The Abaucanian Race

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Don Garcia de Mendoza

In the month of April, 1557, Don Garcia de Mendoza, upon whom had been conferred the office of Spanish viceroy at Chili, arrived at the harbor of Conception, with a large force of infantry and abundant monuments of war. He first established himself upon the island of Quiriquina, and sent messages to the Araucanian authorities expressing a desire for the establishment of a permanent peace. Caupolican, with the concurrence of his council, sent one Millalauco to confer with the Spanish commandant, especially charging him to note with great accuracy the numbers and resources of the troops. Nothing but general expressions of amity and desire for tranquility resulted from the conference, and Millalauco returned with full reports to Caupolican. The Toqui was immediately upon the alert, and made every preparation for obtaining instant information of the enemy s movements, and for opposing any establishment upon the main land.

In the month of August, Don Garcia landed a detachment in the night, and secured the position of Mount Pinto, overlooking the plain and harbor. Here a fort was constructed, surrounded by a ditch, and defended by artillery. Only four days from the time of landing, the Araucanian chief, with a large army, attacked the fort.

Filling the ditch with logs and fascines, the assailants, in the face of a murderous fire, made desperate efforts to scale the walls. Many succeeded, and threw themselves into the enclosure, willing to meet certain destruction that they might have a brief opportunity for wreaking their long-cherished vengeance upon the Spaniards. Prodigies are related of the personal exploits of Tucapel, who encouraged this audacity by his own example, but who, unlike his companions, succeeded in forcing his way back. After killing, as is said, “four of his enemies with his formidable mace, he escaped by leaping over a precipice, amidst a shower of balls.”

Fort on Mount Pinto Attacked by Caupolican

Reinforcements were sent over from the island, and Caupolican was obliged to draw off his forces, leaving his purpose unaccomplished. The arrival, shortly after, of a great force of Spanish cavalry and Indian auxiliaries, by sea, rendered a repetition of the attempt hopeless.

Thus strengthened, Don Garcia soon commenced offensive operations. He crossed the Bio-bio unopposed, and engaged the Araucanian army, a short distance beyond. The natives, notwithstanding every exertion, and the display of a rash valor never surpassed, were driven off with terrible loss.

Cruelty and barbarity unlike any thing before known in Chili, now marked the success of the conqueror. He cut off the hands of a prisoner named Galverino, who had been a noted warrior, and sent him to his friends as a warning of what was in store for them: other captives he subjected to cruel tortures in order to extort information as to their general s plans and places of retreat, but their fortitude was proof against all the suffering he could inflict.

Caupolican soon rallied his forces for another battle, which was more obstinately contested even than the first; but the result was the same the superiority in weapons, and the efficiency of the cavalry securing success to the Spaniards. The mutilated Galverino, again taken prisoner, was hanged, with twelve of the native Ulmenes.

Don Garcia’s Invasion of Arauco; His Cruelties

Marching into the district of Tucapel, Don Garcia founded the city of Canete upon the spot of Valdivia s former discomfiture. A strong fort was there built and garrisoned, and the command instructed to one Alonzo Reynoso, after which the conqueror returned in triumph to Imperial. From this town he sent large numbers of Spaniards to assist in the defense and establishment of the new city. On the route, these settlers were furiously at tacked by the natives, but after suffering some loss in men and stores, they effected an entrance into the fortification. Caupolican then set himself systematically to reduce the place. In the attempt to secure an advantage by the introduction of a spy within the walls, he was himself completely overreached by the cunning of one of the Indian allies of the Spaniards. This man, discovering the errand of the spy, secured his confidence by pretending hatred against the invaders, and by promising his aid in admitting the besiegers within the walls. Caupolican was regularly entrapped: a gate was left open to give opportunity for an entrance into the fort, but when such a number had entered as could safely be mastered, the passage was closed, and by a sudden and unexpected attack, those within the Avails were cut to pieces, and those without completely routed. Caupolican escaped to the mountains, but three of his officers were taken prisoners, and blown from the muzzles of cannon.

The years 1558 and 1559 were memorable among the Spanish settlers of Chili, for the expedition of Don Garcia to the archipelago of Chiloe. By an artful policy, adopted in accordance with the advice of an Araucanian, the Clinches averted the usual terrors of European invasion. They pretended extreme poverty, sending to the general a present of ” roasted lizards and wild fruits,” and carefully concealing every sign of wealth, particularly in the precious metals. A guide furnished by them to the Spaniards was instructed to lead the army southward by the most desolate and dangerous routes, the more effectually to discourage any plans of settlement and colonization.

Arriving, at last, after unheard-of toil and privation, at the beautiful archipelago, the Spaniards were kindly and generously entertained by the natives. On his return, through the level country of the Huilliches, Don Garcia founded the city of Orsino.

It was during this absence of the viceroy that the brave Caupolican fell into the hands of his enemies. Alonzo Reynoso extorted, by torture of a prisoner, the disclosure of his place of retreat, and sent a corps of mounted men to surprise him. By order of the cruel commandant, this brave and venerated ruler was impaled, and in that position dispatched with arrows.

The office of Toqui was conferred upon a son of the old chief, Caupolican the younger, and the redoubted Tucapel was made second in command. An army of Araucanians, led by the new commander, was immediately upon the march for the city of Conception. Alonzo Reynoso followed, with five hundred men, to attack this body in the rear; but was signally defeated in an engagement north of the river Bio-bio, which he hardly succeeded in recrossing with a remnant of his followers. Instead of following out his original design against Conception, young Caupolican transferred his forces to Imperial, where Don Garcia had fortified himself. He was unable to take the city, although he besieged it closely for a long time, making many furious and desperate attacks. The Spaniards were strengthened by constant arrivals of military adventurers from Spain and Peru, and as their defenses were good, their loss in these engagements was small, as compared with that of the Indian besiegers. An attempt to rouse a rebellion among the Indian allies at the Spanish camp was discovered, and all concerned were put to death. Two of the emissaries of the Toqui were ” impaled in the sight of the Araucanian army, to whom they recommended with their last breath to die in defense of the liberties of their country. One hundred and twenty of the auxiliaries were also hung on the ramparts, exhorting the others to favor the enterprise of their countrymen.”

Caupolican withdrew from the city, and established him self at a place called Quipeo, between Conception and the fortress of Canete, the nature of which was such that it could easily be defended. Here he stoutly resisted all efforts to dislodge him for a long time; but was finally worsted in an incautious sally. His army was mostly destroyed; Tucapel, Colocolo, Lincoyan, and others of his bravest officers, had fallen; and, seeing escape impossible, the young chief put an end to his own life.

Every thing now seemed to favor the Spaniards: they little thought that after such a reverse, and the experience of the misery and horrors of a long and bloody war, the natives would again make head against them. The interval of peace was occupied in restoring the old fortifications and settlements, and in the establishment of new posts. It was at this time that the city of Mendoza, east of the Andes, was founded.

Retreat of the Natives to the Marshes of Lumaco

Nearly all the Araucanian officers, and a large proportion of the young men of the tribe, had perished in the last disastrous campaigns, but the indomitable spirit of the nation survived. A brave chief, named Antiguenu, was chosen Toqui, and the shattered forces of the nation were assembled in the gloomy and almost impenetrable marshes of Lumaco. Here Antiguenu “caused high scaffoldings to be erected to secure his men from the extreme moisture,” and devoted himself to training and instructing such new recruits as could be collected.

Don Garcia had, in the mean time, been superseded in his office of Spanish viceroy, by the former incumbent, Francis Villagran; who, hearing of the late defeat of the natives, supposed that he now occupied an easy and secure position. He was undeceived by the intelligence that the new Toqui was beginning to give his army some practical lessons in the art of war by various predatory visits to the Spanish settlements.

Indian Victory at Mount Mariguenu

The first serious engagement, in this campaign, took place at the summit of Mount Mariguenu, the scene of former disaster to the Spaniards. Antiguenu, familiar with the advantages of the locality, was posted at this spot, and Villagran sent one of his sons, with the most efficient force at his disposal, to attack the enemy in their quarters. The result of the attempt was as fatal as upon former occasions: the leader of the assailants was slain, and nearly the entire Spanish army destroyed. The Toqui followed up his advantage by the seizure and destruction of the fortress at Canete.

About this time Pedro Villagran, by the death of Francis, his father, succeeded to the office of governor. Antiguenu had now at his disposal an army of not far from four thou sand men, and felt sufficiently strong to divide his forces, and make a simultaneous attack upon the city of Conception and the fortress at Arauco.

The city resisted all the attempts of the natives, although close siege was laid to it for two months; but the detachment led into Arauco by Antiguenu in person was more successful. The commandant, Lorenzo Bernal, defended his post with great bravery, holding out against all the assaults of the enemy until reduced by famine to evacuate the fort. The Spaniards were not disturbed in their retreat, the business of destroying the buildings and fortifications, so long a harbor for the enemy in the heart of their own country, fully occupying the attention of the Araucanians.

Several interesting incidents are recorded connected with this siege: upon one occasion, Antiguenu challenged the Spanish commandant to a private personal encounter, and the duel was accordingly fought in sight of both armies. “The battle between these two champions” says the historian, “was continued for two hours without either obtaining any advantage, or injuring the other, till they were at length separated by their men.” Such trials of strength and skill between renowned warriors of either party were not uncommon during the protracted wars of Chili.

Not long after the reduction of Canete and the fort at Arauco, a general engagement took place between the Indians and Spaniards at the junction of the Vergosa and Bio-bio, in which the former were totally routed. Antiguenu with many of his followers fell, or was forced, from a steep bank into the stream, and there perished. A terrible havoc was committed among the discomfited army, not, however, without great loss to the victors, and the Araucanian power seemed, a second time, to be effectually crushed. This was in the year 1664:

The sagacious and prudent Paillataru, a relative of the lamented Lautaro, was the next Toqui, and, like his predecessor, he set himself, at first, to recruit his forces and repair the disasters of war. For years he hazarded no open battle with the whites, but inured his warriors to service by flying incursions.

In 1565 a new Spanish viceroy, Rodrigo de Quiroga, restored the posts at Canete and Arauco, and built a new fort at Quipeo. With little opposition, he laid waste those portions of the Araucanian territory that were within his reach, and dispatched a body of troops to the southward, to bring into subjection the islands of the Chiloan archipelago. The mild and gentle inhabitants of that group submitted without an effort to the dictation of the Spaniards, offering no resistance to the burdens of personal service, &c., imposed upon them by their new masters. In after-times they proved equally tractable in adopting the religion of their conquerors.

General Summary of Succeeding Hostilities

For thirty years from the installation of Paillataru, bloody and desolating wars were, at intervals, waged between the Spaniards and Araucanians. The former, from the steady increase of their numbers, acquired a stronger foothold in the country, and the result of hostilities was generally in their favor. Occasionally some terrible reverse would serve to remind them that .the enemy was, not yet conquered, but that the old spirit still burned with undiminished energy. The Araucanians acquired the use of horses, thereby gaining great facilities for flying incursions. To a certain extent they had, moreover, learned to avail themselves of such firearms as were secured in battle.

Paillataru defeated the Spaniards yet again upon Mount Mariguenu, and, as well as his successor, the mustee or half-breed Paynenancu, proved a thorn in the sides of the colonists. The Ulman of Mariguenu, Cayancaru, was made Toqui in 1585, after the seizure and execution of Paynenancu. This ruler, disappointed in various bold but unsuccessful campaigns, resigned office in favor of his son Nangoniel, who was soon after slain in battle. A noted warrior, named Cadeguala, succeeded him.

The new Toqui, after various other warlike operations, laid siege to the Spanish fort at Puren. Becoming weary of delay, his chivalrous spirit led him to challenge the commandant, Garcia Ramon, to single combat, thereby to decide the fate of the fortress. The two leaders accordingly fought on horseback, with lances, and Cadeguala fell transfixed by his adversary s weapon at the first tilt.

Guanoalca, the next in authority, continued to wage war with the Spaniards, and gained, many advantages. He reduced and took possession of the fortresses at Puren, Trinidad, and Spirito Santo. During this administration, flourished a celebrated female warrior,, named Janequeo, who in 1590, with a horde of the wild and roving Puelches of the eastern districts, harassed the Spanish settlements.

The young chief Quintuguenu, succeeded Guanoalca, upon the death of that Toqui in 1591, and although a brave and noble warrior, was doomed to defeat and death at the spot most famous for his countrymen s victories. He fell on the heights of Mariguenu, where his army was destroyed or dispersed. One Paillaeco was elected in his place, but with reduced forces he could effect little against the Spaniards, encouraged as they were by recent success. The old forts and posts destroyed under the sway of preceding rulers were rebuilt and fortified in the years 1591 and 1592.


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MLA Source Citation:

Brownell, Charles De Wolf. Indian Races of North and South America: Comprising an account of the principal aboriginal races; a description of their national customs, mythology, and religious ceremonies, the history of their most powerful tribes, and of their most celebrated chiefs and warriors; their intercourse and wars with the European settlers; and a great variety of anecdote and description, illustrative of personal and national character. Hartford, Conn., Chicago,E. B. & R.C. Treat; [etc., etc.]: Hurlbut, Scranton & Co. 1864. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 21 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/the-abaucanian-race.htm - Last updated on Jan 31st, 2013


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