Odds & Ends

A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research

October 1997 No. 24

Four Caballeros

In its article on Argentina the Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations states, "During the colonial period, there was little interest in Argentina." Maybe in the grand schemes of that era relatively little interest was given to the region that would become Latin America's second largest nation. But the nations of Europe weren't ignoring Argentina entirely. Spain obviously had firsthand involvement. Portugal coveted the area. There was at least one Frenchman residing in Buenos Aires. And two courts-martial related to Argentina occupied London courts.

Even Haiti had its effect on events. When it overthrew its rulers in 1804, following the example of the United States, France became the second European nation to lose a New World colony. Ordinarily Portugal and Spain would have been concerned over their own colonies, but they had other worries as an ambitious Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the Iberian Peninsula in 1807 and 1808. England would now be concentrating on driving the Corsican out of the Peninsula. Some of their officers had just been practicing their own brand of point-of-a-gun diplomacy on the other side of the Atlantic in 1806 and 1807. And there's also that one Frenchman!

Beresford, Popham, Whitelocke and Liniers are not exactly household names today, even in the lands of their birth. No Wellingtons, Nelsons or Napoleons here. Buenos Aires does not stir the militant blood of the Napoleonic armchair strategist as does Trafalgar, Austerlitz, Moscow or Waterloo.

Actually France was not concerning itself overly much with Argentina. But one of its inhabitants was interested - Jacques de Liniers. Often referred to as Santiago de Liniers y Bremond, he was in the right place at the right time (in Argentine eyes at least) in 1806 and 1807. Liniers was born to a French naval officer in Niort, France, on July 25, 1753. At the age of twelve he joined the declining Order of Malta as a page to the grand master, and entered the Spanish army as an officer in 1774. After serving as an officer in Moroccan campaigns he came to Argentina in 1776 as part of Pedro de Cevallos' campaign to drive the Portuguese out of Nova Colonia do Sacramento, across the Plata estuary from Buenos Aires. At the same time a viceregal capital was established at the settlement to keep the Portuguese in check. It's doubtful that Liniers expected, as he sailed away at the end of that expedition, that he himself would one day become viceroy. After further campaigns elsewhere he returned to Buenos Aires in 1788, settled down and married the daughter of a prominent Spanish-born merchant. (A suburb of the city would later be named for this French emigre).

The next member of our cast is Home Riggs Popham son of a Stephen Popham, British consul to Morocco. Born in 1762, Home Popham was the twenty-first child in the family. As such he could not count on much of a patrimony but was able to enter the Royal Navy in 1778, serving under Admiral George Rodney until the end of the war in North America. A lieutenant by 1783, he began doing survey work on the African coast. In 1787, without a command, he began a series of mercantile adventures, sailing at different times for himself, the Imperial Ostend Company, and the East India Company. While with the latter he was accused of carrying contraband and his ship was seized. He carried his battle to the English courts, eventually gaining compensation of 25,000 pounds (on a loss of 70,000). Meanwhile he'd gone back into his country's service, as a superintendent of Inland Navigations in Flanders for the Duke of York. Serving a member of the Royal family helped his career and he was named a commodore in 1794 and a post captain in 1795. In 1803 his code of signals was adopted by the Royal Navy. After further adventures, military and political, in Egypt, India, the offices of the Admiralty, and the halls of Parliament, Popham found himself in 1806 serving with Sir David Baird off South Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

Our second "son of Albion" John Whitelocke, entered the army in 1778, serving in the Caribbean at Jamaica and San Domingo. His service seems to have been rather uneventful otherwise, the highlight being his appointment in 1805 as lieutenant general and as inspector-general of recruiting.

The final actor in Britain's little two-act playlet was William Carr Beresford. Six years Popham's junior, Beresford was born an illegitimate son of the first marquess of Waterford. He entered the British army in 1785 and was shipped off to Nova Scotia, where he lost the sight of an eye in a shooting accident. Undaunted, he distinguished himself at Toulon in 1793. In 1795 he was given command of the Connaught Rangers (88th Regiment). Also serving with Baird, but in Egypt, he made a successful march across the Sahara from Kossier, and remained in North Africa until the British evacuation in 1803. At the other end of the continent he remained with Baird during the capture of Capetown.

In 1806, with Napoleon planning his invasion of Iberia and with Spain and Portugal more concerned with events at home than in their American colonies, some of the British military became restless. Africa was relatively quiet for the time being. As was Europe.

With absolutely no authorization from the Admiralty back in London, Popham set sail across the South Atlantic. His flagship appeared in the mouth of the La Plata River in June. On the 17th Beresford and his force of several regiments were landed, marched on Buenos Aires, and captured the fortress. The British half-expected to be met with open arms by rebellious colonials. It was not to be. The colonists could see through this army of liberation ploy and had no intention of just switching masters. They deposed the ineffectual Spanish viceroy, who had fled anyway, substituting Santiago Liniers as acting viceroy, placing him at the head of the local forces. After several months of British occupation Liniers lead the counterattack, with his separate regiments of blacks, Spaniards and European emigres (criollos). The British situation rapidly disintegrated and the troops were trapped inside the city walls. Some of them took refuge in the Church of Santo Domingo and were captured there. (The regimental colors were later put on display in the church.) Beresford himself capitulated on the 12th of August and was thrown into prison. It wasn't until December that he was able to escape and make his way back to England. Popham was recalled and sailed for home.

Undaunted, the British tried again, this time sanctioned by the pride-wounded English government. In February of 1807 another British force of 8,000, lead by John Whitelocke, landed in Montevideo, Uruguay, with the intention of regaining possession of Buenos Aires. Whitelocke's attack in July was turned back by a colonial force, once again led by Santiago Liniers. The defeated British force left Argentina. The colonists had won two victories, and without the help of the mother country. A Royal Viceroy had been tossed out of office by colonials for the first time. Ties weakened further, and it would only be three more years before they were broken altogether, when Argentina gained its independence in the May Revolution of 1810. As so often happens, even today, revolution was immediately followed by civil war and dictatorship. Peace would not return for many years. Spain's dominion over Argentina however would never return.

Our four stalwarts continued on to their various ends.

John Whitelocke returned to England to find himself with no friends in high places and in disgrace over his defeat. An 1808 court martial found him guilty of all charges but one. He was dismissed from the army and lived in retirement the rest of his life, which ended on October 23, 1833.

William Carr Beresford obviously had more useful friends (clout, we'd call it today). He returned to England to be given the governorship of the island of Madeira. Joining Wellington in the Peninsula, he was soon given the task of reorganizing the Portuguese Army. The success of his efforts lead to a knighthood of the Bath from England and a peerage from Portugal. At the end of the campaign he was made Baron Beresford of Albuera and Cappoquin, and given a pension of 2,000 pounds a year. In 1828 Wellington, now the Prime Minister, made Beresford master-general of Ordnance. He died at his country estate in Kent on January 8, 1854.

Home Riggs Popham also faced a court martial on his return to the mother country, but was let off with only a censure. The London business community awarded him a sword of honour for his attempt to open new foreign markets to England. Made a rear admiral in 1814 and awarded a KCB in 1815, he lived out the rest of his days in Gloucestershire, where he died on September 10, 1820.

The Worldmark Encyclopedia reports that after the second expulsion of the British, "a junta was elected, which deposed the viceroy." That's not quite the whole story. Jacques de Liniers remained in Buenos Aires until 1809, when the Spanish government, wary of the loyalty of any French alien, replaced him as viceroy. He retired to the city of Cordoba, but couldn't stay retired for long. Anxious to prove his loyalty to the Portuguese crown he helped organize loyalist opposition to the new rebel junta. Loyalty often has its price and on August 26, 1810, Santiago de Liniers y Bremond died before a junta firing squad.


The Web wasn't a lot of help on this one. So we'll take a look at an off-subject site. About the same time as the events in the main article, the exploration of the American West was picking up momentum. Much of the work was being done by trappers and traders. An excellent site, full of journals, diaries, trade good invoives, etc. can be found at the Mountain Men and the Fur Trade site. You'll also find a gallery of art work, bibliographic resources, links, and discussion groups.


Checking the Eagles Byte chronology for Argetine history of the 16th and 17th centuries we find:

Ferdinand Magellan discovers the Rio de la Plata and Argentina's Patagonia region. He names the southern tip of the continent Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire).

Argentina comes under Spanish domination.

Pedro de Mendoza founds the city of Buenos Aires, (in today's Parque Lezama,
according to tradition.)

Mendoza begins importing colonists to Santa María del Buen Aire (Buenos Aires.)

A Spanish expedition enters Argentina from Bolivia, the first to come by land.

A Spanish exploratory force from Bolivia founds Santiago del Estero.

The town of Mendoza is founded.

Towns founded: San Juan, 1562; Tucuman, 1565


The city of Cordoba is founded by Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera.

Towns founded: Salta, 1582; La Rioja, 1591; Jujuy, 1592; San Luis, 1598


Bishop Lizarraga of Santiago, Chile, travels from Cordoba to Mendoza.

The National University of Cordoba is founded by the Jesuits.

An image of the Virgin Mary is transported through the Pampas by oxcart. At a spot where the cart breaks down, the town of Lujan will be founded.

The approximate date Cordoba's church of La Compania is built.

Quilmes Indians from an Inca site in Tucuman Province are forcibly resettled around the Buenos Aires area that will become the suburb of Quilmes.

Buenos Aires' first church (which will one day become the city's cathedral) is rebuilt.

Jesuit priests build a estancia and a chapel at La Candelaria.

Construction begins on the Cathedral of Cordoba.


I don't mean to pick on the Worldmark Encyclopedia. Its history sections are meant only as background sketches, not substitutes for full-length works. I could not have written the article without the aid of a newly acquired Encyclopedia Britannica - the 1911 eleventh edition, that is. More about that another time perhaps. Other works, both consulted (*) and not, are listed below.

Copyright 1997
David Minor
Eagles Byte

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