A New World Wreathed in Freedom - An Argentine Revolution TL

1 - May Revolution


Chapter 1 - May Revolution

The May Revolution

When the news of the fall of the Junta of Seville arrived in Buenos Aires in the middle of May aboard British ships, rumors immediately started spreading in the city about the implications despite the best efforts of colonial authorities. Chief among the rumors was that - given the fall of the Junta - Cisneros’ position as Viceroy teetered on the brink. After all, if the body that had appointed him Viceroy had ceased to exist, didn’t that logically mean that he had thus ceased to be Viceroy?

Painfully aware of just how precarious his position was, and hoping to both save himself and forestall the proliferation of cabildos in open rebellion like the ones he’d faced upon his appointment, Cisneros attempted to thread the needle but time was against him: local patriots like Belgrano and Castelli had heard the rumors almost as soon they arrived in the city, and his Cisneros’ authority eroded more every day he attempted to delay confronting the issue. By the 20th, his position became untenable: the criollo regiments formed to combat the British invasions and which had already proven their importance in Buenos Aires politics by helping put down the Alzaga mutiny, refused orders to defend him and Cornelio Saavedra went so far as to suggest his resignation.

Cisneros could put it off no longer and agreed to demands from local leaders that an open cabildo should be held. But the delay - both in publicly recognizing the news of the fall of the Central Junta and in convening a cabildo to deal with the fallout - had led to a radicalization of local sentiment: a mob threatened to storm the Cabildo’s first regular session the next day, fearing that Cisneros had only agreed under duress and was plotting to go back on his word, and the crowd would refuse to vacate the square until the Cabildo produced a guest list for the open session.

With the list published, criollos worked tirelessly, both to procure their own invitations and to ensure that they would have full control over proceedings the next day. A sympathetic printer made sure to produce surplus invitations for distribution among the locals, while criollo leaders visited the troops to keep them on their side. When the Cabildo finally opened the next day, criollos made sure they commanded a majority inside, while armed sympathizers held the square and stood ready to intervene if somehow their majority faltered. But the most radical of the criollos, spearheaded by Mariano Moreno, did not trust Cisneros or the Cabildo: the former had already tried to manipulate the crisis to his own benefit, whereas the latter - the ongoing open session notwithstanding - had been reticent to move on its own and Moreno was convinced that their acceptance of the open Cabildo was under duress as well, so he conferred with his fellow revolutionaries the night before and hatched a plan[1].

Moreno feared that Cisneros had no intention of stepping down, and worse, that his allies in the Cabildo could command a plurality if not a majority even if he were forced to resign given the divisions in the anti-Cisneros camp. While they were certain they had the votes to remove the Viceroy, what came next remained uncertain, so Moreno had an idea: force the issue of the Viceroy to a vote early, then use the rest of the debate to try and unify around an alternative.

Benito Lue y Riega, bishop of Buenos Aires and speaking in support of Cisneros and the ratification of his position, set the tone for the debate on the 22nd by stating plainly that “not only is there no reason to get rid of the Viceroy (...) America should only be ruled by the natives when there is no longer a Spaniard there”. Castelli would seize on the bishop’s statement, and would end his speech with a short proposal, which likewise served as a signal for Belgrano - perched at the window - to wave for the crowd to once again chant against Cisneros and demand his resignation: “I suggest we vote immediately, for all else rests upon this decision: shall we ratify Cisneros as Viceroy, or shall this body decide our fate”.[2]

Control of the mob would once again prove decisive for the patriotic cause, as the Cabildo bowed to the pressure and put the matter of Cisneros’ position up for a vote early in the day: with 125 votes against 99, the Cabildo voted to remove Cisneros as Viceroy and assume the authority to replace him[3], and he abandon the meeting in dismay as the crowd outside cheered. As the people in the square calmed down, the Cabildo resumed its debate in a tense atmosphere, as Cisneros’ absence left only their divisions over what should take his place.

During the rest of the day, several attendees would make their own proposal: the most conservative members hoped to maintain the status quo as best they could, and proposed simply that the Cabildo rule in the interim but ultimately appoint or accept a new viceroy; Cisneros’ supporters for their part sought a compromise and proposed that the deposed Viceroy continue with a new title, but this was fiercely resisted by the revolutionaries and the Cabildo was hesitant to force the issue with the crowd still outside. At the end of the day, a consensus seemed to form over the proposal that obtained a plurality of the votes: proposed by Saavedra, it empowered the Cabildo to form a governing Junta and appoint its members.

When the ordinary Cabildo reconvened on the 23rd, they set about carrying out the decision of the previous day’s session. Despite the explicit rejection of Cisneros, its members were hesitant to dispense with him entirely, and as they debated the composition of the new Junta, they resolved to name the former Viceroy as its president in an effort to preserve the status quo as best they could. They hoped that by completing the Junta with a plurality of patriots like Saavedra, Castelli and Solá they could mollify the revolutionaries, but as the events of the 24th would show, they had severely underestimated the opposition to Cisneros.

When the composition of the Junta was announced early on the 24th, the reaction of the crowd headed by French and Beruti - many of them members of the militia and congregating in the square armed and irate - forced the Cabildo’s members to retreat back into the building and hide from hurled insults and stones[4]. Cisneros, attempting to exercise the authority the Cabildo had conferred to him, summoned Saavedra, Huidobro and Rodriguez and ordered them to disperse the crowd, hoping that Saavedra - the most prominent of the three - would acquiesce and force the other two to do so as well by virtue of his inclusion in the named Junta. Instead, Saavedra rebuffed his command, and all three commanders repeated the suggestion they’d made to Cisneros earlier in the week: resign, because even if they were willing to order their soldiers to disperse the crowd, they would simply mutiny and join the mob.

The Cabildo attempted to negotiate with the crowd and its leaders, but they refused to accept any Junta presided by Cisneros. These failed negotiations, combined with Cisneros’ intransigence in the face of mass opposition, only served to radicalize the revolutionaries, and as the former Viceroy attempted to save his position, patriot leaders began collecting signatures from among the crowd and draft a manifesto.

The standoff lasted for most of the day, but the steadfast refusal of the city’s military commanders to order their forces to intervene on his behalf forced Cisneros’ hand: he announced to the commanders that he intended to resign, and they took the news to the crowd that - once more - greeted the news with glee.

The Cabildo however would not be so easily swayed: they met once again early on the 25th and promptly voted to reject Cisneros’ resignation, stating bluntly that whatever the mob might claim, the only thing that had been clear from the votes on the 22nd was that it was the Cabildo’s prerogative to name the Junta, so they ratified his designation and summoned the top military leaders of the city to order them to carry out their duty and defend the government it had appointed. The day had dawned overcast, but a crowd began to gather outside the building despite the inclement weather, and soon it swelled to a mob that threatened to break down the doors.

When it became clear that the Cabildo refused to budge, the crowd surged forward and forced the exterior doors open, forcing them to open negotiations with its leaders; despite the Cabildo members’ pleas for calm and for the crowd to accept the will of the Cabildo - which they again stated was fully in keeping with the letter of the proposal that had been voted on the 22nd - the crowd grew more agitated at the protracted negotiations, and their warnings that Buenos Aires could not unilaterally upend the entire political order of the Viceroyalty fell on deaf ears.

Defeated, the Cabildo finally accepted Cisneros’ resignation and agreed to name a new Junta, but by then the revolutionaries’ patience had run out: they demanded that the Junta be elected by the people. The Cabildo scoffed at first, but with the angry mob still gathered outside, the negotiators calmly told them that they could hardly contain the passions of the crowd as it was, and ultimately they could not guarantee the safety of the Cisneros or the Cabildo if they refused. Hoping to buy time for Cisneros to gather support and summon more loyal troops, they agreed on the condition that the leaders of the revolutionaries presented their proposal in writing.

Much to their dismay, the revolutionaries had come prepared: Antonio Beruti produced the document[5], which carried the signature of the most prominent patriots in the city as well as hundreds more unidentified signatures purported to belong to other notable members of society and of the different militia regiments that had proven decisive in Cisneros’ downfall. The Cabildo members asked for more time to deliberate, but Beruti and his compatriots refused: too much time had already been lost to the Cabildo’s spurious efforts to circumvent the will of the people. If they did not accept the terms, the negotiators would leave and return with a better armed crowd.

And so, as the sun broke through the clouds in the afternoon of May 25, 1810, the Cabildo read out the proclamation of the country’s first revolutionary government, and the crowd cheered as the composition of the Junta was announced. A dejected Cisneros fled to his house to send a messenger to his predecessor in Córdoba as Cornelio Saavedra, commander of the Regiment of Patricians, was introduced as President of the Junta and was joined on the balcony by the rest of its members: Manuel Alberti, Miguel de Azcuénaga, Manuel Belgrano, Juan José Castelli, Domingo Matheu and Juan Larrea, and secretaries Juan José Paso and Mariano Moreno. The May Revolution had begun.


Litograph of the first patriotic government

[1] Moreno was amongst the most radical of the revolutionaries, and IOTL had good reason to be suspicious of the Cabildo’s intentions, as their insistence on designating Cisneros as the president of the Junta meant to replace him showed. IOTL, he expressed his concern after the open session, but ITTL he’s a bit more machiavellian and hatches a plan to try and set the tone of the session early on.

[2] The first PoD: IOTL, the debate lasted all day long, and the voting was tallied after all the proposals had been presented, running the gamut from ratifying Cisneros to convening a Constitutional Assembly. ITTL, the revolutionaries force the issue early and demand that the vote be held immediately with the help of the raucous crowd outside (which had gathered IOTL, but was not signalled to intervene).

[3] The tally IOTL was 155 to 69; ITTL, the vote is closer because the issue of the removal of the Viceroy is being forced early, and while there was an overwhelming majority in favor of deposing Cisneros, it may not have been quite as overwhelming if the 30 votes for Huidobro’s position didn’t hope to score a plurality in favor of having their own candidate take his place.

[4] The second PoD: both sides are slightly more radical than their OTL counterparts, and given the explicit repudiation of Cisneros on the 22nd, the Cabildo’s decision to name him president of the Junta is even worse received ITTL - to the extent that the rest of its members don’t swear loyalty to it before being forced to resign later that night. Another key detail is that the revolutionaries have had a lot more success with their use of the mob, which is shown by their confrontation with the Cabildo early in the morning.

[5] A third PoD: IOTL, it took the revolutionaries several hours to gather the signatures and present the document. ITTL, its most radical members have been preparing for this precise moment since the day before, and Beruti arrives at the negotiations with the document already prepared.
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Alright, so, I've wanted to do a TL like this for ages, and started writing this last month on the eve of the anniversary of the May Revolution. It started originally as a desire to write a somewhat railroaded version of the Argentine Revolution using beats from the American one, but as I started working on it (in parallel as I was reading Red_Galiray's fantastic TL about a more radical American Civil War, which I can't recommend highly enough and encourage you to read here), it shifted away from a railroaded TL and towards a more radical - and potentially more successful - May Revolution.

While the footnotes spell it out, what's happened so far is basically that little changes during the week leading up to the 25th ramp up the tension in Buenos Aires, and both patriots and colonial authorities are a bit more intransigent in their positions: the OTL instructions may have been vague enough to explain the Cabildo's decision to maintain Cisneros, but to do so in the face of such a clear majority in favor of his removal only helps to inflame passions among the revolutionaries ITTL. The biggest knock on effect of these relatively small changes is that a lot of bad blood among the revolutionaries is butterflied away: Moreno doesn't retreat to his home and remains an active participant in events, Saavedra doesn't swear fealty to the Cisneros Junta which helps keep the revolutionaries united instead of starting to question each others' motives, and a more "successful" beginning to the Revolution also sets the stage for a possibly less acrimonious start to the independence wars.

I will be writing this as we go along, and I hope that this first post prompts some questions and some comments!
2 - The Revolution on the March
Chapter 2 - The Revolution on the March

The Junta set to work quickly, weary of further delays giving royalists an opportunity to organize a response, and acutely aware that - despite their triumph in Buenos Aires - the Cabildo’s warning that Buenos Aires could not upend the entire political system of the colonies unilaterally had a great deal of truth to it. As a result, one of their first acts upon consolidating control of Buenos Aires - which included the arrest of Cisneros upon the discovery that he’d sent word to Liniers asking the former Viceroy to invade the city - was to summon delegates from the other provinces to the capital.

Initial debates about the nature of these summons swirled around two contradictory proposals: on the one hand, the most cautious revolutionaries were reticent to make any moves that could be interpreted as a definitive break with Spain, whether out of genuine fear of ultimate defeat or an overabundance of caution given the violent end of previous efforts that sought independence; they proposed that the delegates be invited to join the Junta, thus making them stakeholders in the revolution while keeping the fig leaf of doing so only in an interim basis.

But the events of the previous week had weakened their hand, primarily by making it clear that they’d face royalist intransigence no matter what they did, and news that Liniers was trying to raise an army in Córdoba only reinforced this perception. Thus the radicals in the Junta, led by Moreno, felt emboldened to take a more drastic step: they summoned delegates from the other provinces to assemble in Buenos Aires and convene a Constitutional Assembly to decide the fate of the colonies.

The tension between the two camps threatened to undermine the revolutionary government, especially as news of Royalist uprisings in Alto Peru, Montevideo and Paraguay trickled in and delegates arrived and began demanding a definitive answer about their role: they argued that if they were to be included in the Junta, they should be included immediately, and if they would not be included in the Junta, the promised Constitutional Assembly should be held as soon as possible lest the revolution lose momentum in the face of their enemies.

If not for a stray bullet in the revolution’s first military triumph, those tensions may well have continued to escalate as the growing number of delegates diluted the consensus over the direction of the revolution: as the Junta debated whether to have Liniers arrested or summarily executed in the event of his defeat, Cordoba’s delegates arrived with news that would buoy the spirits of the radicals: after forcing a small army led by Ocampo to withdraw, Liniers had refused to surrender when confronted by the revolutionary militia led by Castelli, and had died in the fighting alongside the royalist governor[1].

The defeat of Liniers’ counter-revolutionary militia was a further boon to the radical cause because it cleared most of the provinces of any substantial threat to the patriots: Royalist attempts to invade from the north were rebuffed by local guerillas, forcing the counter-revolutionary forces to retreated back toward Alto Peru, and despite Montevideo’s refusal to recognize the Junta’s authority and its proclamation of allegiance to the Regency Council - which earned its leader Francisco Javier de Elío a promotion to Viceroy - they lacked the ability to threaten Buenos Aires.

In an effort to consolidate his control of the Junta and counteract the growing influence of Moreno, Saavedra proposed that the revolutionary government go on the offensive; Castelli, lauded for his quick suppression of the Cordoban threat, was ordered to head north and take command of a campaign to subdue Alto Peru, while Saavedra would take personal command of a similar mission to subdue the royalists who had taken control of Paraguay[2]. Although fearing initially that leaving Buenos Aires would weaken his position, he decided that Castelli - a loyal Morenist - could not be allowed to overtake him as the premier military leader of the revolution, and after Castelli’s success in Córdoba, further success in Alto Peru would position him as its most successful general.

Both expeditions departed Buenos Aires with much fanfare, as Moreno and the remaining members of the Junta set the stage for an Assembly including the delegates from the interior; although small by European standards, the revolutionaries would mobilize nearly 2000 soldiers in total between the two expeditions, while volunteers and local militias rallied to the cause en route and bolster their numbers to double that.

The string of successes for Castelli continued as his expedition arrived in time to reinforce the local forces that had rebelled at Cochabamba but had been repulsed at Potosí, and would deliver a stinging blow to the royalists by defeating them at the Battle of Suipacha. As it had in Cordoba, this victory all but secured the province for the revolutionary government, and Castelli continued to amass prestige on the field of battle. As the Royalists were forced to retreat across the border to Perú, he set about organizing the local government along revolutionary lines, and arranged for an open Cabildo like the one that had kickstarted the revolution to elect the province’s delegates to the Assembly to be held in Buenos Aires[3].

While Castelli went about reforming the administration of Alto Peru - including the abolition of the mita system, the proclamation of equal rights for criollos and natives and the abolition of trade privileges - Saavedra advanced with caution against Paraguay. Despite early reports that support for the revolution was strong in the province, as Saavedra approached, he was confronted by a sizable Spanish army bolstered by thousands of Paraguayans. Although he had confidence in his 1500 troops, organized around the semi-professional core of the Regiment of Patricians[4], he understood the dangers of invading unfamiliar terrain against well-organized locals and set up a base at Candelaria to fully prepare and make sure his army was fully armed and supplied.

When he crossed the river in December, he brushed aside a small force of Paraguayan soldiers at Campichuelo then advanced towards Asunción, meeting the Spanish forces at Paraguarí. Although equally matched numerically, Saavedra was weary to attack head on, as the Spanish had taken up defensive positions upon Mbaé Hill; when his scouts brought back news of a Paraguayan force twice the size of his own - which seemed intent on reinforcing the 1500 Spanish soldiers on the hill - he adjusted his plans, and sent representatives to parley with the Paraguayans led by Fulgencio Yegros[5].

The Paraguayans impressed upon Saavedra their belief that, as far as they were concerned, the Junta in Buenos Aires was no better than the Spanish: Buenos Aires felt as remote to them as Madrid had before it, and they refused to submit to a new overlord, especially one better positioned to attack them than the Royalists appeared to be. Saavedra replied that he had not come to conquer Paraguay, but to liberate it, and his only goal was to eliminate a royalist threat. But the Paraguayans refused to abandon the field unless given assurances that Saavedra would depart Paraguay as soon as possible and promise to not return.

Saavedra was loath to leave Paraguay empty handed, so he came to an agreement with Yegros: in exchange for Paraguayan support in defeating the Spanish army, Saavedra would withdraw from Paraguay afterward and allow local patriots to decide their own fate, although Saavedra extended an invitation for them to send delegates to the assembly gathering in Buenos Aires. The combined forces of the revolutionaries outnumbered the Spanish by 3 to 1, and the subsequent battle quickly turned into a rout as the royalist army was destroyed and dispersed into the Paraguayan hinterland. While some of them would manage to make their way to Uruguay and Brazil, by the end of the year, Paraguay would be free of Royalist forces[6].

By the beginning of 1811, the revolution was ascendant and secure: after the successes of Castelli and Saavedra - although the latter’s victory was partially overshadowed by the realization that Paraguay, while free from the Spanish, had practically been lost to Buenos Aires - the royalists had been swept from the entire territory of the Viceroyalty between the Andes mountains and the Uruguay river. Saavedra arrived in Buenos Aires hoping for a hero’s welcome, but much to his chagrin, while his position as President of the Junta was still secure, his expedition had been eclipsed by Castelli’s, and he was frustrated to discover that the press - including Moreno’s Gaceta de Buenos Ayres, which had become the virtual mouthpiece of the revolution - was quick to highlight the contrast.

As the anniversary of the revolution approached, it would also score a decisive victory in Uruguay: the interior of the Oriental Province had risen up against Elío’s government in Montevideo in February, and on the 18th of May, a revolutionary army led by José Artigas would face a Royalist army led by José Posadas and crush them on the field, capturing hundreds of royalist soldiers along with their commander. With this victory, the revolution’s armies have successfully reduced Royalist control in the region to just Colonia de Sacramento and Montevideo, which is besieged soon after[7].

On May 25, 1811, the Revolution celebrates its first anniversary, with public celebrations in the central square of every major city from Chuquisaca to Buenos Aires - including Asunción, which votes to send a delegate to the Assembly in Buenos Aires in recognition of Saavedra’s help in their own liberation - and the Junta can point to an incredibly successful term in office. To mark the occasion, a decree is issued across the territory of the Viceroyalty of La Plata: the delegates have assembled, and they shall convene as the first National Assembly of the colony starting July 1st.


Surrender of Posadas at Las Piedras, by Juan Manuel Blanes. This victory would leave the vast majority of the Viceroyalty of La Plata free of Royalist forces on the anniversary of the Revolution.
[1] A pretty significant departure from OTL, Ocampo captured Liniers along with the rest of Cordoba’s counter-revolutionary leaders without firing a shot as Liners’ army deserted then decided to send them to Buenos Aires even as conflicting orders demanding they be summarily executed arrived with Castelli. ITTL, the counter-revolutionaries stand and fight, Ocampo is rebuffed in his first attack, and Liniers is killed in a subsequent battle with Castelli’s forces (preventing another rift amongst the revolutionaries, since Saavedra later pleaded for clemency for the captured royalists and Moreno’s intransigence and insistence on their execution alienated the Saavedrists).

[2] The changes begin to ripple out in rather drastic fashion starting from here: IOTL, Saavedra did not leave Buenos Aires because he (quite astutely) feared that his position as President would be in danger if he left the capital; ITTL, and as a result of Castelli’s more clear-cut success in Cordoba -- sidestepping the controversy around the treatment of Liniers and his co-conspirators -- he feels the need to prove himself militarily, lest the Morenist camp hog all the glory.

[3] Both the military success and the local reorganization are the same as IOTL, but Castelli’s star is still rising without the stain of the controversy surrounding the execution of Liniers. The election of delegates to attend the assembly is another ripple effect of earlier changes.

[4] Similar to Belgrano’s OTL campaign, but Saavedra has both the benefit of having the Regiment of Patricians to bolster his forces (Belgrano invaded Paraguay with fewer than 1000 men) and the experience from the British Invasions has taught him that it can be perilous to attack recklessly into unfamiliar terrain with a potentially hostile local population - as demonstrated by the success of the Buenos Aires militias in repulsing British regulars.

[5] Saavedra decides not to attack the entrenched Spanish forces head on, preventing his army getting attacked by the combined forces of the Spanish and the locals, which resulted in Belgrano being forced to retreat. It helps in this case that the Paraguayan forces are commanded by someone Saavedra would know, having fought alongside Yegros against the British invasion of Buenos Aires.

[6] This has pretty substantially accelerated the timeline of Paraguayan independence, by turning the Junta (by way of Saavedra) into an ally instead of an early enemy in their eventual liberation from Spain. While IOTL its own revolution against the royalists would succeed in expelling the Spanish by June of 1811, ITTL they’ve arrived at the same result by March.

[7] Same as OTL, with the only minor difference that Artigas’ nephew survives.
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Eager to see where this leads
Hope for a better future for paraguay.
Maybe this early alliance will plant the seeds of a future continental alliance?
Oh, Argentina has greater potential than OTL--wonder if it'll still be a place for Jewish immigrants to go to?
3 - The First Patriotic Government
Chapter 3 - The First Patriotic Government

Saavedra portrait.jpg

Mariano Moreno and Cornelio Saavedra, leading figures of the revolutionary Junta and heads of the first Patriotic Government

With Saavedra on campaign in pursuit of military glory to bolster his political clout, Mariano Moreno quickly became the most influential member of the Junta. His position as Secretary of War strengthened his association with the rising star of Castelli, and as Secretary of Government, he could set the agenda of the Junta, in addition to commanding a majority among its members. Additionally, his ownership of the Gazeta of Buenos Aires allowed him to set the tone of the revolution, making him a popular figure among the politicized mobs that had been instrumental to the Revolution’s success in Buenos Aires.

Capitalizing on Saavedra’s temporary absence[1], he made sure to always be the first to meet with the delegates that arrived from the provinces, and thus began to plan for the kind of Assembly he dreamed of: an Assembly of representatives of all the provinces and all its peoples, convened in Buenos Aires with the express aim of deciding the fate of the entire Viceroyalty. While their sympathies and level of commitment to the Revolution varied, Moreno was able to use his clout on the Junta and oversight over military and governmental appointments to recruit allies.

While some cabildos would send more conservative delegates, none would ultimately send any delegates associated or sympathetic with the royalist cause. Their cause had been too badly beaten by revolutionary armies, and the Junta’s success on the field of battle gave it momentum in the cities. The revolution’s argument that the King’s abdication meant that sovereignty reverted to the people as expressed by their duly elected Cabildo’s was easy to understand for the provinces, and while some may have chafed at the Junta’s assumption of primacy, they could all see the results of their initiative.

Moreno kept the Junta busy in Saavedra’s absence: the revolutionary government would dispatch embassies and assume control of the Viceroyalty’s tax collection, as well as overseeing the implementation of tariffs on a range of luxury goods to raise funds for both military supplies and infrastructure projects. Despite the tariffs however, the revolutionary government also sought to actively open up the port of Buenos Aires, repealing colonial restrictions on trade with foreign merchants.

But Moreno and the Junta also had to tread carefully: for all their claims of acting only out of dutiful loyalty to the unjustly deposed king Fernando VII, many of them assumed that the King’s cause was all but lost. Some conservatives grumbled aloud that soon enough the Junta would forget its perfunctory mention of the King as the Junta took on more and more powers of the Viceroyalty.

The Cabildos of the Viceroyalty chafed under these efforts however, straining both the goodwill that the revolution’s military successes earned it and the resources of the Junta itself, which kept its original 8-man membership throughout the rest of its term[2]. Moreno capitalized on his majority on the Junta - strengthened in Saavedra’s physical absence - to interpret the mandate the Cabildo of Buenos Aires had granted the Junta liberally. The most significant of these was Moreno’s appointment of the arriving provincial delegates to non-voting administrative positions, allowing him to simultaneously reward the other cabildos that recognized the authority of the Junta while preserving his majority on it.

The ordinary Cabildo of Buenos Aires chafed most of all under Moreno’s direction: its composition remained the same as before the Revolution, so it remained a conservative redoubt, and it guarded its authority over other remaining colonial institutions jealously. But Moreno still had the sympathy of the mob, and French and Beruti rallied the militias to the town square once again when the Cabildo attempted to hold a session to vote to dissolve the Junta. Control of the crowd continued to be decisive, and the Cabildo could do nothing to prevent the people from drowning out their session with demands for new elections. Hot on the heels of news of Castelli’s victories in the North, the Morenists capitalized on their popularity and had an amenable Cabildo elected in Buenos Aires, removing a substantial roadblock to the Revolution’s government[3].

Several of the removed members of the Cabildo flee the city for Montevideo, further weakening the conservative faction in Buenos Aires. Opposition to Moreno and the Junta instead begins to rally around the figure of Dean Funes, a prominent priest from Córdoba and the most prominent provincial delegate already in the capital. But his conservatism takes the form of opposition to Moreno’s attempt to monopolize appointments, denouncing it as centralist and tyrannical. The issue would come to the forefront by January of 1811, as the delegates from a majority of the provinces had already gathered in Buenos Aires and waited.

Moreno could only placate them with non-voting appointments for so long; by March, with Saavedra back in the capital carrying a letter of intent from Yegros promising to hold a cabildo of their own to elect delegates. With the arrival of Oriental delegates led by Artigas’ nephew following the victory at Las Piedras, delegates from all the provinces had gathered in one place for the first time in history. On May 25th, Saavedra and Moreno spoke from the balcony of the Fort that functioned as the seat of government and announced that the Junta would end after a successful year in government, to be replaced by a General Constitutional Assembly of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata[4].

Finally, on June 1st, the delegates gathered for a session presided by the priest Juan Nepomuceno Sola, one of the most venerable members of the delegation elected by the morenist majority in the local Cabildo; symbolically, the delegates from across the provinces gathered in the hall of the building where the revolution had started by popular acclaim, and they would publish the news in newspapers across the country. Emboldened by a string of victories that have also enflamed their patriotism, they announced themselves to the world as the General Constituent Assembly of the United Provinces of the River Plate and proclaimed that they met in compliance with the principle of retrocession of sovereignty - championed originally by Monteagudo and an increasingly popular idea among the revolutionaries elected by the cabildos the principle rested upon - and thus represented the only legitimate voice of the people of the Viceroyalty of La Plata.

The radicals rode that revolutionary fervor right to the worst nightmares of the few ardent royalists that remained: the Constituent Assembly dropped the oath to Fernando VII from its preamble, and thus represented a clear break with the metropole. Some delegates agitated for a formal declaration of independence, but Saavedra, speaking primarily on behalf of the military and buoyed by the support of prestigious and popular arrivals like San Martin and Alvear, urged a measure of caution in order to prevent drawing the ire of the Portuguese crown in Rio, and to give the incoming government more flexibility in its handling of the war. The compromise is begrudgingly accepted, and by the end of June 1, all the delegates have been sworn in to the Assembly.

The Constituent Assembly would undertake the task of reforming the provinces from a colonial subject to a self-governing nation; it would create the country’s first basic legal code, and propelled by the prestige of the Morenists and Castelli’s successful reforms in Alto Peru, extend some of their more radical ideas to the rest of the provinces. Seeking to solidify his alliance with the provincial Cabildos he relied upon to recruit potential allies, the Assembly would proclaim that every city with more than 15,000 residents was entitled to hold a cabildo and elect a delegate.

The Assembly also voted to recognize the primacy of the colonial provincial capitals and instructed the cabildos to send delegates and organize provincial constituent assemblies along the model of the National one. These reforms radically transformed the nation, promoting the cities of Santa Fe, Paraná, Corrientes, Salto, Posadas, Mendoza, and Salta to provincial capitals in their own right, and assigned all provincial capitals with an additional delegate.

Buenos Aires' primacy was also recognized by the Assembly, with the city earning the monikers "Mother of the Revolution" and "First Seat of Government", but the Assembly also passes a motion "to designate as soon as circumstances allow a commission to plan for the preparation and construction of a new city to serve as permanent capital of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata".

The Assembly would also implement liberal reforms like freedom of the womb, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, trial by jury, the abolition of the mita and torture, and codified the separation of powers for the new revolutionary government. It created the position of Supreme Representative to fill the role of head of state, while Moreno transformed his informal system of patronage into the blueprint for the country's budding parliamentary government: the powers of appointment he had amassed as Secretary of the Junta and Secretary of Government were transferred to the newly created position of General Secretary of the National Assembly; the General Secretary would then preside a Governing Junta composed of the remaining Secretaries, the Supreme Representative, the most senior member of the clergy, and the eventual heads of the Army and Navy that the new government is instructed to form.

On July 1st, with the Constitutional Assembly still hard at working ironing out the details of the new constitution, two messengers arrived: a delegate from Montevideo, who had crossed the river aboard a British ship, accused them of treason against the Regency Council; while a delegate from Rio arrived and "informed" the revolutionary leaders that Brazilian forces would be compelled to march to Montevideo and relieved the besieged city "in order to mediate and bring an end to the anarchy that besets the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata and preserve the birthright of the Imperial Princess".

Overcome by overconfidence and a nationalistic urge to defend their nascent government from outside intervention, the Constituent Assembly would respond to the royalist and carlotist threats by voting unanimously to declare independence. The Supreme Representation would become the Supreme Directory, and on July 9th, Cornelio Saavedra and Mariano Moreno would swear fealty to the new Constitution as the first Supreme Director and General Secretary respectively of the United Provinces.

Saavedra would ratify the structure that Moreno carried over from the Junta in exchange for making the Supreme Director Commander in Chief of the armed forces as well as granting his militia - the Regiment of Patricians - a privileged position in the military pecking order by making its commander (appointed by the Supreme Director) a member of the Governing Junta along with the chiefs of the Army and the Navy. The two leading men of the revolution threw themselves into their new missions: to defend and to develop the United Provinces respectively, for the war for independence had only just begun.

Escudo Provincias Unidas de la Plata.png
[1] With Saavedra out of the capital and the Morenist camp basking in the glow of Castelli’s success, Mariano Moreno is in a much stronger position in Buenos Aires. With the President of the Junta on campaign, his opposition lacks a strong counterbalance to a skilled administrator and politician like Moreno - those conservatives that do arrive in Buenos Aires can only rally around the figure of Saavedra, while Moreno gathers more allies to his side.

[2] A major butterfly of Saavedra’s campaign: Saavedra and Moreno would butt heads often, with the matter of the arriving delegates causing the deepest rift. ITTL, Moreno has the entire Paraguay campaign - which keeps Saavedra away from July of 1810 to March 1811 - to rally allies to his corner while preventing Saavedra from forcing a change of composition in the Junta to dilute Moreno’s power (the Junta Grande).

[3] The Revolutionaries successfully capitalize on their control of the mob in Buenos Aires to hamper the incumbent Cabildo’s counter-revolutionary efforts. Moreno’s allies justify the need for a new Cabildo by arguing that the city also needed to hold a new open cabildo to elect its own delegates to the upcoming assembly.

[4] We’re in uncharted waters from here on out: IOTL, the Junta would become the Junta Grande before the end of 1810, a decision which diluted Moreno’s power and influence but which also made the revolutionary government cumbersome, conservative and cautious. ITTL Saavedra’s absence means that the incoming anti-Morenist delegates lack a strong figure on the Junta to rally around, so the idea to expand the Junta gains less traction, allowing it to survive as an interim government until replaced by the Assembly.
Interesting I will be following.
About this scenario and on the military side should be noted that although the Portuguese traditional invasion ways to the, then Banda/Province Oriental would be open and unprotected the more probably and possibly the greatest possible danger would be if the implied/announced Portuguese relief/expeditionary Army (transported and followed by the Portuguese fleet would arrive for the Spanish controlled Montevideo and/or even worse to the Bs. As. neighboring stronghold of Colonia del Sacramento...
Thus, aside to invest even more resources to the Patriot Navy, to start the process of recruitment and/or supplying of an Army that with the local Militias, by menacing the Portuguese positions/cities in Southern Brazil would be able to dissuade these possible invasion way... Of course that, IMO, the best military and political option would be to take the risk and as was proposed in a similar situation IOTL to attempt to take by assault to Montevideo.
Interesting I will be following.
About this scenario and on the military side should be noted that although the Portuguese traditional invasion ways to the, then Banda/Province Oriental would be open and unprotected the more probably and possibly the greatest possible danger would be if the implied/announced Portuguese relief/expeditionary Army (transported and followed by the Portuguese fleet would arrive for the Spanish controlled Montevideo and/or even worse to the Bs. As. neighboring stronghold of Colonia del Sacramento...
Thus, aside to invest even more resources to the Patriot Navy, to start the process of recruitment and/or supplying of an Army that with the local Militias, by menacing the Portuguese positions/cities in Southern Brazil would be able to dissuade these possible invasion way... Of course that, IMO, the best military and political option would be to take the risk and as was proposed in a similar situation IOTL to attempt to take by assault to Montevideo.
I'm still writing up the update dealing with the military fallout. I'm leaning towards the idea that Artigas would still have to besiege Montevideo, at least while he waits for reinforcements, and the threat of getting trapped by a Brazilian army would force him to lift the siege at first. The second siege of Montevideo isn't going to be as long though, but it'll still last at least as long as the revolutionariea take to assemble a fleet, any fleet, capable of supporting the assault. William Brown will make his appearance next update as a result.
Very interesting. I had a little time this morning so I wanted to explore this, I knew that things went slowly with the Latin American ones because there was question about whether they should simply be loyal to the deposed King but this has really helped me understand the characters as you spell out what happened OTL and this timeline's actions. Well I will probably only have time to lurk from time to time it will be fun to follow this. It would be great to see a much more stable Latin America.
4 - The War for Independence
Chapter 4 - The War for Independence

Juan José Castelli became a darling of the Revolution, scoring both its earliest political and military victories;
his early death, hastened by his prolonged campaigns, turned him into a martyr and a radical rallying figure

The jubilation following the country’s declaration of independence would give way to grim resolve as the news was immediately followed by the revolution’s first significant military setbacks: as the Assembly was voting to become a free nation, royalist troops advanced into the Alto Peru after first pushing back a garrison guarding the crossing at the Desaguadero River near Lake Titicaca. Castelli’s forces attempted to intervene, but the general was dealing with the effects of advanced tongue cancer and was forced to stay behind at Chuquisaca, and the revolutionaries under the command of his deputies were forced back from their positions[1].

The Spanish pursued, threatening to overtake them and subsequently capture Cochabamba then Potosí, but the revolutionary cavalry headed by Juan Martin de Güemes - bolstered by native auxiliaries and guerrillas - hampered their advance, and the Army of the North was able to reform in good order on the outskirts of Potosi. By then, Castelli had joined up with his troops and dispatched urgent missives to Buenos Aires requesting reinforcements, but the missives wouldn’t reach the new government for several weeks, forcing him to face an enemy army 8,000 strong with only 5,000 troops in total.

Güemes’ troops - a heterogenous blend of gaucho militias recruited from the northern ranching regions and lightly-armed native guerrillas that swarmed behind his mobile cavalry - were decisive: the road to Potosí traversed difficult terrain hemmed in by mountains on all sides, and the talented guerrilla leader used this to his advantage to harass the invading army along the entire length of its march. Forced to take the city of Cochabamba en route, the local garrison was fiercely opposed to the royalists and fervently supported Castelli’s reforms, causing the Spanish further delays and costing them precious amounts of supplies and manpower.

Castelli prepares his forces for a siege, counting on his cavalry to harass the Spanish from the rear and hoping that the seeds he’d sewn in Peru would bloom at last, and when it seemed that the Spanish would begin preparing siege lines of their own, the royalist army decamped and began to withdraw towards the Desaguadero River once more. Revolution was brewing in Peru, and with the revolutionary army entrenched in Potosi, the royalist army chose to withdraw rather than risk getting trapped between Castelli’s forces in Potosí and a rebel army that was gathering in their rear.

Despite chronic pain and difficulty speaking due to his cancer, Castelli urged his subordinates to press their advantage and give chase, but by September he was bedridden and slipping in and out of consciousness, leaving overall command of the Army of the North in the hands of his second-in-command, Juan Jose Viamonte. In contrast to the morenist Castelli, Viamonte was a supporter of Saavedra, and he hesitated to pursue the Spanish too aggressively for two main reasons.

The first was admittedly strategic in nature: the royalist army still outnumbered his own, and he feared that any advance into Peru would court disaster and risk an army the United Provinces could not afford to lose; but the second reason was strictly political: Viamonte feared that any successful pursuit would only further aggrandize Castelli’s reputation, whose insistence on joining his soldiers at the front even in the throes of a cancer that would kill him before the year was out had already turned him into a martyr for the revolutionary press.

It would fall to other subordinates of Castelli to take up the pursuit, but their lack of resources - experienced infantry and field artillery in particular - meant they would be unable to advance into Peru: Güemes’ mounted irregulars would force the Spanish to abandon and spike several cannons of their own (in short supply in the American theater), while Cochabamba would be freed by a native militia levied and led by Francisco del Rivero. They’d chase the Spanish forces all the way back to the Desaguadero, where they’d finally be forced to halt their attack, repulsed by the royalists before they could cross the river; by November of 1811 it was once again the de-facto boundary between royalist Peru and the revolutionary Alto.

But it was a bloody stalemate: while the more numerous Spanish had lost nearly 1500 soldiers - and most importantly, half of their artillery - in the campaign (mostly in the retreat), the revolutionaries had lost 1000 of their own, including Castelli, whose death on October 12, 1811 would prompt calls for public mourning by the cabildos of Chuquisaca, Charcas, Potosí, Cochabamba and La Paz.

Despite its later repudiation of Viamonte’s refusal to pursue the Spanish, the national government’s initial response to the news of the Spanish withdrawal is elation: with reports of Brazilian troops massing near the border and preparing to invade and increasing naval raiding out of Montevideo, the government was quick to portray events in the north as a resounding victory for the Revolution even as Viamonte reported that the army would need months to reorganize and recover. Castelli’s death, while a tragic loss and a political blow to the morenist camp, gave the revolution a martyr that would solidify support for the fledgling nation.

It was a timely morale boost, as the heartlands of the revolution suddenly came under threat: royalists ships were growing bolder in their raids, and were sailing as far up as Santa Fe in their attacks. While incapable of posing an existential threat to Buenos Aires, these raids hurt the United Provinces in subtler ways, both dampening revolutionary fervor and exacerbating supply and trade problems that were already causing shortages and price increases. While Montevideo remained under siege - thus forcing the royalists in the region to concentrate their forces and neutralize the threat of an invasion of Buenos Aires - the Spanish ships supplying the city were soon supplemented by Brazilian ones, rendering Artigas’ land blockade practically powerless.

The threat of a Brazilian invasion further complicated matters by prompting the Paraguayan delegates to inform the Assembly of their cabildo’s recall of its militias to defend the province. A harbinger of bigger problems later on, Saavedra could only grit his teeth as the delegates produced his letter to the Paraguayan cabildo as President of the Junta guaranteeing them full autonomy “in matters concerning the administration or defense of the Province of Paraguay”. This decision tied down thousands of soldiers in Paraguay that the Brazilians could safely ignore.

This severely damaged Saavedra’s reputation, and he resolved to once again take the field to try and secure his position by force of arms. Exercising his power as Commander in Chief, he appointed himself in command of the Army of the Orient instead of Artigas, hoping to tilt the balance of the siege of Montevideo by adding his Regiment of Patricians to his army and assaulting the city. Artigas’ nephew protested, both for the degrading demotion of his uncle and for the suicidal nature of the plan - which he noted would leave the army vulnerable to getting trapped by the combined Brazilian and Royalist armies.

He departed Buenos Aires on January 31st, 1812, but this time his absence from the capital would have more dramatic consequences: the Assembly’s opinion of Viamonte had soured considerably upon discovering that the rebellion in Peru had been crushed by the retreating army despite Castelli’s promises of support, tarnishing the saavedrists by association, and the withdrawal of Paraguayan troops was seen as an unforgivable blunder that made his first campaign seem worse in hindsight. On February 11, 1812, the General Assembly convened and voted to remove Cornelio Saavedra as Supreme Director, naming morenist Juan Jose Paso in his place. Manuel Artigas would cross the Rio de la Plata that night, rushing to his uncle’s side to give him new orders: lift the siege, detain Saavedra then regroup in friendly territory to await reinforcements.

It would mark the first violent confrontation between revolutionaries since the movement had started, but it would be a brief one: Artigas would intercept Saavedra while he was attempting to cross the Rio Negro, catching him by surprise as he had not heard of his removal. His fiercely loyal troops fight back when some of Artigas’ men attempt to reach his tent, but upon hearing the gunshots and the shouting, Saavedra orders a flag of truce to be hoisted and confronts his attackers.

Informed of his removal, he commanded his soldiers to lay down their weapons and surrendered himself to Artigas, asking his troops to “continue to fight for the cause I have always faithfully defended”. While the Regiment of Patricians would lose its political privileges with Saavedra’s downfall, his decision to surrender himself and instruct the regiment to remain loyal - which also earned him a pardon upon his arrival in Buenos Aires - would allow it to survive the subsequent military reforms.

The General Assembly appealed to the British to mediate with Brazil, worried about the threat of their material support for the royalists in Montevideo; diplomacy would thus score the revolutionaries their biggest victory of 1812 on the second anniversary of the Revolution, when that mediation secured a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Brazilian troops in October of that year[2], allowing the revolutionary armies to campaign freely in the Oriental Provinces once again.


José Gervasio Artigas commanded the revolutionary armies that would liberate the Oriental Provinces from Spanish rule

Artigas’ forces would quickly capture Colonia upon the resumption of hostilities, and a second battle for Montevideo would begin on New Year’s Eve[3] as the royalists sallied out in an effort to prevent a new siege. Arrayed against a heterogeneous army composed of uplifted militias, gaucho irregulars and new regiments of freed slaves, the royalists were overconfident, attacking their besiegers at their positions on Cerrito. Despite early gains forcing the revolutionaries from the heights, exhaustion and ammunition shortages would rob their attack of momentum, and the revolutionary counter-attack - led by Soler’s freedmen - would push them back and retake the high ground, forcing the royalists into the path of the patriots’ fierce gaucho cavalry.

The Battle of Cerrito would once again confine the royalist army to Montevideo, but the revolutionaries were prevented from pressing their advantage as royalist naval superiority allowed them to hammer their assaults from land and sea, so the army settled in for what threatened to be a long siege. Royalist Montevideo presented a significant problem for the Buenos Aires government: politically, the city’s stubborn resistance kept awkward questions about the legality of the revolution alive, and strategically, its fleet gave them control of the River Plate, severely hampering trade and reaving up and down the rivers. The task of creating a fleet for the fledgling country was commissioned to Irish-born mariner William Brown, but progress would be slow.

With the siege lines drawn, the royalist army firmly entrenched in Montevideo, and the Upper Peru front quiet for the time being, 1813 would see only one other major engagement, and its importance was more political than strategic: José de San Martín’s efforts to establish a professional mounted regiment were put to the test as his soldiers intercepted a Spanish raid harrying the outskirts of Rosario. The small battle - involving fewer than 500 troops between the two forces - would allow San Martin to stand out among the cadre of American-born veterans of the European wars by showing his offensive bonafides early on. His 200 mounted grenadiers would descend upon the royalists as they were disembarking, forcing them to abandon their cannons in the mud and torching one of their three ships as they withdrew. Drawn from gaucho recruits of the Upper Peru and Oriental campaigns, they successfully wreak havoc between the royalist ranks as the Spanish troops struggled through the silty banks of the river[4].

There would be no major engagements in the Rio de la Plata theater until the end of the year, when William Brown’s hodgepodge of a navy set sail on its campaign to wrest control of the estuary: the fleet’s baptism of fire would be its assault on the island of Martin Garcia just off the coast of Buenos Aires, successfully capturing it after a hard day of fighting, but the ship it cost was irreplaceable. Brown’s approach to Montevideo would be more cautious, and he’d attempt to draw the royalist fleet out into open water rather than attempt to attack them in port. His feint worked, and as he forced the last of the royalist fleet to give chase and defeated them one by one with support from the recently captured island fort, Artigas would lead the final assault on Montevideo safe from naval barrage[5]. The city would finally surrender in early may of 1814, in time for its inhabitants to participate in the anniversary of the revolution at last.

The revolution’s 4th anniversary was celebrated with much fanfare from Montevideo to Potosí, with gauchos, urban criollos, emancipated slaves[6] and liberated natives toasting its triumphant armies that had driven the royalists from the field from the mountains to the ocean. While heavy fighting would continue in Alto Peru, and the revolution’s guns would not go silent for years to come, the War for Independence had been won. With the fall of Montevideo, the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata were finally free.

Labeled 1814 with provinces.png

The United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, on the 4th Anniversary of the May Revolution
[1] IOTL’s battle of Huaquí, the royalist victory that sent the Army of the North reeling all the way to Jujuy. ITTL, the Army is in better shape and Castelli’s position is more secure, allowing them to slow down the royalist advance. The simultaneous rebellion in Peru is from OTL.
[2] The same as OTL’s mediation, which took me by surprise as I looked into the Luso-Brazilian intervention in the Oriental Provinces.
[3] OTL's Battle of Cerrito.
[4] OTL’s Battle of San Lorenzo, happens more or less on schedule, but with an alteration which I could justify with lore reasons but that I’m including because I found the idea delightful: San Martin recognized the value of Güemes’ gaucho cavalry when he was briefly in command of the Army of the North, and ITTL, those gaucho troops (both the ones that served with Güemes and their counterparts from Artigas’ army) are more closely tied to the revolutionary cause, leading to San Martin recruiting from their numbers to make his mounted regiment. Mostly just adding this because I couldn’t get the image of gaucho grenadiers out of my head once I started picturing it.
[5] Practically unchanged from OTL, the most significant change of course is the fact that Artigas is leading the siege instead of an upstart appointee from the central government. It may seem like I’m trying to squeeze in a lot of events near the date of the 25th of May, but that’s all from OTL so far, especially in the Oriental Provinces.
[6] No one could be born a slave in the United Provinces, but slavery was not abolished by the Constitutional Assembly in 1811; however, the revolution has taken quite enthusiastically to emancipation as a means to recruit more able-bodied men. The next chapter will likely cover the political ramifications of independence, but one thing I’m certain to include is the imminent abolition of slavery in the entire country - the emancipation by recruitment was a very common practice IOTL, and the high number of former slaves serving in the military contributed to their decimation in Argentina as they were sent to the front in the War of the Triple Alliance.
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