Spanish Conquistadors Surprise Attack The Incas At Cajamarca

Today on November 16, 1532, a small detachment of Spanish conquistadors brought the entire Inca Empire to heel at the Battle of Cajamarca.

The Battle of Cajamarca, located in modern-day Peru, was perhaps the greatest lopsided victory in history. A small group of Spanish soldiers managed to overwhelm and massacre thousands of helpless Incas while incurring only minor casualties. Francisco Pizarro led the Spanish forces which consisted of 102 infantry, 67 cavalry, and four artillery units. Around a dozen of the soldiers carried an early form of firearm, known as a harquebus. The rest likely had swords, pikes, and crossbows.

At the time, King Atahualpa was the ruler of the Inca Empire. He and his scouts knew of the Spanish landing but did not want to provoke a battle immediately. The Inca were in the midst of assembling at the capital city for a religious festival and celebration, which distracted them from monitoring Spanish troop movements. The King also made the fateful mistake of leaving the main bulk of his army outside the city walls (80,000+ warriors). The two sides eventually confronted each other in the main square of Cajamarca, and the Spanish quickly killed thousands of Inca and imprisoned Atahualpa.

A combination of perfectly timed elements ultimately led to this remarkable Spanish victory. First, they completely took the Inca by surprise. The few warriors inside the city were defenseless, as they did not even have time to grab their armor or weapons. Besides, the Inca were shocked and awed at seeing men on horses alongside the loud and smokey effects of gunpowder. According to Inca tradition, their king was viewed as true a god living among his subjects. So, the Spanish did the unthinkable when they physically grabbed and imprisoned him. Simply put, the Inca’s world turned upside down. After the bloodshed, the Spanish went on to occupy Atahualpa's entire empire unopposed.

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