Jim Chevallier's Web Site



BESIDE BOLIVAR: The Edecán Demarquet


When Ducoudray refers to Demarquet as “captain”, he may be being careless about either the date or Demarquet's rank. Other sources say that he was not made captain until 1819:

In 1819, he joined the general staff (etat-major) with the rank of captain, under O'leary.
On April 20, 1819 he arrived in the city of Angostura, from Apure, bearing important dispatches and news of the victory of the Republicans on April 2 in the action of the Queseras del Medios. At that time, Demarquet was aide de camp of the Liberator and obtained the post of captain of cavalry. The news, brought by an envoy from Bolivar, was celebrated at Angostura by the ringing of bells and salvos of artillery.
Héctor Bencomo Barrios, Los Heroes de Carabobo

This began a steady progression of promotions, the next two years later:

On 15 June 1821, by the general order issued in San Carlos, the Liberator named him Deputy to the General Staff and, with this position, we see him at the final battle of the liberation of Venezuela.

The “final battle” was the battle of Carabobo, on June 24, 1821, celebrated in Venezuala today as Battle of Carabobo Day or "Army Day”.

Of the countless battles won by Bolivar in the course of liberating the Spanish colonies in the South American continent, perhaps Carabobo was the most important.
For, if each of these victories was the result of the Liberator's superior military genius, and if at Boyacá the elements of his triumph in crossing the Andes were audacity, surprise and improvisation, offsetting the patriot army's almost complete lack of food supplies, military equipment and adequate clothing, at Carabobo these three important factors prevailed: foresight, organization and military strategy superior to that of the enemy.
To these three factors could be added another, without which success might not have been attained-luck. For it is a proven fact that to achieve success in any human activity, including business as well as games of chance, such as cards, there is requisite, over and above the factor of knowledge, another indispensable ingredient-luck!
The combination of these two elements was decisive for Bolivar. Thus, at Carabobo, preparedness, audacity and superb strategy, together with this last ingredient, fortune, resulted in his smashing victory.
Carabobo was the climactic battle in which this colossus, operating in a territory ravaged by ten years of bloody warfare, where one-third of the populace had been annihilated, and totally lacking the resources to provide even the essentials for subsistence, he created, in less than two years (the period between Boyacá and Carabobo) an army capable of destroying the military strength of the royalist armies in Venezuela, then considered the most powerful fighting forces in all of Spanish America, from Mexico to Patagonia.
Daniel A. Del Río, Pages of Glory on Simón Bolívar, The Southamerican Washington

Del Rio talks at some length about how organization and careful planning helped Bolivar triumph here. It is very likely at this point that Demarquet played, as he would later, a key role in such unglamorous but essential efforts. However, his specific role is little documented. Even the Venezuelan document cited above says little about his part in this battle, even as it lists him among “The Heroes of Carabobo”.

By 1822, he was enough of a key player to be implicated in internal struggles. Odriozola names him as, in effect, one of several flunkies helping to spread malicious rumors in May of that year:

The forge of the hostile rumors which spread against the division was in the offices of General Torres and Florès and their satellites, the Colonels Pedro Marueitio, Vicente Gonzalez, Leon Cordero and Demarquet. However they could they were bent on attributing to the division improper or even quite hostile views.
Manuel de Odriozola, Documentos

The little respect and great ill feeling implied in such a remark gives a hint of what Boussingault meant when he said “he suffered much in the milieu in which circumstances obliged him to live“. As he took unpopular actions on behalf of more powerful figures, Demarquet may often have found himself the target of similar comments. But Bolivar's regard for him only grew.

One evidence of this is that he was one of the few people present at the Guayaquil Conference, an important, if slightly mysterious, meeting between Bolivar and San Martin:

Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan, and José de San Martín, Argentinian, met at Guayaquil, Ecuador, on July 26 and 27, 1822. Since then discussion has been rife in the Latin American press and in historical publications as to what actually took place at these meetings, where the two Liberators conferred in private-with no witnesses to their talks. However, much substantive information can be derived from three documents written immediately after the second meeting and dated July 29, 1822. Two of these are official communications from Bolívar's Chief Secretary, to the Colombian Government in Bogotá, and to General Sucre in Quito, giving a detailed account of the discussions; the third is a personal letter addressed by Bolívar to General Santander, Acting President of Colombia during Bolívar's absence. This letter confirms the statements of the two official communications.
Del Rio, “The Guayaquil Meeting of Bolívar and San Martín”

Lara cites Demarquet's presence there: “Demarquet, who would later be one of Bolivar's aides-de-camp and a man who had all his trust, as that of marshal Sucre, the secretary general of San Martin, the Frenchman Soyez accompanied [Bolivar] in the meeting. These two officials, Demarquet and Soyez, would give firsthand information on the historic interview to their young compatriot, author of the Letter of Lafon.” A. Darío Lara, La vitrina de un país sobre el mundo This is an error for “Lafond”, who, in his own work, says that he obtained the details from "Bolivar's aide-de-camp, who served him as secretary on this occasion".

Another promotion came that year:

In August 1822, Bolivar appointed him Adjutant General of the General Staff. Both were in Guayaquil.

Yet, for unknown reasons, Demarquet, however briefly, retired, as per a note from December 1822: “22--Ibarra_ Bolivar orders the Intendente Aguirre to pay 100 pesos to the retired Lieutenant Colonel don Carlos Eloy Demarquet on account for back wages.” Boletin de la Academia Nacional de Historia, VOl. XVIII, January-June 1924, 195. (It was probably on this occasion that he gave a hint of his literary culture: “Demarquet added a verse from his compatriot Racine - D'autres temps, d'autres soins... - when he wanted to express his sentiments in having been obliged to momentarily separate himself from service” Vila, 97.)

This “separation” did not last long. Barrios says that in February1823, Demarquet was made a lieutenant colonel of cavalry in February of that year. Barrios. (According to the note above, he was already a lieutenant colonel when he retired, so he may simply have returned to service at this rank.)

In the same year, he went to Quito, probably for the first time. Laffite-Carles His engagement that same year at once sealed his bond with that city. Bolivar too was cementing his local bonds. An Ecuadorian writer says that the battle that took place at this time was central to Bolivar's relationship with that country. Finally, the bond between the two men too became stronger, even a matter of course; in the correspondence of this period, Demarquet already begins to appear as the Liberator's intermediary:

Of the key tasks we discussed in the previous lines, the first, the strengthening of our independence with the subjugation of the rebel Pasto, the Liberator, personally, would achieve in the bloody battle of Ibarra of July 17, 1823 against the armies of the warlords Mercanchano and Agualongo, who had gone far ahead to within about twenty miles of the capital, threatening the city of Quito, still young in its life of freedom. The battle of Ibarra or Tahua Bridge, is important for the Ecuador-Bolivar relationship, because there, for the first time, the lancers of Quito shone in the regiments of Granaderos and Guías, under the direct command of the Liberator himself. It is also in our country the only armed action in which Bolivar personally was involved....
The response of Ecuador to Bolivar's call was formidable, all without exception, rich and poor, young and old, noblemen and commoners applied to take up arms and to train in their use. The Liberator's recognition of this patriotic response to his call for militias was recorded in his famous proclamation of 28 June 1823....
On July 17 at 2 pm, at the very doors of Ibarra, Bolivar ordered the attack and it was carried out with so much skill and speed, that in a moment the enemy was completely defeated and dispersed, despite its fierce resistance. Eight hundred bodies were left on the adversaries' field.
Colonel Demarquet, Bolívar's aide, includes the following paragraph in the account of the battle he sent to the Secretary of War and Navy of the Great Colombia: "I just want to express to you the satisfaction H. E. had in seeing the prodigies of valor done by the cavalry, and the admirable patriotism shown by this people helping the troops by every means possible, leaving the enemy in perfect ignorance of our movements, capturing the defeated, and finally collecting all the weapons and the spoils that those wretches left in their hasty flight.”

Alfredo Luna Tobar, Ecuador y Bolivar, 65

This is only one of numerous communications signed by Demarquet at this time:

On 18 July 1823, he signs an official letter from Bolivar for the Brigadier General Bartolomé Salom, by which orders Salom continued to command the Republican army and was directed to Pasto to pacify it.

It was during the “pacification” of Pasto that Demarquet is said to have wept over a harsh sentence. He may have hardened himself, however, to other sufferings. By some accounts, this campaign was particularly brutal. Rufino says that the local population bitterly resisted and was as bitterly repressed:

Salom and his successors Florès and Obando met the watchword in great cruelty...
Persecution was the order: thus, the Acting Secretary of Bolivar, C. E. Demarquet, ordered Colonel Heres from Tacambuco, 16 July 1823, to apprehend Francisco Aguirre by all possible means, and that if present, he would be sent to Spain, and if not, to authorize any citizen to take his life or betray him to be shot, and added that if he was not found all his assets would be confiscated and his family sent to Quito.

Gutiérrez Rufino, Monografías de Rufino Gutiérrez. Tomo I

He also quotes a later letter from Bolivar to Santander on October 21, 1825:

The Pasto must be destroyed, their women and children transported to another area, making that region a military colony. Otherwise Colombia will remind the people of Pasto when there is the least uprising or disturbance be it in a hundred years, they will never forget our ravages, only too well deserved.

As described by Rufino, at least, this campaign against a local insurgency recalls the French Revolutionaries' repression of the Vendée or even the harsher measures taken by American troops against supporters of the Viet Cong.

Whatever Demarquet's feelings about specific measures, however, he was first and foremost Bolivar's loyal aide and his overriding concern was to see that the Liberator's objective was attained. At this point, he played a central part in accomplishing that. During the whole period from July to the start of August 1823, Demarquet signed a flurry of orders, circulars, etc.; read in sequence today these suggest a long email thread. They are addressed to officers, judges, generals, intendentes, etc. and show Demarquet as the efficient aide keeping a tight watch on his boss' business:

To the Intendente of Panama
H. E. asks for the war munitions which were being sent to Guayaquil, and also asks Y. E. for a thousand rifles in addition to those intended for the defense of the Isthmus, always those in surplus in the State warehouses or in the hands of the country's militias, since H. E. does not want under any pretext to take them out of the hands of the veteran troops of this garrison. H. E. commands me to tell you that he expects the strictest execution of this order, because circumstances demand it, being poorer every day, all the veteran troops having marched for Peru with all the arms which were on the Colombian coast.
C. E. Demarquet
Quito, June 27, 1823

To the Commander of the Warship "Guayaquilena", Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Wright.
Foul Pasto has again risen up since having had some success against Colonel Florès. As a result H. E. has headed for this city by post, leaving as a rear guard his General Staff and Secretariat and has put me in charge of it for the time being.
H. E. order that as soon as you receive this order you gather and land the troops commanded by Colonel Carvajal, in the port of Barbacoas, in that that of Esmeraldas, choosing that which is closest. Once you have executed this landing continue with the attached packet and without losing time for the port of Panama in order to receive there rifles and ammunition which you will take with the same dispatch to Guayaquil for the use of the Intendente of that Department.
... Quito Headquarters, June 27, 1823.--
C. E. Demarquet
To the Political Magistrate of the Department of Ibarra.
H. E. the Liberator President, aware of the great urgencies of State to maintain the army working against Pasto, and in which this canton is presently the most interested by the approach of the enemy, has wanted to send to require a four thousand peso donation to this neighborhood, for the execution of which he has commissioned Y. This quantity must be distributed between the powerful people or those known to be disaffected, to those who point them out the double or the triple with respect to those who are not. Understand by disaffected those who have relations with the Spanish government, by their families, by their employment or by persecutions by the patriotic Government...
...Otavalo, July 8, 1823
C. E. Demarquet

To General Bartolome Salom.
I have the honor of sharing with Y. that H. E. the Liberator has seen your messages from yesterday, and orders me to answer you as a result, that he thanks Y. for your good behavior in service, but lets you know at the same time he will in no way compromise your part, since he already know your views. It was not without disgrace that the enemy, knowing the small number of Herran's party, ambushed some of them or surprised them and destroyed them. You must have him present himself and warn him how much he will lose by taking risks and giving the enemy advantages in the only system of war that he knows, and that to the contrary he will win by not risking a single of our soldiers, succeeding also in keeping the pastusos under the illusion that he fears them....
... Otabalo, June 8, 1823
C. E. Demarquet

Etc. For this period, pages and pages of these appear, most couched quite clearly as the Liberator's wishes O'Leary.

Paradoxically, these serve to illustrate why Demarquet's role has been less known that it might have: often, his voice was indistinguishable from the Liberator's. It is clear in most of this writing that, whoever decided the action being ordered, the order was to be regarded as coming from Bolivar himself. How true this was in practice is probably lost in the intimacy of their collaboration. But anyone who has worked in an organization of any size has witnessed the phenomenon of a leader not only speaking through a close aide, but delegating many daily decisions to that person. This may have been all the more true of Bolivar, who "admitted to having the habit of signing his letters without examining them and of dictating several simultaneously: I signed the letter without reading, as I did quite frequently when I was in a hurry." José Luis Salcedo Bastardo, Un Continente y un Destino n50

It was sometime in this year that Demarquet met his wife and in this year or the next that he married her. His first two sons were probably born around this time and money was no doubt a concern. This may have inspired his first steps into business: "Demarquet formed a commercial company with Mariano Maldonado and on November 24, 1824 they signed a document by which the Frenchman gave him 5000 pesos 'to buy merchandise in Jamaica' " Fernando Jurado Noboa, Un soldado de Bolívar en Ambato: Ignacio Holguín Sánchez. He had probably retired from service again by then; he was certainly retired by 1825 when the House of Representatives in Bogotá “denied a request made by him to receive his back wages, for not having 'checked them properly' ”, and another effort by him in the same sense was also given a negative response. We suppose the then lieutenant colonel Demarquet did not meet the requirements of law for that kind of recognition.” Sergio Elías Ortiz, Franceses en la independencia de la Gran Colombia, Bogotá, 1971, 189-190.

Perhaps at this point Bolivar stepped in? One source says that in December 1825, Demarquet was the governor of Otavalo . If so however, nothing of note seems to have marked his time there. Returning to Bogotá, he tried unsuccessfully to join the House of Representatives.

In the year of 1826, he rejoined the army in Lima, still in the general staff and in more favor with the Liberator, who made him his “ad interim clerk'“ In that year he was sent on a mission to Quito as a good fixer of the differences between the politicians.

On June 1 of 1826, Bolivar wrote Fernando Penalver, an early collaborator in his struggle, from Lima. Bolivar added at the end: “Demarquet kisses you.” Such a salutation between Latin males is common enough. But for Demarquet, whose correspondence tends to be formal, this was very unusual. It seems to imply that he was particularly close to Penalver, even if no other mention confirms this. At any rate, he was now again at the Liberator's side.


<== return to Demarquet's role... --- TABLE OF CONTENTS --- continue to The Dictator ==>