Major Battles of Mexico's Independence From Spain

Years of Fighting to Make Mexico Free

Miguel Hidalgo's close up on a thousand pesos bill
Miguel Hidalgo's close up on a thousand pesos bill.

maogg / Getty Images

Between 1810 and 1821, Mexico's Spanish colonial government and people were in turmoil due to rising taxes, unexpected droughts and freezes, and political instability in Spain caused by the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. Revolutionary leaders like Miguel Hidalgo and Jose Maria Morelos led a mostly agrarian-based guerrilla war against the royalist elites in the cities, in what some scholars see as an extension of an independence movement in Spain.

The decade-long struggle included some setbacks. In 1815, the restoration of Ferdinand VII to the throne in Spain brought the reopening of sea communications. The re-establishment of Spanish authority in Mexico seemed inevitable. However, between 1815 and 1820, the movement was entangled with the collapse of imperial Spain. In 1821, the Mexican Creole Augustin de Iturbide published the Triguarantine Plan, laying out a plan for independence.

Mexico's independence from Spain came at a high cost. Thousands of Mexicans lost their lives fighting both for and against the Spanish between 1810 and 1821. Here are some of the most important battles of the first years of the insurgency which ultimately led to independence.

of 03

The Siege of Guanajuato

The Siege of Guanajuato
Wikimedia Commons

On September 16, 1810, rebel priest Miguel Hidalgo took to the pulpit in the town of Dolores and told his flock that the time had come to take up arms against the Spanish. In minutes, he had an army of ragged but determined followers. On September 28, this massive army arrived at the rich mining city of Guanajuato, where all of the Spaniards and colonial officials had barricaded themselves inside the fortress-like royal granary. The massacre that followed was one of the ugliest of Mexico's struggle for independence.

of 03

Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende: Allies at Monte de las Cruces

Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende
Wikimedia Commons

With Guanajuato in ruins behind them, the massive rebel army led by Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende set their sights on Mexico City. Panicked Spanish officials sent for reinforcements, but it looked like they would not arrive in time. They sent every able-bodied soldier out to meet the rebels to buy some time. This improvised army met the rebels at Monte de ​Las Cruces, or "Mount of the Crosses," so-called because it was a place where criminals were hung. The Spanish were outnumbered anywhere from ten-to-one to forty-to-one, depending on which estimate of the size of the rebel army you believe, but they had better weapons and training. Although it took three offensives launched against stubborn opposition, the Spanish royalists eventually conceded the battle. 

of 03

The Battle of Calderon Bridge

Ignacio Allende leads his troops into battle
Painting by Ramon Perez.

 Wikimedia Commons

In early 1811, there was a stalemate between rebel and Spanish forces. The rebels had massive numbers, but determined, trained Spanish forces proved tough to defeat. Meanwhile, any losses inflicted on the rebel army were soon replaced by Mexican peasants, unhappy after years of Spanish rule. Spanish General Felix Calleja had a well-trained and equipped army of 6,000 soldiers: probably the most formidable army in the New World at the time. He marched out to meet the rebels and the two armies clashed at Calderon Bridge outside of Guadalajara. The unlikely royalist victory there sent Hidalgo and Allende fleeing for their lives and lengthened the struggle for independence.


Blaufarb R. 2007. The Western Question: The Geopolitics of Latin American Independence. The American Historical Review 112(3):742-763.

Hamill HM. 1973. Royalist Counterinsurgency in the Mexican War for Independence: The Lessons of 1811. The Hispanic American Historical Review 53(3):470-489.

Vázquez JZ. 1999. The Mexican Declaration of Independence. The Journal of American History 85(4):1362-1369.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Minster, Christopher. "Major Battles of Mexico's Independence From Spain." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Minster, Christopher. (2020, August 27). Major Battles of Mexico's Independence From Spain. Retrieved from Minster, Christopher. "Major Battles of Mexico's Independence From Spain." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).