Battle of Pisagua
|Battle of Pisagua|
|Part of War of the Pacific|
|Gen. Erasmo Escala||Gen. Juan Buendia|
|Casualties and losses|
|56 dead124 wounded||210 cassualties|
The Battle of Pisagua, also known as Disembarkment of Pisagua, was a landing operation of the War of the Pacific, fought on November 2, 1879, between Chile and the combined forces of Peru and Bolivia. The Chilean army commanded by Erasmo Escala, supported by the Chilean Fleet, launched an amphibious assault on the port of Pisagua, and successfully drove back the defending Peru-Bolivian forces from the shore, led by Gen. Juan Buendia, securing a beach head and allowing a force of 10,000 Chileans to unship on the Tarapaca Department.
This action marked the beginning of the Tarapaca Campaign, the fist stage of the terrestrial phase of the War of the Pacific, which ended with the complete control of the Tarapaca Department and the Chilean control of the exportation of saltpepper. This department would never return to Peruvian territory, due to its perpetual annexion to Chile by the Treaty of Ancon, signed by both countries on 1884.
After Chile gained control of the Pacific with the victory at Angamos on October 8th, a landing became imminent in order to start the terrestrial campaign to gain control of the Tarapaca province. The allies had two strongholds at that time in the province, Tacna and Iquique, so it was pretty clear for the Chilean command than the landing had to isolate and interrupt the communications between this two important emplacements. In order to achieve this goal, was decided to attack the port of Pisagua, located 500 km north of Antofagasta, because it had a bay which was suitable for landing troops and supplies. There were programmed two attacks; the main would be made at Pisagua, and a secondary one at Junin. Pisagua was defended by 1,700 troops, the Independencia and Victoria battalions commanded by Pedro Vargas y Juan Granier. In addition of this force were 400 Peruvian soldiers commanded by Isaac Recabarren. Besides, there were two forts armed with 100 lbs. Parrot cannons.
For this task, it was decided a combined operation between the Chilean fleet and the army, with the navy destroying the forts protecting the bay, and once this defences were silenced, the landing waves could start.
On November 2, the navy initiated the bombardment at 07:00. The ships Cochrane and O'Higgins, commanded by Juan José Latorre and Jorge Montt, respectively, attacked the southern fort. Meanwhile, the Magallanes and the Covadonga did the same on the northern fort. The accurate gunship fire destroyed the defenses almost immediately, in fact, the northern fort was able to fire only one shot before being disabled.
After these defences were silenced, the landing operation began. Four companies - two of the Atacama Battalion and another two of the Zapadores Regiment - set foot on the sand and started to retaliate the fire made upon them by the Allied soldiers defending the port. After a while, the Peruvians withdraw in order, but the Bolivians couldn't refold as the same as their allies, breaking formations. Due to some disorganization, the second wave was delayed, but the troops in the shore were able to move inland and took the first line of trenches.
In a second landing wave, the rest of the Atacama Bn., plus three companies of the "Buin" 1st Line Regiment commanded by Lt. Colonel José María del Canto, got onto the beach and reinforced the first companies, meanwhile the ships were constantly shelling the defenses where the allies were deployed. These defenses were made with bags of saltpeter and coal, and because of that, the fire started pretty soon.
Whilst the Chilean infantry in the beach, climbed in order to reach the hill top. This ascent was very difficult due to the terrain and the strong defenses in this sector. But in the end, the vehemence of the Chilean attack made possible to reach the summit and engaged the allies, vanquishing all of them and forcing them to retreat abandoning their positions.
At 15:00, Lt. Rafael Torreblanca of the Atacama Battalion raised the Chilean flag at Alto Hospicio. The defenders retreated leaving the field to the Chilean army.
Since Pisagua was conquered, the second landing at Junín was made with low resistance. Here where deployed the 3rd Line Regiment and the Navales and Valparaíso battalions.
The Chilean Army had 56 men dead and 124 wounded.The Allies lost 200 troops between dead and wounded. This victory allowed the Chilean forces to gain a port where to land troops, weapons and supplies. The Campaign of Tarapacá had begun.
External Links (in Spanish)
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