Chincha Islands War
|Chincha Islands War|
The guano-rich Chincha Islands of Peru (1863).
|22x20px Kingdom of Spain|| Chile|
| 22x20px Juan Manuel Pareja †|
22x20px Casto Méndez Núñez
| Mariano Ignacio Prado|
Juan Williams Rebolledo
es:Plantilla:Campaña Guerra Hispano-Sudamericana The Chincha Islands War (Spanish: Guerra Hispano-Peruana, Guerra Hispano-Chilena, Spanish-Peruvian War or Spanish-Chilean War, the name changing depending on the nationality of the author) was a series of coastal and naval battles between Spain and its former colonies of Peru and Chile from 1864 to 1866, that began with Spain's seizure of the guano-rich Chincha Islands, part of a series of attempts by Isabel II of Spain to reassert her country's lost influence in its former South American empire.
Military expenditure had greatly increased during Isabel's reign, with Spain becoming as a consequence the world's fourth naval power. Isabel's reign saw Spain engaged in colonial adventures in the 1850s and 1860s in regions as disparate as Morocco, Indochina, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic (which it briefly reoccupied.)
At the end of 1862, Isabel sent a "scientific expedition" to South American waters, with a second, hidden purpose of backing the financial and legal claims of Spanish citizens living in the Americas. The expedition was under the command of Admiral Luis Hernández Pinzón – a direct descendant of the Pinzón brothers who accompanied Christopher Columbus in the discovery of America. His squadron was composed of three warships: the twin steam frigates Triunfo and Resolución and the schooner Virgen de Covadonga.
The Spaniards arrived at the port of Valparaiso, Chile, on April 18, 1863. Spain had recognized Chilean independence since the 1840s, and both countries had diplomatic relations, thus the expedition was very cordially received and the Admiral exchanged visits with the local authorities. They left Chile in July in the best of terms and moved on to Peru. Even though Spain had never recognized Peruvian independence (achieved in 1821), the squadron received a very friendly welcome at the port of Callao. They stayed in port for a few weeks and then moved on towards San Francisco, California. This was the moment when the problems started.
On August 4, 1863 a confusing incident took place at the Talambó hacienda, in Lambayeque, Peru. For reasons not at all clear, a fight broke out between two Spaniards living there and 40 local people. As a result, one Spaniard died and four were injured.
When news of the incident reached Admiral Pinzón, he returned with his fleet to Peru on November 13 and demanded a government apology and reparations to the affected Spanish citizens. The Peruvians responded that it was an internal police matter, better handled by the justice system, and no apology was due. At this juncture, the Spanish government in Madrid decided to also demand the payment of former Peruvian debts stemming from the War of Independence, and it sent deputy Eusebio de Salazar y Mazaredo to settle the issue directly with the Peruvian authorities.
Salazar arrived in March 1864, with the title of Royal Commissary. This was a deliberate insult to the government of Peru, because a Commissary is a colonial functionary and not an ambassador, the proper title for a diplomatic functionary sent to negotiate with an independent state. From there on, the negotiations between him and the Peruvian minister of Foreign Affairs, Juan A. Ribeyro, were doomed to fail.
Chincha islands occupation
On April 14, 1864, the Spanish fleet seized the lightly defended Chincha Islands, the principal source of Peruvian guano, as a retaliation for the indemnity that Peru was refusing to pay. There, the Spaniards placed Governor Ramón Valle Riestra under arrest aboard the Resolución, occupied the islands with 400 Spanish marines, and raised the Spanish flag. Spain considered these islands an important bargaining tool, because they were a major source of resources for Peru and produced almost 60% of all governmental revenue.
The Spanish squadron also blockaded the principal Peruvian ports, disrupting commerce and creating a high level of dislike in all of Latin America. They expected little resistance from Peru, believing its military prowess to be negligible. Even a proposal to exchange the islands with the British for Gibraltar was considered for a time. During this blockade the Spanish lost the Triunfo after an accidental fire destroyed it.
During this first phase of the war, the recently assumed Spanish Prime Minister, Ramón María Narváez, at first did not approve of the unilateral position of Admiral Pinzón, and replaced him with Vice Admiral Juan Manuel Pareja, ex-Minister of the Navy, who had been born in Peru and hated the “rebels” because his father, Brigadier Antonio Pareja, had died in Chile on 1813, fighting for the King in the Chilean War of Independence. Very soon though, Narváez opinion changed again, and he sent another four warships to strengthen the Pacific fleet.
Admiral Pareja arrived in Peru in December 1864, and immediately opened negotiations with General Manuel Ignacio de Vivanco, the special representative of Peruvian Presidente Juan Antonio Pezet. The Vivanco-Pareja Treaty was signed on January 27, 1865, on board the frigate Villa de Madrid. Nonetheless national opinion considered it derogatory to Peruvian national honor. When the Peruvian Congress refused to ratify it, a general uprising followed and the government of General Pezet fell on November 7, 1865.
War with Chile
In the meantime, anti-Spanish sentiments in several South American countries such as Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador were increasing. It was obvious that the Spaniards had no intentions of conquering their former colonies. However, Peru and its neighbors were suspicious about the possibility of the re-establishment of the Spanish Empire. For this reason it was not surprising that when the Spanish gunboat Vencedora stopped at a Chilean port for coal, President José Joaquín Pérez declared that coal was a war supply that could not be sold to a belligerent nation.
However, from the Spanish point of view, such an embargo could not be taken as proof of Chilean neutrality, since two Peruvian steamers had left the port of Valparaiso with weapons and Chilean volunteers to fight for Peru. In consequence, Admiral Juan Manuel Pareja took a hard line and demanded sanctions against Chile, even heavier than those imposed upon Peru. He then took part of his squadron composed of four wooden ships to Chile, while the Numancia and the Covadonga remained to guard Callao.
On September 17, 1865, Admiral Pareja arrived at Valparaiso on his flagship, the Villa de Madrid, and demanded that the Spanish flag be given a 21-gun salute. He purposefully chose the day before the anniversary of Chilean independence (September 18th) to present his demand. Under the circumstances, the Chileans refused and war was declared a week later, on September 24.
The just named Spanish Prime Minister Leopoldo O'Donnell, who replaced Narvaéz, ordered Admiral Pareja to withdraw, but the Spanish admiral chose to ignore and disobey his direct orders. Since he had no troops with which to attempt a landing, he decided instead to impose a blockade of the main Chilean ports. Even so, his plan was doomed, for in order to blockade Chile's 1,800 miles (2,900 km) of coastline, Pareja would have needed a fleet several times larger than what he had at his disposal. The blockade of the port of Valparaiso, however, caused such great economic damage to Chilean and foreign interests, that the neutral naval warships of the United States and the United Kingdom lodged a formal protest.
Before Chile and Peru were even formally aligned, Spain suffered a humiliating naval defeat at the Naval Battle of Papudo on November 26, 1865. There, the Chilean corvette Esmeralda captured the Spanish schooner Covadonga, taking the crew prisoner and capturing the Admiral's war correspondence. This loss was too much for Admiral Pareja's pride, and two days later he committed suicide on his flagship. After the Spanish Admiral's death, the general command of the Spanish fleet in the Pacific was assumed by Commodore Casto Méndez Núñez, who was soon promoted to rear admiral.
War with Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia
On November 7, 1865, because of his unwillingness to declare war against Spain and his discredit for having signed the Vivanco-Pareja Treaty, Peruvian President Juan Antonio Pezet was forced out of office and replaced by his vice president, General Pedro Diez Canseco.
General Diez Canseco also tried to avoid war with Spain, and that in turn also caused his downfall. Only 20 days later, on November 26 General Mariano Ignacio Prado, leader of the nationalist movement, deposed him. The new government immediately declared its solidarity with Chile and its intention to declare war against Spain to clear its national honor.
On December 5, 1865, Chile and Peru formally signed an alliance against Spain. The Peruvian Congress ratified this alliance on January 12, and two days later, on January 14, 1866, Peru finally declared war on Spain. Immediately after, a Peruvian squadron under the command of Captain Lizardo Montero, composed of the steam frigates Amazonas and Apurímac, set out to join the Chilean fleet.
Ecuador joined the alliance on January 30, 1866 by declaring war on Spain that same day. Bolivia, under the command of General Mariano Melgarejo, did the same on March 22, 1866. In this way, all the ports of the Pacific coast of South America became closed and hostile to the Spanish fleet. On the other hand, Argentina and Brazil refused to join the alliance, involved as they were in the War of the Triple Alliance.
Valparaiso and Callao bombardments
When the Chilean government ordered that all vessels communicating with the Spanish fleet should not be allowed to enter Chilean ports, Admiral Mendez Núñez decided to take punitive action against South American ports. At the Valparaiso bombardment (January 31, 1866), the Spanish fleet shelled and burned the town and port of Valparaiso, and destroyed the Chilean merchant fleet.
He then sent two of his most powerful ships south to destroy the combined Chilean-Peruvian fleet. This fleet had been placed under the command of Peruvian Captain Manuel Villar and had taken refuge at Abtao, near the gulf of Chiloé, in southern Chile. In February 7th, a Spanish squadron discovered and fought the Allied fleet in the Naval Battle of Abtao. The encounter was an inconclusive affair because the Spanish Commander decided not to risk his ships by sending them into uncharted shallow waters.
Admiral Mendez Núñez, very unhappy with having destroyed a defenceless target as Valparaiso, and with the inconclusive result at Abtao, decided to change his plans and attack next a heavily defended port. As a result, the Admiral set upon the Peruvian port city of Callao. The Battle of Callao (May 2nd, 1866) ended up as a decisive strategic victory for Peru, and it effectively lowered Spanish morale to the point that the Admiral decided to retreat the fleet completely from South America.
After the battle, both sides claimed victory. The Peruvian defenders claimed that they had stopped the Spanish from trying to re-colonize South America (a patent impossibility, due to the composition of the Spanish forces) and to have forced the Spaniards to withdraw their fleet, while the Spaniards claimed to have destroyed most of the Peruvian guns and harbor shelters. The reality was somewhere in the middle. Although some damage was indeed inflicted to the defenses of Callao, it was insufficient to create any permanent danger (the Spaniards had no troops to land anyway) or to stop the response from the city's defenses. On the other hand, even though the casualties on the Peruvian side were double in number the casualties of the Spanish side, the Spanish fleet ended up with 3 badly damaged ships and had to retreat even though they had the advantage of guns (approximately 250, to the defenders' 65).
Whether the claim of re-colonization was a fact or an exaggeration is not really known, for even though the war might have simply been a way for Spain to regain some world prestige or to humiliate South America, the Spanish invasion of the Chincha Islands and their attempts to meddle with other South American countries seem to show a long-range Spanish intention of reasserting their power in their former colonies. After the battle, with all the South American ports closed to them, the Spanish fleet withdrew from South American coasts, vacated the Chincha Islands and returned to Spain via the Philippines, having to complete a round-the-world trip in order to do so.
Order of battle
- Numancia - Built in France 1863; Weight 7,500-tons; Speed 12 knots (22 km/h); weapons thirty-four 200 mm guns; Armor five and a half iron belt; Crew 620 men. At the time among the most powerful ships of the world.
- Villa de Madrid - Built 1862; Weight 4,478-tons; Speed 15 knots (28 km/h); Weapons thirty 200 mm guns, fourteen 160 mm-guns, two 120 mm guns, plus two 150 mm howitzers and two 80 mm guns for landing.
- Resolucion - Built 1861; Weight 3,100-tons; Speed 11 knots (20 km/h); weapons twenty 200 mm guns, fourteen 160 mm guns, one revolving 220 mm gun and two 150 mm-howitzers, two 120 mm guns and two 80 mm guns for landing.
- Triunfo - Built 1861; Weight 3,100-tons; Speed 11 knots (20 km/h); weapons twenty 200 mm guns, fourteen 160 mm guns, one revolving 220 mm gun and two 150 mm-howitzers, two 120 mm guns and two 80 mm guns for landing. This ship was lost in a fire during the early stages of the war.
- Almansa - Built 1864; Weight 3,980-tons; Speed 12 knots (22 km/h); armament thirty 200 mm guns; fourteen 160 mm guns and two 120 mm guns. She also had two 150 mm-howitzers and two 80 mm guns for landing. This ship would arrive to the Pacific on April 1866, days before the Callao Combat.
- Reina Blanca - Weight 3,800-tons; armament 68 guns.
- Berenguela - Weight 3,800-tons; armament 36 guns.
- Virjen de Covadonga, Built 1864; Weight 445-tons; Speed 8 knots (15 km/h); Weapons two revolving 200 mm guns at the sides and one revolving 160 mm guns at the prow. Spain however lost the ship to the Chileans.
- Vencedora, Built 1861; Weight 778-tons; Speed 8 knots (15 km/h); weapons two 200 mm revolving guns and two 160 mm guns.
- Marques de la Victoria - 3 guns
- Paquete del Maule - captured to Chile
Battles of the Chincha Islands War
- Battle of Papudo (February 26, 1865)
- Valparaiso bombardment (January 31, 1866)
- Battle of Abtao (February 7, 1866)
- Battle of Callao (May 2, 1866)
- The War With Spain (extensive background)
- España y la Guerra del Pacifico (Spanish)
- Peru guards its guano as demand soars in 2008 - New York Times
- Good Information on the fleets (Spanish)
- Liberation of the Chinchas (Spanish)ca:Guerra hispanosudamericana
cs:První tichomořská válka de:Spanisch-Südamerikanischer Krieg es:Guerra Hispano-Sudamericana fr:Guerre hispano-sud-américaine id:Perang Kepulauan Chincha he:מלחמת ספרד-אמריקה הדרומית pl:Wojna Chile i Peru z Hiszpanią ru:Испано-южноамериканская война fi:Espanjalais-eteläamerikkalainen sota uk:Іспано-південноамериканська війна