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CHILEAN CIVIL WAR (1891)

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Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 161 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHILEAN CIVIL WAR (1891). The Chilean civil war grew out of political dissensions between the president of Chile, J. M. Balmaceda, and his congress (see CHILE: History), and began in January 1891. On the 6th, at Valparaiso, the political leaders of the Congressional party went on board the ironclad " Blanco Encalada," and Captain Jorje Montt of that vessel hoisted a broad pennant as commodore of the Congressional fleet. Preparations had long been made for the naval pronunciamento, and in the end but few vessels of the Chilean navy adhered to the cause of the " dictator " Balmaceda. But amongst these were two new and fast torpedo gunboats, "Almirante Condell " and " Almirante Lynch," and in European dockyards (incomplete) lay the most powerful vessel of the navy, the " Arturo Prat," and two fast cruisers. If these were secured by the Balmacedists the naval supremacy of the congress would be seriously challenged. For the present, and without prejudice to the future, command of the sea was held by Montt's squadron (January). The rank and file of the army remained faithful to the executive, and thus in the early part of the war the " Gobernistas," speaking broadly, possessed an army without a fleet, the congress a fleet without an army. Balmaceda hoped to create a navy; the congress took steps to recruit an army by taking its sympathizers on board the fleet. The first shot was fired, on the 16th of January, by the " Blanco " at the Valparaiso batteries, and landing parties from the warships engaged small parties of government troops at various places during January and February. The dictator's principal forces were stationed in and about Iquique, Coquimbo, Valparaiso, Santiago and Concepcion. The troops at Iquique and Coquimbo were necessarily isolated from the rest and from each other, and military operations began, as in the campaign of 1879 in this quarter, with a naval descent upon Pisagua followed by an advance inland to Dolores. The Congressional forces failed at first to make good their footing (16th-23rd of January), but, though defeated in two or three actions, they brought off many recruits and a quantity of munitions of war. On the 26th they retook Pisagua, and on the 15th of February the Balmacedist commander, Eulojio Robles, who offered battle in the expectation of receiving reinforcements from Tacna, was completely defeated on the old battlefield of San Francisco. Robles fell back along the railway, called up troops from Iquique, and beat the invaders at Haura on the 17th, but Iquique in the meanwhile fell to the Congressional fleet on the 16th. The Pisagua line of operations was at once abandoned, and the military forces of the congress were moved by sea to Iquique, whence, under the command of Colonel Estanislao Del Canto, they started inland. The battle of Pozo Almonte, fought on the 7th of March, was desperately contested, but Del Canto was superior in numbers, and Robles was himself killed and his army dispersed. After this the other Balmacedist troops in the north gave up the struggle. Some were driven into Peru, others into Bolivia, and one column made a laborious retreat from Calama to Santiago, in the course of which it twice crossed the main chain of the Andes. The Congressional Junta de Gobierno now established in Iquique prosecuted the war vigorously, and by the end of April the whole country was in the hands of the " rebels " from the Peruvian border to the outposts of the Balmacedists at Coquimbo and La Serena. The Junta now began the formation of a properly organized army for the next campaign, which, it was believed universally on both sides, would be directed against Coquimbo. But in a few months the arrival of the new ships from Europe would reopen the struggle for command of the sea; the torpederas " Condell " and " Lynch " had already weakened the Congressional squadron severely by sinking the " Blanco Encalada " in Caldera Bay (23rd of April), and the Congressional party could no longer aim at a methodical conquest of successive provinces, but was compelled to attempt to crush the dictator at a blow. CHILE-PERUVIAN WAR Where this blow was to fall was not decided up to the last moment, but the instrument which was to deliver it was prepared with all the care possible under the circumstances. Del Canto was made commander-in-chief, and an ex-Prussian officer, Emil Korner, chief of staff. The army was organized in three brigades of all arms, at Iquique, Caldera and Vallenar. Korner super-intended the training of the men, gave instruction in tactics to the officers, caused maps to be prepared, and in general took every precaution that his experience could suggest to ensure success. Del Canto was himself no mere figurehead, but a thoroughly capable leader who had distinguished himself at Tacna (188o) and Miraflores (1881), as well as in the present war. The men were enthusiastic, and the officers unusually numerous. The artillery was fair, the cavalry good, and the train and auxiliary services well organized. About one-third of the infantry were armed with the (Mannlicher) magazine rifle, which now made its first appearance in war, the remainder had the Gras and other breech-loaders, which were also the armament of the dictator's infantry. Balmaceda could only wait upon events, but he pre-pared his forces as best he was able, and his torpederas constantly harried the Congressional navy. By the end of July Del Canto and Korner had done their work as well as time permitted, and early in August the troops prepared to embark, not for Coquimbo, but for Valparaiso itself. The expedition by sea was admirably managed, and Quinteros, N. of Valparaiso and not many miles out of range of its batteries, was occupied on the loth of August 1891. Balmaceda was surprised, but acted promptly. The first battle was fought on the Aconcagua at Concon on the 21st. The eager infantry of the Congressional army forced the passage of the river and stormed the heights held by the Gobernistas, capturing 36 guns. The killed and wounded of the Balmacedists numbered 1600, and nearly all the prisoners, about 1500 men, enrolled themselves in the rebel army, which thus more than made good its loss of r000 killed and wounded. The victors pressed on towards Valparaiso, but were soon brought up by the strong fortified position of the Balmacedist general Barbosa at Villa del Mar, whither Balmaceda hurried up all available troops from Valparaiso and Santiago, and even from Concepcion. Del Canto and Korner now resolved on a daring step. Supplies of all kinds were brought up from Quinteros to the front, and on the 24th of August the army abandoned its line of communications and marched inland. The flank march was conducted with great skill, little opposition was encountered, and the rebels finally appeared to the south-east of Valparaiso. Here, on the 28th, took place the decisive battle of La Placilla. Concon had been perhaps little more than the destruction of an isolated corps; the second battle was a fair trial of strength, for Barbosa was well prepared, and had under his command the greater part of the existing forces of the dictator. But the splendid fighting qualities of the Congressional troops and the superior generalship of their leaders prevailed in.the end over every obstacle. The government army was practically annihilated, 941 men were killed, including Barbosa and his second in command, and 2402 wounded. The Congressional army lost over 800 men. Valparaiso was occupied the same evening and Santiago soon afterwards. There was no further fighting, for so great was the effect of the battles of Concon and La Placella that even the Coquimbo troops surrendered without firing a shot. CHILE-PERUVIAN WAR (1879-1882). The proximate cause of this war was the seizure, by the authorities of Bolivia, of the effects of the Chilean Nitrate Company at Antofagasta, then part of the Bolivian province of Atacama. The first act of hostility was the despatch of 500 soldiers to protect Chilean interests at Antofagasta. This force, under Colonel Sotomayor, landed and marched inland; the only resistance encountered was at Calama on the river Loa, where a handful of newly raised militia was routed (23rd March 1879). About the same time Chilean warships occupied Cobija and Tocapilla, and Sotomayor, after his victory at Calama, marched to the latter port. Bolivia had declared war on the 1st of March, but Peru not till the 5th of April: this delay gave the Chileans time to occupy every port on the Bolivian coast. Thus the Chilean admiral was able to proceed at once to the blockade of the southern ports of Peru, and in particular Iquique, where there took place the first naval action of the war. On the 21st of April the Chilean sloop "Esmeralda " and the gunboat " Covadonga "—both small and weak ships—engaged the Peruvian heavy ironclads "Huascar " and " Independencia "; after a hot fight the " Huascar " under Miguel Grau sank the " Esmeralda " under Arturo Prat, who was killed, but Carlos Condell in the " Covadonga " manceuvred the " Independencia " aground and shelled her into a complete wreck. The Chileans now gave up the blockade and concentrated all their efforts on the destruction of the " Huascar," while the allies organized a field army in the neighbour-hood of Tacna and a large Chilean force assembled at Antofagasta. On the 8th of October 1879 the " Huascar " was brought to action off Angamos by the " Blanco Encalada," and the " Almirante Cochrane." Grau was outmatched as hopelessly and made as brave a fight as Prat at Iquique. Early in the action a shot destroyed the Peruvian's conning tower, killing Grau and his staff, and another entered her turret, killing the flag captain and nearly all the crew of the turret guns. When the " Huascar " finally surrendered she had but one gun left in action, her fourth commander and three-quarters of her crew were killed and wounded, and the steering-gear had been shot away. The Peruvian navy had now ceased to exist. The Chileans resumed the blockade, and more active operations were soon undertaken. The whole force of the allies was about 20,000 men, scattered along the seaboard of Peru. The Chileans on the other hand had a striking force of 16,000 men in the neighbourhood of Antofagasta, and of this nearly half was embarked for Pisagua on the 26th of October. The expeditionary force landed, in the face of considerable opposition, on the 2nd of November, and captured Pisagua. From Pisagua the Peruvians and Bolivians fell back along the railway to their reinforcements, and when some ro,000 men had been collected they moved forward to attack the Chilean position of San Francisco near Dolores station (19th November). In the end the Chileans were victorious, but their only material gain was the possession of Iquique and the retreat of the allies, who fell back inland towards. Tarapaca. The tardy pursuit of the Chileans ended in the battle of Tarapaca on the 27th. In this the allies were at first surprised, but, rapidly recovering them-selves, took the offensive, and after a murderous fight, in which more men were killed than were wounded, the Chileans suffered a complete defeat. For some inexplicable reason the allies made no use of their victory, continued to retreat and left the Chileans in complete possession of the Tarapaca region. With this the campaign of 1879 ended. Chile had taken possession of the Bolivian seaboard and of the Peruvian province of Tarapaca, and had destroyed the hostile navy. The objective of the Chileans in the second campaign was the province of Tacna and the field force of the allies at Tacna and Arica. The invasion was again carried out by sea, and I2,000 Chileans were landed at Pacocha (Ylo), far to the N. of Arica. Careful preparations were made for a desert march, and on the 12th of March 188o the advanced corps started inland for Moquegua, which was occupied on the loth. Near Moquegua the Peruvians, some 2000 strong, took up an unusually strong position in the defile of Cuesta de los Angeles. But the great numerical superiority of the assailants enabled them to turn the flanks and press the front of the Peruvian position, and after a severe struggle the defence collapsed (March 22nd), In April the army began its advance southward from Moquegua to Tacna, while the Chilean warships engaged in a series of minor naval operations in and about the bay of Callao. Arica was also ®I.6watched, and the blockade was extended north of Lima. The land campaign had ere this culminated in the battle of Tacna (May 26th), in which the Chileans attacked at first in several disconnected bodies, and suffered severely until all their forces came on the field. Then a combined advance carried all before it. The allies engaged under General Narciso Campero, the new president of Bolivia, lost nearly 3000 men, and the Chileans, commanded by Manuel Baquedano, lost 2000 out of 8500 on the field. The defeated army was completely dissolved, and it only remained for the Chileans to march on Arica from the land side. The navy co-operated with its long-range guns, on the 7th of June a general assault was made, and before nightfall the whole of the defences were in the hands of the Chileans. Their second campaign had given them entire possession of another strip of Peru (from Pisagua to Ylo), and they had shown themselves greatly superior, both in courage and leadership, to their opponents. While the army prepared for the next campaign, the Chilean navy was active; the blockade became more stringent and several fights took place, in one of which the "Covadonga " was sunk; an expeditionary force about 3000 strong, commanded by Patricio Lynch, a captain in the Chilean navy, carried out successful raids at various places on the coast and inland. The Chilean army was reorganized during the summer, and prepared for its next operation, this time against Lima itself. General Baquedano was in command. The leading troops disembarked at Pisco on the 18th of November 188o, and the whole army was ready to move against the defences of Lima six weeks later. These defences consisted of two distinct positions, Chorrillos and Miraflores, the latter being about 4000 yds. outside Lima. The first line of defence was attacked by Baquedano on the 13th of January 1881. Reconnaissances proved that the Peruvian lines could not be turned, and the battle was a pure frontal attack. The defenders had 22,000 men in the lines, the Chileans engaged about 24,000. The battle of Chorrillos ended in the complete defeat of the Peruvians, less than a quarter of whose army rallied behind the Miraflores defences. The Chileans lost over 3000 men. Two days later took place the battle of Miraflores (January 15th). Here the defences were very strong, and the action began with a daring counter-attack by some Peruvians. Neither party had intended to fight a battle, for negotiations were in progress, but the action quickly became general. Its result was, as before, the complete dissolution of the defending army. Lima, in-capable of defence, was occupied by the invaders on the 17th, and on the 18th Callao surrendered. The resistance of the Peruvians was so far broken that Chile left only a small army of occupation to deal with the remnants of their army. The last engagement took place at Caxacamara in September 1882, when the Peruvians won an unimportant success. See T. B. M. Mason, The War on the Pacific Coast, 18g9-1881 (U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, Washington, 1883) ; Captain Chftteauminois (transl.), Memo-re du Ministre de he Guerre du Chili sur la guerre Chilo-Peruvienne (1882) ; Barros Arana, Hist. de la guerre du Pacifique (1884) ; Sir W. Laird Clowes, Four Modern Naval Campaigns (London, 1902) ; Anon., Precis de la guerre du Pacifigue (Paris, 1886) ; Clements R. Markham, The War between Peru and Chile.
End of Article: CHILEAN CIVIL WAR (1891)
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