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Manuel Baquedano descended on Spanish (Navarra) people. He was involved in the War of the Confederation, the 1851-1959 revolts in Araucana, and the Pacific War. He has also served as Senator for Santiago and Colchagua. He was instrumental in reorganizing the Army and establishing the Military Academy.
Manuel Baquedano was born in Santiago, the son of cavalry colonel Fernando Baquedano and Teresa González de Labra y Ros. He attended Juan Romo's religious academy as well as the Instituto Nacional de Chile. He became a lifelong friend of Federico Errázuriz and Eusebio Lillo during this period. When the War of Confederation broke out, Baquedano was just 15 years old and still attending school. In July 1838, he escaped his home to join the troops leaving for the war. He served on the field as a Lieutenant in the Battle of Yungay in 1839 and was promoted to Lieutenant at the age of 16.
Manuel Baquedano returned to Chile and completed his military training. He was promoted to regular Lieutenant on January 23, 1845, served as Adjutant in the Grenadiers, and was promoted to full Captain in January 1850.
During the Revolution of 1851, Manuel Baquedano played a decisive role in the confrontation with the troops that rebelled, on 20 April, against the election of Manuel Montt as president. These rebels were commanded by Colonel Pedro Urriola who was supported by young liberals, among whom was his friend Eusebio Lillo. The revolution was followed in September by an armed revolt in the navy at Concepción by troops controlled by José María de la Cruz. Baquedano was named adjutant to General Manuel Bulnes and fought in the government forces in the battle of Loncomilla, on 8 December 1851. There, he faced his father and his brother Eleuterio Baquedano. After the battle he requested permission to visit his father, head of the opposing army's General Staff, wounded in the battle.
Manuel Montt promoted him sergeant-major of the government bodyguard in January 1852.
At the beginning of 1854, Baquedano lost his commission as military commandant of the city of Angol over a confused barracks mutiny incident in which his real involvement was never clarified. Baquedano then resigned from active service, and with his savings acquired the small Santa Teresa hacienda at La Laja, near the city of Los Angeles.
The government did not accept his resignation and appointed him adjutant to the military command in Valparaíso in March 1855. Following an appeal, in April he was transferred to the equivalent position at Arauco, in order to be closer to his estate. In August of that year he was appointed commander of the town militia No. 3 in Arauco. Between 1855 and 1869 he dedicated himself to transforming his land into a productive agricultural property, and within five years this had already made him a small fortune.
Baquedano returned to military life in June 1859, when the government called him up to suppress the revolution that occurred in Concepción. For his services he was promoted to regular sergeant major. Seven years later, in October 1866, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and served in this post in Los Angeles, combining this with his agricultural work.
At the end of 1868, the Army again called on his services in relation to the Occupation of Araucanía, to counter the indigenous rebellion headed by Quilapán and other Mapuche chiefs. Under the orders of general Jose Manuel Pinto, commander of the frontier forces, he took part in numerous conflicts in Malleco and Renaico, from January to May 1869. Resulting from his service there, in September of that year he was entrusted with the command of the Cazadores a Caballo cavalry regiment - the same position that his father had held - and transferred to Santiago. He rose to the rank of colonel in July 1870, to full colonel in April 1872, and to brigadier-general in June 1876. During that decade the government of Federico Errázuriz Zañartu appointed him acting inspector-general of the National Guard, and in 1875 commanding general at Santiago. His military services in Araucanía and his personality earned him a reputation in the liberal governments and among the people of the city.
When the War of the Pacific against Peru and Bolivia broke out in April 1879, Baquedano was general in command of the cavalry. In November 1879 he disembarked his troops in Pisagua under orders from infantry commander General Erasmo Escala. This manoeuvre is regarded as the first amphibious disembarkation in history.
He took part in the first three land campaigns: Tarapacá, Tacna and Arica, and Lima, and planned the Battle of Los Ángeles. After the resignation of General Escala over a dispute with Rafael Sotomayor Baeza, the Minister of War, Sotomayor appointed Baquedano as Commander-in-Chief, in the expectation that Baquedano's abilities as commander would enable him to restore good order and morale among the troops.
The military reputation of Baquedano was enhanced by his outstanding direction and participation in the battles of Chorrillos and Miraflores, in January 1881. There, thanks to the efforts of the men under his command, the Peruvian capital was occupied in less than a month. Baquedano returned to Chile when the government of President Aníbal Pinto decided to bring home most of the Army, due to the high cost of maintaining troops. He arrived at Valparaiso in March 1881 and was received by a large crowd; the celebration was repeated in Santiago.
Baquedano's military strategy in this war consisted mainly in frontal attack to break the often over-extended enemy lines. Although he had little training in strategy, he is remembered as a general who personally directed battles resulting in decisive victories. He was a strict disciplinarian: he had a soldier shot for cowardice at the Battle of Chorrillos. Of a stubborn and obstinate nature, he tolerated no argument once he had taken a decision.
After the Battle of Tacna, when his tactics were publicly criticised in the El Mercurio de Valparaíso newspaper, an enraged Baquedano had the reporter arrested and held incommunicado aboard the warship Abtao. The historian Francisco Encina, while recognizing Baquedano's courage, described him as having a "poverty of ideas" and a poor command of tactics. Baquedano's main political rival, José Francisco Vergara Echevers, also pointed out his tactical weaknesses, but acknowledged that the victory at Miraflores was due in part to the successful envelopment that he ordered.