Battle of Puebla - HISTORY
Year
1862

Battle of Puebla

During the French-Mexican War (1861-1867), an outnumbered Mexican army defeats a powerful invading French force at the small town of Puebla de Los Angeles. The retreat of the French troops at the Battle of Puebla represented a great moral victory for the people of Mexico, symbolizing the country’s ability to defend its sovereignty against a powerful foreign nation.

Benito Juarez and Napoleon III

In 1861, Benito Juarez became president of Mexico, a country in financial ruin, and he was forced to default on his debts to European governments. In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement.

Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to carve a dependent empire out of Mexican territory. Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Juarez and his government into retreat.

Certain that French victory would come swiftly in Mexico, 6,000 French troops under General Charles de Lorencez set out in May, 1862, to attack Puebla de Los Angeles. From his new headquarters in the north, Juarez rounded up a ragtag force of loyal men and sent them to Puebla.

Zaragoza Defeats French Invaders

Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, the 2,000 Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the assault by the well-equipped French force.

On the fifth of May, or Cinco de Mayo, Lorencez gathered his army and began an attack from the north side of Puebla.

The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening. After Lorencez realized his superior French force had lost nearly 500 soldiers, while fewer than 100 Mexican troops had been killed, he completely withdrew his defeated army.

Battle of Puebla and Cinco de Mayo

Though not a major strategic victory in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza’s victory at Puebla galvanized Mexican resistance, and six years later France withdrew. Later that same year, Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who had been installed as emperor of Mexico by Napoleon in 1864, was captured and executed by a firing squad.

Puebla de Los Angeles, the site of Zaragoza’s historic victory, was renamed Puebla de Zaragoza in honor of the general. Today, Mexicans (and Mexican Americans) celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla as Cinco de Mayo, a holiday in the state of Puebla.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Napoleon dies in exile

Napoleon Bonaparte, the former French ruler who once ruled an empire that stretched across Europe, dies as a British prisoner on the remote island of Saint Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean.The Corsica-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, ...read more

Six killed in Oregon by Japanese bomb

In Lakeview, Oregon, Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five neighborhood children are killed while attempting to drag a Japanese balloon out the woods. Unbeknownst to Mitchell and the children, the balloon was armed, and it exploded soon after they began tampering with it. They were the ...read more

IRA militant Bobby Sands dies

On May 5, 1981, imprisoned Irish-Catholic militant Bobby Sands dies after refusing food for 66 days in protest of his treatment as a criminal rather than a political prisoner by British authorities. His death immediately touched off widespread rioting in Belfast, as young ...read more

The first American in space

From Cape Canaveral, Florida, Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. is launched into space aboard the Freedom 7 space capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space. The suborbital flight, which lasted 15 minutes and reached a height of 116 miles into the ...read more

U.S. forces capture Snoul, Cambodia

In Cambodia, a U.S. force captures Snoul, 20 miles from the tip of the “Fishhook” area (across the border from South Vietnam, 70 miles from Saigon). A squadron of nearly 100 tanks from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and jet planes virtually leveled the village that had been ...read more

Cy Young throws perfect game

On May 5, 1904, Boston Red Sox pitcher Cy Young throws a perfect game against the Detroit Tigers, who had fellow future Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell on the mound. This was the first perfect game of the modern era; the last had been thrown by John Montgomery Ward in 1880. It ...read more

Sitting Bull leads his people into Canada

Nearly a year after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull and a band of followers cross into Canada hoping to find safe haven from the U.S. Army.On June 25, 1876, Sitting Bull’s warriors had joined with other Indians in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana, ...read more

Hail storm surprises Dallas residents

The Dallas, Texas, area is hit by torrential rains and a severe hailstorm that leaves 17 dead and many others seriously wounded on this day in 1995. The storm, which hit both Dallas and Tarrant counties, was the worst recorded hail storm to hit the United States in the 20th ...read more

Allies end occupation of West Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) becomes a sovereign state when the United States, France, and Great Britain end their military occupation, which had begun in 1945. With this action, West Germany was given the right to rearm and become a full-fledged member of the ...read more

Driving pioneer Bertha Benz dies

Bertha Benz, the wife of inventor Karl Benz and the first person to drive an automobile over a long distance, dies on this day in 1944, in Ladenburg, Germany. Born Bertha Ringer, she married Karl Benz around 1870. Karl Benz received a patent for his horseless carriage, called the ...read more