The British invasions of the River Plate, also known as the British invasions of Buenos Aires, were a pair of unsuccessful British military expeditions in 1806 and 1807 during the Napoleonic Wars. The objective of both invasions was to capture the Spanish colonial city of Buenos Aires, which was part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (present-day Argentina).
First British Invasion (1806)
In 1806, Britain, under the command of Lieutenant General William Carr Beresford and Rear Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham, launched the first invasion of Buenos Aires. This occurred during a period of global conflict caused by the Napoleonic Wars.
The British forces initially captured several outlying areas but faced fierce resistance from local militias and Spanish regular troops. After days of fighting, the British were forced to surrender on August 12, 1806, due to factors such as supply shortages and the determination of the defenders, who were led by Santiago de Liniers and Juan Martín de Pueyrredón.
Santiago de Liniers
Second British Invasion (1807)
In 1807, the British, once again under Beresford and Popham, attempted a second invasion of Buenos Aires. This time, they sought to capture the city and its valuable resources.
The British forces encountered strong resistance from local defenders, and the invasion turned into another protracted battle. Ultimately, a combination of factors, including supply shortages and the approach of Spanish reinforcements, forced the British to withdraw in defeat on August 12, 1807.
Sir William Beresford, commander of the British troops during the British invasions of Buenos Aires
While both British invasions ultimately failed in their objectives, they had significant repercussions. The successful defense of Buenos Aires in both instances boosted the confidence and nationalistic fervor of the local population.
These invasions played a role in fostering a sense of identity and the desire for self-determination among the inhabitants of Buenos Aires and the broader region, contributing to the eventual Argentine War of Independence in the early 19th century.
The memory of these invasions is commemorated in Argentina on “British Invasions Day” (Día de las Invasiones Inglesas) on August 17th.
These two invasions marked significant events in the early history of Buenos Aires and Argentina. They demonstrated the determination of the local population to defend their city and their growing desire for self-determination. The successful repulsion of the British invasions became a source of national pride and contributed to the broader movement for independence from Spanish colonial rule in the early 19th century.
Questions and Answers
What was the goal of the First Invasion?
The goal was to capture the city of Buenos Aires and its valuable resources. However, the local militia, led by figures like Santiago de Liniers and Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, fiercely defended the city. The British forces faced stiff resistance, and after several days of fighting, they were forced to surrender on August 12, 1806. This victory boosted the confidence of the local population and contributed to the growth of nationalist sentiments.
Senior British Army officer William Beresford surrenders to Santiago de Liniers (1806)
Why did the Second British Invasion of the River Plate fail?
The British made a second attempt to seize Buenos Aires in 1807, just a year after their first failed invasion. This time, the British forces, again under Beresford and Popham, launched their attack in July. The local defenders, including militias and Spanish regular troops, mounted a determined resistance. The British forces managed to capture some outlying areas, but they were unable to breach the city’s defenses.
After several days of fierce fighting, a combination of factors, including supply shortages and the approach of Spanish reinforcements, forced the British to withdraw in defeat on August 12, 1807.