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Lautaro's campaigns against Santiago. Chile



Lautaro's campaigns against Santiago. Chile




Lautaro was a born military genius and was only eighteen years of age, the age of Alexander the Great when he began to exhibit tactical skill, and qualities of resource worthy of an old and experienced commander. Although set against the best soldiers of Europe the Spanish Tercios, veterans in the wars of Italy and Flanders, he was so successful in his brilliant campaign against the Spaniards that he threatened to force them out of Chile. Lautaro with an army of 700 men, he set out for the north, have it in mind to attack the city of Santiago itself- the great stronghold of the Spaniard in Chile.


We must bear in mind, that Lautaro 700 men army was completely Infantry they used horses, but was not a cavalry yet, in the proper sense. The principal weapon which they use is a spear eighteen feet long; they manage it with great dexterity, and are able to give it a tremulous motion which has often shaken the sword from the hand of their Spanish adversaries. The cavalry armed with swords and lances; and the infantry with pikes, bow and arrow and clubs pointed with iron. Under normal circumstance, Mapuche infantry in line were helpless against Spanish cavalry and could be massacred, as happened in the beginner of the conquest. Their only protection was the square, a bristling hedge of pikes impenetrable, to form square quickly demanded some precision, and they forts.


The Mapuche infantry march for their family and freedom, their march… from the Nahuelbuta jungle - through the Bio-Bio River, they march.


A pace measures 60 centimeters. There are, of course as may be expected both shorter and longer paces, but 60 centimeters is the average. The Mapuche infantryman would have to take 84,000 paces in order to cover 50 kilometres, 84,000 paces in hard rocky terrain and up the hill all the time. The infantryman bathed in their own sweat and topped by their black hair blowing in the breeze. That was the picture of a Mapuche infantry column on the march. A warrior tire, his feet drag, he begins to stumble and finally he is exhausted. The warrior with pale face and clenched teeth he tries to march on. His comrades carry his weapon and the rest of his equipment, but he cannot carry on. He stumbles out of the ranks and falls in again at the end of the column... His weapon is passed back, two comrades support him, and a thir carries his equipment for him. Others join him; a heavy burden drags at the end of the column… Yet one pace measure 60 centimeters and so they move on. Those who had faltered smile and overcome their fatigue when they hear the company commander say: “Lautaro saw you and praised your marching. Well done again, konas (warriors).


 In October 1556 they reached the Mataquito River in his northward march 400km. There he built a fortified camp near Teno in a place called Petero as a base of operations against Santiago.


After his victories in the south, Battle of Tucapel and Marihueñu And the messages promising support from the north, Lautaro planned an assault on Santiago. With the ravages of the recent epidemic and the needs of the campaign against the Spanish still occupying cities within Mapuche territory still going on, he did not want to draw many troops, just 700 soldiers from the main Mapuche army for his campaign to the north. He had to rely on recruiting warriors among the people north of the Bio River  among subjugated Mapuche and the Promaucaes north of the Itata River who were now inspired by the previous successes of Lautaro to revolt again.


Lautaro ambushed a first probe by a small Spanish force from Santiago. A larger force under Pedro de Villagra .Pedro_de_Villagra later attacked the fortress at Peteroa over several days but were not able to take it and was forced away by flooding. However, with unfavorable losses and more Spaniards coming to Villagra's support, Lautaro retreated towards the Maule River hoping to establish himself there. However, the Spanish cavalry of Juan Godíñez  pursued them to the Maule River cutting down stragglers and one of Lautaro's detachments was cut to pieces. Lautaro's army gave them the slip, but was forced to fall back beyond the Itata River


In January 1557, Francisco de Villagra Francisco_de_Villagra> marched south to aid the remaining cities against the Mapuche army led by Caupolicán. Informed by his allies the city of Santiago was now relatively unprotected, Lautaro evaded Villagra, letting him pass to the south while he marched again toward Santiago with a new army including allies under Panigualgo. He moved his remaining army over a league up river and again established a fortified camp on the Mataquito River amid a carrizal at the foot of a wooded hill. However, its location was betrayed to Francisco de Villagra by local Indians. Villagra sent word to Juan Godíñez near Santiago to meet him as he hurried north. The Spanish forces met without Lautaro being alerted and made a surprise night march over the hills of Caune, to the hill overlooking Lautaro's camp, on the shore of the Mataquito River. On April 29, at dawn Villagra began the Battle of Mataquito with a surprise attack on the camp in which they killed Lautaro and obtained a decisive victory, destroying his army and dispersing his allies.


In the beginning of the battle, they killed Lautaro coming out of the doorway of his ruca (dwelling). The Mapuches congregate around the lifeless body of their chief, fighting with all the ferocity energy of despair.


When the Spaniards shouted Lautaro was dead, the allied warriors from Itata, Ñuble and Reynoguelen fled any way they could, leaving only Lautaro’s Mapuches fighting a six-hour battle with the Mapuche putting up a stubborn resistance despite the death of their leader.


…”And a song resonated out through the heavens…


And the sounds vibrated in the hearts of the warriors


Echoed of the ones who knew who they were…


the call was an ancient one


- the melody vibrant and pure-


The mapuches in silent understood.


The call has been announced


fearlessly the troops rise up ready to fight.


the mapuche warrior was born a soldier,


and a soldier fights.”


The Mapuches combatant fought with the most determined heroism to the very last, despising every offer of quarter, the Spanish victory was costly. Seven hundred Mapuches soldiers died in the Battle of Mataquito, but they die hard. Marino de Lovera merely pointing out the names of the bravest Spanish soldiers under the banner of Castilian we have already mentioned. Also ponder the courage of the Araucanians warriors that none of whom consented to surrender, similar that the sacred battalion of Sparta. Because, none of those Araucanos fighters came back a foot, preferring dying at the hands of the Spaniards in combat; than, to return to their land alive and defeated.


 Eduardo Agustin Cruz


Extracted from the book: THE GRAND ARAUCANIAN WARS 1541-1883, IN THE KINGDOM OF CHILE: