Battle of Cepeda 1820 context causes consequences Protagonists

Battle of Cepeda (1820)

Armed confrontation that took place on February 1, 1820 between the forces of the Directory and the federal troops of the Litoral, in the context of the Argentine civil wars. In this article we will provide you the information about the Battle of Cepeda 1820.

Date February 1, 1820.
Place Cañada del Arroyo Cepeda, on the border between the current provinces of Santa Fe and Buenos Aires.
Belligerents Directory vs. Littoral Provinces
Outcome Victory of the Litoral provinces.

The battle of Cepeda was an armed confrontation that took place on February 1, 1820 , in the canyon of the Cepeda stream, on the border of the provinces of Santa Fe and Buenos Aires .

The sides that fought in this battle were the following:

  • The army of the Directory : to the control of the supreme director José Rondeau, of unitary ideas. It was made up of 900 infantrymen and 1,100 horsemen and had a piece of artillery.
  • The federal forces of the Litoral : made up of troops from the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Ríos, supported by horsemen from Corrientes, Guarani from the missions and Guaicurúes and Abipones from Chaco. There were about 1,700 men under the command of the governor of Santa Fe, Estanislao López, and that of Entre Ríos, Francisco Ramírez.

The battle lasted a short time, as the federal cavalry managed to surround the Directory forces, attacking them from behind. In this way, he put the unitary cavalry to flight and forced a desperate resistance from the infantry, who were swept away by the horsemen of the Litoral.

Some historians call it “the first battle of Cepeda“, to distinguish it from the one that in 1859 pitted the forces of the State of Buenos Aires against those of the Argentine Confederation .

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Historic context of Battle of Cepeda 1820

In 1817, the Congress of Tucumán moved to Buenos Aires and began to function as the Legislative Branch of the Directory.

During 1819 he sanctioned a Constitution that established a national government with broad powers, including that of appointing the governors of the provinces.

The Constitution did not specify who would be the head of state, so it was assumed that that place was reserved for a monarch.

The centralism and pro-monarchy of the Constitution were rejected by most of the provinces. The strongest opposition came from the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Ríos, which since 1815 were part of the Federal League or the Free Peoples , led by José Gervasio Artigas .

Since 1817, the eastern caudillo faced the Portuguese, who had invaded the Banda Oriental and occupied the city of Montevideo. At the end of 1819, Artigas ordered his lieutenants, López and Ramírez, to attack Buenos Aires to force the Directory to help him against the Portuguese.

Aware of these plans, the supreme director José Rondeau called in his aid to the Army of the North . He moved to Buenos Aires, but on January 7, 1820, he rebelled at the Arequito post, in present-day Santa Fe, so as not to be involved in a civil war.

After this setback, Rondeau went out to meet López and Ramírez with the troops stationed in Buenos Aires, but was defeated in the Cepeda canyon.

Causes and consequences


The main causes of the Battle of Cepeda in 1820 were the following:

  • The rejection by the majority of the provinces of the Constitution of 1819 , which was centralist and pro-monarchical and did not recognize the autonomy of the provinces.
  • The dissatisfaction of the majority of the provincial leaders with the Directorate’s attempt to impose on them a centralized political organization model, which violated the right of the provinces to elect their own authorities.
  • The Portuguese invasion of the Banda Oriental , which defeated the Artiguistas forces and occupied Montevideo. Artigas accused the Directory of having favored this aggression to destroy the League of Free Peoples.

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The main consequences of the Battle of Cepeda in 1820 were the following:

  • The occupation of the north of Buenos Aires by federal troops, who camped outside the capital.
  • The resignation of Rondeau , and the self-dissolution of Congress , leaving the country without national authorities.
  • The organization of Buenos Aires , which until then had been the residence of the national authorities, in an autonomous province, with its own governor and its own Legislative Power, the Board of Representatives.
  • The emergence of the provinces as legally autonomous entities, which sanctioned their own constitutions and elected their own authorities. In fact, between 1820 and 1825 each of the thirteen provinces into which the country was divided governed itself.
  • The signing of the Treaty of Pilar , which in February 1820 put an end to hostilities between Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Entre Ríos. This agreement proclaimed the unity of the country, established the free navigation of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers and recognized the right of the provinces to give themselves their own government .
  • The preponderance that local leaders acquired in the government of the affairs of each province. Among them, the most influential after Cepeda were López and Ramírez, who were unaware of Artigas’s authority and began to act on their own.
  • The disappearance of the influence of Artigas, who, defeated by the Portuguese and betrayed by López and Ramírez, had to go into exile in Paraguay.

Protagonists of the battle of Cepeda of 1820

Among the most prominent protagonists of the Battle of Cepeda in 1820 are the following:

  • José Casimiro Rondeau (1775-1844) : soldier and political leader of Buenos Aires. He held the position of supreme director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata between the end of 1819 and the beginning of 1820. He was defeated in Cepeda, after which he resigned from his position.
  • José Miguel Carrera (1785-1821) : Chilean politician and military man, who during his exile in Argentina allied with López and Ramírez to fight against the Directory. He was shot in Mendoza in 1821.
  • Francisco Ramírez (1786-1821) : federal leader , governor of the province of Entre Ríos, who led the forces of his province during the battle of Cepeda.
  • Estanislao López (1786-1838) : federal leader, governor of the province of Santa Fe between 1818 and 1838. He commanded the Santa Fe cavalry during the invasion of Buenos Aires.

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