The Americas War was an armed conflict between the North American Alliance, led by the United States, against the forces of Colombia. The conflict lasted four years and took place in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The war was the result of years of tensions and a border dispute between Columbia and Mexico.
The war was mainly a stalemate until 1837, when Brazil entered the war on the North American side. With Brazil's help, Colombia was overpowered and its capital, La Paz, was taken in 1838. With the end of the war, several new nations were created out of the remains of Columbia.
The war had its roots planted in the Spanish-American Wars of Independence during the 1820s. The United States, coming off impressive victories in Haiti and the Bahamas, decided to help the rebels, and forces led by Andrew Jackson established the Republic of Mexico. The Republic of Cuba was also created, and was American-backed as well. Meanwhile, in South America, rebels led Simon Bolivar defeated royalists across the continent. Bolivar was weary of American help, as he feared that it would eventually lead to an American annexation of the newly freed colonies. In South America, the nations of Columbia and Brazil were created. The North American Alliance was formally created in 1832, and consisted of the US, Canada, Mexico, Winnipeg, and Cuba. A dispute broke out between Columbia and Mexico over the control of the region of Panama, and created tensions. In 1834, Federalists in Panama broke out in rebellion and killed members of both nations. Mexico moved its military into Panama, and Columbia did the same. War finally broke out, and the Americas War had begun.
The beginning of the war is generally held to be the Battle of Panama City, but others believe it began with the Panama Rebellion or the mobilization of the Mexican or Colombian military.The first battle of the war was the Battle of Panama City, a battle between Mexico and Columbia over control of the city. A Mexican Army of 1200 led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna faced an army of 800 Colombians led by Jose de San Martin. Despite numerical superiority, the Colombians defeated the Mexicans due to his brilliant tactics. The Mexican Army was routed and retreated back to Mexico, with the Colombians hot on their tails. When word of the war reached America, war was quickly declared by America on Columbia, and other nations in the North American Alliance followed. An army of 2,000 led by Zachary Taylor was sent to Mexico to join forces with Santa Anna.
Taylor's and Santa Anna's forces numbered about 3,100 soldiers, and met a Colombian force of 1,400 at the city of San Jose. The North Americans eventually won, but faced huge losses, with approximately 1000 soldiers killed or wounded compared to 500 Colombians killed or wounded. The Colombians, however, during their retreat from the city left lots of equipment, which the North Americans gladly used. With San Jose lost, the Colombians retreated back to Panama City, their main stronghold in Central America.
America and Cuba also launched a campaign in the Caribbean in August of 1834. US forces led by Stephen Watts Kearny attacked the Virgin Islands in the Lesser Antilles. Kearny attacked two places: Saint Croix, the largest island in the Virgin Islands, and the city of Charlotte Amalie, the largest city, which was on the island of Saint Thomas. Colombian forces here were smaller than in Central America, so North America had an easier time of winning the islands. Saint Croix fell first, on August 24, and Charlotte Amalie fell on September 2. The victories here would strengthen Cuba's position in the Caribbean.In November, 1834, North America launched a campaign against Panama, led by Taylor and Santa Anna. The campaign featured an overland attack from Costa Rica into Panama, as well as a naval landing at the Costa Rican port city of Golfito. The number of soldiers in the attack was approximately 10,000. At first, all went well. Golfito was easily taken, and the overland force overtook little resistance. However, the force soon passed high ground around the mountain of Cerro Chirripo. The Colombians ambushed the surprised North Americans, killing hundreds. Taylor then ordered a charge up the high ground. The charge was disastrous, and 2700 men were killed, and countless others injured. Taylor was mortally wounded in the attack, struck in the chest with a bullet. The force, what was left of it, was forced to retreat back to Mexico. Stephen Kearny was then placed in charge of the American forces.
War ContinuesWhile the battle in Central America was raging in 1835, battles were being fought in the Gulf of Mexico. Colombian ships had been disrupting shipping from the US to Cuba and from Cuba to Mexico. In order to stop the stalemate, US Secretary of the Navy Mahlon Dickerson devised a plan to defeat the Colombian ships. Dickerson decided to have a small fleet attack the Colombian fleet, then flee to cays where other ships and cannons on the islands would be waiting. The plan worked, but only had minor success; few Colombian ships were destroyed. Hoping for better results, Dickerson ordered attacks on ships docked in ports. Some Colombian ships were destroyed, but the remaining ones chased the US ships back to the Caribbean Sea. The war in the Gulf of Mexico became a stalemate.
With Kearny at the helm, the North American Alliance planned another attack that would avenge the maiming in Costa Rica. While they had retreated, the Colombians had taken San Jose from the North Americans. Kearny ordered his army to attack the city. Knowing that his army would be eventually annihilated if a battle erupted at San Jose, Jose de San Martin ordered his army to retreat from San Jose, but also ordered the city to be burned down. When they reached the city, the Americans were devastated that San Jose was burned. It created a huge drop in moral, which was already at a low level. Angered with this, Kearny ordered his army onward.
The North American army soon surged into Panama. San Martin's troops had been marching for days to escape the larger American force. To reinforce San Martin, Columbia sent an army of 7000 under Antonio Jose de Sucre. San Martin continued to retreat, and met with Sucre's forces at Berba, a small town in western Panama. The bulk of the forces went to the outskirts of the town, while a few units stayed in the city. Thinking that only a small force occupied the town, Kearny ordered his army to attack the town. Once most of the army was in, the Colombians encircled them. The Colombians and North Americans were nearly equal in terms of numbers, and a bloodbath developed. Eventually, a gap opened up and Kearny's force fled, but not before taken a large number of losses. Of the 13,000 soldiers in the force, 6000 were dead or wounded. The losses made the leaders of North America realize that even though they were better in terms of technology and numbers, the Colombians had better tacticians.
After a hard fought naval battle in the southern Caribbean Sea, Columbia launched a large campaign hoping to take the islands, eventually making it to Cuba and Florida. The first attacks in the Virgin Islands were successful, and they were taken back in a few days. The campaign in the Lesser Antilles worked like a charm as well, and were taken over in a few months. The first real challenge was Puerto Rico, which had about 8,000 North American soldiers on it. The Colombians expected an easy victory, due to their victories in the Caribbean and Central America, but this would not be the case. The North Americans fought with stubborn resilience, and the Colombians found themselves in a pinch. However, the continuing resupplying the Colombians by sea was possible by the Colombian dominance in the Caribbean Sea. North American supply lines, however, were cut off by the Colombian Navy. Slowly but surely, the Colombians were gaining the upper hand in the battle. The battle would continue into 1836.
War Goes OnBy 1836, the war was turning into a stalemate, with large battles with inconclusive results in Central America and in the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, the fighting had reach the city of San Juan, where a group of Americans were making a last stand. The Colombians pushed back the Americans, and forced them into Fort San Felipe de Morro. American lieutenant Robert E. Lee led the defense of the outer perimeter of the fort. As the Colombians besieged the walls, Lee shouted the famous words "Not one step back!" This rallied the Americans and they defeated the Colombians at the fort, and pushed them back out of San Juan, and eventually the entire island of Puerto Rico.
Finally in the spring of 1836 the Colombian campaign in the Lesser Antilles ended in a North American victory. With the Colombians reeling from the defeat, North America thought it was time for another attack. This time, however, Stephen Kearny was replaced by Winfield Scott, a veteran of the British Invasion of Canada and numerous wars with Indians. Scott's plan was to surround Panama City from the sea and land, forcing the eventual surrender of the forces inside. Scott's plan did not involve fighting of large numbers which decimated past armies, but would take months, which earned it the criticism of others who wanted a quicker end of the war. In the end Scott's plan was used, and worked. Colombian soldiers in Panama City were cut off and were forced to surrender. Unfortunately for the North Americans, San Martin escaped the city before it was completely encircled. However, it was proved that the North Americans had a tactician that could match San Martin.
1836 saw the beginning of naval warfare in the Pacific Ocean, with North American ships leaving to raid Colombian ports on the coast. America was steadily building more and more ships, which were quickly sent to battle. Within a few months the Colombians knew that the North Americans would have more ships. Because of this, the Colombians decided to build ships suggested by Sir Samuel Bentham. Bentham was a British engineer who was forced to flee England during the English Campaign. Bentham moved to the United States, and then to Columbia. The Colombians noticed his skills and gave him the money to construct ships. Bentham decided to build Chinese junks, which he thought were efficient and sturdy. When he died in 1831, 30 junks were built. Now in 1836, about 200 were built. The junks were first used in the Battle of the Chilean Sea. The junks defeated the North American ships. For the rest of the battle, ships clashed about 13 times, with the junks coming out on top most of the time.With the North American capture of Panama City, San Martin retreated to the city of El Porvenir, and island off the Atlantic Coast of Panama. San Martin ordered his navy, full of junks, around the island. Defensive fortifications were also set up on the nearest spot to the mainland. Winfield Scott could not use the same tactic as before because American ships could not enter the small space off water between the mainland and water. So Scott ordered his soldiers to take the coast. Fighting began in November, and cost thousands of lives. In an attack called "Lee's Charge", Robert E. Lee ordered his men to storm a position on a hill. The charge bloodied Lee's regiment, but eventually the hill was taken. With men of higher ground, the North Americans began to get the upper hand. At last, on Christmas Day, the coast was taken. But both sides were in no shape to attack each other. Both sides together had about 50,000 casualties, and the number was split almost evenly between the two sides. As the New Year came around, the end of the war was not in sight.
War Drags On
By 1837, any person could tell that the war was a stalemate, and no one could tell when the war would end. President Andrew Jackson knew that as well, and had William Hunter, the ambassador to Brazil, talk with Pedro I, the emperor of Brazil. Hunter tried to convince the emperor to have Brazil enter the war on the side of North America, but he refused. "First win a battle," is what the emperor allegedly replied to Hunter. Hunter took this information back to the US, which made Jackson order Winfield Scott to capture El Porvenir at all costs.
Because the war had dragged on for many years, the morale of the Colombians was low. But the North Americans were determined, because they knew that North America needed them to win the battle in order to win the war. So the North Americans were about 1 second quicker than their Colombian counterparts.
The battle began with naval clashes, with the North American ships finally defeating the Colombian junks. After a week the North Americans had established naval superiority. Cut off from supplies, San Martin and Sucre, who was also there, knew that they were in for a battle. The first troops, Americans and Canadians, landed on the island in March. Cannons pounded the beaches, and after some fighting the North Americans broke through. The Colombians were not going to back down, and responded with their own cannons. While all this was happening, Mexican, Cuban, Winnipegger, and American soldiers landed on the northern side of the island, catching the Colombians off guard. Forced to send soldiers to fight the soldiers on the north, the soldiers on the south pressed. Within a week the island was taken, and Sucre was captured. San Martin had escaped again. However, the victory was all the North Americans needed. Brazil had joined the fight.
The North Americans made the next move. North America drove deeper into Panama, entering South America in May. Brazil invaded Paraguay, defeating the Colombians at Asuncion. The Brazilians also entered Uruguay, taking Montevideo in a month. The war was no longer a stalemate. The North American Alliance and Brazil now had momentum.
For the rest of the year, the North Americans and Brazil continued to make gains against Columbia. Columbia was simply overpowered; North America and Brazil had more men, more factories, more ships, and more morale. By the end of year, North America had taken Venezuela, Guyana, Colombia, and Ecuador, while Brazil had taken large swaths of Argentina. All that was left was the the capital of Columbia, La Paz.
In February, the joint North American-Brazilian attack on La Paz began. San Martin was assigned to defend the city, so he built fortifications around it. The last of the Colombian soldiers were there, numbering about 30,000. They were fighting against a force of around 50,000. At first, the fortifications held, but as North American lines were demolished, another force appeared. Eventually the Colombians were overwhelmed, and forced to retreat to inside the city.
The North Americans and Brazilians continued their attack. The Colombians could not stop the advancing troops, they could only pause their advance for a few moments. The Colombian forces were pushed back all the way to the presidential palace. The fighting there lasted about a day. During the battle, San Martin was killed. Seeing their leader dead, the remaining Colombians dropped their guns and surrendered. The North Americans and Brazilians had won the war.