Battle of Yaguajay

The Battle of Yaguajay (December 19 – December 30, 1958) was a decisive victory for the Cuban Revolutionaries over the soldiers of the Batista government near the city of Santa Clara in Cuba during the Cuban Revolution.

In 1958, Fidel Castro ordered his revolutionary army to go on the offensive against the army of Fulgencio Batista. While Fidel led one force against Guisa, Masó and other towns, the other major offensive was directed at the capture of the city of Santa Clara, the capital of what was then Las Villas Province.
Three columns were sent against Santa Clara under the command of Che Guevara, Jaime Vega, and Camilo Cienfuegos. Vega's column was caught in an ambush and completely destroyed. Guevara's column took up positions around Santa Clara (near Fomento). Cienfuegos's column directly attacked a local army garrison at Yaguajay. Initially Cienfuegos's column was just 60 men, out of Castro's hardened core of 230. But as they moved through the lands towards Santa Clara, they gained many recruits. A best guess is that Cienfuegos had between 450 to 500 men fighting for him.

The garrison was some 250 men under the command of a Cuban captain of Chinese ancestry, Alfredo Abon Lee. The attack seems to have started around December 19. Convinced that reinforcements would be sent from Santa Clara, Lee put up a determined defense of his post. Repeatedly, the guerrillas attempted to overpower Lee and his men, but each time they failed. By December 26, Camilo Cienfuegos had become quite frustrated; it seemed that Lee could not be overpowered, nor could he be convinced to surrender. In desperation, Cienfuegos began to use a homemade "tank" against Lee's position. The "tank" was actually a large tractor encased in iron plates with attached makeshift flamethrowers on top. It, too, proved unsuccessful. Finally, on December 30, Lee, out of ammunition, surrendered his garrison.

The surrender of the garrison was a major blow to the defenders of the provincial capital of Santa Clara. The next day, the combined forces of Cienfuegos, Guevara, and local revolutionaries under William Alexander Morgan captured Santa Clara in a fight of vast confusion. News of the loss of Santa Clara and other losses elsewhere panicked Batista and he fled Cuba the next day.

Camilo Cienfuegos (1932-1959) was a leading figure of the Cuban Revolution, along with Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara. He was one of a handful of survivors of the Granma landing in 1956 and soon distinguished himself as a leader. He defeated Batista forces at the Battle of Yaguajay in December of 1958. After the triumph of the Revolution in early 1959, Cienfuegos took on a position of authority in the army. He disappeared during a night-time flight in October, 1959 and is presumed to have died. He is considered one of the greatest heroes of the Revolution and every year, Cuba marks the anniversary of his death.