National Sovereignty Day 2018 and 2019
National Sovereignty Day in Argentina is celebrated on the Monday closest to 20 November. The public holiday is designed to commemorate the Battle of Vuelta de Obligado which was fought on 20 November 1845 which led to the signing of a peace treaty between Argentina, France and Britain.
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In the mid-1840s, the British and French were focused on commercial interests in Uruguay which meant keeping the Prana River open to large seafaring vessels necessary for trade. The river was perfect as it was deep, wide and lead into the centre of South America. In 1845, Argentina closed the river with a boom and shore battery northwest of Buenos Aires in an area where a tight turn makes navigation difficult. The boom consisted of 24 vessels, only three of which were Argentinian naval vessels, that were linked by metal chains. Artillery was stationed on a cliff above the banks, supported by 2,000 troops. In retaliation, the British and French sent eleven warships to break up the boom.
The battle began on 20 November with the French and British heavily bombarding the small Argentinian fleet. However, the light wind made it difficult for the French and British to handle their large ships while the steamers used by the Argentine fleet were able to manoeuvre easily as they were not reliant on wind. Despite heavy fire, the boom remained intact. Captain James Hope of the HMS Firebrand managed to board the boom and sever the chains, allowing the ships to push upriver and attack with full force. Eventually, the boom was demolished and the river was opened to trade again.
Although Argentina lost the battle, heavy casualties were inflicted on the British and French troops as well. At least 95 were wounded and 28 died during the battle. Despite the loss, Argentina viewed the battle as an attempt to preserve their sovereignty and to resist foreign intervention.