Battle of Lake Maracaibo, 1823

Painting of the Battle by José María Espinosa Prieto, c.1840. Original in the collections of the Museo Nacional de Colombia.

Location Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

The Battle of Lake Maracaibo, 24 July, 1823, was the deciding factor in the wars of independence fought by Spain's American colonies. A Spanish squadron, led by Captain Ángel Laborde, anchored in a battle line along the coast, where it was attacked by the Gran Colombia naval squadron, led by Admiral José Prudencio Padilla. In a rather Nelsonian maneuver, Padilla's ships approached the battle line in two columns, not firing until they broke into the Spanish lines. The ensuing melee was a rout. One of the Spanish ships exploded when flames reached her magazine, and all but three of the rest were captured, many when their crews simply abandoned them. Padilla's forces lost forty-four dead, with another 164 wounded. 437 prisoners were taken, besides the captured ships, with an unknown number of Spanish dead and wounded. The decisive victory secured the independence of Spain's colonies, with the last Spanish troops leaving by 5 August.