Monday, May 14, 2012
Monarchist Profile: Juan Domingo de Monteverde
He saw extensive service in the French revolutionary wars, fighting in the Battle of Cape St Vincent, at Gibraltar and participated in the epic battle of Trafalgar where he was wounded and taken prisoner. He was exchanged, returned to Cadiz and later fought the French during the Napoleonic invasion of Spain. He earned further promotion and decoration during the war. He was serving as a Frigate Captain when trouble began to boil over in the Spanish Empire in the Americas. In Caracas local republican revolutionaries declared independence from Spain and on July 5, 1811 proclaimed the First Republic of Venezuela with Francisco de Miranda as their commander. Captain Monteverde was dispatched to Cuba and Puerto Rico but was quickly transferred to Venezuela when the situation there got out of hand. His mission was to defeat the rebels and restore the authority of the Spanish Crown across the region. He arrived at Coro in March of 1812 with only a little over 200 marines, a priest, a surgeon and a little food.
This was an unauthorized campaign and he was warned that going so far into enemy country, cutting himself off from his base at Coro would be extremely dangerous. Nonetheless, Monteverde’s bold gamble paid off and his troops captured Valencia, Barinas, Tocuyo and San Carlos. Since he had too few troops to leave behind garrisons in these cities, the republicans were able to re-occupy Valencia but Monteverde returned again and soundly defeated them, earning great acclaim across the Spanish Empire and a promotion to the post of Captain-General of Venezuela. As his army seemed to be the winning side, more people found the courage to volunteer for service and Monteverde gained enough confidence that he decided to seize the initiative and march on Caracas in what was hoped to be a successful sweep of all revolutionary forces in the country. General Francisco de Miranda commanded the rebel forces opposing Monteverde but he was forced to retreat again and again in the face of the patchwork royalist army.
The republicans would, however, be back to bedevil the royalist cause and in the future would be under the more dangerous and capable leadership of Simon Bolivar. Spanish royalists also planned an offensive against the Republic of New Granada which had recently been proclaimed but events closer to home quickly overtook them. The following year, in 1813, Monteverde had to respond to another rebel invasion, which he did not managed to reverse but at least contained. However, it was at that critical junction that Simon Bolivar began his so-called “Admirable Campaign”. Monteverde had to redeploy his forces to Valencia to guard against those rebels already present as well as the threat of Bolivar coming down from the mountains. In many ways, he found himself in the same position Miranda had been in the year before. Public support for the Crown had also been diminished when their unrealistic expectations were not immediately fulfilled.
Monteverde’s career had ended on a sad note with two defeats and a terrible wound. However, he was a committed and capable servant of the King of Spain. His skill and daring succeeded in restoring royal authority and bringing down the first effort at republicanism in Venezuela. Had his successors met with similar success in the years after him, the history of the country, and much of South America as a whole, might have been considerably different.