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An extremely rare Argentinian-Uruguayan gilt and bronze relief carved Rhea's egg commemorating the Battle of Obligado, 1845

 

Montevideo, circa 1848

The carving on the egg commemorates the battle of Obligado, Argentina, 20 November 1845. The inscription in relief reads: “En mémoire de la bataille de Lobligado, gagnée le 20 Novembre 1845 par cinq batiments Francais sous les ordres du Capitaine de Vesseau Trehouart, et cinq batiments Anglais sous le commendement du Capitaine de Vesseau Otham, sur 3000 hommes de troupes Argentines, defendans quatre batteries redoutables dans la position la plus avantageuse de la riviere Parana. Après un combat meutrier l’ennemi abandonna les batteries ayans perdu environ 1000 hommes dans l’action. Montevideo le premier Janvier 1848 Amerique de Sud”.

H. approx. 38 cm

 

Provenance:
Collection Jacob Olie Jbzn, Amsterdam (circa 1880)

 

The naval Battle of Vuelta de Obligado took place on the waters of the Paraná River on November 20, 1845, between the Argentine Confederation, under the leadership of Juan Manuel de Rosas, and an Anglo-French fleet.

 

During the 1830s and 1840s, the British and French governments were at odds with Rosas' leadership of the Argentine Confederation. Rosas' economic policies of protecting the national industry with high tariffs, combined with his attempts to incorporate Paraguay and Uruguay to the Confederation, were in conflict with French and British economic interests in the region. During his government, Rosas had to face numerous problems with these foreign powers, which in some cases reached levels of open confrontation. These incidents included two naval blockades, the French blockade in 1838, and the Anglo-French of 1845.

 

With the development of steam-powered sailing (which mainly took place in Great Britain, France and the USA) in the third decade of the 19th century, large merchant and military ships became capable of sailing up rivers at a good speed and with a heavy load. Lord Palmerston was the first to propose the use of steamers for commerce along the internal waters of Argentina in 1841. This technology allowed the British and French governments to avoid Argentine custom houses in Buenos Aires by sailing directly through the La Plata estuary and engaging in commerce directly with the Argentinian inland cities. This avoided taxation, guaranteed special rights for the Europeans and allowed them to export their products cheaply.

 

Rosas' government tried to stop this practice by declaring the Argentine rivers closed to foreign countries, barring access to Paraguay and other ports in the process. The British and French governments did not acknowledge this declaration and decided to defy Rosas by sailing upstream with a joint fleet, setting the stage for the battle.

 

The battle had a great impact on the continent. Chile and Brazil changed their stance (until then they were against Rosas) and supported the Confederation. Even some Unitarian leaders, traditional enemies of the Argentine caudillo, were moved by the events, with General Martiniano Chilavert offering to join the Confederacy army.

 

France and the United Kingdom eventually lifted the blockade and dropped their attempts to bypass Buenos Aires' policies. They acknowledged the Argentine government's legal right over the Paraná and other internal rivers, and its authority to determine who had access to it, in exchange for the withdrawal of Rosas's army from Uruguay.

 

The Battle of Obligado is remembered in Argentina on 20 November, which was declared a "Day of National Sovereignty" in 1974 and became a national holiday in 2010. The French Paris Metro had a station named after this battle until 1947, when it was renamed Argentine, as a goodwill gesture after the visit of Eva Perón to France.

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Sources:

- Marley, David (1998), Wars of the Americas: a chronology of armed conflict in the New World, 1492 to the present, ABC-CLIO

- Mansilla, Lucio Victorio (1994), Mis memorias y otros escritos [My memories and other writings] (in Spanish), Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación; Lugar Editorial

- De León, Pablo (2008), Historia de la Actividad Espacial en la Argentina [History of the spatial activity in Argentina] (in Spanish), Lulu

- Chapman, J (1889), The Westminster Review, vol. 131