Bolivar was rewarded with the title of Capitan General of the Army of the Confederation, and Congress immediately transferred the capital from Tunja to Santa Fe. Congress asked Bolivar to direct the campaign to protect Nueva Granada against the royalists.
Aguirre from thence landed about Santa Marta and sacked it also, putting to death so many as refused to be his followers, purposing to invade Nuevo Reyno de Granada and to sack Pamplona, Merida, Lagrita, Tunja, and the rest of the cities of Nuevo Reyno, and from thence again to enter Peru; but in a fight in the said Nuevo Reyno he was overthrown, and, finding no way to escape, he first put to the sword his own children, foretelling them that they should not live to be defamed or upbraided by the Spaniards after his death, who would have termed them the children of a traitor or tyrant; and that, sithence he could not make them princes, he would yet deliver them from shame and reproach.
He next went to Tunja, where the revolutionary congress was in session, and notwithstanding the misfortunes of war and the bitter opposition of a few personal enemies, his enthusiastic reception showed that he still retained the confidence and respect of the people.
Instead of again attacking his intrenched foe, Bolivar now employed strategy, retreating during the day, then making a rapid countermarch at night, thus passing Barreiro’s forces in the dark over by-roads. On the 5th of August Tunja fell into his hands. He found there an abundance of war material, and by holding it he cut off Barreiro’s communication with Bogota.
The news proved to be false. The army of Urdaneta, which had left Venezuela to await in the land of Nueva Granada new instructions from the Liberator, and had obtained the protection of that government, received him with the greatest enthusiasm. From there Bolivar proceeded to Tunja, where he was very well received by Congress. He requested that his conduct be examined and impartially judged.
As a result, the actions of the patriot commander in the field seemed less impressive than those of less notable generals, but the sum of effects was far superior. Bolivar’s occupation of Tunja took the Spaniards by surprise.
The Congress of Nueva Granada was holding its meetings in the city of Tunja. Bolivar got in touch with it and received instructions to lead an expedition against Cucuta and Pamplona. He started out with 400 men and a few spare rifles to arm patriots who might join the ranks. With the greatest alacrity he advanced, defeating several detachments on the way.
It was not long, therefore, before the opposing armies met, and a battle took place that lasted five hours. The patriots won, chiefly by the aid of the English infantry, led by Colonel James Rooke, who had the misfortune to lose an arm in the engagement. The victory was by no means a decisive one, and the road to Tunja remained in the hands of the royalists.
The fable of the gilded man is, perhaps, founded on a similar custom; and, as there were two sovereign princes in New Granada, the lama of Iraca and the secular chief or zaque of Tunja, we cannot be surprised that the same ceremony was attributed sometimes to the prince and sometimes to the high-priest.
He was soon aware, however, that the patriots had achieved this impossible thing and were in his close vicinity, and with all haste collected his forces and took possession of the heights above the plain of Vargas. By this movement he interposed between the patriots and the town of Tunja, which, as attached to the cause of liberty, Bolivar was anxious to occupy.