Battle of Las Salinas
Battle of Las Salinas was a military conflict and decisive
confrontation between the forces of Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro
against those of rival conquistador Diego de Almagro, on April 26,
1538, during the Conquest of Peru. Both camps claimed to represent the
authority of the Spanish Crown; Pizarro's forces controlled the
province of Nueva Castilla, and those of Almagro, Nueva Toledo.
After an hour of carnage, the battle yielded a victory for Pizarro's
forces: with Almagro captured and his lieutenant, Rodrigo Orgóñez
killed on the field of battle, the Pizarros routed the enemy and took
possession of Cuzco. Almagro was executed in July 1538.
2 The battle
The conflict between the
Pizarro brothers and Almagro originated in a
dispute over the possession of the city of
Cuzco during the initial
Spanish partition and administration of Peru. While Almagro controlled
the city from 1537, both considered it under their jurisdiction.
Almagro's enterprise had won him several earlier battles, but although
he succeeded in taking the city by a coup de main, Pizarro's forces
were by far the stronger in the region, leaving him with few options
for its defence. Almagro, his fortunes on the wane, invalided by a
debilitating disease, turned to
Rodrigo Orgóñez to carry out the
Almagro's men made their first mistake by failing to secure the
Guaitara pass guarding the approach to Cuzco; their enemy, braving the
mountains, made a crossing and appeared in force along the coast. At a
war council in Cuzco, Almagro even considered a new round of
negotiations with the Pizarros; Orgóñez is said to have interrupted:
"It is too late; you have liberated Hernando Pizarro, and nothing
remains but to fight him."
Accordingly, Orgóñez marched his 500 men toward the ancient Indian
salt mines of Cachipampa, situated about 5 km south of Cuzco. His
choice of battlefield has been subject to criticism in that the broken
terrain limited the use of his cavalry, which accounted for over half
his force. The infantry, furthermore, was short on weapons and many
armed themselves only with pikes. A battery of six falconet, on the
other hand, gave him a marked advantage over his foes.
Pizarro's army consisted largely of infantry and numbered about 700.
His cavalry was outmatched by Almagro's strong force of seasoned
cavaliers, but in addition to veteran conquistadors he could rely on a
contingent of Imperial arquebusiers recently arrived from Santo
Domingo. These redoubtable troops carried large-calibre firearms newly
developed for the bloody fighting in Flanders.
Orgóñez placed his infantry in the centre and a division of cavalry
on each wing. Pizarro's army mirrored this deployment, with Alonso de
Alvarado commanding one corps of cavalry and
Hernando Pizarro the
Gonzalo Pizarro led the battalion of infantry which spearheaded
the first attack across the small river separating the two armies.
Fire from Orgóñez's guns bit into Gonzalo's column and threw it into
disorder, but the swampy ground prevented Orgóñez's cavalry from
exploiting this advantage. Meanwhile, Pizarro's Imperial troops,
gaining the other side, opened a murderous fire of double-headed shot
on their enemies.
With the infantry locked in combat in the marshes, both Pizarro and
Orgóñez brought forth their cavalry. On both sides, the left and
right wings of cavalry merged into single columns under Orgóñez on
one hand and Pizarro on the other. An epic shock followed as the two
bodies met at full gallop, the men variously shouting "¡El Rey y
Almagro!" or "¡El Rey y Pizarro!" Orgóñez, in the thick of the
desperate fighting, was shot, unhorsed, and murdered while offering
his surrender. His death unhinged his cavalry, which began to fall
back in confusion despite its superiority.
Almagro's infantry, meanwhile, stood no chance against the superior
firepower of Pizarro's men and, after an hour of brave fighting, began
to scatter in the direction of Cuzco. Almagro watched the rout from
his litter on a hill: "With an agony not to be described, he had seen
his faithful followers, after their hard struggle, borne down by their
opponents till, convinced that all was lost, he succeeded in mounting
a mule, and rode off for a temporary refuge to the fortress of
^ Prescott, p. 1054. Some authorities put the dead at 200. Many more
were wounded on both sides, but the cavaliers seemed almost not to
notice their injuries: "No account is given of the wounded. Pedro de
Lerma is said to have received seventeen, yet was taken alive from the
^ Prescott, p. 1050. Almagro had captured Pizarro in a previous battle
but had set him free in an attempt to come to an understanding with
^ Prescott, p. 1050
^ Prescott, p. 1053. Prescott gives the generous epitaph: "Thus
perished as loyal a cavalier, as decided in council, and as bold in
action, as ever crossed to the shores of America."
^ Prescott, p. 1054
William H. Prescott
William H. Prescott (2006). History Of The Conquest Of Peru.
BiblioBazaar. ISBN 1-4264-0