|Second French intervention in Mexico|
French assault during the Second Battle of Puebla
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|History of Mexico|
The second French intervention in Mexico (Spanish: segunda intervención francesa en México), also known as the Second Franco-Mexican War (1861–1867), was a military invasion of the Republic of Mexico by the French Empire of Napoleon III, purportedly to force the collection of Mexican debts in conjunction with Great Britain and Spain. Mexican conservatives supported the invasion, since they had been defeated by the liberal government of Benito Juárez in a three-year civil war. Defeated on the battlefield, conservatives sought the aid of France to effect regime change and establish a monarchy in Mexico, a plan that meshed with Napoleon III's plans to re-establish the presence of the French Empire in the Americas. Although the French invasion displaced the Juárez's Republican government from the Mexican capital and the monarchy of Archduke Maximilian was established, the Second Mexican Empire collapsed following Napoleon III's decision to withdraw French troops in 1867. Aided by the United States, whose four-year civil war ended in 1865, the Republican army in Mexico used material aid of the U.S. to invigorate the Republican fight against the regime of Maximilian. France's 1866 decision to cease supporting Maximilian's regime militarily aided in the monarchy's collapse. Maximilian and two Mexican generals were executed by firing squad on 19 June 1867, ending this period of Mexican history.
The intervention came as a civil war, the Reform War, had just concluded, and the intervention allowed the Conservative opposition against the liberal social and economic reforms of President Juárez to take up their cause once again. The Mexican Catholic Church, Mexican conservatives, much of the upper-class and Mexican nobility, and some Native Mexican communities invited, welcomed and collaborated with the French empire's help to install Maximilian of Habsburg as Emperor of Mexico. The emperor himself, however proved to be of liberal inclination and continued some of the Juárez government's most notable liberal measures. Some liberal generals defected to the Empire, including the powerful, northern governor Santiago Vidaurri, who had fought on the side of Juárez during the Reform War.
The French army landed in 1861, aiming to rapidly take the capital of Mexico City, but Mexican republican forces defeated them in the Battle of Puebla on 5 May 1862, Cinco de Mayo, delaying their taking the capital for a year. The French and Mexican Imperial Army captured much of Mexican territory, including major cities, but guerrilla warfare by supporters of the republic remained a significant factor and Juárez himself never left the national territory. The intervention was increasingly using up troops and money at a time when the recent Prussian victory over Austria was inclining France to give greater military priority to European affairs. The liberals also never lost the official recognition of the Union part of the United States, and the reunited country after the defeat and surrender of the Confederate States of America in April 1865 began providing materiel support to the republican forces. Invoking the Monroe Doctrine, the U.S. government asserted that it would not tolerate a lasting French presence on the continent. Facing defeats and mounting pressure both at home and abroad, the French army began to redeploy to Europe in 1866, and the French empire in Mexico collapsed in 1867.
See also: Monarchism in Mexico
Mexican monarchists long had hopes of restoring Mexico to a monarchical form of government, as it had been pre-independence and at its inception as an independent nation-state from the Spanish Empire in 1821, in the First Mexican Empire ruled by Emperor Agustín I. Mexican conservatives sought the aid of French emperor Napoleon III. With the United States embroiled in its Civil War (1861–65) against secessionist southern states, its focus was on domestic turmoil rather than exerting its power against the intervention of the French in violation of the Monroe Doctrine. A Mexican monarchy backed by France would, in Napoleon III's estimation, lead to the exertion of French power in Mexico and Latin America.
After the administration of Mexican president Benito Juárez placed a moratorium on foreign debt payments in 1861, France, the United Kingdom, and Spain agreed to the Convention of London, a joint effort to ensure that debt repayments from Mexico would be forthcoming. On 8 December 1861, the three navies disembarked their troops at the port city of Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico. When it became clear to the British that France's aim was to seize Mexico, the United Kingdom separately negotiated an agreement with Mexico to settle the debt issues and withdrew from the country. Spain subsequently left as well. The resulting French invasion established the Second Mexican Empire (1864–1867). France, Britain, Belgium, Austria, and Spain recognized the political legitimacy of the newly created monarchy, but the United States refused to do so, since it was a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, prohibitiing European powers' interference in the Americas.
The French intervention in Mexico, initially supported by the United Kingdom and Spain, was a consequence of Mexican President Benito Juárez's imposition of a two-year moratorium of loan-interest payments from July 1861 to French, British, and Spanish creditors.
Napoleon III's France sought not just debt collection, but rather regime change. Through the influence of the emperor's wife, Eugénie de Montijo, the emperor had come into contact with Mexican monarchist exiles, José María Gutiérrez de Estrada and José Manuel Hidalgo who exposed Napoleon to the decades long effort to import a European prince to ascend a Mexican throne. He was initially not interested in the project due to the inevitable opposition that the effort would invite from the United States due to the Monroe Doctrine, a concern that would be rendered null with the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. Juarez's debt moratorium finally provided a pretext for intervention. Napoleon III would also claim that the military adventure was a foreign policy commitment to free trade and that the establishment of a European-derived monarchy in Mexico would ensure European access to Mexican resources, particularly French access to Mexican silver. However, Emperor Maximilian disagreed with the French emperor on Mexican resources going to anyone but Mexicans. More importantly, Napoleon III wanted to establish Mexico as a monarchist ally in the Americas in order to restrain the growing power of the United States. To realize his ambitions without interference from other European states, Napoleon III entered into a coalition with the United Kingdom and Spain.
The Tripartite Expedition, a multinational coalition of Spain, Great Britain, and France, sought to enforce debt collection on the republican government of Benito Juárez, following his suspension of payments on Mexican government bonds. On 14 December 1861, Spanish ships took possession of Mexico's main port, Veracruz. French and British forces arrived on 7 January 1862. On 10 January 1862 Spanish General Juan Prim issued a manifesto disavowing rumors that the allies had come to conquer or to impose a new government. It was emphasized that the three powers merely wanted to open negotiations regarding their claims of damages.
On 14 January 1862, a bill of claims was presented to the government in Mexico City. Foreign Minister Manuel Doblado invited the commissioners to travel to Orizaba with two thousand of their own troops for a conference while requesting that the rest of the tripartite forces disembark from Veracruz. The proposal to disembark most of the troops was rejected, but negotiations then resulted in an agreement, ratified on 23 January, to move the forces inland and hold a conference at Orizaba. The agreement also officially recognized the government of Juárez along with Mexican sovereignty.
On 9 April 1862, agreements at Orizaba between the allies broke down, as France made it increasingly clear that it intended to invade Mexico and interfere in its government in violation of previous treaties. The British informed the Mexican government that they now intended to exit the country, and an arrangement was made with the British government to settle its claims. Minister Doblado on 11 April made it known to the French government that its intentions would lead to war.
Certain Mexican officers had been sympathetic to the French since the beginning of the intervention. On 16 April 1862, the French issued a proclamation inviting Mexicans to join them in establishing a new government. On 17 April 1862, Mexican general Juan Almonte, who had been a foreign minister of the conservative government defeated in the Reform War, and who was brought back to Mexico by the French, issued his own manifesto, assuring the Mexican people of benevolent French intentions.
Armed conflict broke out between the French invaders and republican Mexican defenders, the start of a protracted warfare. The French defeated a small Mexican force at Escamela, and then captured Orizaba. Mexican Generals Porfirio Díaz and Ignacio Zaragoza retreated to El Ingenio, and then headed towards Puebla. Almonte now attempted to consolidate the Mexican pro-French movement. The town of Orizaba joined him and so did the port of Veracruz and Isla del Carmen. Colonel Gonzáles, Manuel Castellanos, Desiderio Samaniego, Padre Miranda, and Haro Tamariz, and General Taboada arrived in Orizaba to support Almonte. On 28 April 1862, French forces headed towards Puebla.
On 5 May 1862, Mexican forces commanded by Ignacio Zaragoza and Porfirio Díaz won a major victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla while the latter were trying to ascend the hill towards the fortified positions of the city. The French retreated to Orizaba to await reinforcements. Mexico's victory was a pause in the French push to capture the capital of Mexico City, delaying the French for a year. In Mexican history, Cinco de Mayo is a day to commemorate Mexican nationalism.
Conservative Mexican Generals Florentino López, Leonardo Márquez, and Juan Vicario sought to join the French, and Mexican republican forces suffered defeats at Barranca Seca and Cerro del Borrego in the vicinity of Orizaba.
With the defeat of the small French force at Puebla in May 1862, in July Napoleon III sent reinforcements of 30,000 troops under the command of General Forey. The French Emperor gave Forey instructions laying out France's occupation policy, directing the French commander to work with Mexican supporters in the pursuit of both military and political goals. The aim was to establish a new government friendly to French interests, and the geopolitical aim of preventing the United States from becoming too powerful in the Americas was also emphasized. Forey reached Orizaba on 24 October 1862, and began planning another siege of Puebla, the defense of which had now passed on to Jesús González Ortega after General Zaragoza had died of typhoid fever on 8 September.
On 10 January 1863, a French squadron bombarded the Mexican Pacific port of Acapulco and on 3 February, Forey finally set out for Puebla. González Ortega had meanwhile been building up the town's fortifications, and on 10 March he declared martial law. The French arrived on the 16 March and began the siege.
On 8 May 1863 at Battle of San Lorenzo, Bazaine and Márquez defeated Ignacio Comonfort who intended to provide reinforcements to Puebla. Having run out of ammunition and food, González Ortega held a council of war, and it was agreed, with the republican situation hopeless, to surrender on 17 May, after destroying the remaining armaments. All of the officers were taken prisoner and were intended to be transported to France. González Ortega and Porfirio Díaz escaped before being sent out of the country as prisoners.
Upon hearing of the fall of Puebla, President Juárez prepared to evacuate the capital and move the republican government to San Luis Potosi. Congress closed its session on 31 May after granting Juárez emergency powers. The French entered the capital on 10 June 1863.
On 16 June the French government nominated 35 Mexican citizens to constitute a Junta Superior de Gobierno who were then tasked with electing a triumvirate that was to serve as the executive of the new government. The three elected were Juan Almonte, Archbishop Labastida, and Jose Mariano Salas. The Junta was also to choose 215 Mexican citizens who together with the Junta Superior were to constitute an Assembly of Notables that was to decide upon the form of government. On 11 July, the Assembly published its resolutions, that Mexico was to be a constitutional monarchy and that Ferdinand Maximilian was to be invited to accept the Mexican throne. The executive was then officially changed into the Regency of the Mexican Empire.
Although Republican guerrilla forces in the countryside around the capital counted no victories against the French, they maintained a presence. Cuernavaca was captured by imperial forces on 29 July 1863. Republican guerrilla commanders Catarino Fragoso, León Ugalde, and others continued to wage warfare against towns occupied by the French.
Franco-Mexican forces captured Pachuca and Tulancingo in July to serve as bases for expanding operations. Imperialist Juan Chávez under the command of Tómas Mejía defeated the Republican forces of Tomás O'Horán on the road to Guanajuato. O'Horan would then switch sides and join the imperialists. Imperialist colonel José Antonio Rodríguez then captured San Juan de los Llanos in Puebla. The Gulf Coast port of Tampico was captured by French vessels on 11 August 1863. French control of the country still centered on Veracruz and Mexico City but was gradually expanding. By October, advancing combined forces were spreading across the central regions of Mexico from Jalisco to San Luis Potosi to Oaxaca.
In August 1863, Imperialist Mejía captured the town of Actopan, Hidalgo in the state of Mexico in September, and more Imperialist victories in that state followed. Imperialist commander Gavito, managed to disperse republican guerrillas in Cuayuca, and the Imperialist commander Jesús María Visoso defeated Republican guerrillas at Puebla.
Franco-Mexican forces under Leonardo Márquez and de Berthier entered Morelia, Michoacan unopposed on 30 November, after Republican forces had evacuated the city. After reinforcements arrived, the Republican forces led by José López Uraga attempted to recapture Morelia but were defeated by Márquez.
General Mejía captured Querétaro on 17 November, while Republican forces there retreated further north to Guanajuato. Imperialist forces pursued them and Guanajuato was taken on 9 December.
On 22 December, the Republican government evacuated the city of San Luis Potosí and intended to relocate north to the state of Coahuila. Imperialist forces led by Mejía captured the city on 25 December, only to face an assault by Republican forces on the 27 December, which was ultimately defeated.
French general Bazaine occupied the city of Guadalajara on 5 January 1864. The liberal generals Uraga and Ortega remained in the vicinity but carried out no attacks. After French assaults led by General Abel Douay, González Ortega retreated towards Fresnillo, and Uraga westward.
Mexican General Felipe Navarrete of Yucatán proclaimed his support of the Empire, and invaded the state capital of Mérida with the support of French forces, capturing it on 22 January 1864.
Douay, with General Castagny headed north, succeeding in capturing Aguascalientes and Zacatecas by 7 February 1864. Castagny was left in charge of Zacatecas, while Douay went to the relief of Colonel Garnier at Guadalajara. On 16 February, Castagny won a victory at Colotlán in which he took eighty prisoners and Republican General Luis Ghilardi was executed. Republican General and governor of Aguascalientes José María Chávez Alonso was also executed after being captured in Jerez.
Imperialists struggled to hold on to the southern state of Chiapas. The nearby state capital of Tabasco, San Juan Bautista was recaptured by the Republicans on 27 February. The success inspired a republican incursion into Veracruz, succeeding in capturing Minatitlán on 28 March.
On 19 March 1864, the western Mexican commander Manuel Lozada, at the head of indigenous troops of the Tepic district sided with the imperialists.
Douay headed south, pursuing the Republican guerrilla chiefs Simón Gutiérrez and Antonio Rojas, routing the former, and destroying two factories for arms and powder near Cocula. In March, Douay entered Colima.
Republican General Ortega and several guerrilla bands were driven back into the Sierra Hermosa after Manuel Doblado was repulsed by Mejía in Doblado's attempted assault on Monterrey. Doblado fled the country for the United States and died a year later. Mejia was subsequently granted the cross of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon III.
The Emperor and Empress of Mexico arrived in Veracruz in the summer of 1864 and were later crowned in the Cathedral of Mexico City.
Republican General Porfirio Diaz, with three thousand troops defeated the imperialists commander Marcos Toledo at the silver mining town of Taxco on 26 October 1864. Díaz then besieged the brigade of Juan Vicario in the town of Iguala until imperialist reinforcements forced him to abandon the siege. Díaz headed south to his home state of Oaxaca and increased his troops to eight thousand.
The Imperialists now controlled the central Mexican states, containing its major cities, two thirds of the population, rich mines and agricultural lands, and the main centers of manufacturing and trade. The Republicans still controlled the sparsely populated frontier states of the north, where President Juárez still led his government-in-exile in the city of Monterrey. These northern states granted them the considerable revenue coming into the Pacific ports of Manzanillo, Mazatlan, and Guaymas. Arms also flowed in from the U.S. states California and Texas along with mercenaries.
The republicans also still held southern states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tabasco, and Chiapas where troops led by Porfirio Diaz maintained a formidable hold.
The Imperialists now focused on capturing the rest of the north, with troops under General Mejía campaigning along the northern Gulf Coast, supported by Charles Dupin's anti-guerrilla corps at Tampico, and Aymard's brigade at San Luis Potosi. Castagny supported the rear, and the entire operation was headquartered at Querétaro.
On the Pacific Coast, a naval squadron under de Kergrist was ready to cooperate with Douay's troops in Jalisco and sweep north towards Sinaloa. They were aided by quarrels within the Republican military leadership that resulted in José López Uraga being demoted and subsequently joining the Imperialists. On 26 September 1864, the Imperialists captured the port of Bagdad and now controlled every major port in the Gulf. The commander of troops at Bagdad, Juan Cortina then defected to the Imperialists.
Santiago Vidaurri, the governor of Nuevo León and Coahuila had broken with Juárez, as early as March 1864 over the administration and finances of his state, and had even held a referendum on joining the Empire. Republican troops drove him into Texas, but troops loyal to Viduarri remained active in the region. As Republican forces in the north were diverted by Imperial advances. Vidaurrist troops captured Monterrey on 15 August 1864, with President Juárez barely escaping, and pursued as far as Parras in a bullet-riddled carriage. The triumphant Vidaurri then headed towards the capital where he was made a councilor of Emperor Maximilian. By the end of the year the imperialists controlled Nuevo León and the greater part of Coahuila to the banks of the Rio Grande.
On 28 October 1864, imperialist Generals Leonardo Márquez and Douay attacked the army of Republican General Arteaga in the ravine of Atenquique, routing them. A few days later, the Republicans, Simón Gutiérrez and Antonio Rojas were defeated near the U.S. border by the Imperialist Carlos Rivas, with French reinforcements. Márquez occupied Colima and by 18 November 1864, Márquez had captured the port of Manzanillo.
On 12 November 1864, a French squadron under de Kergrist, arrived at Mazatlan and demanded a surrender under the threat of bombardment. At the same time, the imperialist Manuel Lozada besieged the town on land leading to a successful capture.
The imperialist Juan Vicario was repulsed at Chilapa de Álvarez, while on the way to replace the French garrison in the southern, Pacific port of Acapulco, and subsequently the port had to be evacuated and left to the Republicans in December. French vessels succeeded in recapturing Acapulco on 11 September 1864.
The Imperialists however hoped to soon begin operations to dislodge Porfirio Díaz from his stronghold in the south, and began to survey the land and build roads. Towards the end of 1864, General Courtois d'Hurbal entered Oaxaca by way of Yanhuitlan and other columns followed from Orizaba and Mexico City. Díaz was based in Oaxaca City with three thousand regulars, three thousand troops in the mountains, and had converted the city into a fortified camp.
Commander in Chief of the French Forces, Bazaine decided to lead the siege of Oaxaca City in person and by the end of January 1865, the besieging forces numbered seven thousand men. The use of artillery began on 4 February, and an assault was ordered for February 9th. The massing of forces produced a panic in Díaz' men. Díaz was not willing to engage in a hopeless last stand and surrendered. Díaz sent to Puebla and imprisoned, however he escaped seven months later and raised an army in the southern state of Guerrero. This prompted Élie Frédéric Forey, the former Commander of French forces in Mexico, to criticize Bazaine for not executing Díaz. The former Republican General José López Uraga sent a letter to Díaz hoping to win him over to the imperialist cause, arguing that guerrilla warfare was devastating the country and assuring Díaz that Mexican independence was secure under Maximilian. Díaz rejected this offer.
French colonel Mangin remained at Oaxaca and reorganized the civilian government. Imperialist forces would continue to face sporadic conflict with Republican forces led by General Luis Pérez Figueroa.
Michoacan continued to be a Republican stronghold, serving as a base of operations for Nicolás Régules, Manuel García Pueblita, Carlos Salazar Ruiz, and Vicente Riva Palacio, with the latter being named governor by Arteaga who held supreme command of the regional forces. On 31 January, Republican forces under Nicolás Romero was defeated at Apatzingán by Colonel Poiter with a loss of 200 men. On 19 May, Salazar with 400 men defeated a Franco-Mexican force of 700 at Los Reyes. Arteaga occupied Tacámbaro, and León Ugalde and Fermín Valdés captured Zitácuaro. Regulas ventured out into Guanajuato where he was checked and instead hastened back to Michoacan where he captured Tacámbaro on 11 April, where the imperialists lost a significant number of Belgian mercenaries. The connection to Belgium was through Empress Carlota, a Belgian princess and daughter of the Belgian king. The town however was soon taken back. Regules once again ventured out, this time towards Morelia but was checked at Huaniqueo by Potier.
In Jalisco, Douay's operations resulted in Republican guerrilla commander Antonio Rojas being killed on 28 January 1865 at Potrerillos. Franco-Mexican operations led by Douay and Manuel Lozada resulted in the defection of the commander of the Republican Central Forces Miguel María de Echegaray, along with General Rómulo Valle.
In January 1865, Castagny was sent with three thousand men to the Pacific Coast port of Mazatlán to follow up on the Imperialist victory there from the previous November. Fierce warfare ensued with the Republican General Ramón Corona and Lozada was sent to aid Castagny resulting in an Imperialist victory at El Rosario in April, 1865. Corona fled to the north but returned in September to win a victory for the Republicans, at Mazatlán
The success at Mazatlán now allowed the imperialists to turn their attention towards the northwest coast, and Castagny hoped to capture the port of Guaymas. A French squadron landed several hundred men under Colonel Garnier on 29 March. Garnier sent troops by sea to Álamos and managed to gain support among the Yaqui, Mayo, and Opata. Chief Refugio Tánori arrived at Guaymas with reinforcements allowing the imperialists to win the Battle of Álamoson 24 September, and then march into Hermosillo.
The end of the American Civil War in April 1865, with a victory of the North, marked a turning point in the French intervention. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln never recognized the government of Emperor Maximilian but could not materially aid the Republican cause in Mexico until the Civil War ended. Mexican Republican commanders were hopeful that surplus arms and Union troops would soon aid them. Maximilian received a message from the liberal government, hopeful that the U.S. would now aid the Republicans, and advising him that he should leave the country while he still could. President Juárez was now confident of his ultimate victory, writing that "the United States will never permit [Maximilian] to consolidate his power, and his sacrifices and victories will have counted for nothing."
Republicans organized forces in the north with General Miguel Negrete gathering two thousand troops and in early April, capturing Saltillo, and Monterrey, which had been abandoned by the imperialists. Negrete advanced towards Matamoros and was joined by American volunteers, and general Juan Cortina who had previously defected to the Imperialists, yet now defected back to the Republicans. They succeeded in capturing all of the towns along the Rio Grande from Piedras Negras downstream. They got as far as Matamoros upon which they retreated after being faced with General Tomás Mejia and his French reinforcements.
Republican Colonel Pedro José Méndez captured Ciudad Victoria on April 23d, the culmination of a campaign that had begun in January. He subsequently captured Ciudad Tula on 4 June and cut off communications from the imperialist held Tampico.
Bazaine dispatched generals Auguste Henri Brincourt and Baron Neigre towards the Mapimi border in order to go after Negrete. Meanwhile, Colonel Pierre Joseph Jeanningros headed up from San Luis Potosi in order to rendezvous with imperialist forces at Saltillo. Negrete engaged with Jeanningros in a skirmish on 31 May, and retreated. His forces were disbanded in the course of being pursued by the imperialists.
A concentration of U.S. army troops and vessels in Texas along the Rio Grande, led to a surge of imperialist troops along the frontier which only caused guerrilla warfare to flare up in the southern states. A few imperial prefects resigned, unable to govern or defend their respective departments without enough troops.
In August 1865 as French troops were concentrated in the north under Bazaine. Sinaloa was left under the care of one regiment under Colonel Cotteret based in Guaymas, while the surrounding areas were entrusted to Indian allies. Republican General Antonio Rosales was killed in August in an attempt to retake Álamos. but General Corona nonetheless pressed upon the imperialists and succeeded in driving French troops throughout Sinaloa back to Mazatlán.
After the defeat of Negrete, Brincourt had then proceeded towards Chihuahua with two thousand five hundred men. He entered Chihuahua City, then serving as the provisional capital of the Mexican Republic, on 15 August, reorganized the administration, was able to drive President Juárez out, and also provided encouragement to the various indigenous allies of the Empire in the region. Out of fear that a border skirmish would occur with American forces, Bazaine ordered Brincourt to return to Durango within three weeks of reaching Chihuahua. Brincourt believed that leaving a garrison of a thousand men in Chihuahua was enough to pacify the region, but Bazaine repeated his orders, and Brincourt left on 29 October.
On 1 October 1865, the Republican government was able to arrange a loan in New York for $30 million, indicating investors' confidence that the Republic would be able to repay the funds. Volunteers from the U.S. were joining the Republicans. Juárez, now taking refuge at El Paso del Norte on the U.S.-Mexican border, expressed confidence that U.S. pressure could play a decisive role in influencing French withdrawal.
The Imperial government made a major change in the way war was conducted. On 2 October 1865, the imperial government with the signature of the emperor issued the so-called "Black Decree."
The troops under your orders will take no prisoners. Every individual of whatever rank, taken with arms in his hands, shall be put to death. In the future, let there be no exchange of prisoners. Let our soldiers understand that they cannot surrender to such men. This is a death-struggle. On both sides it is only a question of killing or be killed.
Less severe penalties were prescribed for aiding guerrillas and exceptions were made for those who were forced into service or were involved circumstantially.
On 13 October, Imperialist Colonel Ramón Méndez won a victory over the Republicans at Amatlán, and captured the generals Arteaga and Salazar, the latter who ranked as the commander in chief of the Republican army of the center. Méndez took advantage of the recently passed Black Decree to execute both of them.
Mariano Escobedo attempted to take Matamoros on 25 October. Imperialist commander Tomás Mejía hesitated to take the offensive due to the presence of nearby U.S. troops and their sympathy for the Republicans, until French reinforcements arrived and scattered Escobedo's forces on 8 November.
After having stayed El Paso del Norte, Juárez was subsequently able then to return to Chihuahua City on 20 November. Maximilian however had convinced Bazaine to retain Chihuahua and an expedition of five hundred troops then towards the city led by Jean-Baptiste Billot. Juarez was forced to evacuate yet again on 9 December and fled to the American border.
Escobedo then fell back on Monterrey succeeding in capturing the city, but a remnant of imperial forces remained in the citadel and held out until General Pierre Joseph Jeanningros arrived with reinforcements on 25 November, after which the imperialists recaptured Monterrey.
General Mejía and French naval commander Georges Charles Cloué protested to the United States regarding the aid in material, supplies, hospital care and troops being lent to the Republicans but the commandant at Clarksville, at the mouth of the Rio Grande, replied that such troops could no longer be considered as belonging to the United States military. In January 1866, American troops raided Bagdad, a blatant violation of neutrality which resulted in the federal government removing the commandant and disciplining those involved in the raid. The sack of Bagdad would leave the French cautious, and prevent them from active campaigning near the border, instead focusing on consolidating their hold a few strong positions, maintaining communications with French held ports.
At the opening of the French chambers in January 1866, Napoleon III announced that he would withdraw French troops from Mexico. In reply to a French request for neutrality, the U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward replied that French withdrawal should be unconditional. Napoleon assured the American government that the withdrawal would no longer be deferred, laying out a plan to reduce the troops in phases starting in November 1866 and ending one year later in November 1867. Seward then requested that French reinforcements to Mexico should now cease, and that Austria should stop recruiting volunteers for the Mexican expedition. The French and Austrian governments subsequently complied.
Billot retired on 31 January from Chihuahua, leaving the city in charge of Indian allies, but it fell to Republican troops in March. Maximilian commanded Bazaine to retake Chihuahua in May, and a new expedition was prepared. But new withdrawal instructions from France caused the expedition to be abandoned.
French troops were evacuated from Durango by November, and Castagny withdrew to Leon, leading to a loss of the former province to the Republicans. Juárez moved his government south to Durango on 26 December 1866.
In the northwest provinces of Sonora and Sinaloa the French were mostly confined to the ports of Guaymas and Mazatlan, though the imperial General Edvard Emile Langberg held positions in the interior with the aid of the Opata natives. Álamos was captured by the Republican general Ángel Martínez with forces from Sinaloa and dealt out retributions to the indigenous Mayo and Yaqui tribes that had allied themselves with the Empire. He then took back Hermosillo on 4 May only to lose it to the Imperialists the day after. The French withdrew from Guaymas in September, and around the same time Langberg was killed in a battle that led the Republicans to take the town of Ures.
Sonora now fell to the Republicans and hundreds of refugees fled to the United States or tried to retreat with the French. Imperialist commanders Refugio Tánori and José Almada were overtaken and shot with their families by the Republicans.
In July, 1865 Arteaga had advanced towards Tacámbaro with three thousand men where he was routed by Lieutenant Colonel Van der Smissen with fewer than a thousand troops.
In Michoacan, Regules were repeatedly repulsed to the point that his forces dissolved in April 1866. In May however, he resumed operations and made it into the Toluca region, finding allies around Zitacuaro and Guerrero. Acapulco was held on to by the imperialist General Montenegro, but his troops were greatly weakened by fever and desertion.
After Republican general Porfirio Díaz escaped, he fled to Oaxaca and hoped to form a new army. The imperialist prefect Prieto had held on to Tehuantepec since mid-1865 and hoped to turn it into a base for operations. Díaz encroached upon this territory in the Spring of 1866, notably at Jamiltepec and Putla, upon which he sought to cut off communications between Oaxaca and Puebla. Díaz took Teotitlan in August 1866, before he was repulsed by Austro-Mexican forces. In early October, Diaz routed the imperialist general Oronoz, who barely escaped and retreated into Oaxaca City, after which Díaz began a siege. The siege was lifted for a few days to face Austro-Mexican reinforcements, which Díaz defeated, and then captured Oaxaca City on 1 November 1866. From there he completed the capture of Oaxaca and advanced into Puebla.
In the northeast, Republican forces were led by Méndez[clarification needed] who blocked the route to Tampico, Mariano Escobedo who was based north of Linares, and Gonzáles Herrera and Trevino who were based around Parras. After a Republican assault on Parras, the imperialist commander Briant came up from Saltillo, reinstalled the imperialist prefect Campos, on 20 February. He then set out to attack the liberals at Santa Isabel where due to underestimating their forces was routed and captured. The Republicans did not immediately take Parrs, but the French withdrawal allowed them to take the town in June 1866.
At Charco Escondido, Mejia was struggling against Republicans whose forces were being swelled by American soldiers. He was given reinforcements by General Jeanningros in April. Another train of reinforcements led by General Olvera[clarification needed] left Matamoros where they were surrounded and defeated by Republican troops led by Mariano Escobedo near Camargo. Olvera nonetheless managed to retreat to and hold Matamoros, but the Imperialist General Tuce who had arrived with reinforcements from Monterey was obliged to retreat. Mejía was left with 500 men, and ultimately retreated on June 23d with all his men to Veracruz.
In November 1866, Matamoros fell to the Republicans with the aid of U.S. troops. On 9 November, the imperialist Generals Márquez and Miramón returned from Europe to aid in the war effort. By the end of November, the French withdrawal had resulted in the Republicans taking back the North and West of the country.
On 13 November 1866, the French completed their evacuation of Mazatlán. After having aided the evacuation the former imperialist General Lozada retired from the conflict and proclaimed his neutrality.
The Republican commander Méndez who had raided communications between San Luis Potosí and the Gulf of Mexico was killed during an imperialist raid near Tampico. Nonetheless, due to the French withdrawal, the Republican General Aureliano Rivera captured Tampico in May. The French held on to the port but surrendered in July and in August they surrendered Tuxpan. Veracruz was now the only gulf port left under imperialist control.
Monterrey was evacuated by the Imperialists on 25 July 1865, and Saltillo on 4 August.
Douay evacuated Matehuala on 28 October, then being the northernmost imperialist post. Troops were left in San Luis Potosí under Mejía, yet the small prospect of victory induced them to retreat on Christmas Eve to San Felipe in Guanajuato. Castagny reached Guanajuato around the same time, with French forces from Durango and Zacatecas the latter having been evacuated in November.
Veracruz and the roads leading to it had been harassed by Republicans ever since the beginning of 1866, with the beginning of the French withdrawal. There was an Imperialist victory at Papaloapan River, but by August, Tlacotalpan and Alvarado were surrendered to the Republicans. A Republican revolt led by Ignacio Alatorre had been crushed in Papantla and Misantla, but with Republican successes further north, Alatorre rose up again, capturing Jalapa in November. Pachuca was captured by Republicans in November, and Perote fell in January, 1867.
The capital itself became vulnerable in late 1866. Cuautitlán was raided in October, and Chalco and Tlalpan were left exposed to Republican incursions in December, while raiders harassed the stream of imperial soldiers and refugees heading towards Vera Cruz. The Imperialist commander Ortiz de la Peña had retreated to Cuernavaca after a defeat in Ixtla, and Regules and Riva Palacio moved ahead to occupy the Lerma Valley.
Guadalajara was abandoned by the French on 12 December 1866, and imperial forces were left under General Gutiérrez. The imperialists evacuated the city on 19 December, and headed for Guanajuato. The former imperial commander Lozada meanwhile declared the neutrality of the department of Nayarit.
On 19 December 1866, Napoleon III made it known that all troops would now be withdrawn, ahead of the previously laid out schedule.
In late December, the French evacuated Guanjuato, rendezvousing in Querétaro with retreating troops from San Luis Potosi, and then heading towards the port of Vera Cruz. An imperialist garrison under Mejía however remained at Guanajuato, was able to hold a position and keep Republican troops at bay.
Bazaine evacuated Mexico City on 5 February 1867. Vera Cruz was left in charge of the imperial general Pérez Gómez. Vera Cruz was a hub of activity with more than thirty vessels, including transports, mail steamers, and squadron ships in the harbor to help the evacuation. Bazaine and the last of the French troops embarked for Toulon on 12 March.
With the end of the official French presence, the intervention was technically over, and yet the Empire which French troops and their Mexican collaborators had set up would last for a few months more, with the same Mexican generals that had previously fought alongside the French continuing the play a leading role, along with hundreds of Frenchmen who remained as independent mercenaries.
After a council at Orizaba which decided against his abdication, Emperor Maximilian intended to return to Mexico City, first remaining at Puebla for nearly three weeks and making preparations for the campaign. The country was divided into three great military districts the western, comprising the provinces north of Colima, including Durango and Chihuahua; the eastern, stretching from Aguascalientes and Tampico northward; and the central, embracing all the vast remainder to Chiapas. Miramón, who took command of the western district, had already set out to create his army, with little regard for the means to be employed, but Mejía in the east stood at the head of nearly 4,000 men; and Márquez, controlling the center, had 4,000 under Ramón Méndez in Michoacan, and fully 2,000 troops stationed at Puebla, Maximilian assumed the supreme command, and issued orders for the active formation of the new national army as well as a militia.
Unfortunately for the Empire, the Western and Eastern military district were in possession of the Republicans, as well as the region south of Puebla, while the few remaining central provinces were overrun by hostile bands and about to be invaded by the Republican armies. Funds and resources were also lacking. Meanwhile arms and funds from the United States were pouring into the hands of the Republicans.
On 27 January 1867, Miramón triumphantly captured Aguascalientes and nearly succeeded in capturing President Juárez, the retreat of Governor Auza managing to save him. Miramón however, did not intend to advance any further, satisfied with seizing funds from the population and with the diversion he had created among the Republicans, he retired to join Castillo at San Luis Potosí. Republican general Mariano Escobedo figured out his intentions and intercepted him at San Jacinto at 1 February, leading to a complete rout. Miramón escaped with Castillo and took refuge in Querétaro. The Republicans had by then captured Guanajuato, and then Morelia. The Imperialists retreated from Michoacan to the borders of San Luis Potosi and fell back upon Querétaro.
Main article: Siege of Queretaro
Maximilian joined the army at Queretaro along with Minister Aguirre, Leonardo Márquez, and Miguel López with the sum of 50,000 pesos, with 1,600 men and twelve cannons. Maximilian reached Querétaro on 19 February, and was received by enthusiasm Miramón and the other generals who held a formal reception for the emperor.
A few days after his arrival a review of the troops was held, showing 9,000 men with 39 cannon, including about 600 Frenchmen, Miramón was placed at the head of the infantry, of which Castillo and Casanova received each a division, Méndez assuming command of the reserve brigade, in which Miguel López served as colonel, Mejía became chief of the cavalry, Reyes of engineers, and Arellano of the artillery. Márquez, chief of the general staff, was accorded the foremost place, to the affront of Miramón. Maximilian, Miramón, Márquez, Mejía, and Méndez became known as the five magic M's of the Empire.
In the first council of war that had been held on 22 February, it had been agreed to fight the Republicans at once, before their combined forces became too strong, but ultimately this strategy, which historian Bancroft suggests could have achieved victory, was rejected on the advice of Márquez. As the Republicans began to surround Querétaro, Márquez then suggested retreating to Mexico City, still held by the Imperialists, gathering their forces, and facing the Republican armies in one final decisive battle; this was deemed impractical.
On 5 March, the Republican forces came into view of the defenders at Querétaro, and began to prepare for a siege. After the fighting had begun Márquez once again brought up his plan of retreating to Mexico City, but Miramón and others strongly opposed it. Miramón planned to lead a counterattack to recover the hill of San Gregorio on 17 March. When the time arrived however, a false alarm arose that the Imperialist headquarters were under attack, leading to the assault on San Gregorio to be put off.
Miramón now expressed his support for a plan to destroy the Western positions of the Republicans therefore providing a way to retreat if needed. Márquez was assigned to go to Mexico City to seek reinforcements. Miramón was assigned to provide a distraction and on 22 March he led an expedition down the valley, which captured a quantity of provisions. Márquez was able to depart during the night with 1,200 horsemen and Miramón now became the leading general at Querétaro.
After the Imperialists repulsed another Republican assault, leaving the latter with 2,000 deaths, Miramón, during an award ceremony, took one of the medals and asked to decorate the Emperor for his conduct during the battle, which Maximilian accepted, and would go on the wear as the most valued of his decorations.
On 1 April Miramón led a counterattack to the hill of San Gregorio, but lack of reinforcements left the attack without any decisive results.
As any news of Márquez failed to arrive, a mission was sent to Mexico City to see what happened. Miramón urged Maximilian to leave as well but, the emperor chose to stay. The mission failed, and now leading officers outright urged surrender.
The Imperialists now planned to fight their way out of Querétaro, and as preparation Miramón planned an attack on the Cimatario Hill on 27 April, to which he advanced with 2,000 men. The Imperialist repulsed the Republican forces, dispersing thousands and taking 500 prisoners, but the Imperialists squandered vital time planning their next move, and Republican reserves arrived to provide a defeat.
The Imperialists now sought to break through the enemy lines and seek refuge in the mountain range of the Sierra Gorda, and possibly reach the coast. The operation was scheduled to take place on 15 May.
Unfortunately for the Imperialists, before these plans were carried out they were betrayed by Colonel Miguel López, and on the night of 14 May, he opened the gates of Querétaro to the Republican forces in exchange for a sum of gold. Republican troops quickly overwhelmed the city and Miramón, Mejía, and Emperor Maximilian were taken prisoner.
Following a court-martial, Maximilian was sentenced to death. Many of the crowned heads of Europe and other prominent figures (including liberals Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi) sent telegrams and letters to Mexico pleading for Maximilian's life to be spared, but Juárez refused to commute the sentence. He believed he had to send a strong message that Mexico would not tolerate any government imposed by foreign powers.
Maximilian was executed on 19 June (along with his generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía) on the Cerro de las Campanas, a hill on the outskirts of Querétaro, by forces loyal to President Benito Juárez, who had kept the federal government functioning during the French intervention. Mexico City surrendered the day after Maximilian was executed.
The republic was restored, and President Juárez was returned to power in the national capital. He made few changes in policy, given that the progressive Maximilian had upheld most of Juárez's liberal reforms.
After the victory, the Conservative party was so thoroughly discredited by its alliance with the invading French troops that it effectively became defunct. The Liberal party was almost unchallenged as a political force during the first years of the "restored republic". In 1871, however, Juárez was re-elected to yet another term as president in spite of a constitutional prohibition of re-elections. The French intervention ended with the Republican-led government being more stable and both internal and external forces were now kept at bay.
Porfirio Díaz (a Liberal general and a hero of the French war, but increasingly conservative in outlook), one of the losing candidates, launched a rebellion against the president. Supported by conservative factions within the Liberal party, the attempted revolt (the so-called Plan de la Noria) was already at the point of defeat when Juárez died in office on 19 July 1872, making it a moot point. Díaz ran against interim president Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, lost the election, and retired to his hacienda in Oaxaca. Four years later, in 1876, when Lerdo ran for re-election, Díaz launched a second, successful revolt (the Plan de Tuxtepec) and captured the presidency. He held it through eight terms until 1911 now known as the Porfiriato. After many decades of civil wars, Mexico had finally exhausted itself and the general Porfirio Díaz had forced peace through his regime with no big rebellions or coups occurring.
France's adventure in Mexico had improved relations with Austria through Maximilian but produced no result as France had politically alienated itself in the international community. During 1866, Prussia went to war with France's indirect ally Austria, which was promptly defeated while French troops were still in Mexico unable to affect the situation in Europe. As for Napoleon's empire, it would later collapse in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war.
As early as 1859, U.S. and Mexican efforts to ratify the McLane-Ocampo Treaty had failed in the bitterly divided U.S. Senate, where tensions were high between the North and the South over slavery issues. Such a treaty would have allowed U.S. construction in Mexico and protection from European forces in exchange for a payment of $4 million to the heavily indebted government of Benito Juárez. On 3 December 1860, President James Buchanan had delivered a speech stating his displeasure at being unable to secure Mexico from European interference:
European governments would have been deprived of all pretext to interfere in the territorial and domestic concerns of Mexico. We should have thus been relieved from the obligation of resisting, even by force, should this become necessary, any attempt of these governments to deprive our neighboring Republic of portions of her territory, a duty from which we could not shrink without abandoning the traditional and established policy of the American people.
United States policy did not change during the French occupation as it had to use its resources for the American Civil War, which lasted 1861 to 1865. President Abraham Lincoln expressed his sympathy to Latin American republics against any European attempt to establish a monarchy. Shortly after the establishment of the imperial government in April 1864, United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, while maintaining U.S. neutrality, expressed U.S. discomfort at the imposition of a monarchy in Mexico: "Nor can the United States deny that their own safety and destiny to which they aspire are intimately dependent on the continuance of free republican institutions throughout America."
On 4 April 1864, Congress passed a joint resolution:
Resolved, &c., That the Congress of the United States are unwilling, by silence, to leave the nations of the world under the impression that they are indifferent spectators of the deplorable events now transpiring in the Republic of Mexico; and they therefore think fit to declare that it does not accord with the policy of the United States to acknowledge a monarchical government, erected on the ruins of any republican government in America, under the auspices of any European power.
Near the end of the American Civil War, representatives at the 1865 Hampton Roads Conference briefly discussed a proposal for a north–south reconciliation by a joint action against the French in Mexico. In 1865, through the selling of Mexican bonds by Mexican agents in the United States, the Juárez administration raised between $16-million and $18-million dollars for the purchase of American war material. Between 1865 and 1868, General Herman Sturm acted as an agent to deliver guns and ammunition to the Mexican Republic led by Juárez. In 1866 General Philip Sheridan was in charge of transferring additional supplies and weapons to the Liberal army, including some 30,000 rifles directly from the Baton Rouge Arsenal in Louisiana.
By 1867, Seward shifted American policy from thinly veiled sympathy for the republican government of Juárez to open threat of war to induce a French withdrawal. Seward had invoked the Monroe Doctrine and later stated in 1868, "The Monroe Doctrine, which eight years ago was merely a theory, is now an irreversible fact."
At its peak in 1863, the French expeditionary force counted 38,493 men : 740 (which represented 16.25% of the French army). 6,654 : 231 French died, including 4,830 from disease.: 231 Among these losses, 1,918 of the deaths were from the regiment of the French Foreign Legion.: 267
Général de Division Forey
Units not yet arrived:
This corps was officially designated as the "Belgian Volunteers", but generally known as the "Belgian Legion".
While officially designated as the Austrian Voluntary Corps, this foreign contingent included Hungarian, Polish and other volunteers from the Danube Monarchy. It consisted of:
This unit was commonly designated as the "Egyptian Battalion". It consisted of 453 men (including troops recruited from the Sudan), who were placed under the command of French commandant Mangin of the 3rd Zouave Regiment. Operating effectively in the Veracruz region, the Corps suffered 126 casualties until being withdrawn to Egypt in May 1867.
Maximilian protested the loss of the Egyptian Corps, ostensibly to suppress a rebellion in the Sudan, because they were "extremely helpful in the hot lands".
Making up this contingent were:: 103
At least one Romanian, an officer, served with the French forces. Captain Yarka of the Romanian Army served with the 3rd Regiment of Chasseurs d'Afrique as a volunteer, keeping the same rank. In April 1863, Yarka engaged a Republican ("Juariste") Colonel in one-on-one combat, killing him. Yarka himself was wounded. In contemporary French sources, he is referred to as Wallachian ("Valaque").