Journal From Lima to Caracas

By William Owens Ferguson



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Carache, Trujillo
(Photo Oswaldo Terán)

23rd December 1826 To the town of Carache 9 leagues, after passing through the town of Santa Ana, where Generals Bolivar and Murillo met, and signed the celebrated treaty regulation of the war. The inhabitants of Carache have always shown their decision for the Royalists, and so far from coming forward at the present critical juncture, have all absented themselves and left the town almost deserted. The militia has not made its appearance, and in fact things look very blue. I this day received intelligence of Colonel Forellas who is commander-in-chief of the West, having stationed an advance post in the town of Omucaros, between Focuyo and Agua Blanca, that on the 26th there is to be a review of all the troops and local militia of the West in Focuyo, which is surmised will be to prepare an expedition against Truxillo and Merida that in Cumana there had been a severe engagement between Bermudez and the revolutionists, in which the former was worsted and obliged to abandon the province. That General Paez had attacked Porto Gabello which place had declared for General Bolivar, and had been defeated. In fact the civil war has commenced, and to crown all I got a letter from General Bolivar, desiring me to push on far as I could with safety. However, what could I do with one hundred bad infantry! Were I to invade the West with even 2,000 men, the result would be dubious. Whereas by a coup de main, I may probably gain over Forres, probably may revolutionize the country and even if I should be taken prisoner on my way I may leave proclamations and let the people see the General is coming, the factions having spread industriously a report of his death. The receipt of these proclamations dated 16th in Maracaybo decided me, and leaving orders with the Commandant Frazer to consider me as taken if he did not hear from me within two days. The road from Carache (from whence I started at two o'clock -a.m.) to Agua de Obispos is dreadfully bad, with about 5 leagues of a steep ascent, in many places worn away by rains. Reached Agua de Obispos a little after daylight, and within half an hour proceeded through a heavy inundated road and presently entered a forest, where on account of the almost incessant rain, the road became like a river in many places plunging ourselves into quagmires from which with difficulty I extricated myself. Arrived at the town of Onnicuros at about one o'clock p.m. of the 25th, where I found an advanced post with an officer, who under the pretence of accompanying me, did the part of spy and guard at the same time. Continued, after half an hour's stay and arrived at the City of Focuyo about four o'clock on the evening of Christmas Day. As I had travelled incessantly I was quite knocked up, however it surprised me not a little on entering the city, to see the martial appearance of the people, military parading, awkward squads, drilling in the square, and in fact, all the appearance of war, people far from coming up to me on seeing my red coat (General Bolivar's staff uniform) to shun the street, and I could see them peeping out of the windows, evidently afraid of being seen in conversation with me. On entering the Governor's I found some ladies there who received me rather coolly. My Umucaro friend the officer who accompanied me, now came forward rather boldly to state to the Governor that according to his orders he had brought me prisoner! an assertion that I thought proper to assure both was utterly false, as I now with astonishment certainly, for the first time learned that I was considered in the light, protesting at the same time most bitterly against such an outrage on the authority of General Bolivar.

Here the Governor began to explain to me the late occurrences and that so far from respecting the authority of General Bolivar, he had orders to stop him or take him should he arrive there, and any Aide-de-camp he might send to the West, should be immediately sent to Headquarters with two officers, who should not lose sight of him; adding at the same time that I must not speak to anyone and to prepare to march within two hours!

I must confess my feelings were not very enviable at this moment; a perfect stranger, tired to death and with very scanty purse and twenty leagues distant from my camp, in the hands of the enemy and on the point of being sent off post haste to Valencia, and add to this my being a foreigner on whom either party would rejoice to vent its spleen.

As the mass of the people were averse to this revolution and as General Bolivar was loved by the great body, I determined on beginning my operations at once. After assuming a very important tone and letting fall as if inadvertently, that my flying camp had remained in Omurcares, 5 leagues (by this time a number of officers had surrounded me) to be duped by Paez; that the only disinterested man in the country was Bolivar. I assured them he was in Trujillo with 5,000 peruvian troops and then read his proclamation which was most a propos. I took the advantage of the moment they were most warm in their praises of him and straight forward, John Bull fashion, proposed throwing off all allegiance to Paez and to proclaim the Constitutional Government. Some looked a little blue but an old veteran with only one leg limped up and giving a most magisterial thump on the table with his crutch, settled the point on the spot saying he was resolved it should be so and without waiting their answer, proceeded to give orders to several of the by-standers relative to the proper measures for explaining the affair to the troops and other officers, counting on the private citizens concurrence to a man.

I was quite surprised to see the influence of this man, however, I soon learned that he was comptroller of the tobacco factory and head administrator for the factory, besides his jovial manners and distinguished services when in the Army had gained him an immense popularity. This gentleman 's name is Undanata.

He presently sent for the principal men in the town and in taking into consideration what ought to be done, I learned that on the following day the local Militia from Carora and Quiber was to arrive for the review and that in Barquisemeto, 15 leagues distant there was a Battalion 1,000 strong with a well provided magazine and 4 guns. Also that Forellas had his headquarters there and at the moment was entertaining Pena and Cistiaga who were on their way as Commissioners from General Paez to announce to General Bolivar the new order of affairs and oblige him either to return or enter Venezuela as a private individual. I also learned that there were 300 infantry and a squadron of cavalry in Quibor, 3 leagues distant and that in Barquisemeto they did not even know of my arrival in Carache. It also appeared that there was no ammunition until it should arrive from Barquisimento.

The first thing that occurred to me was to get Pena and Forrellas into my power by surprise and although they all approved my plan still there was no cavalry mounted and it was now 9 o'clock at night. On the other hand as the revolution would take place at daybreak and had been talked of already it was more than probable some one would send off an express to Forrellas.

I had not yet tasted a mouthful of dinner and sleep was overpowering me. It was at this time it occurred to me that only a most rapid movement would save the country as delay was perdition. I now got a little wine and biscuit and sallied out in quest of some officers who had spoken with me and after going to three or four balls where they were amusing themselves, I succeeded in persuading five and twenty to accompany me, and at twelve I had marched with my detachment of Lancers! We arrived at three at the borough town of Quibor and surprised the barracks without a shot, so unexpected was it. I now spoke to these officers and troops and making a virtue of necessity said to show by confidence in their loyalty to General Bolivar I would not deprive them of their arms but merely ordered them to be present at 9 o'clock in Focuyo there to swear allegiance to the Constitutional Government. I now continued my way at a brisk trot and having fed the horses and given the detachment a good breakfast at an Inn 4 leagues from Barquisimeto set out again with our horses all well refreshed. I must confess that I began, after passing such a sleepless night and scorched by a dreadfully hot sun to reflect on my enterprise as rather hazardous, only 25 Lancers, our horses would not be able to carry us back again, myself totally unacquainted with the country or town we were going to surprise, beside a foreigner and accompanied by officers who 12 hours before were amongst the most sanguine supporters of the Revolution, probably they might be playing me the same trick as my Umucaro friend. In f act I felt rather low-spirited, however, we kept on at a round pace to the outskirts of the town where I formed up my piquet and briefly telling them of our compromise they unanimously swore they would accompany me faithfully.

I am now determined in case the Garrison should be got under arms before we could take the Magazine and Barracks to get possession of the persons of Forrellas and Pena and if we could not bring them off to lance them as State Criminals as proscribed by law. The inhabitants at first took us for a party of masqueraders as at this Festival it is customary to parade and gallop about on horseback but as soon as they heard us shouting "Viva Bolivar" (an exclamation which had been long been supplanted by Viva Paez"), "Viva la Federacion" they began to see what was going forward. The generality of the people detested Paez and the new system but it still had its supporters among the Empleados or Civil Officers but almost one half of the middle class were friends of the measure and although none had as yet declared against General Bolivar their actions did so. The confusion became great as we advanced (at full gallop), some cried "Viva el Libertador", some "a las armas" others shut their windows and doors whilst in all directions men could be seen running some to arms and others to get out of the way. We now got into the principal square and seeing a group of officers opposite before they recovered from their surprise I surrounded them and finding that Forellas and the Commandant of Arms were amongst the number I left five or six Lancers guarding them whilst I proceeded to Pena's house, where I took both him and Cistiaga without any resistance. Here I left 10 of my piquet and gave them orders to kill them immediately if rescue should be attempted. It now became quite a critical moment when I regained the street I found myself with only 8 officers and still the Barracks and Magazine were in the hands of the enemy! I did not know the way or the direction they lay in. I galloped up the first street I came to and seeing a body of about 300 men running before me it struck me (as was really the case) that they were trying to gain the Barracks and arm themselves. We immediately charged on them and as only a few officers who were with them had swords they all dispersed and gained some ruins that were near. We soon gained the Barracks and found the guns half way out of the gate (the guard having abandoned them as they saw us disperse the others) and having once possession of the arms I began to look a little about me. I here left 7 of my men at the Barracks and rode back to see about securing my prisoners. When meeting the officer I had placed in charge of Forellas he informed me that he had made his escape with the Commandant who was at that moment rallying some of the fugitives to attack us. Things had gone on swimmingly until now as not a shot had been fired as yet but I could not help seeing that if ten Infantry attempted it they would infallibly turn the scale and the mass of the people who until now had remained neuter would rise and secure us as there was only one pair of pistols in all my army.

It appeared that I had not perceived a guard of 25 men, which was close to where Forellas was standing and when I was gone he began reasoning with the officer and edging away until he got close to the guard when he ordered them to fire but at calculating that I had not only come with the advance guard thought it as well to fly for it.

I here found myself almost alone, my small force divided in four distant parts, the Commandant (a determined fellow) at liberty uniting a force to attack us. I then sent to the Civil Authorities an order to prepare barracks and rations for three squadrons of Hussars which formed the Vanguard or the Army and would arrive within two hours, I having only come on to reconnoitre as I had only two or three privates in the 25 of picquet the rest being officers.

The people now began to join me. At this moment I retook the Commandant who had some 8 or 10 men together and only fired one or two shots. As there was not the slightest disorder or pillage, the inhabitants thought by putting themselves on their good behaviour they would be treated on the arrival of the Army, (my flying camp of 100 recruits very quietly stationed 35 leagues off waiting for orders and now began to make a great noise crying out "Viva el Libertador" etc. On seeing this I got them collected in the Public Square and read aloud the General's proclamation which was loudly applauded. Taking advantage of this effervescence the Municipality and principal inhabitants were got together and in less than an hour I had compromised the greater part of the city making them personally sign an act disclaiming the new Government and putting themselves entirely under General Bolivar's control. After gaining this very essential point, what was their astonishment when they learned that all the Force within 100 leagues was 100 infantry and even these half recruits! However, their vanity was flattered to think that only an assurance of their good disposition towards General Bolivar could have induced him to send such a small force, which did not touch their pride by insinuating anything like conquest or invasion. The bells now rung a merry peal and having published a proclamation with all due formality the Battalion volunteered and swore fidelity etc. The Artillery was got in readiness, a Squadron of well-mounted Volunteers presented itself and deputations went off full tilt to every town in the neighbourhood to give the news.

At 10 0' clock at night I had 1,000 Infantry and 200 Cavalry with four field guns in complete order and a magazine with ammunition and arms quite sufficient to equip an army.

I literally had not slept since the 23rd and had been travelling or working night and day. I fell fast asleep dictating an official letter to General Paez and there lay till next day until six o'clock in the morning.

27th December 1826 Today the borough town of Yaritagua sent a deputation placing itself with a Battalion and two Squadrons of Horse under the General's absolute orders. I sent off a column of 300 men to the town of Sanare, 10 leagues in advance, to cut out the road of the Forest on Montana del Altar and threaten the town Aurare, following myself at 6 o'clock in the evening. Slept at town of Marita.


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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2006

Online published: 1 March 2006
Edited: 07 May 2009

Ferguson, William Owens, '
Journal from Lima to Caracas, Commencing September 4th, 1826' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 2006. Available online (, accessed .


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