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Under the Flags of Freedom

Under the Flags of Freedom: Slave Soldiers and the Wars of Independence in Spanish South America

Peter Blanchard
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrcf5
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    Under the Flags of Freedom
    Book Description:

    During the wars for independence in Spanish South America (1808-1826), thousands of slaves enlisted under the promise of personal freedom and, in some cases, freedom for other family members. Blacks were recruited by opposing sides in these conflicts and their loyalties rested with whomever they believed would emerge victorious. The prospect of freedom was worth risking one's life for, and wars against Spain presented unprecedented opportunities to attain it.Much hedging over the slavery issue continued, however, even after the patriots came to power. The prospect of abolition threatened existing political, economic, and social structures, and the new leaders would not encroach upon what were still considered the property rights of powerful slave owners. The patriots attacked the institution of slavery in their rhetoric, yet maintained the status quo in the new nations. It was not until a generation later that slavery would be declared illegal in all of Spain's former mainland colonies.Through extensive archival research, Blanchard assembles an accessible, comprehensive, and broadly based study to investigate this issue from the perspectives of Royalists, patriots, and slaves. He examines the wartime political, ideological, and social dynamics that led to slave recruitment, and the subsequent repercussions in the immediate postindependence era.Under the Flags of Freedomsheds new light on the vital contribution of slaves to the wars for Latin American independence, which, up until now, has been largely ignored in the histories and collective memories of these nations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7342-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. CHAPTER 1 A HISTORICAL TRADITION
    (pp. 1-16)

    WARFARE HAD BEEN RAGING throughout much of Spanish South America for three years when a slave by the name of Francisco Estrada appeared before a Buenos Aires court in 1813 to ask for his freedom. He based his claim on an offer made two years earlier by the commander of an army from revolutionary Buenos Aires that had invaded the neighboring Banda Oriental (modern Uruguay). The commander had declared that any slave belonging to a Spaniard and living in Montevideo (still held by royalist forces) would be freed upon joining his forces. At the time of the invasion, Francisco’s owner...

  2. CHAPTER 2 SERVING THE KING IN VENEZUELA AND NEW GRANADA
    (pp. 17-36)

    THE NAPOLEONIC INVASION OF SPAIN in 1808 set in motion the long and bloody process that shattered the centuriesold ties between the Iberian mother country and its American colonies. The forced abdications of Charles IV and Ferdinand VII from the Spanish throne, their replacement by Napoleon’s brother Joseph, and the formation of Spanish juntas claiming to rule in Ferdinand’s name produced uncertainties among the creole elites that radiated out to every sector of society. While most declared continuing loyalty to the crown, they had little confidence in the juntas and subsequent Regency Council that claimed to rule in Ferdinand’s name....

  3. CHAPTER 3 FIGHTING FOR THE PATRIA IN THE RÍO DE LA PLATA
    (pp. 37-63)

    IN 1815 A SLAVE NAMED ANTONIO CASTRO presented himself before the authorities in Buenos Aires and asked to join the black Eighth Regiment. His desire was “to sacrifice himself for the just cause of hispatria.”¹ Antonio was one of over two thousand slaves who officially and unofficially joined the patriot armies in the Río de la Plata region after 1810. In contrast to slaves in Venezuela, the predominantly urban-based slaves of what is today Argentina displayed neither the antipathy toward the creole leaders nor the affection for the king that marked the northern struggle. For them, thepatria(homeland),...

  4. CHAPTER 4 CHANGING LOYALTIES IN THE NORTH
    (pp. 64-85)

    IN 1816, AN EX-SLAVE by the name of Pedro Camejo joined the independence forces of Venezuelanllanerochief and future president José Antonio Páez. Camejo was no stranger to military service, having previously served under the royalist banners. He had done so, he later explained to Simón Bolívar, because it appeared that “everyone went to war without a shirt and without a peseta and returned afterwards dressed in a very fine uniform and with money in his pocket.” His loyalties had shifted after the battle of Araure in December 1813, when an inferior patriot force under Bolívar defeated the royalist...

  5. CHAPTER 5 CONTROLLING SLAVE RECRUITMENT IN CHILE AND PERU
    (pp. 86-112)

    EARLY IN 1822, AN OBSERVER COMMENTING on José de San Martín’s forces in Peru concluded that the “entire army” was composed of slaves.¹ He was either mistaken or exaggerating or trying to be provocative, for the army comprised a far more racially diverse group than he described. Nevertheless, his observation indicates that slaves were a strikingly visible part of the patriot armies fighting on the west coast of South America, just as they were elsewhere on the continent. A survey of the royalist armies at the time would have shown that they, too, had turned to the local slave population...

  6. CHAPTER 6 RECRUITMENT AND RESISTANCE
    (pp. 113-140)

    WILLIAM MILLER, THE ENGLISHMAN who fought for the independence forces in different parts of South America, has left an instructive, although somewhat misleading, picture of the slaves who served under him. Of those recruited in Buenos Aires, he wrote, most had been domestic slaves before the revolution. Yet, he observed, “they were distinguished throughout the war for their valour, constancy, and patriotism. They were docile, easy to instruct and devotedly attached to their officers. Many were remarkable for their intelligence, cleanliness, and good conduct. They went through their evolutions exceedingly well, and it was generally allowed that they marched better...

  7. CHAPTER 7 THE PERSONAL WAR OF SLAVE WOMEN
    (pp. 141-159)

    WHEN THE BUENOS AIRES ARMY invaded the Banda Oriental in 1811, one of the slaves whose life was changed forever was a woman by the name of Juliana García. As recounted earlier, she was living at the time with her husband, Miguel, and their two children, Ventura and Mateo, in a town near Montevideo when they heard that the invaders were offering freedom to any slave who joined their ranks. Miguel, like many others, found the offer irresistible and ran away to enlist. Shortly afterwards, Juliana and the children followed him. For the next four years she was part of...

  8. CHAPTER 8 THE SURVIVAL OF SLAVERY
    (pp. 160-182)

    THE COUNTRIES OF SPANISH South America had finally won their independence, and slaves throughout the region had played a vital role in achieving that goal. In doing so they had also weakened some of the pillars of colonial authority, including centralized absolutism, the church, and, of course, slavery. The last of these appeared on the brink of collapse at war’s end because of the wartime challenges and other antislavery pressures of the time. Further attacks on the institution seemed likely, as critics of slavery had assumed leadership of the new nations, liberal values remained in vogue, and ex-slave soldiers were...