Advice on what would happen if the Aztecs defeated the Spanish in 1520 and how would it happen?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Sapphire Williams, Mar 8, 2019.

  1. Milites Not a sahib

    May 16, 2011
    In the shade of the Buland Darwaza
    In addition to this, Aztec society was filled with discontent on account of Montezuma's attempted reforms. Cortez really rode the perfect storm into Tenochtitlan.

    At this point, the Pope couldn't even successfully organise a crusade against the Waldesians in the Savoy. Furthermore, there are other more pressing matters closer to home. Like the Lutheran heresy. Or the bleeding Turks marching on Vienna.
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  2. James Ricker Own your mistakes

    Oct 29, 2016
    Boston Massachusetts
    The pope needed some Good PR and money. Converting the Aztec savages and looting their treasury would achieve both with minimal resources
  3. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018
    The obvious problems with what’s written:
    1. By the time Cortez expedition sailed (1519) Ferdinand was dead for 3 years.
    2. The lands in question had been given to Spain by the Pope Alexander VI so King Charles I of Spain would not welcome the foreigners there.
    3. If a specific expedition failed (there were 2 failed expeditions by 1519) why would Spain need the foreigners or even why would there be a need to bring troops from Spain if there were numerous and eager cadres on Cuba and Hispaniola?
    4. If Spaniards would not be able to build the brigantines (which would require a death of more than a single shipwright ) a siege of Tenochtitlan still could proceed. As in OTL he could cut a water supply from aqueduct, block the causeways to cut off the food supplies and patrol the coast of the lake to limit supplies by canoes. It would take a longer time but will eventually weaken the defenders enough for assaults to succeed.
  4. Milites Not a sahib

    May 16, 2011
    In the shade of the Buland Darwaza
    PR? Money? This the 16th century, not a contemporary electoral campaign. Declaring a crusade on some natives across the Atlantic is not going to help at a time where there is widespread institutional as well as theological dissatisfaction with the church. On the contrary, it’s going to make the Papacy look delusional. As I said before, Christendom had bigger fish to fry. How’s it gonna look if the holy father suddenly decides to throw his weight behind a crusade against some Indians, whilst the French are preparing to seize Italy, the Turks are launching themselves against Belgrade and Rhodes and the Lutheran heresy is spreading like a wildfire through Germany?

    As for money. No way in hell the constantly short of cash emperor Charles V is gonna part with his New World riches for a symbolic gesture. Spain is still filled with poor nobles, no matter what the Vicar of Christ says. They’ll be just as eager to carve out a slice of the encomienda pie for themselves as in OTL.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2019
  5. FriendlyGhost Haunting history for 45+ yrs

    Fascinating discussion - I don't know enough to contribute meaningfully, but it's very interesting to read - thanks to everyone.

    Just one point:
    Making a gunpowder-and-schrapnel-filled ball go bang is relatively simple. Making it go bang when and where you want it to - not among your own troops, not as you light the fuse, not while it's in the air, etc - is much, much harder. If you use a percussion fuse, there will be accidents from them being dropped / bounced around during transport / etc. A timed fuse avoids this but then you need some consistency in how long the time is, which means a wick which burns at a predictable speed. It's certainly not impossible but making even a primitive grenade involves more than the knowledge of how to make gunpowder.
    Just my two-penny-worth...
    alexmilman likes this.
  6. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018
    To start with, the "bomb" in the original statement is presumably a hand grenade, not an artillery projectile, so some of the issues you (quite correctly) addressed would not be quite there. :) But there are numerous other problems:

    1st, these presumably simple to invent hand grenades were not introduced in Europe for at least an extra century and a half so an assumption that a stone-age civilization is going to invent them immediately after they saw the firearms is excessively optimistic, to put it mildly.

    2nd, then, of course, goes the gunpowder itself which the Incas would presumably just pick up from a Spanish soldier (who would know nothing about technology of a gunpowder production or even gunpowder's components).

    3rd, even the most primitive hand grenades in the XVII century Europe had been mostly used for storming/defending fortifications (the reason by which the initial grenadiers had been created), in other words, for the cases when a grenade could be thrown from behind some covered area because otherwise there was a good chance for a grenadier to get a part of his own medicine.

    4th, alleged usefulness against the horses implies a somewhat suicidal tactics because there is a very good chance for a bomb thrower to be either trampled by the attacking horses before the bomb explodes or to be hit by the pieces of the bomb he throws.

    5th, experience of using the pre-artillery gunpowder weapons against cavalry quite clearly demonstrated that they were not effective. If they were, the Mongols would not be able to conquer China because the Chinese had all imaginable types of these gadgets.

    6th, an assumption that conquest of the Americans had been done by the Spanish cavalry does not stand up to a serious criticism.

    7th, an assumption that it is enough to have a governmental structures to jump from a stone age technology into the European XVI century is not backed by any evidence. The underlying philosophy (from Enlightened Absolutism and all the way to Marxism) assumes an all-powerful state with the rulers who know better and the subjects acting as the parts of a well-designed machine. If the theory was correct, XVIII Russian Empire would be the most advanced country in Europe (Peter I not just espoused that theory but was forcefully implementing it).
  7. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018
    That's true and as far as the "crusades" were involved, Charles had, as his priorities, Northern Africa, Ottomans in Hungary and even planned (but never realized) crusading expedition against Constantinople.
  8. FriendlyGhost Haunting history for 45+ yrs

    Fully agree with your points - well put.

    If, and it's a big if, any of the civilisations opposing the Spanish could get hold of gunpowder and manage to work out (with or without help) how to make it, then I think the most effective use which might be made of it might be to start rock-falls in mountain areas. My knowledge of the geography in those areas is limited, but there would surely have been some mountain passes where a rock-fall could have decimated an attacking group (or group en-route to attack) - or at worst blocked them from easy approach to a defended area/town. Of course gunpowder isn't necessary to do this in all situations - enough muscle power can carry rocks to build something rigged to fall - but it could be adapted more easily to such a tactic than the 'invent metallurgy - invent fuses - set up manufacturing - do this while wracked by disease' guns/etc ideas need.
  9. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018
    Interesting idea and of course there were plenty of mountains in the state of the Incas so this "if" could result in some delays. However, "where a goat can go, a soldier can go, and where a soldier can go an army can go" and it would be probably impossible to block all possible approaches to a rather big state (see map below). Then, keep in mind that Inca Empire was based upon exploitation of the subdued tribes and if these territories are captured, then the whole empire may crumble.

  10. FriendlyGhost Haunting history for 45+ yrs

    Thanks for the response. As I said before, this period/location of history is not my strong point, so I think I'll stay out of the overall debate and leave that to the experts here. The discussion about development/use of early gunpowder was interesting though and I hope I contributed in a small way to that :).
  11. Byzantine fanatic Pasha of the Rumistan beylik

    Mar 19, 2015
    The Old World
    Hordes of Aztec cavalry drive the Spanish into the sea...

    (this requires a PoD where the horse does not die out in North America, around 4,682 BC).
    KaiserWilhelm likes this.
  12. Kerney defender of low probability atls everywhere

    Feb 23, 2010
    Cortez only had one shipwright, Martin Lopez, and he was essentially Cortez's "engineer". Besides building brigantes, he did things like mix the brackish water from one part of the lake with the fresh water from another part (Aztec engineering, I don't remember the details) and kept the aqueduct cut. Without that one man, the Aztecs retain control of the lake and a supply of fresh water. They can concentrate forces to open holes in the too thin siege lines and bring in supplies and are able to sabotage Spanish approaches on the causeways much more effectively.

    Basically the siege probably fails.

    An illustration of just how important this Lopez was was at the end of the Night of Sorrows, he was the first man Cortez wanted to know if he lived or not.

    So the idea of Cortez failing, probably on the Night of Sorrows, is likely. Meanwhile, the Aztec Empire is very vurnerable because the neighbors hate their guts and will happily rebel. I'd give them one outside chance at survival. Capture the horses and horse trainers, the metalsmiths, those who know how to make gunpowder. Capture them, give them Aztec wives and reward them. Seduce them.

    Aztecs with a cavalry corps and gunpowder facing a rematch, with countertactics to Spanish tactics circa 1528 does much better. They're probably ultimately screwed by disease, but they can change history significantly from otl.
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  13. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018
    Unless you are going to insist that the whole work had been done by Martin Lopez single-handedly, the argument is not very convincing: he was a head of the "rngineering department" and would need experienced aids and carpenters who simply are not being mentioned because it is always the top guy who is getting a credit. We do know that even the initial band included several carpenters. Plus, between a failed attack on Tenochtitlan and its siege Cortes was getting reinforcements carried by the Spanish ships, which means that the experienced shipwrights and carpenters had been available.

    Destruction of an aqueduct did not really require an experienced engineer: the Ostrogoths managed to do this to the Roman aqueducts.

    It also does not take a genius of engineering to patrol the lake's coasts to cut the water and food supply by the canoes and, in the worst case scenario, the Indian allies of Cortes would build their canoes, which of course would be less effective but still practical.

    Finally, you are seemingly confusing the terms: "siege" is not a synonym to an "assault" and if attacks along the causeways are failing, the siege (as in "blockade") could continue until the defenders are exhausted enough by a shortage of the fresh water and food. After that city either capitulates or is being taken by storm. This was a pretty common scenario in the contemporary European and Asiatic wars and there is no reason for it being less effective against the Aztecs.

    You are confusing being important with being irreplaceable.

    Sorry, but this is a complete fantasy almost equal to the ASBs intervention because it would be required for a complete change of the Aztecs' culture and attitudes:

    1st, the Spaniards did not have enough horses for the Aztecs to capture any significant number of them and it would take years to breed enough horses to create a meaningful local cavalry (even if we discount a need to train people to ride them and develop an effective cavalry tactics). And in OTL the Aztecs had been sacrificing not only captured Spaniards but their horses as well so good luck with that idea. Anyway, after defeating Navarez in June 1520 Cortes had 1300 soldiers and 96 horses, plus 2000 Tlaxcalan warriors. It should be quite obvious that the horses were a contributing but not a decisive factor of his enterprise and the same goes for the descriptions left by Bernal Diaz.

    2nd, we are talking about the Aztecs, not some abstract "natives". The captured Spaniards are going to be sacrificed immediately. That's what the Aztecs had been doing in OTL and this is what was one of the weaknesses of their tactics: an attempt to capture alive a well-armed person with a steel sword or halberd who is acting as a part of a formation is not the most effective fighting style.

    3rd, the whole idea about the "metalsmiths, those who know how to make gunpowder" belongs to the "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" much more than to a reality. To start from the end, the soldiers did not know how to make a gunpowder and it was not produced by the marching armies. The "metalsmiths" who could be present among the conquistadors knew how to fix the weapons but not how to make the new ones, how to make a steel, how to find and process the iron ore, etc. Of course, the iron ore has to be available near Tenochtitlan and the same goes for copper (needed for producing bronze). Now, look at the map below for the location of "Fe" and "Cu" icons. They are few and all in the wrong places.

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  14. BBadolato Fifth Picturewraith

    Jul 5, 2012
    Then prepare for disappointment, your not going to get a consensus here, simply because people have people differing outlooks on the Aztec's survivability, and indeed that of other native peoples. You @Sapphire Williams need to ideally do your own research, you can ideas from us, but it may not be what you want, because at the end of the day you are just going to get our opinions, and you need to make your own.

    Basically, the scenario is about what would happen if the Aztec Triple Alliance/Mexica Empire manage to defeat the Spanish Empire in 1520-1521. As in the Aztec manage to kill/capture all of the Spanish and opposing indigenous forces, and instead of the Spanish conquering the Aztecs and establishing New Spain, the Aztecs survive and establishes a society that exists in the present day.[/QUOTE]

    Okay, the Aztecs would have to deal more with those natives that did rise against them, than the Spanish. They would have to try and stabilize their current situation, how they exist to the current day is not something that can be easily awnsered.

    Okay, the only things that made the Spanish formidable were the fact they would get large numbers of native allies, and the fact the governor of Cuba's rival expedition joined Cortez. Superior technology could only get the Spanish so far, but it would not be enough to take the America's on its own. The Aztecs could survive, but they need to get their house in order, and possibly diplomacy with the Spanish.

    What happens in Europe from 1520 is not given. At this point in the Time the Reformation is still ongoing and not set in stone, France and Spain are clashing over Italy. The Incas already exist. The Aztecs would probably engage in consolidation and possibly trying to sue for peace, a war would be risky. It's all a matter of what does the Spanish colonial authority do next, Diego Velasquez de Cuellar would have basically lost face, and might be pressured by the king to see what these natives want providing he is not removed for losing what amounts to 1600-1700 men. Maybe the Aztecs become like the Kingdom of the Kongo, local allies to the Spanish?

    Yeah except the Wampanoag were driven out after losing King Philip's war, and they only lost that war because the English had help from native guides, and it was the natives who adapted European weapons to better use. The Europeans even with disease and technology could not fully best the native peoples of the Americas on their own, as if they were somehow supermen. Also, the natives of North American managed to develop firearms by copying the Europeans, so if fucking tribes can adopt and make their own firearms, I do not see why it would be impossible for the Aztecs?

    Also what needs to be stated is that the Europeans would have gotten nowhere in the Americas without native help period.

    Except for the first two expeditions where more for scouting and exploration, if the third goes belly up it is basically the loss two expeditions Cortez and the one sent by the governor Diego Velasquez de Cuellar, with perhaps the most Spaniards killed period in the New World, it is certainly going to make Spain think twice, especially since it would be quite the disaster. The Italian Wars are in full swing in Europe, and the Ottomans are still a threat, with Suleman the Magnificant just starting his reign, and it was during this time that Spain did send military forces into North Africa.

    Okay in theory adopting technology would not take that much time. When King Philip's War broke out between the New England colonies and the Wampanoag, it was only roughly 50 years and in between that time, the Native American tribes had adapted guns, gunsmithing and siege warfare from the Europeans.
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  15. RGB Unqueering the Academia

    Jan 27, 2009
    Rainy Corporate Dystopia
    Citation extremely needed. 17th c. examples of Native-American-made and "developed" firearms, now, please. Really precise examples, if possible, no "read some general essay about colonial stuff where someone speculates about this being possible". Surviving examples of actual local-made guns, actual names of actual gunsmiths, centres of production. As well as the exact sources of powder and lead that didn't come from Europeans. I'm pretty interested in early firearms and this would be very useful for me.

    As far as I know guns were a massively important trade good that flowed in one direction only and being a middle-point in the gun trade was an enviable position for the American nations. Also there are examples of American native nations employing individual European mercenaries and also whole contingents of European troops to give them an edge over their traditional rivals, by the way, simply to take advantage of Europeans' expertise in warfare. The idea that Europeans were the only ones who needed to adapt to local warfare conditions is very wrong.

    This only shifted significantly after the Dutch and French (and later the English) flooded the North American market with steel products including tomahawks, knives and muskets and that's almost two centuries after first contact with the Spanish.

    Also, just as a total aside, most colonial settlements didn't even have the capacity to produce their own armaments, either through decree that forbade it, or through simple lack of skill and numbers to support such specialists. Powder came almost completely from Europe, as did most cannons and even personal firearms. Local gunsmiths mostly just repaired them. Lead was shipped in bars as cheap tradable ballast, not mined locally. I mean heck, most flint for the flintlocks was imported. So if the colonials didn't on the whole produce any of their own stuff, I'd love to know which of the native American nations did.

    Possibly, but since humans seem to naturally cooperate with other humans all over the globe, and since American nations were disunited and rivals of each other first, and there are people willing to defect from their societies even in the borderline-ASB case where the whole society is implacably hostile to Europeans, it's guaranteed that the Europeans will find the minimum help they need from somewhere. They invariably did wherever they landed and whatever societies they interacted with, excepting maybe the Sentinelese.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  16. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018
    The 1st and 2nd expeditions were military enterprises: Bernal Diaz, who participated in both, keeps talking about the soldiers. The 1st involved a number of unsuccessful skirmishes with the Indians in which Spaniards suffered heavy losses (56 killed and a lot of wounded) and was forced to sail back to Cuba. However, they brought news about Yucatan's riches which triggered the 2nd expedition which involved total of 240 people. Unlike the 1st expedition, soldiers of the 2nd brought with them "some falconets and were well supplied with crossbows and guns". They were luckier in their skirmishes and even found some Indians who were rather friendly but did not have too much gold to barter. However, after evaluating the loot, the land was considered rich enough to warrant the next expedition, with more men and better weaponry: after leaving 100 men at Veracruz, Cortés marched on Tenochtitlan in mid-August 1519, along with 600 soldiers, 15 horsemen, and 15 cannons.

    I'm afraid that you are misinterpreting the situation. There was no need for sending troops from Spain because Cuba and Hispaniola had excess of the Spaniards "who possessed no Indians" (aka, could not prosper there) and had been ready to join the new expeditions. Cortes was not the 1st or the last conquistador and if his expedition failed, there would be more. BTW, King was getting the Royal Fifth of the loot and, taking into an account that Charles was always out of money, the interest in the further explorations (which cost crown practically nothing) was obvious exactly because he had wars to fight and "to conduct the war you need 3 things: money, money and money".
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  17. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018
    You beat me to the question. :teary:

    Judging by the Indians were not producing the guns of their own but rather did some modifications like shortening the barrels and removing the butt plates. So far could not find anything on Indian-made guns or gunpowder manufacturing.
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  18. BBadolato Fifth Picturewraith

    Jul 5, 2012
    I do not have the exact pages, but Patrick Malone's Skulking Way of War goes into detail about how the Natives were able to develop their own guns and the tools to make them, after getting their hands on some from the Europeans. Also, the natives did adapt the Europeans usage of both sieges and harsher forms of warfare like fire attacks, all before King Phillip's War in the 1670s.

    I purposefully never mention gunpowder development for a reason. It was the one thing the natives did not have knowledge of as far as firearms go.

    My point is, that It is not like the Europeans won because of outright better technology as if this was some game, which I wish people would stop treating the European colonization of the Americas as.

    So what happens if according to the OP both Cortes expedition and the expedition sent by the governor to counter him, fails leading to the loss of roughly 1600-1700 men? is the next expedition going to have far more? Are we to simply believe that more and more expeditions will be sent even after a catastrophic failure? It is this kind of inevitability that I question.
  19. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018
    Failure does not mean a complete loss of the participants: even in the 1st expedition most of them managed to get back. So this assumption of yours is on extreme side and probably unrealistic.

    Besides, total for the initial stage of the 3rd was, as I understand, under 1,000 (may be wrong on that).

    These questions are based upon an assumption that all these expeditions are going to fail with a complete loss of all participants which is hardly a realistic scenario and does not deserve a serious consideration. Degree of success may vary but even before he marched on Tenochtitlan, Cortes subdued the coastal tribes and, IIRC, left some garrisons. His possession of these areas was not seriously contested even after he had to flee from Tenochtitlan.
  20. BBadolato Fifth Picturewraith

    Jul 5, 2012
    Take that up with the OP, who has not said a thing, if you want to be cheeky about the numbers lets assume even half or a fourth in terms of casualties. Numbers wise I'm adding up Cortes's expedition and the expedition sent to counter Cortes that numbered over 1000, that joined him instead.