May 5, 1862, Mexican troops defeated invading French troops in the outskirts of
Puebla, a city around 60 miles east of Mexico City. How did events come to this
point in time, what were French troops doing in
To understand we need to go back in time. On September 15, 1810, a priest, Miguel Hidalgo, sounded the church bells to unite Mexicans in a war of independence from Spain -- Independence was declared the following day, September 16th. But it took Mexicans 11 years to oust the Spaniards. But the general who took the country to victory decided he should become Emperor of Mexico, which led to an internal civil war to oust the pretender which they did.
were barely getting their house in order when an unprovoked war was thrust on
them -- the
Once this done, Mexico entered into one of its most important historical periods: the formation of its Constitution of 1857.
were two political forces at work, the Liberals who wanted to create a country
not unlike the
other political force was the Conservatives who wanted strong ties to
terrible schism led to the civil war known as "La Guerra de Reforma"
(The War of Reform). In 1861, the Conservatives were defeated, and their
leaders executed. But the combination of so many years of fighting had
Meantime in the French court of Emperor Napoleon III, a wealthy Mexican land owner and Conservative, who had access to, and meetings with, the Emperor's wife, the Spaniard Eugenia de Montijo, planted the idea of establishing a monarchy in Mexico as a way of stopping the further territorial expansion ambitions of the U.S..
The U.S. was tied up in its Civil War, so France convinced Spain and England to join in sending troops to collect monies owed them by the new Liberal controlled government presided by Benito Juarez.
from the three countries landed in
The French commander, Dubois de Saligny, declared, "My signature is worth as much as the paper it is written on." Declaring they were there at the invitation of the exiled Conservative government to establish a monarchy and save Mexico from its non-Catholic leaders, French troops began their long march to capture Mexico City.
And so it was that on May 5, 1862, the most powerful army in Europe met the Mexican army of veterans and farmers outside of Puebla. Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza, addressed his troops, "Your enemies are the first-rate soldiers of the world; but you are the sons of Mexico, and they are here to take your country."
The battle began at - the French stormed the Mexican defensive position once and were repelled. A second charge brought the same results. It was then that the Mexican troops attacked, driving the French back in disarray. Hostilities came at the end of the day due to heavy rainfall making any more action impossible.
commanders were so sure of quick victory that before beginning their march had
sent a message to Napoleon III declaring the Emperor owner of
captured the country, the French were never able to appease the population.
Widespread resistance finally led to their defeat and departure from
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