Cepeda, Battles of

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Cepeda, Battles of

Battles of Cepeda, two conflicts at the cañada (ravine) of Cepeda in Buenos Aires Province in 1820 and 1859. The first of the two battles, over the issue of centralism versus federalism, took place on 1 February 1820. It was fought by the Federalist army under General Francisco Ramírez of Entre Ríos, and the Buenos Aires army, headed by General José Rondeau. Rondeau failed to secure assistance from José de San Martín and Manuel Belgrano—as they were busy elsewhere—and the porteño (Buenos Aires) army was dispersed at the first cavalry attack.

Porteño officers convinced the Buenos Aires cabildo to disband the directorate, Congress dissolved itself, and on 19 February 1820, the cabildo was replaced by a junta. On 23 February, Manuel de Sarratea, head of the Buenos Aires junta, met with Estanislao López and Ramírez at the Capilla del Pilar, Buenos Aires Province, to sign a peace treaty, which the junta approved the following day. The public portion of the treaty provided for the security of the provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, and Santa Fe and, anticipating the federal pact of 1831, accepted the principle of federation as the basis for national organization. Sixty days after the ratification, freely elected provincial representatives were to meet in San Lorenzo to form a constitutional convention. Entre Ríos and Santa Fe were to withdraw their forces from Buenos Aires, and free trade on the rivers bordering those provinces would resume. The national Congress would settle all boundary disputes. The treaty's secret portion stipulated that Ramírez would ask José Artigas to ratify the treaty for the Banda Oriental, to join them, and to suspend military operations against Brazil. Ramírez entered Buenos Aires on 15 February and left it on 12 April, when he learned that Artigas, who disapproved of the Pilar treaty, had invaded Entre Ríos. The arrangements made at Pilar broke down when López and Juan Manuel de Rosas signed a treaty at Benegas on 24 November 1820, in order to isolate Ramírez.

The second battle of Cepeda was fought 23 October 1859 over the tariff war between Buenos Aires and the Argentine Confederation, the refusal of Buenos Aires Province to join the union, and the national Congress's decision to authorize President-General Justo José de Urquiza to bring a recalcitrant Buenos Aires into the union. Urquiza commanded the confederation's army, and Governor Bartolomé Mitre, the army of Buenos Aires. Fighting alongside the porteños was a Uruguayan division under General Venancio Flores. The Buenos Aires forces were dispersed, and Mitre withdrew. Urquiza then negotiated an armistice at San Nicolás, mediated by Francisco Solano López of Paraguay.

Cepeda ended a war that the international community had tried to avoid. The Pact of the Union was signed on 11 November 1859, and Buenos Aires became a member of the Argentine Confederation. In accordance with the treaty, Buenos Aires proposed amendments to the national constitution that were accepted in 1860. The defeat did not end the influence of Buenos Aires. In 1862, Bartolomé Mitre was elected president of Argentina for a six-year term. During his presidency, Mitre founded many of the federal government's essential institutions.

See alsoArgentine Confederation; López, Estanislao; Ramírez, Francisco.


Cárcano, Ramón J. Del sitio de Buenos Aires al campo de Cepeda, 2d ed. (1921).

Bethell, Leslie, ed. Spanish America After Independence, c. 1820–c. 1870 (1987), pp. 331, 352.

Bosch, Beatriz. Urquiza y su tiempo, 2d ed., rev. (1980). In English, see José Luis Romero, A History of Argentine Political Thought, translated by Thomas F. McGann (1963), pp. 88, 89, 108.

Halperín Donghi, Tulio. Historias de caudillos argentinos. Edited by Jorge Raúl Lafforgue. Buenos Aires: Extra Alfaguara, 1999.

Lynch, John. The Spanish-American Revolutions, 1808–1826 (1973), pp. 69, 100, and Argentine Dictator: Juan Manuel de Rosas (1981), p. 26.

Molinari, Diego Luis. "¡Viva Ramírez!" El despotismo en las provincias de la Unión del Sur (1816–1820) (1938).

Pasquali, Patricia. La instauración liberal: Mitre, Urquiza y un estadista olvidado, Nicasio Oroño. Buenos Aires: Planeta, 2003.

Szuchman, Mark D., and Jonathan C. Brown, eds. Revolution and Restoration: The Rearrangement of Power in Argentina, 1776–1860. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

                                   Joseph T. Criscenti