Answer: The Mexican Army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, won the Battle of Puebla.
Overview of the Battle of Puebla
The Battle of Puebla took place on May 5, 1862, during the French intervention in Mexico. The Mexican Army, under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza, faced off against the French forces led by General Charles Ferdinand Latrille, Comte de Lorencez.
Despite being heavily outnumbered and facing a well-equipped, professional army, the Mexican forces managed to achieve a decisive victory, which is celebrated annually as Cinco de Mayo.
Context of the Battle
In the 1860s, Mexico was in a state of political and financial turmoil following the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the Mexican Civil War of Reform (1857-1860), and the suspension of interest payments to foreign creditors in 1861.
Taking advantage of this instability, France, Britain, and Spain intervened to protect their interests, leading to the French intervention in Mexico. However, the British and Spanish forces withdrew after negotiations, leaving the French to pursue their ambitions in the region.
French Invasion and Advance to Puebla
The French forces, commanded by General Charles Ferdinand Latrille, Comte de Lorencez, began their invasion in March 1862. They initially encountered little resistance, capturing the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe near Puebla. However, the Mexican Army, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, managed to regroup and prepare for the upcoming battle.
The Battle and Mexican Victory
On May 5, 1862, the French forces, numbering around 6,000, launched an assault on the Mexican positions in Puebla. The Mexican Army, numbering approximately 4,000, was heavily outnumbered but managed to repel the French attack. General Zaragoza’s tactics of using trenches and artillery to defend the city played a crucial role in the Mexican victory.
Key Factors in the Mexican Victory
- Terrain and Weather: The Mexican forces took advantage of the rough terrain and the heavy rain on the day of the battle. The muddy conditions hampered the French cavalry and artillery, making it difficult for them to maneuver and effectively attack the Mexican positions.
- Defensive Tactics: General Zaragoza’s use of trenches and fortified positions allowed the Mexican Army to withstand the French assault. The Mexican artillery, positioned on the hills surrounding Puebla, provided effective fire support and inflicted significant casualties on the French forces.
- Morale and Determination: The Mexican soldiers were highly motivated and determined to defend their homeland. The victory at Puebla boosted the morale of the Mexican forces and demonstrated their resolve to resist the French invasion.
Casualties and Aftermath
The Battle of Puebla resulted in approximately 83 Mexican soldiers killed and 131 wounded, while the French forces suffered around 462 killed, over 300 wounded, and 8 taken prisoner. Despite being outnumbered and facing a well-equipped, professional army, the Mexican forces were able to achieve a decisive victory.
The Mexican victory at Puebla was a significant morale booster for the Mexican people and had a profound impact on the course of the French intervention in Mexico. However, it did not stop the French invasion, and in 1863, the French forces captured Mexico City and installed Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
The French intervention continued until 1867 when the Mexican forces, supported by the United States, finally expelled the French and restored the Mexican Republic.