Juan Aldama (1774 – 1811) was a Mexican insurgent soldier recognized for participating during the first years in the Mexican War of Independence that began in 1810.
He stood out for participating together with the renowned priest and soldier Miguel Hidalgo and with the Mexican rebel Ignacio Allende , only that after several military and political decisions by the insurgents, Aldama preferred to support Allende until the end.
Before being part of the insurgent movement for the independence of his country, he was a prominent captain of the opposing side; In other words, he had been a Spanish soldier in the cavalry regiment of the queen’s militia.
At the tactical level, Aldama was a key piece in the insurgents’ strategies, since he knew very well how the Spanish army worked.
His participation at the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence was imminent, as he participated arduously in the first battles: the Taking of the Alhóndiga de Granadita and as a lieutenant colonel in the Battle of Monte de las Cruces .
Before his assassination, the last battles were fought by the hand of General Allende, being defeated both in the Battle of Guanajuato and in the Battle of the Calderón Bridge.
Family and path to insurgency
Juan Aldama González was born on January 3, 1774 in San Miguel el Grande, currently called San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He was the eldest son of Domingo Aldama and María Francisca González Riva de Neira.
The Aldama family was characterized by being faithful believers of the Mexican insurgency, as well as of the promise to free the independence of Mexico. His brother, Ignacio Aldama, participated as an insurgent in the Mexican War of Independence, in addition to his nephews Mariano and Antonio Aldama.
When the Mexican War of Independence first began, Aldama was already involved in the military field, so he was one step away from being attracted to participate in the independence movements.
In fact, when he was part of the cavalry regiment of the Queen’s militia as captain, he began to attend the conspiracy meetings for independence organized by the Mexican insurgent Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez in Querétaro.
Aldama had to make several trips from San Miguel el Grande to Querétaro to attend all the meetings. However, the conspiracy was discovered, so Aldama had to go to Dolores to meet with the insurgents Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende and inform them of the situation in which they were.
Start of the struggle for the Independence of Mexico
At dawn on September 16, 1810, Aldama was in Dolores, Guanajuato, when the cry of insurrection for independence broke out.
At dawn, the priest Miguel Hidalgo had incited the group of insurgents, including Aldama, to raise their arms against the Spanish Crown that had dominated the country for many years.
Hidalgo and his group of insurgents, not getting a flag, took the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe to motivate the soldiers and start the Mexican independence struggle.
At the beginning, the independence movement consisted of a small group of Indians, mestizos, Creoles and some with military training with impeccable instructions for war.
Juan Aldama began to position himself and be seen as one of the most relevant personalities for the army, as did Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende and José Mariano Jiménez.
From Dolores, Hidalgo and his army began their march towards Guanajuato. Along the way, the insurgents gradually grew from 6,000 to about 100,000 soldiers, approximately, with 95 guns.
Participation in the Taking of the Alhóndiga de Granadita
The Taking of the Alhóndiga de Granadita took place on September 28, 1810 in Guanajuato in the viceroyalty of New Spain. The intention of the insurgents was to besiege the inhabitants and ask the royalists to surrender.
Aldama, accompanied by Allende and Jiménez, divided to besiege all of Guanajuato. Those first actions by the insurgents had begun without realistic resistance; in fact, they had been supported with more soldiers, weapons and money.
The combat began on the morning of September 28 when the first shots were heard near the Alhóndiga de Granadita. For this reason, the Spanish military man Juan Antonio Riaño ordered his military to fight the invasions and later he himself joined despite the insurgent attacks.
After the strong siege by the insurgents towards the royalists, Riaño suggested to Lieutenant Barceló the surrender, but he flatly refused.
One of the insurgents, Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, known as “El Pípila” set fire to the door of the Alhóndiga, causing the insurgents to enter the place, which caused a terrible massacre not only of the two military groups, but also of many civilians.
After that action, both Barceló and Riaño were assassinated and looting spread throughout the city.
Participation in the Battle of Monte de las Cruces
After the triumph in the Taking of the Alhóndiga de Granadita by the insurgents, they decided to head towards Valladolid and a few days later towards Toluca de Lerdo.
At the same time, Francisco Xavier Venegas (Viceroy of New Spain), ordered the Spanish military Tortuaco Trujillo to confront the attempts of the independentistas.
When the group of insurgents was in Celaya (homonymous Municipality of Guanajuato), Aldama was appointed and promoted to lieutenant colonel to take part as one of the leaders in the next battle.
On the morning of October 30, 1810, the royalist forces reached the insurgents at Monte de las Cruces located in the State of Mexico. Still, the insurgents emerged victorious from the tough battle.
The insurgent army had more than 80,000 soldiers approximately, in addition to an impeccable tactical warfare strategy. The insurgent attack became stronger and stronger inviting, throughout the war, the surrender of the royalists.
During the battle, Aldama was in charge of commanding the cavalry from the right. After half an hour of combat, the Trujillo division fled under pressure from the insurgents’ cavalry, resulting in an imminent defeat for the royalists.
Aldama’s position in the face of the differences between Hidalgo and Allende
The triumph of the independentistas in the Battle of Monte de las Cruces meant the entrance to the Mexican capital, so the army was eager and willing to enter.
However, on November 1, Hidalgo saw fit to send insurgent general Mariano Abasolo and Allende to negotiate with Viceroy Vanegas for a peaceful entry.
Vanegas denied such an agreement imposed by Hidalgo; otherwise, he was one step away from shooting the insurgents. The interception of the archbishop of Mexico, Francisco Xavier de Lizana, caused the viceroy to avoid the slaughter of both leaders.
After that action, Hidalgo considered a change in strategy, for which he ordered the army to head towards Bajío instead of Mexico City as was previously proposed.
The consequence of this decision ended with the defeat in the Battle of Aculco at the hands of the Spanish brigadier Félix María Calleja. Hidalgo’s decision not only ended in defeat in Aculco, but also in the priest’s estrangement from Allende.
In this sense, Hidalgo marched with a part of the army towards Valladolid and Allende took another path, counting on Aldama and Jiménez. Aldama was part of the group that supported Allende for disagreement with Hidalgo’s decisions.
Battle of Guanajuato
On September 26, 1810, the Battle of Guanajuato took place again between the insurgent side against the royalist. Allende’s insurgents had been fleeing the defeat in Aculco, so they took refuge in the city of Guanajuato.
However, the royalist troops of Calleja pursued them with the intention of ending them. The royalists had the advantage of having a greater number of horses. For this reason, the chances of reaching them quickly were high.
Both Allende and Aldama were the top leaders in charge of the great insurgent army, who were caught by surprise after the approach of Callejas’s army in Guanajuato.
After several hours of battle, the royalists with approximately 2,000 men with infantry and 7,000 cavalry drove the insurgents back, having to flee to Guadalajara to save what was left of the troops.
After the withdrawal of the insurgents from the place, the royalists retaliated against the independentistas by shooting them and displaying their heads on the outskirts of the Alhóndiga de Granadita in Guanajuato.
The number of insurgent deaths that occurred in the battle is not known for sure, but it is thought that the action of the exhibition was part of a reminder of the massacre of the Toma de la Alhóndiga de Granadita.
In ices of the Battle of the Bridge of Calderón
After what happened in Guanajuato, Calleja, in consensus with Vanegas, advanced with his troops towards Guadalajara to finally end the insurrection, thanks to the participation in the military decisions of Miguel Emparan and other veteran Spanish soldiers.
On the other hand, Aldama and Allende tried to organize their army, with approximately 3,400 men ready, more than 1,000 rifles and some 100,000 men without military training. Although Aldama and Allende had their 95-gun artillery, they managed to build rockets and other weapons.
The insurgent leaders, including Aldama, Allende and Hidalgo – who joined later – finally established the attack strategy. Between January 14 and 16, 1811, the insurgents left and were located near the Calderón Bridge in Zapotlanejo.
According to various historians, Hidalgo thought that the number of insurgent soldiers for such combat would make him change his mind and he would go over to the insurgent side.
On January 17, finally, Hidalgo began his instructions on the war strategy: the artillery would be in charge of José Antonio Torres, the cavalry under Aldama’s command, and the reserves, Hidalgo himself. Ignacio Allende was in charge of the battle.
Battle of the Calderón Bridge
When the battle began on the Calderón Bridge, the insurgents had the upper hand. Although the armament of the Mexicans was very poor compared to that of their opponents, the insurgents were one step away from defeating the royalist forces.
However, the explosion of a Spanish grenade in the ammunition of the independentistas caused a good part of the Mexican artillery to be destroyed, significantly reducing the insurgent ammunition.
In fact, the explosion of the Spanish grenade caused a great fire, which impeded their visibility on their enemies, causing panic to the less educated soldiers. After the fire, many of the insurgents fled.
The royalists took advantage of the incident and set about mowing down most of the insurgents. The battle resulted in total disaster with a large part of the insurgent army wiped out.
The insurgents in the first months of the war were characterized by fighting with more passion than professional strategies and tactics. For this reason, the Battle of the Calderón Bridge marked a before and after in the Mexican War of Independence; they began to rethink other options.
After the events that occurred, the insurgents were devastated and it was inevitable that the capture and conviction of the priest Hidalgo, in favor of Allende and his group.
Death of Aldama
After the defeat at the Calderón Bridge, Aldama marched with the remaining insurgents to the north of the country. In fact, she had proposed to the rest to move to the United States in order to find more supplies and elements of war.
However, the royalists were in search of both his head and Allende’s. On March 21, 1811, the group of insurgents made up of Allende, Aldama and Jiménez arrived first. Even so, the realist Francisco Ignacio Elizondo captured them.
They were transferred to Chihuahua and, in addition to being tried and sentenced to capital punishment, Aldama, Allende, Mariano Jiménez and other insurgent members were shot on June 26, 1811.
Aldama’s heads, as well as those of the other insurgents, were placed in Guanajuato in iron cages to be displayed at the Alhóndiga de Granaditas.
Finally, in 1824, his head was taken and buried alongside his body. Later, her remains were transferred to the Column of Independence in Mexico City and more were transferred to the National Museum of History for an analysis of their provenance.
- My Genealogy Home Page: Information About Juan Aldama, Portal Genealogy.com, (nd). Taken from genealogy.com
- September 16, 1810 – The fight for the Independence of Mexico begins, Website Universidad de Guadalajara, (nd). Taken from udg.mx
- Juan Aldama, Wikipedia in English, (nd). Taken from Wikipedia.org
- Who was Juan Aldama, History of Mexico, (nd). Taken from Independenciademexico.com.mx
- Batallas de Guanajuato (1810), Portal Historiando, (nd). Taken from historiando.org
- Battle of the Calderón Bridge, Spanish Wikipedia, (nd). Taken from Wikipedia.org