Sunday, 27 March 2011

Great Costa Rican Military Victories

As mentioned yesterday there's only one of these (or maybe two), and it occurred in 1856. The picture shows the monument to it in Parque Nacional in San Jose.

The War, such as it was, arose because of the Costa Rican President's concerns about the activities of William Walker, an "adventurer" from the USA who had made himself President of Nicaragua.

Walker - prior to the American Civil War according to Wikipedia - "enjoyed great popularity in the southern and western United States, where he was known as "General Walker" and as the "grey-eyed man of destiny."". He attempted to introduce slavery into several Central American States and then bring them into the Union to increase the salve owning vote in Senate and Congress. Without wishing to jump to conclusions he sounds like a fairly odious individual (he is finally arrested by the Royal Navy and handed over to the Hondurans who execute him).

Any how, Walker invaded Costa Rica with his force of "Filibusters" and holed up in a hacienda in Santa Rosa, known as La Casona. In a stroke of military genius he didn't post any guards and went to sleep.

President Mora of Costa Rica had raised an army that was given rifles but left them behind in favour of the machete (which most Costa Ricans seem to have lying around). Wikipedia & my travel guide says he has 9,000 men, our guide said 2,500. As he was a nice man and he lives there, I believe him.

On arriving at the hacienda Mora surrounded the building and called for a volunteer to set fire to the thatched roof. A young drummer boy called Juan Santamaria volunteered, succeeded in the act but died in the attempt. He is one of Costa Rica's few national heroes, and the airport is named after him.

The Americans fled after an engagement lasting 14 minutes. Depending on what you read (and this comes from Wikipedia) Mora followed up and defeated Walker again. Or Walker counter-attacked and got beaten. In 14 minutes. Again. Or it's the same battle described twice and there's 3,000 men involved.

What do you expect from a country that doesn't have an army now, combined with the academic standards the apply in Wikipedia?

Anyway, all a bit confusing and fertile ground for some completely off the wall campaign type game. The game would probably take longer than 14 minutes tho'.


  1. I'd heard of William Walker- there is a somewhat odd biopic made in the 90s about him and yes he was pretty odious

  2. A couple were made, so I'm told. In one he's British (!). In a way I don't have a problem with someone trying to set himself up in a country, - it's the idea he did it in order to introduce slavery that I find so repugnant.

  3. There is quite a bit about Walker on the web, including his autobiographical account. So far as I can determine, he grew up firmly anti-slavery, but he was above all an opportunist. When Southern interests made it clear he would gain their support if he were to reintroduce slavery to Nicaragua, he suddenly converted. Despite some foolish lapses, he was generally a talented leader; decisive, perceptive, and clever. But his rank opportunism, especially concerning slavery, without doubt casts him among history's villains.

    Chris Johnson

  4. May be I should look at him again, as there's definately a game in there.

    Curses. So much to do, so little time.

    Now back to editting down my 1300 holiday photos.

  5. Charlie Elsden in New York designed a multi-player scenario pitting Walker against the Costa Rican Army against an anti-Walker Nicaraguan force against some local bandits, etc., all in 54mm (using the BMC hacienda from their San Juan Hill playset). It was on Magweb, unfortunately, which is long gone, but if you can track him down he will surely send you a copy of his write-up. I met him only once; very nice man.

  6. I can see how that scenario might work out nicely!

    Thanks for the tip.

  7. I just found out Charlie is on the Little Wars Yahoo group! He is a veritable fountain of ideas regarding gaming in 54mm--I wonder how much of his stuff would be available? Hmmmmm...


  8. Walker wrote a book about his exploits in Nicaragua. It's very interesting, but the fact that he wrote it in the third person tells you everything you need to know :)

    Alex Cox made a film about him in the 1980s (called 'Walker'). It's as much a commentary on the (then) contemporary American involvement in the country, and is, to put it mildly, quirky. But I love it. I actually have an army for 'Hordes of the Things' based around it. I must feature it on my blog sometime.

  9. It's a subject that interests quite a few people. This blog entry gets hit pretty regularly.

    I've heard of the movie. but not seen it. I wonder how it deals with the Royal Navy's involvement in his eventual demise.