vuelta de Obligado
He stood out in the organization of the Army of the Andes as a recruiter and instructor in Jáchal (San Juan); he was appointed by San Martín “General Commander of the Southern Cordilleras of the Andes”; he fought in Chacabuco and Maipú in charge of a division, obtaining honors and the “Legion of Chile”. In 1821 we find him in Entre Ríos together with Ramírez in confrontation with Artigas who had invaded the province. When Ramírez died, Mansilla, sole head of the regular forces, was then named Governor of Entre Ríos. His performance was meritorious, he signed peace with López in Santa Fe, appearing alone and unarmed in his camp, returned the autonomy to Corrientes and Misiones and signed the Treaty of the Quadrilateral in 1824. Combatant in the War against Brazil in Camacuá, Ombú and Ituzaingó with honors and with the rank of Major General. Retired from active service in 1827, he married Agustina Ortiz de Rosas, Juan Manuel’s younger sister. In 1839 he was appointed Chief of the Reserve Army of the city and Commander of the Paraná Coast. Between 1840 and 1844 he was a provincial legislator.
Belgrano, Castelli and a “lucky” shipwreck in Cabo Polonio
Mansilla in Vuelta de Obligado
In mid-August 1845, Mansilla received instructions from Rosas regarding the imminent arrival of the Anglo-French squad that intended to go up the Paraná River. The heroism shown (once again) by Mansilla is out of the question as is well known. As an example, the harangue to his troops that November 20, 1845 is worth:
“Look at them, comrades, there you have them! Consider the size of the insult that they have been doing to the sovereignty of our Homeland, by navigating the waters of a river that runs through the territory of our Republic, with no other title than the force with which they believe they are powerful. But those wretches are delusional, they won’t be here! Shake the blue and white canopy and let us all die rather than see it come down from where it flutters.”.
Seriously injured, his desire to continue fighting accelerated his recovery. He again faced the Anglo-French fleet that was returning from its incursion in the battles of Acevedo, Quebracho and San Lorenzo on June 4, 1846, causing material and life losses to the invading squadron.
After long diplomatic negotiations with France and England, the Argentine government recovered the fleet captured from Brown and the Martín García Island.the recognition of the sovereignty of Argentina and its exclusive rights over the navigation of its interior rivers and that the invading fleets would redress the Argentine flag with a salute of 21 cannon shots.
These peace treaties marked the victory of the firm and dignified position in defense of national sovereignty maintained by Juan Manuel de Rosas.
Mansilla, retired from arms until 1852 as Reserve Commander of Buenos Aires, contained the scattered fugitives from Caseros who intended to sack the city, discharged the troops and handed over the fort to Urquiza’s envoy. Embarked with Rosas, he settled in France and was a regular visitor to the Palace of Emperor Nicholas III, who received him with honors and preferential treatment.
Back in Buenos Aires, he died on April 10, 1871, a victim of yellow fever at the age of 79.. His remains rest eternal sleep in the Recoleta Cemetery in the family pantheon.
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