War of the Pacific

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The War of the Pacific (Spanish: Guerra del Pacífico, sometimes known as the Tacna-Arica dispute) took place in western South America from 1879 to 1883, with Bolivia and Peru on one side and Chile on the other. The core issues were territorial claims and mining rights in the Atacama Desert; after the war ended with a Chilean victory, Chile gained a significant amount of land from Peru and Bolivia, making Bolivia a landlocked country.

Battles were fought in a variety of terrain, including the Pacific Ocean, the Atacama Desert, Peru's deserts, and mountainous regions in the Andes. For the first five months the war played out in a naval campaign, as Chile struggled to establish a sea-based resupply corridor for its forces in the world's driest desert. The war is a dramatic landmark in the history of South America and stands as one of the most significant military encounters of the late 19th century. It has attracted a considerable amount of scholarly interest.[1]

In February 1878 Bolivia imposed a new tax on a Chilean mining company ("Compañía de Salitres y Ferrocarril de Antofagasta", CSFA) despite Bolivian express warranty in the 1874 Boundary Treaty it would not increase taxes on Chilean persons or industries for twenty-five years. Chile protested against the tax increase and solicited to submit it to mediation, but Bolivia refused and considered it a subject of Bolivia's courts. Chile insisted and informed the Bolivian government that Chile would no longer consider itself bound to the 1874 Boundary Treaty if Bolivia did not suspend enforcing the law. On February 14, 1879 when Bolivian authorities attempted to auction the confiscated property of CSFA, Chilean armed forces occupied the port city of Antofagasta.

Peru, bound with Bolivia by their Secret treaty of alliance between Peru and Bolivia of 1873, tried to mediate, but on 1 March 1879 Bolivia declared war on Chile and called on Peru to activate their alliance, while Chile demanded that Peru declare its neutrality. On April 5, after Peru refused this, Chile declared war on both nations. The following day, Peru responded by acknowledging the casus foederis.

Ronald Bruce St. John in "The Bolivia-Chile-Peru Dispute in the Atacama Desert" states:

Even though the 1873 treaty and the imposition of the 10 centavos tax proved to be the casus belli, there were deeper, more fundamental reasons for the outbreak of hostilities in 1879. On the one hand, there was the power, prestige, and relative stability of Chile compared to the economic deterioration and political discontinuity which characterised both Peru and Bolivia after independence. On the other, there was the ongoing competition for economical and political hegemony in the region, complicated by a deep antipathy between Peru and Chile. In this milieu, the vagueness of the boundaries between the three states, coupled with the discovery of valuable guano and nitrate deposits in the disputed territories, combined to produce a diplomatic conundrum of insurmountable proportions.[2]

Afterwards, Chile's land campaign bested the Bolivian and Peruvian armies. Bolivia was defeated and withdrew after the Battle of Tacna on May 26, 1880. The Peruvian army was defeated in the Battle of Arica on June 7, 1880. The land campaign climaxed in 1881 with the Chilean occupation of Lima in January 1881. Peruvian army remnants and irregulars waged a guerrilla war against Chile. This Campaign of the Breña was a resistance movement, but did not change the war's outcome. After Peru's defeat at the Battle of Huamachuco in July 1883, Chile and Peru signed the Treaty of Ancón on October 20, 1883. Bolivia signed a truce with Chile in 1884.

Chile acquired the Peruvian territory of Tarapacá, the disputed Bolivian department of Litoral (cutting Bolivia off from the sea), as well as temporary control over the Peruvian provinces of Tacna and Arica. In 1904, Chile and Bolivia signed the "Treaty of Peace and Friendship" establishing definite boundaries. The 1929 Tacna–Arica compromise gave Arica to Chile and Tacna to Peru.


Burying soldiers after the Battle of Tacna.

It is also known as the Saltpetre War, as the The Ten Cents War in reference to the controversial ten-centavo tax imposed by the Bolivian government, or as the The Second Pacific War.[3] Not to be confused with the Saltpeter War (Mexico), a pre-Columbian war nor the "Guano War" as the Chincha Islands War is sometimes named.[4]

Wanu (hispanicized guano) is a Quechua word for fertilizer.[5] Potassium nitrate (ordinary saltpeter) and sodium nitrate (Chile saltpeter) are nitrogen-containing compounds collectively referred to as salpeter, saltpetre, salitre, caliche, or nitrate. They are used as fertilizer with also other important uses. Hence the words oficina, or oficina salitrera for saltpeter works.

The word Atacama had two meanings. It was and is a Chilean region, then province, (1. meaning) South of the Atacama desert (2. meaning). The Atacama desert mostly coincides with the disputed Antofagasta province, also named Litoral in Bolivia.


The Atacama border dispute between Bolivia and Chile concerning the sovereignty over the coastal territories between approximately the parallels 23°S and 24°S was just one of several long-running border conflicts in South America after the independence throughout the nineteenth century, since uncertainty characterized the demarcation of frontiers according to the Uti possidetis 1810.[6]

The dry climate of the Peruvian and Bolivian coasts had permitted the accumulation and preservation of vast amounts of high-quality guano deposits and sodium nitrate. In the 1840s, Europeans knew the guano and nitrate's value as fertilizer and saltpeter's role in explosives. The Atacama Desert became economically important. Bolivia, Chile, and Peru were located in the area of the largest reserves of a resource the world demanded. During the Chincha Islands War (1864–1866), Spain, under Queen Isabella II, attempted to exploit an incident involving Spanish citizens in Peru to re-establish Spanish influence over the guano-rich Chincha Islands.

Starting from the Chilean silver rush in the 1830s, the Atacama desert was prospected and populated by Chileans.[7] Chilean and foreign enterprises in the region eventually extended their control to the Peruvian saltpeter works. In the Peruvian region of Tarapacá, Peruvian people constituted a minority behind both Chileans and Bolivians.[8]

Boundary Treaty of 1866

Bolivia and Chile, negotiated the "Boundary Treaty of 1866" ("Treaty of Mutual Benefits"). The treaty established the 24th parallel south, "from the littoral of the Pacific to the eastern limits of Chile", as their mutual boundary. The two countries also agreed to share the tax revenue from mineral exports from the territory between the 23rd and 25th parallel south. The bipartite tax collecting caused discontent, and the treaty lasted only 8 years.

Secret Alliance Treaty of 1873

In February 1873, Peru and Bolivia signed a treaty of alliance against Chile.[9] Its last clause kept it secret as long as both parties considered its publication unnecessary; it was revealed in 1879. Argentina, involved in a long-standing dispute with Chile over the Strait of Magellan and Patagonia, was secretly invited to join the pact, and in September 1873 the Argentine Chamber of Deputies approved the treaty and $6,000,000 for war preparations[10] Eventually Argentina and Bolivia did not agree about the territories of Tarija and Chaco, and the former feared a Chile-Brazil axis. The Argentine Senate postponed and later rejected the approval, but 1875 and 1877, after border disputes with Chile flared up anew, she sought to join the treaty.[11] At the onset of the war, in a renewed attempt, Peru offered Argentina the Chilean territories from 24° to 27° if Argentina adhered the pact and fought the war.[12][13]

Historians including G. Bulnes,[14] Basadre,[15] and Yrigoyen[16] agree that the real intention of the treaty was to compel Chile to modify its borders according to the geopolitical interests of Argentina, Peru and Bolivia as Chile was militarily weak, that is, before the arrival of the Chilean ironclads Cochrane and Blanco Encalada.

Chile was not informed about the pact, but learned of it first cursorily through a leak in the Argentine Congress in September 1873, when Argentina's senate discussed the invitation to join the Peru-Bolivia alliance.[10] Peruvian mediator Antonio de Lavalle stated in his memoirs that he did not learn of it until March 1879 and Hilarion Daza was only informed about the pact in December 1878.[17]

Peruvian historian Basadre states that one of Peru's reasons for signing the treaty was to impede a Chile-Bolivia alliance against Peru that would have given to Bolivia the region of Arica (the vast majority of Bolivian commerce went through Peruvian ports of Arica before the war) and transferred Antofagasta to Chile.[18] These Chilean offers to Bolivia, to change allegiance, were done several times even during the war[19] and also from the Bolivian side at least six times.[18]

On December 26, 1874, the recently built ironclad Cochrane arrived in Valparaíso; it remained in Chile until the completion of the Blanco Encalada. It threw the balance of south Pacific power towards Chile.[20]

Historians disagree about how to interpret the treaty. Some Peruvian and Bolivian historians assess it as rightful, defensive, circumstantial, and known by Chile from the very onset. Conversely, some Chileans historians assess the treaty as aggressive against Chile, causative of the war, designed to take control by Peru of the Bolivian salitreras and hidden from Chile. The reasons for its secrecy, its invitation to Argentina to join the pact, and Peru's refusal to remain neutral are still being discussed.[21]

Boundary Treaty of 1874

In 1874, Chile and Bolivia replaced the 1866 boundary treaty, keeping the boundary at 24th parallel but granting Bolivia the authority to collect all tax revenue between the 23rd and 24th parallels south. As compensation for the relinquishment of its rights, Chile did receive a 25 years guarantee against tax increases on Chilean commercial interests and their exports. All disputes arising under the treaty would be settled by arbitration.

Causes of the war

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.American historian William F. Sater gives several possible and noncontradictory reasons for the beginning of the war:[22]

Chile was devastated by the economic crisis of the 1870s[23] and was looking for a replacement for its silver, copper and wheat exports.[24] It has been argued that the economic situation and the view of new wealth in nitrate was the true reason for the Chilean elite to go into war against Peru and Bolivia.[24][25] The holder of the Chilean nitrate companies, says Sater, "bulldozed" the Chilean president Aníbal Pinto into declaring war. (Several members of the Chilean government were holders of the CSFA and it is believed that they did buy the services of one of the country's newspapers to push their case).

US historian Fredrick B. Pike calls this allegation "absurd"[26]:33 and W. Sater states that this interpretation overlooks certain important facts. The Chilean investors in Bolivia feared that Daza, the Bolivian dictator, would use, as he did, the war as an excuse to expropriate his investments. Among them were Melchor de Concha y Toro, the political powerful president of Chile's Camara de Diputados, Jerónimo Urmeneta,[27]:105 and Lorenzo Claro, a Chilean founder of the Banco de Bolivia and a prominent member of the National Party (Chile, 1857–1933). A Santiago newspaper claimed that Melchor de Concha y Toro offered president Pinto $2,000,000 to end the dispute and return to the 1874 boundary line. "In others words", writes W. Sater, "there were as many powerful interests opposed to helping the Compañía de Salitres as there were those seeking to aid the corporation"[28] Also, B. Farcau objects to the argument: "On the other hand, the sorry state of the Chilean armed forces at the outbreak of the war, as will be discussed in the following chapter, hardly supports a theory of conscious, premeditated aggression".[29]

Sater cites also another sources that state that the true causes of the conflict are not economic but geopolitical: a struggle for control of the south-eastern portion of the Pacific Ocean. So in 1836 the Peruvian government tried to monopolize the commerce in the South Pacific by rewarding ships which sailed direct to Callao in detriment of Valparaíso,[30] and Peru tried to impede the agreement reached between Spain and Chile in order to free its new warships built and embargoed in Britain during the Chincha War. Sater cites Germany's minister in Chile who argued that the war between Peru and Bolivia would "have erupted sooner or later, [and] on any pretext". He opined that Bolivia and Peru had developed a "bitter envy" against Chile and its material progress and good government.[31] Frederik B. Pike states: "The fundamental cause for the eruption of hostilities was the mounting power and prestige and the economic and political stability of Chile, on one hand, and the weakness and the political an economic deterioration of Bolivia, on the other. ... The war — and its outcome — was as inevitable as the 1846—1848 conflict between the United States and Mexico. In both instances, a relatively well-governed, energetic, and economically expanding nation had been irresistibly tempted by neighboring territories that were underdeveloped, malgoverned, and sparsely occupied."[32]:128

Another reason, states Sater, was Peru's want to monopolize and appropriate the nitrate works to strengthen its nitrate monopoly and in order to achieve it, the Bolivian and Chilean salitreras had to be controlled by Peru.[33] As unenviable as Chile’s situation was, that of Peru was much worse. The 1870s was for Peru's economy "a decade of crisis and change".[34] Nitrate extraction rose while guano exports, the source of substantial revenue for the Peruvian state, declined from 575,000 tons in 1869 to less than 350,000 tons in 1873, and the Chincha Islands and other guano islands were depleted or nearly so.[34]

William Edmundson states in A History of the British Presence in Chile[35] "Peru has its own reasons to enter the dispute. Rory Miller (1993) argues that the depletion of guano resources and poor management of the economy in Peru had provoked a crisis. This has caused Peru to default on its external debt in 1876, ... In that year [1875] the Peruvian government decided to procure a loan of seven millions pounds of which four millions pounds were earmarked to purchase privately owned oficinas [salitreras] ... and Peru defaulted again in 1877".

To increase guano revenue, Peru created a monopoly of nitrate commerce in 1875. The aims of the monopoly were to increase prices, curb exports, and so to impede competition. But most larger nitrate firms opposed the monopoly on sales of nitrate.[34] When this was unsuccessful, in 1876, Peru began to expropriate nitrate producers,[36] and to buy nitrate concessions such as that of Henry Meiggs in Bolivia ("Toco", south of the Loa River).[34] But the CSFA was too expensive and could not be purchased.[37] As Peruvian historian Alejandro Reyes states, this needed also the control over the Bolivian salitreras, and that was the internationalization of the conflict, because they were in the hands of Chilean and British capitalists.[33] Later, as the Chilean company was to be auctioned on 14 February 1879 in Antofagasta, it was considered that the Peruvian consul would be the highest bidder.[38]

But some sources, says Sater, see the declarations of war between Chile and Peru as a product of popular domestic forces, that is, the president had to enter into war or to abandon and cede. Sater cites the Britain minister in Lima, Spencer St. John: "the rival parties may try to make political capital out of jealousy for the national honor, and His Excellency [Peruvian President Prado] may be forced to give way to the popular sentiment."[39] Pinto was under similar pressures.[40] For Bruce Farcau, this seems to be the main cause for the war outbreak, as he states: "The argument that the attitude of the peoples of the region was just ripe for war seems best to fit the bill."[29]


Miguel Iglesias 3.jpg
Juan Jose Latorre. Comandante.jpg
Miguel Iglesias, later President of Peru. His son Alejandro was killed during the Battle of Miraflores. Juan José Latorre participated in the shelling of Callao, where his brother, Elías Latorre, defended the forts of the harbor.[41]

The Ten Cents Tax

The license of 27 November 1873

Since 1866 Chilean entrepreneurs José Santos Ossa and Francisco Puelma exploited deposits of sodium nitrate in Bolivian territories (salitreras "Las Salinas" and "Carmen Alto" 122 kilometres (76 mi) and 128 kilometres (80 mi) from Antofagasta respectively) secured by concessions from the then President of Bolivia Mariano Melgarejo. Later, in 1868, British capital was associated and founded the Compañía Melbourne Clark. The company obtained a license to construct a railroad from Antofagasta to Salinas, and the company was renamed to Compañía de Salitres y Ferrocarril de Antofagasta (CSFA), with a minority of British capital of 34% [42] from the Antony Gibbs & Sons of London, which were also shareholder of salitreras in Peru. The company was established in Valparaíso, Chile.[43] Its shareholders included a number of leading Chilean politicians.[44] In 1871 a new Bolivian Government invalidated all contracts signed by Melgarejo. But on 22 November 1872 a Bolivian decree allowed the government to renegotiate the contracts, which is what the company and the Bolivian Government did. On 27 November 1873 the CSFA obtained from the Bolivian executive a license to exploit saltpeter duty-free for 15 years, but it was disputed whether the decree needed the authorization of the Bolivian Congress.[Notes 1] Some lawyers placed emphasis on con cargo a dar cuenta a la próxima legislatura (Spanish for: "to be accepted by the parliament"), while others on sólo en los casos de no avenimiento (Spanish for "only in conflict cases").

The Article 4 of the 1874 Boundary Treaty

Since 1874 was in force the Chile-Bolivia Boundary Treaty of 1874, whose article 4 explicitly forbade further tax on Chilean enterprises for 25 years:

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The duties of exportation that may be levied on minerals exploited in the zone referred to in the preceding articles shall not exceed those now in force, and Chilean citizens, industry, and capital shall not be subjected to any other contributions what ever except those now existing. The stipulations in this article shall last for twenty-five years.

The Peruvian Monopoly

In 1875 Peru's government expropriated the salitreras of Tarapacá in order to secure revenue from guano and nitrate by means of a monopoly, and in 1876 Antony Gibbs & Sons became consignee of the nitrate trade for the Peruvian government.[45] President Mariano Ignacio Prado was "determined to complete the monopoly" and in 1876 Peru bought the nitrate licenses for "El Toco" auctioned by Bolivian decree of 13 January 1876.[46]:69 But the Chilean CSFA remained the most serious competitor and clearly weakened Peru's monopoly.[47] President Pardo, Prado's predecessor, had urged Gibbs to secure the monopoly by limiting CSFA's output,[48] and in fact, Henry Gibbs had warned the CSFA's directory board, in a letter on 16 April 1878, that CSFA's refusal to limit the output would bring administrative trouble with Peru and Bolivia as long and as intensive as it is made more and more to the interest of a neighboring Government that they should be so.[46]:64

The Gibbs house made repeated unsuccessful efforts in 1876 and 1877 to persuade Edwards (Chilean majority shareholder) to accept a limit in CFSA's production.[49][50]

The tax and the Chilean refusal

In 1875 the city of Antofagasta had attempted to impose a 3 cents tax on the CSFA, but the Bolivian State Council (Consejo de Estado) headed by Serapio Reyes Ortiz, later Foreign Affairs Minister during the crisis, refused the tax, because it violated the license of 1873 and the Boundary Treaty of 1874.[51]

On 14 February 1878 the National Congress of Bolivia and a National Constituent Assembly approved the 1873 license under the condition that the company would pay a 10 cents per quintal tax,[52] but the company objected, citing the 1874 treaty, that the increased payments were illegal and demanded an intervention from the Chilean government.[53]

The CSFA's directory board perceived the tax as a Peruvian move in order to displace Chileans from the nitrate production as occurred in Tarapacá in 1875 as the Peruvian Government expropriated the salitreras.[54]

Having surrendered its claim to the disputed territories in return for a Bolivian promise not to increase tax,[55] Chile responded that the treaty did not allow for such a tax hike.[44] Bolivia suspended the tax in April 1878. In November Chile proposed a mediation and cautioned that Daza's refusal to cancel the tax would force Chile to declare null the 1874 Treaty. In December 1878 Bolivia, counting in its military alliance with Peru, challenged Chile and said the tax was unrelated to the treaty and that the claim of the CSFA should be addressed in Bolivian courts, and revived the tax.[43] When the company refused to pay the tax, Bolivia confiscated its property on 11 February and threatened to sell it on 14 February in order to liquidate the tax's debt.[56]

Occupation of Antofagasta

In December 1878, Chile dispatched a warship to the area. On 6 February, the Bolivian government nullified the CSFA's license of exploitation and confiscated the property. These news reached Valparaíso on 11 February and on this account the Chilean government decided on the occupation of Antofagasta.[57] On the day of the planned auction, 200 Chilean soldiers arrived by ship at the port city of Antofagasta, and seized it having received no resistance. The occupying forces received widespread support from the local population, the majority of whom were Chilean.[58][59] Antofagasta's population was 93–95% Chilean.[60] On February 18, while in Antofagasta, Chilean colonel Emilio Sotomayor intercepted a letter from Bolivian president Hilarión Daza to Bolivian prefect-colonel Severino Zapata. The letter mentioned Daza's worry of Chilean interference with Bolivia's confiscation of saltpeter companies, and mentioned a previously secret treaty that Bolivia would, if necessary, demand that Peru honor should Chile declare war.[61]

Peruvian mediation and Bolivian declaration of war

On 22 February, Peru sent a diplomatic team headed by José Antonio de Lavalle to Santiago, to act as mediator between the Chilean and Bolivian governments, meanwhile Peru ordered its fleet and army to prepare for war.[22] He arrived in Valparaíso on 4. March. On February 27, Daza had made a public manifesto informing Bolivians about the occupation of Antofagasta and calling for patriotic support. The same day the Bolivian legislature authorized a formal declaration of war upon Chile, although it was not immediately announced. On March 1, Daza issued instead a decree which prohibited all commerce and communications with Chile "while the state-of-war provoked upon Bolivia lasts," provided Chileans ten days to leave Bolivian territory unless gravely ill or handicapped, embargoed Chilean furniture, property, and mining produce, allowed Chilean mining companies to continue operating under a government-appointed administrator, and provided all embargoes as temporary "unless the hostilities exercised by Chilean forces requires an energetic retaliation from Bolivia."

In Santiago, Lavalle asked for Chile's withdrawal from Antofagasta in order to transfer the province to a tripartite administration (Bolivia, Chile and Peru) without a Bolivian warranty to end the embargo nor of canceling the new tax.[62]

Then, on March 14, in a meeting with foreign powers in Lima, Bolivia announced that a state of war existed with Chile.[53][63] This declaration was aimed to impede further Chilean arms purchase in Europe and to scuttle the Peruvian mediation in Chile.[64] Bolivia called on Peru to activate the alliance treaty, arguing that Chile's invasion constituted a casus foederis.

Also on March 14, Alejandro Fierro, Chile's minister of foreign affairs, sent a telegram to the Chilean representative in Lima, Joaquin Godoy, requesting immediate neutrality from the Peruvian government. On March 17, Godoy formally presented the Chilean proposal in a meeting with Peruvian President Prado.[65]:147ff

On March 21, Godoy telegraphed the Chilean government about the secret Peru-Bolivia treaty, which had been revealed to him by Peruvian President Prado.[65]:154ff

On March 23, while on their way to occupy Calama, 554 Chilean troops and cavalry defeated 135 Bolivian soldiers and civilians dug in at two destroyed bridges next to the Topáter ford. This Battle of Topáter was the first combat of the war.

When the Chilean government asked Lavalle directly and officially whether a defensive alliance existed that committed Peru to assist Bolivia in case of a war with Chile and whether Lima planned to honor this agreement, Lavalle could prevaricate no longer: he answered yes to both. Chilean president Pinto sought and received legislative approval to declare war, which he did on 5. April 1879.[22] Peru responded on April 6, when President Prado declared the casus foederis.[66]


Struggle for sea control

Given the few roads and railroad lines, the nearly waterless and largely unpopulated Atacama Desert was difficult to occupy. From the beginning naval superiority was critical.[67] Bolivia had no navy,[68] so on March 26, 1879 Hilarión Daza formally offered letters of marque to any ships willing to fight for Bolivia.[69] The Armada de Chile and Marina de Guerra del Perú fought the naval battles.

Early on Chile blockaded the Peruvian port of Iquique, on April 5.[70] In the Battle of Iquique (May 21, 1879), the Peruvian ironclad Huáscar engaged and sank the wooden Esmeralda; Meanwhile, in the Battle of Punta Gruesa, the Peruvian Independencia chased the schooner Covadonga until the heavier Independencia collided with a submerged rock and sank in the shallow waters near Punta Gruesa. In total, Peru stopped the blockade of Iquique, and Chileans lost the old Esmeralda. Nevertheless, the loss of the Independencia cost Peru 40% of its naval offensive power[71] and made a strong impression upon military leaders in Argentina, hence an Argentine intervention in the war became far more remote.[72]

Despite being outnumbered, the Peruvian monitor Huáscar held off the Chilean navy for six consecutive months and upheld Peruvian morale in the early stages of the conflict.[73]:108

The capture of the steamship Rímac on July 23, 1879 while carrying a cavalry regiment (the Carabineros de Yungay) was the Chilean army's largest loss to that point.[74] The loss led Admiral Juan Williams Rebolledo, chief of the Chilean Navy, on 17 August to resign. Commodore Galvarino Riveros Cárdenas replaced Williams, and he devised a plan to catch the Huáscar.[75]

Meanwhile, the Peruvian navy had some other actions, particularly in August 1879 during the (unsuccessful) raid of the Union to Punta Arenas, located at the Strait of Magellan in an attempt to capture the British ship Gleneg which transported weapons and supplies for Chile.[76]

Capital ships of Chile and Peru at the beginning of the War of the Pacific[77]
Warship tons
Main Artillery Built
Cochrane 3,560 3,000 9–12.8 up to 9 6x9 Inch 1874
Blanco Encalada 3,560 3,000 9–12.8 up to 9 6x9 Inch 1874
Huascar 1,130 1,200 10–11 2x300–pounders 1865
Independencia 2,004 1,500 12–13 2x150–pounders 1865

The Battle of Angamos, on October 8, 1879 proved decisive and Peru was reduced almost to land forces.[78] In this battle, the Chilean Navy managed to capture the Huáscar after several hours of fierce battle, despite her remaining crew's attempts to scuttle her.[78]

After Angamos and despite the lost of their two capital ships, Peruvians, with simple and ingenious tricks succeeded in sinking two important Chilean ships, the Loa (July 1880) and the Covadonga (August 1880). But its remaining units were locked in its main port during the long blockade of Callao.

On the other hand, the Chilean Navy captured the ship Pilcomayo in November 1879 and the torpedo boat Alay in December 1880.

When the Peruvian capital Lima fell after the battles of Chorrillos and Miraflores, the Peruvian naval officers scuttled the entire fleet to prevent its capture by the Chilean forces.[79]

Land war

Chilean military operations.

After the battle of Angamos, once Chile achieved naval supremacy, the government had to decide where to strike. The options were Tarapacá, Moquegua, or directly Lima. Because of the proximity to Chile and the capture of the Peruvian Salitreras, Chile decided to occupy first the Peruvian Province of Tarapacá.

Campaign of Tarapacá

The Campaign of Tarapacá began on November 2, 1879, when nine steam transporters escorted by the half of the Chilean Navy transported ninety-five hundred men plus more than 850 animals to Pisagua, some 500 kilometres (310 mi) north of Antofagasta. After neutralizing the coastal batteries, the Chileans landed and attacked beach defenses in Pisagua.[80] From Pisagua the Chileans marched south towards Iquique and on November 19, 1879, defeated the allied troops gathered in Agua Santa in the Battle of San Francisco and Dolores. Bolivian forces retreated to Oruro and the Peruvians fell back to Tiliviche, while the Chilean army captured Iquique.

Peruvian forces marched towards Arica to reach Bolivian troops led by Daza coming from Arica, but in Camarones Daza decided to return towards Arica.

A detachment of Chilean soldiers, with cavalry and artillery, was sent to face the Peruvian forces in Tarapacá (a little town with the name of the province). The two sides clashed on November 27 in the Battle of Tarapacá, where the Chilean forces were defeated, but the Peruvian forces, unable to maintain the territory, retreated north to Arica.[81] Bruce W. Farcau comments that, "The province of Tarapacá was lost along with a population of 200,000 , nearly one tenth of the Peruvian total, and an annual gross income of ₤ 28 million in nitrate production, virtually all of the country's export earnings."[82] The victory afforded Santiago an economic boon and a potential diplomatic asset.[83]

Falls of Prado in Peru and Daza in Bolivia

The Peruvian government was confronted with widespread rioting in Lima because of its failures.[84] On December 18, 1879, Peruvian president Prado went from Callao to Panama, allegedly with six million pesos in gold,[85] with the duty to oversee the purchase of new arms and warships for the nation. In a statement for the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, he turned over the command of the country to vice president Luis La Puerta de Mendoza, but a coup d'état led by Nicolás de Piérola overthrew the government and took power on December 23, 1879.[86]

In Bolivia, after receiving a telegram on December 27, informing him that the army had overthrown him, Daza departed to Europe with $500,000. General Narciso Campero became Bolivia's new president.[87]

Campaign of Tacna and Arica

Meanwhile, Chile continued its advances in the Tacna and Arica Campaign. On November 28, Chile declared the formal blockade of Arica. On December 31, a Chilean force of 600 men carried out an amphibious raid at Ilo as a reconnaissance in force, to the north of Tacna and withdrew the same day.[88]

On February 24, 1880 approximately 11,000 men in nineteen ships (protected by Blanco Encalada, Toro, and Magallanes and two torpedo boats) sailed from Pisagua and arrived off Punta Coles, near Pacocha, Ilo on February 26. The landing took several days without resistance. The Peruvian commander, Lizardo Montero, refused to try to drive the Chileans from the beachhead, as the Chileans had expected.[89] On March 22, 3,642 Chilean troops defeated 1,300 Peruvian troops in the Battle of Los Ángeles, cutting any direct Peruvian supply from Lima to Arica or Tacna (supply was possible only through the long way over Bolivia).[90] After the Battle of Los Ángeles, only three allied positions remained in southern Peru: General Leyva's 2nd Army at Arequipa (including some survivors from Los Ángeles), Bolognesi's 7th and 8th Divisions at Arica, and at Tacna the 1st Army. These forces were under Campero's direct command.[91] However, they were unable to concentrate troops or even to move from their garrisons.[92][93] After crossing 40 miles (64 km) of desert, on May 26 the Chilean army (14,147 men[94]) destroyed the allied army of 5,150 Bolivians and 8,500 Peruvians in the Battle of Tacna. The need for a port near the army to supply and reinforce the troops and evacuate the wounded compelled the Chilean command to concentrate on the remaining Peruvian stronghold of Arica. On June 7, after the Battle of Arica, the last Peruvian bastion in the Tacna Department fell. After the campaign of Tacna and Arica, the Peruvian and Bolivian regular armies ceased to exist,[95] and Bolivia effectively left the war.[96]

Lynch's Expedition

To show Peru the futility of further resistance, on September 4, 1880 the Chilean government dispatched an expedition of 2,200 men[97] to northern Peru under the command of Captain Patricio Lynch to collect war taxes from wealthy landowners.[98][99] On September 10 Lynch's Expedition reached Chimbote[100] and levied taxes of $100,000 in Chimbote, $10,000 in Paita, $20,000 in Chiclayo, and $4,000 in Lambayeque in local currencies; those who did not comply had their property impounded or destroyed. On September 11, the Peruvian government decreed that payment was an act of treason, but most landowners still paid. Lynch's mission, which infuriated Lima, was allowed by the international law. Chilean historian Barros Arana cites article 544 of Johann Caspar Bluntschli's Le droit international codifié,[101][102] and Villalobos cites Andres Bello's Principios del derecho Internacional.[103]

Lackawanna Conference

On October 22, 1880, delegates of Peru, Chile, Bolivia held a 5-day conference aboard the USS Lackawanna in Arica arranged by the United States Minister Plenipotentiaries in Chile and Peru.[104] The Lackawanna Conference, also called the Arica conference, attempted to develop a peace settlement.

Chile demanded the Peruvian Tarapacá province and the Bolivian Atacama, an indemnity of $20,000,000 gold pesos, restoration of property taken from Chilean citizens, the Rimac's return, abrogating the treaty between Peru and Bolivia and Peru's formal commitment not to mount artillery batteries in Arica's harbor. Arica was to be limited to commercial use only. Chile planned to retain the territories of Moquegua, Tacna, and Arica until all peace treaty conditions were satisfied. Although willing to accept the negotiated settlement, Peru and Bolivia insisted that Chile withdraw its forces from all occupied lands as a precondition for discussing peace. Having captured this territory at great expense, Chile declined the terms and the negotiations failed.

Campaign of Lima

Chorrillos was the preferred seaside resort of Lima's aristocracy before the war, but during the battle of Chorrillos, the Peruvian line of defense run in the middle of the city and it was shelled, set on fire, looted and reduced to rubble during the fights. At the end of the battle, bitter fighting raged for every ruin and street.

After the campaign of Tacna and Arica the southern departments of Peru (Tacna, Arica and Tarapacá) were in Chilean hands, and the Lynch expedition was a proof that the army of Peru no longer possessed the skilled military manpower to defend the country. But nothing could convince the Peruvian government to sue for peace. The defeated allies not only failed to realize their situation but, despite the empty Bolivian treasury, on June 16, 1880, the Bolivian National Assembly voted to continue the war. On June 11, 1880, a document was signed in Peru declaring the creation of the United States of Peru-Bolivia.[105] In fact, Bolivia could no longer fight and retired its army from the war. But Piérola continued the struggle. W. Sater states: Had Piérola sued for peace in June 1880, he would have saved countless Peruvian lives and the nation's treasure.[106]

The Chilean government struggled to satisfy the public demands to end the war and to secure the peace. This situation forced the Chilean government to plan the occupation of Lima.[107]

Landings on Pisco, Chilca, Curayaco and Lurín

Lacking the ships to transport all the troops at once from Arica, the Chileans decided to land first a division and then the rest of the army in stages.

On 19 November 8,800 men, twenty cannon and their supplies reached Pisco, approximately 320 kilometres (200 mi) south of Lima. A party of 400 men was landed near the port which learned that a 3,000 man garrison defended Pisco. To avoid a fight during the landing, a Chilean vanguard was landed in Paracas, ten miles to the south, which captured Pisco and on November 20, the rest of the troops landed in Pisco to occupy later various coastal cities and also Ica.

On 2 December, 3,500 men and 416 horses disembarked in Pisco.

On 15 December, 14,000 men, 2,400 horses and mules, plus supplies departed Arica for the north. Baquedano, the Chilean commander, decided that only one brigade, Lynch's brigade, would march the 55 miles to Chilca and all others Chilean forces would be (re)embarked in Pisco for Chilca only 45 kilometres (28 mi) from Lima. They disembarked in Curayaco on 22 December 1880, slightly north of Chilca. The artillery was disembarked in Lurín.

Battle of Chorrillos and Miraflores

The Chilean forces confronted virtually the entire civilian population of Lima. The irregulars defended prepared positions, supported by a collection of old coastal guns located a few miles from the capital's arsenal and supply depots.[108] President Piérola ordered the construction of two parallel defense lines at Chorrillos and Miraflores a few kilometers south of Lima. The line of Chorrillos was 10 miles (16 km) long, lying from Marcavilca hill to La Chira, passing through the steep terrain of San Juan and Santa Teresa.[109] The Peruvian forces were the approximately 25,000 to 32,000 men strong Army of Lima.[110]

On January 13, 1881 Chilean troops charged 22,000-36,000[110] Peruvian defenders in Chorrillos. During the Battle of Chorrillos, the Chileans inflicted a harsh defeat and eliminated Lima's first defensive line. Two days later, the second line of defense was also defeated in the Battle of Miraflores,

Occupation of Lima

The Chilean army entered Lima on January 17, 1881.[79]

Domingo Santa Maria elected President of Chile

On June 15, 1881 Domingo Santa María was elected President of Chile, assuming office on September 18, 1881. A new Congress was elected on schedule in 1882.[111]

Boundary Treaty of 23 July 1881 between Chile and Argentina

Argentina had declared itself neutral at the onset of the war, but she allowed the transport of weapons to the allies over Argentine territories, exerted influence on the USA and European powers to detain the Chilean advance in the war, pleaded for monetary indemnification instead of cesion of territories to Chile and there was a strong drift in its public opinion in favor of Peru and Bolivia. Moreover, there were Peruvian and Bolivian hopes that Argentina could change its stance and enter in a war against Chile.[112]

On 23 July 1881, a few months after the fall of Lima, Chile and Argentina signed the Boundary Treaty that ceded east Patagonia to Argentina and the control over the Strait of Magellan to Chile.

Carlos Escudé and Andrés Cisneros state that the treaty was a true victory for Argentina.[112]

War in the Peruvian Sierra

Photo of Chilean private first class Tránsito Diaz, injured during the Landing on Pisagua. The photo is one out of 130 photographic records ordered by the D. Santa María government to demonstrate the pensions and orthopedic devices given to disabled war veterans.[113]
Collapse of the Peruvian State

After the confrontations in Chorrillos and Miraflores, Peruvian dictator Piérola refused to negotiate with the Chileans and escaped to the central Andes to try governing from the rear, but soon he lost the representation of the Peruvian state.[114](He left Peru in December 1881).

The collapse of national order brought on domestic chaos and violence, most of it motivated by class or racial divisions. Chinese and black laborers took the opportunity to assault haciendas and the property of the rich in protest of the mistreatment they had suffered in previous years, Lima's masses attacked Chinese grocery stores, and Indian peasants took over highland haciendas.[73]:390-

The new Chilean administration continued to push for an end to the costly war. But contrary to expectations in Chile, neither Lima's capture nor the imposition of heavy taxes led Peru to sue for peace.[115] Conversely, Peruvian caudillos advocated to wage a defensive war of attrition to consume Chile's power so much that they renounced their demand for territory.

On 22 February 1881 the pre Píerola Congress (allowed by Chile) reinstated the 1860 Constitution and chose Francisco García Calderón as provisional President[116] but he, assisted by the US Minister in Lima, refused the cession of territories to Chile. He was overthrown by the Chileans in September 1881, but before his relegation to Chile he appointed Cáceres as successor, and Cáceres transferred it to Lizardo Montero.[117]

The occupation commanders, first Manuel Baquedano, then Pedro Lagos and at last Patricio Lynch, sited his military headquarters in the Government Palace in Lima. 60% of the 15,000 Chilean occupation troops were stationed in Lima, Callao and Chorrillos.[118]

The Peruvian caudillos organized a resistance which would come to be known as the Campaign of the Breña or Sierra, a widespread, prolonged, brutal and eventually futile guerrilla campaign.[119] They harassed the Chilean troops and their logistics to such a point that Lynch had to send expeditions to the valleys in the Andes.

Military operations after the fall of Lima until the end of the war. Almost every deployment of Chilean forces far from the coast was resisted by the Peruvian guerrilla warfare, which is not noted on the map.
Letelier's expedition

In February 1881, Chilean forces under Lt. Col. Ambrosio Letelier started the first Expedition, with 700 men, to defeat the last guerrilla bands from Huánuco (April 30) to Junín. After many losses the expedition achieved very little and returned to Lima in early July,[120] where Letelier and his officers were courts-martialed for diverting money into their own pockets.[121]

1882 Sierra Campaign

To annihilate the guerrillas in the Mantaro Valley, in January 1882 Lynch ordered an offensive with 5,000 men[122] under the command of Gana and Del Canto, first towards Tarma and then southeast towards Huancayo, reaching Izcuchaca. Lynch's army suffered enormous hardships including cold temperatures, snow, and mountain sickness. On July 9, 1882 they fought the emblematic Battle of La Concepción. The Chileans had to pull back with a loss of 534 soldiers: 154 in combat, 277 of disease and 103 deserters.

Because Garcia Calderon refused to relinquish Peruvian control over Tarapacá Region, he was arrested. Before Garcia Calderon left Peru for Chile, he named Admiral Lizardo Montero as successor. At the same time President Piérola stepped back and supported Avelino Caceres for the Presidency. Caceres refused to serve and supported Lizardo Montero instead. Montero moved to Arequipa and in this way Garcia Calderon's arrest unified the forces of Piérola and Caceres.[123]

1883 Sierra Campaign

On April 1, 1882 Miguel Iglesias, Defence Minister under Piérola, became convinced that the war had to be brought to an end or Peru would be completely devastated. He issued a manifesto, es:Grito de Montán[124] calling for peace and in December 1882 convened a convention of representatives of the seven northern departments, where he was elected "Regenerating President"[125][126] To support Iglesias against Montero, on April 6, 1883, Patricio Lynch started a new offensive to drive the guerrillas from central Peru and destroy Caceres' army. The Chilean troops pursued Caceres northwest through narrow mountain passes until July 10, 1883, winning the definitive Battle of Huamachuco, the final Peruvian defeat.[127][128]

Last days of the war

A Chilean soldier with the "Peruvian wart", or Carrion's disease, infected probably in the valleys of the Rimac River during the war in the sierra.[129]

Chile and Miguel Iglesias' Government signed the Peace Treaty of Ancón on October 20, 1883, that put an end to the war and ceded Tarapacá to Chile.

Lizardo Montero tried to resist in Arequipa with a force of 4,000 men, but when Chile's 3,000 fighters arrived from Mollendo, Moquegua and Ayacucho, and began the assault to Arequipa, the Peruvian troops mutinied against Montero and allowed the Chileans to occupy the city on 29 October 1883. Montero opted for Bolivian asylum. The occupation of Ayacucho by Chilean Colonel Urriola on 1. October lasted only 40 days then Urriola withdrew to Lima and Ayacucho was occupied by Cáceres' new army of 500 men. Caceres continued to refuse the cession of territories to Chile[130]

But the basis of Cáceres' war, the increasingly powerful Indian insurrection against the Chileans, had changed the nature of the war. Indian guerrillas fought "white men from all parties", looted towns and seized land of the white owners.[131] In June 1884, Cáceres accepted Treaty of Ancón, "as an accomplished fact" but he continued to fight Iglesias.

About Cáceres true reasons for his change of mind, Florencia Mallon says:[132]

Yet long before the civil war was over, it became clear to the hero of la Breña that, in order to build an alliance that would carry him to the presidential palace, he had to mend fences with the "hacendados" as a class, included those who had collaborated with the Chileans. The only way to do so was to give the "hacendados" what they wanted and repress the very guerrillas who had made the Breña campaign possible in the first place.

On October 29, 1883 the Chilean occupation of Lima ended, and on 4 August 1884 Lynch and the rest of the Chilean Expeditionary Forces embarked in Callao for Chile.[133]:473


Peace treaty with Peru

On October 20, 1883 hostilities between Chile and Peru formally came to an end under the Treaty of Ancón. Under the treaty's terms, Peru formally ceded the province of Tarapacá to Chile. Chile was also to occupy the provinces of Tacna and Arica for 10 years, after which a plebiscite was to be held to determine nationality. For decades thereafter, the two countries failed to agree on the terms of the plebiscite. Finally, in 1929, through US mediation, under President Herbert Hoover, the Treaty of Lima was signed by which Chile kept Arica and Peru re-acquired Tacna.

Peace treaty with Bolivia

In 1884, Bolivia signed a truce, the Treaty of Valparaiso, that relinquished the entire Bolivian coast, the province of Antofagasta, and its nitrate, copper and other mineral deposits. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship (1904) made this arrangement permanent. In return, Chile agreed to build the Arica–La Paz railway, a railroad connecting the capital city of La Paz, Bolivia, with the port of Arica, and Chile guaranteed freedom of transit for Bolivian commerce through Chilean ports and territory.

Military analysis

Military strength comparison

As the war began, the Peruvian Army numbered 5,241 men of all ranks, organized in seven infantry battalions, three squadrons of cavalry and two regiments of artillery.[134] The most common rifles in the army were the French Chassepot and the Minié rifles. The artillery, with a total of twenty-eight pieces, was composed mostly of British-made Blakely cannons and counted four machine guns. Much of the artillery dated from 1866, and had been bought for the Chincha Islands War against Spain.[135] The mounts used by the cavalry were small and inferior to the Chileans'.[135]

The Bolivian Army numbered no more than 2,175 soldiers, divided into three infantry regiments, two cavalry squadrons, and two sections of artillery.[68] The Colorados Battalion, President Daza's personal guard, was armed with Remington Rolling Block rifles, but the remainder carried odds and ends including flintlock muskets. The artillery had three rifled pounders and four machine guns, while the cavalry rode mules given a shortage of good horses.[135]

The regular Chilean Army was well equipped,[136][137][138][139] with 2,694 soldiers. The regular infantry was armed with the modern Belgian Comblain rifle, of which Chile had a stock of some 13,000. Chile also had Gras, Minie, Remington and Beaumont rifles which mostly fired the same caliber cartridge (11 mm). The artillery had seventy-five artillery pieces, most of which were of Krupp and Limache manufacture, and six machine guns. The cavalry used French sabers and Spencer and Winchester carbines.[140]


Control of the sea was Chile's key to an inevitably difficult desert war: supply by sea, including water, food, ammunition, horses, fodder and reinforcements, was quicker and easier than marching supplies through the desert or across the Bolivian high plateau. While the Chilean Navy started an economic and military blockade of the Allies' ports, Peru took the initiative and used its smaller navy as a raiding force. The raids delayed the ground invasion for six months, and forced Chile to shift its fleet from blockading to hunting and capturing the Huáscar. After achieving naval supremacy, sea-mobile forces proved to be an advantage for desert warfare on the long coastline. Peruvian and Bolivian defenders found themselves hundreds of kilometers from home while Chilean forces were usually just a few kilometers from the sea.

Chileans employed an early form of amphibious warfare, that saw coordination of army, navy and specialized units. The first amphibious assault of this war took place as 2,100 Chilean troops successfully took Pisagua on 2 November 1879. Chilean Navy ships bombarded beach defenses for several hours at dawn, followed by open, oared boats landing Army infantry and sapper units into waist-deep water, under enemy fire. An outnumbered first landing wave fought at the beach; the second and third waves in the following hours were able to overcome resistance and move inland. By the end of the day, an expeditionary army of 10,000 had disembarked at the captured port. In 1881 Chilean ships transported approximately 30,000 men, along with their mounts and equipment, 500 miles (800 km) in order to attack Lima.[141] Chilean commanders were using purpose-built, flat-bottomed landing craft that would deliver troops in shallow water closer to the beach, possibly the first purpose-built amphibious landing craft in history:[142] "These 36 shallow draft, flat-bottomed] boats would be able to land three thousand men and twelve guns in a single wave".

Chile's military strategy emphasized preemtion, offensive action, and combined arms. It was the first to mobilize and deploy its forces, taking the war immediately to Bolivian and Peruvian territories. It adopted combined arms strategy, employing naval and ground forces to rout its allied foes and capture enemy territory.[3]:163 They landed ground forces in enemy territory to raid, landed in strength to split and drive out defenders and then garrisoned the territory as the fighting moved north. Chileans received the support of the Chinese coolies immigrants who had been enslaved by Peruvians, who joined the Chilean Army[143] during the campaign of Lima and in the raids to the north Peruvian cities.

Peru and Bolivia fought a defensive war maneuvering through long overland distances and relying where possible on land or coastal fortifications with gun batteries and minefields. Coastal railways reached to central Peru and telegraph lines provided a direct line to the government in Lima.

The occupation of Peru between 1881 and 1884 took a different form. The war theater was the Peruvian Sierra, where the remains of the Peruvian Army had easy access to population, resource and supply centers far from the sea; supporting an indefinite war of attrition. The occupying Chilean force was split into small garrisons across the theater and could devote only part of its strength to hunting down dispersed pockets of resistance and the last Peruvian forces in the Sierra. After a costly occupation and prolonged counterinsurgency campaign, Chile sought a diplomatic exit. Rifts within Peruvian society and Peruvian defeat in the Battle of Huamachuco resulted in the peace treaty that ended the occupation.


Both sides employed late 19th-century military technology such as breech-loading rifles and cannons, remote-controlled land mines, armor-piercing shells, naval torpedoes, torpedo boats, and purpose-built landing craft. The second generation of ironclads (i.e. designed after the Battle of Hampton Roads) were employed in battle for the first time. That was significant for a conflict where no major power was involved, and attracted British, French, and U.S. observers. During the war, Peru developed the Toro Submarino ("Submarine Bull"). She never saw action, and was scuttled at the end to prevent her capture.

The USS Wachusett (1861) commanded by Alfred Thayer Mahan, was stationed at Callao, Peru, to protect American interests during the war's final stages. Mahan formulated his concept of sea power while reading history in a British gentlemen's club in Lima, Peru. This concept became the foundation for his celebrated The Influence of Sea Power upon History.[144][145]

Flow of information

Flow of news during the War. Distances, in kilometers, are Great-circle distance, for land and sea routes.

Since 1876 a submarine cable connected Valparaíso and Lima.[146]:72 Later, at the beginning of the war, Antofagasta and Iquique became connected to the cable.[147] Both navies tried to take control of the cable or severed it according to its military and naval interests.[148]

Lima was not connected by cable to Panama, the southernmost post of the North American cable network. Valparaíso was connected to Buenos Aires by a cable over the Andes since July 26, 1872. Buenos Aires was connected over Uruguay, Brazil, to Portugal, Great Britain and from there to USA over a submarine cable.[146] It must be emphasized that La Paz, Bolivia's capital city, was not connected by telegraph to the rest of the world. News coming from the Tacna, Arica, or Antofagasta to La Paz had to be brought by foot or by horse.[149] The alternative way was from Peruvian port Mollendo (Querejazu: Moliendo) per railroad to Puno. Then per boat service to Chichilaya, at the Bolivian shore of the Titicaca see. The last route to La Paz was per horse or foot. The only telegraph in Bolivia was in Tupiza, 606 kilometres (377 mi) South from La Paz, as the crow flies. Tupiza is located at the border to Argentina and was connected to Buenos Aires per telegraph.[150]

The traditional transport for long distances were the steamships which connected Valparaíso, Caldera, Antofagasta, Iquique, Arica and Lima to the rest of the world.

The disruption of maritime trade routes and the unavailability of submarine telegraph cables from and in the war zone presented special problems for the press coverage of the war. On the other hand, the west coast was important for investors, farmers, manufacturers, and government officials because of the financial commitments. Hence, the London The Times as well as The New York Times covered as far as possible the events of the war, in the absence of their own correspondents and culled from Government representatives in Europe and the USA, merchant houses, the Lloyd of London, from articles of the Panama Star and Herald, and from Reuters. The result was a mix of brief telegraphic dispatches a few days old from cities with cable stations, and three or four weeks old lengthier reports carried by steamships to London or New York. For example, the Battle of Iquique occurred on 21 May, but first mention of it appeared in the May 30 edition of both The Times and The New York Times with an incorrect message. Not until June 17. was provided in The Times a reasonable accurate version of the battle.[146]:72–74


Human remains of Bolivian, Chilean and Peruvian soldiers exhumed from makeshift graves after the Battle of Tacna before their definitive interment in the Mausoleum of the Tacna cemetery in 1910.[151]

The three nations claimed to adhere to the Geneva Red Cross Convention to protect the war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants.[152]

At the onset of the war 30,000[153] Chileans were expelled from Peru (within 8 days) and Bolivia (within 10 days) and their property confiscated; most of them had to shelter in the camps, boats and pontoons of the Peruvians ports until they were transported by ship to Antofagasta. It is calculated that 7,000[153] of the refugees from Peru enlisted in the Chilean battalions and their resentfulness would later have an impact on the war.[154] Peruvian and Bolivian residents in Chile were not expelled.[155]

Both sides complained, citing eyewitness accounts, that the other side had killed, after the battle, wounded soldiers,[156]

Beside the Peruvian-Chilean slaughter in the irregular war after the occupation of Lima, in Peru an ethnic and social conflict was simmering between its indigenous[157] and (Chinese) coolies who had been enslaved by Peruvians[158][159] population and its white criollo and mestizo Upper class. On 2 July 1884 the guerrillero Tomás Laymes and three of his men were executed in Huancayo by Caceres's forces, because of the atrocities and crimes committed by the guerrillas against the Peruvian inhabitants of the cities and hamlets.[157] In Ayacucho, Indigenous peoples stood up against "the whites" and in Chincha the Afro-Peruvians gang together against their owners in the Haciendas of "Larán", "San José" and "Hoja Redonda". Only the Peruvian army could forcibly suppress the revolt.[160] Chinese coolies formed the battalion "Vulcano" within the Chilean Army. There were also inter-ethnic tensions under blacks and coolies. In Cañete, 2000 coolies from the Haciendas "Montalbán" and "Juan de Arona" were massacred by black people.[161][162]

Foreign intervention

British historian B. Farcau states: Contrary to the concept of the "merchants of death," the arms manufacturers of Europe and the United States conniving to keep alive the conflict, from which they had earned some welcome sales of their merchandise, the most influential foreign businessmen and their respective consuls and embassadors were the traders in nitrate and the holders of the growing stacks of debts of all the belligerents. They were all aware that the only way they could hope to receive payment on their loans and earn the profits from the nitrate business was to see the war ended and trade resumed on a normal footing without legal disputes over ownership of the resources of the region hanging over their heads[163]

Nonethelesses, belligerents were able to purchase torpedo boats, arms and munitions abroad and to circumvent ambiguous neutrality laws and firms like Baring Brothers in London were not averse to dealing with both Chile and Peru.[73]:129 Arms were sold freely to whichever side could pay for them. (But not British warships).[164] For example, in the 1879–1880 period Peru acquired weapons from the United States, Europe, Costa Rica and Panama. Weapons offloaded on the Caribbean coast of Panama were sent overland to the Pacific coast by the isthmus railway. In the Pacific a number of ships including Talismán, Chalaco, Limeña, Estrella, Enriqueta and Guadiana transported the cargo to Peru. This trade was done with the consent of the president of the Sovereign State of Panamá (then part of Colombia). The Chilean consul in Panama persistently protested against this trade citing a Chile–Colombia agreement of 1844 that prohibited Colombia from providing war supplies to Chile's enemies.[165]

After the Chilean occupation of Arica, Tarapacá and Antofagasta, the governments of Peru and Bolivia turned to the United States of America to block Chilean annexation of the occupied territories as their last hope.[166]:41 US diplomats were worried that European powers might be tempted to intervene in the Pacific. The Bolivian Minister in Washington offered US-Secretary of State William Maxwell Evarts the prospects of lucrative Guano and Nitrate concessions to US investors in return for official protection of Bolivia's territorial integrity.[32]:131[166]:42 Isaac P. Christiancy, US Minister in Peru, organized the USS Lackwanna conference, which failed as no one of the belligerents was ready to negotiate their pretensions. Earlier, Christiancy had written to the USA that Peru should be annexed for a period of ten years, then admitted in the Union to provide the United States with access to the rich markets of South America.[166]:42 In 1881 James Garfield took the oath of office in the USA and his anglophobic[167] Secretary of State James G. Blaine was a proponent of an assertive role for the USA in the War of the Pacific[166]:43 ostensible regarding the interests of promoter of US ownership of nitrate and guano concesions.[32]:132 Blaine argued that the South American republics "are young sisters of this government" and he would not tolerate European intervention in South America. The groups "Credit Industriel" and "Peruvian Company", representing European and American creditors, had guaranteed to the Peruvian provisional government of García Calderón to pay the Peruvian external debt and the reparations to Chile, but in return the Peruvian government would have to grant mining concessions in Tarapacá to these corporations. With the acquiescence of García Calderón both companies began to lobby in the United States for the territories to remain under Peruvian sovereignty. The US "Levi P. Morton, Bliss and Company" would get the monopoly of the sales of Peruvian nitrate in the USA. Beside the economic plans, Stephen A. Hurlbut, (Christiancy's successor) had negotiated with García Calderón the cesion to USA of a Naval Base in Chimbote and the railroads to the Coal mines upcountry.[168] When it became known that Blaine's representative in Peru, Hurlbut, would personally profit from the settlement, it was clear he was complicating the peace process[169][170] These American attempts reinforced Garcia Calderon's refusal to discuss the matter of territorial cession. At the end of 1881 Blaine dispatched William H. Trescott in a mission to Chile that should establish that problems would be resolved through arbitration and acts of war would not justify territorial seizures.[32]:132 After the assassination of Garfield (2. Juli 1881) and the accession of Chester A. Arthur to the presidency, Blaine was replaced by Frederik T. Frelinghuysen as secretary of state. Frelinghuysen thought that the USA was in no position to back Blaine's policy and recalled the Trescott mission. Kenneth D. Lehmann states about the USA policy:

Washington had interjected itself into the middle of the controversy without developing a realistic position: the moralizing of the United States had an air of hypocrisy in light of his own history, and veiled threats carried no weight.[166]:45

Regarding a British intervention in the war, British marxist historian Victor Kiernan states: "It should be emphasized that the Foreign Office never at any time contemplated any kind of active intervention. ... It was especially scrupulous in seeing to it that no warships were smuggled out for sale to either side, for it was in mortal dread of another Alabama Award."[164] During the war the British government embargoed four warships sold to Chile and Perú[Notes 2]

Looting, damages and war reparations

Caricature in the Chilean magazine Padre Cobos. Minister Balmaceda washes his hands of responsibility and ordered Intendent of Santiago Mackenna to get rid of the heavy Peruvian lion. The Santiago elite observes with pleasure the arrival of the statue. "Padre Cobos" and a black child have a nice time playing around.

The case of lootings and war reparations done by Chilean occupation forces in Peru has caused controversy between historians: overlooked in Chile and source of Anti-Chilean sentiment in Peru. The Chilean historian Milton Godoy Orellana[172] distinguishes four events: 1) Looting after the batlle of Chorillos y Miraflores 2) Looting by Peruvians in Lima before the Chilean troops entered the city 3) The Chilean confiscation of locomotives, rails, printing machines, weapons, etc. This expropriation proceeding was, in the law of war of the 19th century, allowed. The Chilean government tried to control it through the "Oficina Recaudadora de las Contribuciones de Guerra" those tasks were: to inventory, to realize the confiscation, to record and to confirm the transport to Chile, and the destination, and the sender. Allegedly, the strategic purposes were to obtain the peace. There is no general list of the confiscated goods, but many of the shipments were registered in private and official letters, newspaper articles, manifests, etc. 4) The seizure of cultural assets of Peru by the Chileans and Peruvians. The development of international law regarding the protection of cultural objects evolved over the 19th and 20th centuries, but the idea of protecting cultural assets first emerged in Europe during the 18th century.[173] The Lieber Code of 1863, while it unconditionally protected works of art during an armed conflict (Art. 35), expressly consented to the utilization of cultural property as war reparations (Art.36).[174] In fact, Sergio Villalobos states that the USA accepted in 1871 the confiscation of art works but the 1874 Project of an International Declaration concerning the Laws and Customs of War asserted that the cultural assets were to be considered as protected.[175] In March 1881 the Chilean Government of Lima began to seize the Biblioteca Nacional del Perú, 45,000 books were seized,[175] but it is a fact that some of the books were sold in Lima by Peruvians, hence it is contested how much of the booty was taken by the Chilean forces. In any case, in late March 1881, the part of the books arrived to Chile and the press began to inform and discuss about the legitimacy of confiscation of oil paintings, books, statues, etc., or "international robbery" as a journalist of "La Epoca" described it. On 4. January 1883 in a session of the Chilean Congress, the deputy Augusto Matte Pérez questioned Minister of the Interior José Manuel Balmaceda about the "opprobrious and humiliating" shipments of Peruvian cultural assets. Deputy Montt asked the devolution of the assets and was supported by deputies McClure and Puelma. The minister vowed to impede further exactions and to repatriate the objects mentioned in the discussion. Apparently he did it, because the shipments stopped and the mentioned statues are not any more in that place. But not until November 2007 did Chile return 3,778 stolen books to the Biblioteca Nacional del Perú.[176] S. Villalobos asserts that "There was no justification for the theft".[177]

Another issue was the damage due to acts of war on properties owned by citizens of neutral countries. In 1884 were constituted the Tribunales Arbitrales with a Chilean judge, a judge named by the country of the claimant, and a Brazilian judge, to deal with the claims of Great Britain (118 claims), Italian (440 claims) and French (89 claims) citizens, and 1886 for German citizens. The "Italian" tribunal dealt also for Belgian citizens and the "German" tribunal for Austrian and Swiss citizens. Spaniards accepted the decision of the Chilean state without tribunal assistance and the USA did not agree at that time. According to the international law, claims of foreign citizens with animus manendi in the war zone, claims were the damaged place has been a battleground (among others: Arica, Chorrillos and Miraflores and Pisagua and Tacna were in a similar situation), and damages caused by individual or scattered soldiers were dismissed. Only 3,6% (CLP 1,080,562) of the demanded value was recognized by the tribunals. According to Villalobos, the sentences proves that the accusations against the Chilean forces were exaggerated by Peruvians because of wounded pride and by foreign citizens because of monetary interests.[178]


The war had a profound and long lasting impact on the societies of the involved countries. The peace negotiations continued until 1929 but the war was finally over in 1884 for all practical purposes.[179]

See also


  1. The Bolivian law of 22 November said (Querejazu 1979, pp. 181–182): Se autoriza al Ejecutivo para transar sobre indemnización y otros reclamos pendientes en la actualidad, y para acordar con las partes interesadas la forma más conveniente en que habrán de llenarse sus obligaciones respectivas; defiriéndose estos asuntos, sólo en los casos de no avenimiento, a la decisión de la Corte Suprema, con cargo a dar cuenta a la próxima legislatura.
  2. The cruisers Arturo Prat y Esmeralda built in England for Chile and the es:BAP Lima (Sócrates) and the USS Topeka (PG-35) (Diógenes) built in Germany but armed in Britain for Perú. The greek names were a legend to conceal their real destination.[171]


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  11. R.Querejazu 1995 Cap. XXVII La Alianza secreta de Bolivia y el Peru
  12. http://www.argentina-rree.com/6/6-081.htm Historia de las Relaciones Exteriores Argentinas, La misión Balmaceda: asegurar la neutralidad argentina en la guerra del Pacífico, Carlos Escudé y Andrés Cisneros
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  14. Bulnes 1920, p. 57 Bulnes dice:
    The synthesis of the Secret Treaty was this: opportunity: the disarmed condition of Chile; the pretext to produce conflict: Bolivia; the profit of the business: Patagonia and the salitre; (Traducción: La síntesis del tratado secreto es: oportunidad: la condición desarmada de Chile; el pretexto para producir el conflicto: Bolivia; la ganancia del negocio: Patagonia y el salitre;)
  15. Basadre 1964, p. Cap.1, pág.12, La transacción de 1873 y el tratado de 1874 entre Chile y Bolivia Basadre dice:
    La gestión diplomática peruana en 1873 ante la Cancillería de Bolivia fue en el sentido de que aprovechara los momentos anteriores a la llegada de los blindados chilenos para terminar las fatigosas disputas sobre el tratado de 1866 y de que lo denunciase para sustituirlo por un arreglo más conveniente, o bien para dar lugar, con la ruptura de las negociaciones, a la mediación del Perú y la Argentina. o en
    La alianza al crear el eje Lima-La Paz con ánimo de convertirlo en un eje Lima-La Paz-Buenos Aires, pretendió forjar un instrumento para garantizar la paz y la estabilidad en las fronteras americanas buscando la defensa del equilibrio continental como había propugnado "La Patria" de Lima.(Cap. 1, pág. 8) anteriormente Basadre expuso lo explicado por "La Patria":
    El Perú, según este articulista, tenía derecho para pedir la reconsideración del tratado de 1866. La anexión de Atacama a Chile (así como también la de Patagonia) envolvía una trascendencia muy vasta y conducía a complicaciones muy graves contra la familia hispanoamericana. El Perú defendiendo a Bolivia, a sí mismo y al Derecho, debía presidir la coalición de todos los Estados interesados para reducir a Chile al límite que quería sobrepasar, en agravio general del uti possidetis en el Pacífico. La paz continental debía basarse en el equilibrio continental. ... Se publicaron estas palabras en vísperas de que fuese suscrito el tratado secreto peruano-boliviano.(Cap. 1, pág. 6)
  16. Yrigoyen 1921, p. 129 Yrigoyen dice:
    Tan profundamente convencido estaba el gobierno peruano de la necesidad que había de perfeccionar la adhesión de la Argentina al Tratado de alianza Peru-boliviano, antes de que recibiera Chile sus blindados, a fin de poderle exigir a este país pacíficamente el sometimiento al arbitraje de sus pretensiones territoriales, que, apenas fueron recibidas en Lima las observaciones formuladas por el Canciller Tejedor, se correspondió a ellas en los siguientes términos ...(pág.129)
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    Jorge Basadre respecto a este problema económico crucial dice Al realizar el estado peruano con la ley del 28 de marzo de 1875, la expropiación y monopolio de las salitreras de Tarapacá, era necesario evitar la competencia de las salitreras del Toco [in Bolivia].... Aquí es donde se internacionalizaba el conflicto, pues estas salitreras, económicamente estaban en poder de chilenos y británicos
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    I have good news for you. I have diddled the Gringos decreeing the reversion of the nitrate grounds, and they can't take them away from us if they stir up the whole world. I don't think that Chile will intervene in the matter, – but if she declares war on us we count on the aid of Peru, from whom we shall demand compliance with the Secret Treaty. With this object I am going to send Reyes Ortiz to Lima. Now you see I am giving you good news that you will have to thank me for eternally, and as I tell you, the Gringos are completely diddled and the Chileans can only bite and shout."
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    (Original: "[El gobierno chileno] Creía entonces que todavía era posible demostrar prácticamente al enemigo la imposibilidad en que se hallaba para defender el territorio peruano no ya contra un ejército numeroso sino contra pequeñas divisiones. Este fué el objeto de una espedicion que las quejas, los insultos i las lamentaciones de los documentos oficiales del Perú, i de los escritos de su prensa, han hecho famosa.")
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