CACERES, Andrés Avelino, Peruvian soldier, born in Huanta, 12 April, 1831. He was a law student at the University of Lima in 1852, when Castilla headed a revolt to abolish slavery in Perú, and joined the revolutionary troops as a second lieutenant. He distinguished himself in the attack upon Arequipa, a place very well fortified, and defended by Vivanco, and General Castilla promoted him to the rank of captain and appointed him military attaché to the Peruvian legation at Paris, where he remained from 1857 till 1860.
On his return to Perú in the latter year he defended the government of Perú in several revolutions, and accompanied Prado at Callao during the attack against that place by the Spanish fleet in 1866. Then Cáceres won the rank of colonel, and was given command of the Zepita regiment, at the head of which he fought against Pierola from 1876 till 1878. During the war with Chile he was prominent, especially at the battle of Dolores, 2 November, 1879, when he successfully resisted the Chilean troops and captured some of their guns.
At the battle of Tacna, won by the Chileans, 26 May, 1880, he commanded a brigade and fought well, after which he offered his services to the dictator Pierola, who gave him command of a division camped near Lima, which was attacked and defeated by the Chileans, 14 January, 1881.
When the Chilean army occupied Lima, Cáceres and Pierola retreated with the rest of their forces to Arequipa, the former being appointed brigadier-general, and authorized by congress to continue the hostilities against the Chileans as well as against the Peruvian General Iglesias, who had established a government of his own at Cajamarca.
He made several unsuccessful attacks upon the Chilean troops, and, after much suffering in a three months’ march through the Sierras, could not carry out the orders of congress to destroy Iglesias’ government, for he was defeated by a Chilean division under Gorostiaga near Huamacucho, 14 November, 1881. Cáceres then went to the interior, raised a revolution against Iglesias, put himself at the head of a considerable force, and was again defeated near Lima.
But he persistently worked to depose Iglesias, collected more troops, routed those of the government, and finally entered the capital in March, 1885, and at once directed the election of a special board to govern until a new congress and president were chosen. He was elected president on 3 December, 1885, and his inauguration took place on 28 July, 1886.
The declaration of a state of belligerence caught the Peruvian and Chilean armies in various stages of military unpreparedness. In Peru’s case, this condition partially resulted from bad luck: in 1875 the Lima government embarked on a project to reorganize the army using its noncommissioned officers recently graduated from the newly created Escuela de Clases as the core of the new formations. Economic as well as domestic political considerations, however, delayed the proposal’s completion. Thus, once the conflict erupted, Mariano Prado’s government had to abandon its efforts at restructuring and revert to the army’s old table of organization—seven infantry battalions, three cavalry squadrons, and two artillery regiments—to fight the war.
As part of its abortive reform proposal, between 1869 and 1878 Lima sent two missions abroad to acquire small arms. The first purchased two thousand Belgian Comblain II rifles. When Peru sought to buy more of these weapons three years later, it learned that the factory could not fill its order. (Deliveries to Brazil and Chile absorbed most of the plant’s capacity.) The second mission compromised, acquiring five thousand of the less effective French Chassepots, which it modified to accept the same cartridge as the Comblain. This weapon became known as El Peruano, or as the Castañón, in honor of Col. Emilio Castañón, who led the delegation.
The arrival of these new rifles, however, still could not satisfy completely the needs of Peru’s newly expanded army. Consequently, the government had to equip its troops with the obsolescent weapons, generally of different calibers and national origin, that clogged Lima’s arsenals. The Pichincha, Zepita, and Ayacucho battalions carried American-made Sniders, while the Dos de Mayo and Cazadores de Cuzco battalions toted Chassepots. The administration later claimed that by September 1879 it had standardized its weapon systems to the point that at least each division used the same firearms. Yet, on the eve of the Battle of Tacna in May 1880, a provincial prefect informed President Nicolás Piérola that the army was equipped with 5,873 rifles and carbines produced by twelve different manufacturers. As Segundo Leiva of the Second Army of the South noted, relying on such a heterogeneous mélange of rifles caused enormous logistical problems. It proved so difficult to provide ammunition that in some units troops had weapons but no bullets.2 Predictably, the government fobbed off its most out-of-date equipment, the Austrian or Prussian minié guns, on the various guardia nacional units; others carried the old Peabody.
Peru’s artillery park consisted of four eight-centimeter Krupp M/67 guns, twelve six-centimeter Krupp M/73 mountain guns, four Gatling guns, as well as some very heavy and very obsolete bronze cannons. During the war Peru purchased additional small arms, ammunition, as well as forty to fifty Gatling guns plus artillery. Local foundries, moreover, manufactured over 650,000 cartridges for the Chassepots, Castañóns, and 688,000 minié balls. These same factories also produced sixty artillery pieces constructed of fused railroad tracks that they encased in bronze and reinforced with iron rings. Called the Grieve cannon to honor its designer, it fired the same shells made for the Krupp mountain gun and had a range of five thousand yards.
Of all its combat arms, Peru’s cavalry seemed the most ill equipped. Although all mounted units were supposed to use Winchester carbines, they did not. Col. Manuel Zamudio reported, for example, that one of the Lanceros de Torata’s two squadrons, clad in body armor, carried lances as well as sabers; the other received Henry carbines that often malfunctioned because it proved difficult to extract spent cartridges.4 Another curious fact distinguished Lima’s mounted units: while Quechua- and Aymara- speaking Indians constituted the bulk of the infantry, and indeed the country’s population, the authorities prohibited them from serving in the cavalry in the belief that Indians did not know how to ride horses. This honor fell only to blacks and mestizos, who apparently had a genetic predisposition to serve in the cavalry as well as the artillery.
The quality of many of Peru’s officers remained doubtful. Although Lima opened its first military academy in 1823, the school, as well as its successors, operated only sporadically. The most recent reincarnation, the Colegio Militar, had only begun to function in 1875, and it did not graduate its first class until 1877. Consequently, most of those who received their commission directly did so by choosing the winning side of one of Peru’s numerous revolutions. Not surprisingly, the results of this system dismayed the nation. The officers’ performance during the war, particularly those at the company grade level, was so wretched that it had been, according to one British officer, the cause of the army’s defeat. Indeed, the Peruvian intellectual Ricardo Palma said of the officer corps that “for every ten punctilious and worthy officers, you have ninety rogues, for whom duty and motherland are empty words. To form an army you will have to shoot at least half the military.” Curiously, scores of officers from Uruguay and Argentina volunteered to serve under Peruvian colors. One of these was future Argentine president Roque Saenz Pena, who managed to survive the Battle of Arica and return to Buenos Aires to fight in the only marginally less bloody battles of Argentine politics.
Born in 1824 from a wealthy American businessman and a distinguished Peruvian lady, Captain Juan Fanning was a man of courage and honor who served in the Navy since he was 15 years old. Fanning learn from his father what patriotism was, for as his mentor gave up all his fortune for the American War of Independence, he too, gave his up his wealth and his life in defense of his country. Commander Fanning lead one of the most spectacular infantry charges in the War of the Pacific, in which 400 of his 600 men from the Guarnición de Marina, died. Below, a canvass by European artist Rudolph de Lisle, depicting the aftermath of the Miraflores Battle.
The Peruvian port of Callao, West of Lima, is well known for several reasons, among them, for being, as many other ports in the world, a land of hard working, sometimes rough and tough men. And those men are, without a doubt, perfect raw material for good soldiers, military diamonds that, properly polished, can become perfect jewels in times of war.
It was January 10th, 1880, and the war with Chile was fought in the South of the country by the army. The armed forces were small in number and more men were needed to fight. That day, President Nicolas de Pierola established, through a decree, a naval brigade whose main objective was to “provide the ships of the navy with able and talented men in the use of artillery and for actions of disembark”. Nine days later the Supreme Director asked Navy Commander Juan Fanning to organize the brigade among the sailors of Callao. It was called “Guarnicion de Marina”.
Fanning was the perfect choice for this task and indeed he did a very good job. The son of American businessman John Fanning, who contributed with his fortune to the U.S. war of independence, the young Juan, born in Lambayeque in 1824, joined the Peruvian Navy in 1844, receiving his first commission as junior officer of the warship Libertad. He fought as Corvette Captain during the 1866 war with Spain, and from April to September 1879 was posted in Arica, preparing the batteries that defended the port’s garrison.
During those days Peru had not organized its Marine Corps like the British or the Americans did, and the creation of the naval brigade may be, at one point, considered as the nearest effort. The “Guarnicion de Marina” was composed exclusively, by citizens of Callao –known as “Chalacos”- mainly sailors that protected the Peruvian ships and boats during the siege of Callao. Combat was nothing new for these men, for they participated in several nocturnal fights against Chilean torpedo boats, becoming, in a short but intense period of time, experienced veterans.
The brigade was organized in six companies. The basis was an old infantry column called “Constitucion”. It had a total of 524 men, from which 37 were officers. Their armament consisted in Chassepot rifles (1).
After their successful maritime and land campaigns the Chileans decided to capture Lima with the purpose of forcing the end of the war by means of a capitulation that will include the cession to Chile of Peru’s Southern provinces.
The city of Lima was founded by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro in 1541, between the bank of the Rimac River and the Pacific Ocean. It was called the City of Kings in honor of the king and queen of Spain and because it was the capital of the Nueva Castilla government. During the republic, the city, the “Three times crowned villa”, known also as the “Pearl of the Pacific”, kept her beauty and importance as Peru’s cultural and economic center.
In November of 1880, Chile disembarked in the beaches of Curayacu, at Lurin, South of Lima, an expeditionary force composed of nearly 30,000 men and one and a half month later it undertook the march on the Peruvian capital. The regular Peruvian army no longer existed and the remains of the “First Army of the South” were reinforced with units of volunteers coming from diverse parts of the country. This way, the Peruvians congregated a contingent of almost 18,000 men to defend their capital (2).
More than half the men were civilians with just a basic training. Most of the officers had brevet military rank. Many soldiers were peasants from the Andean regions. The rest of the ranks were composed of professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, as well as traders and businessmen. Students from the universities, blue-collar workers and artisans also joined the army in order to defend their sacred soil from the invaders.
On early January 15th, 1881, after the disastrous Battle of San Juan, the reserve battalions “Guarnicion de Marina”, “Guardia Chalaca” and “Celadores del Callao”, moved from the port into Miraflores, and were placed in the positions between the reducts number two and three, which protected Lima from the invasion. The Commander of that sector was army Colonel Andres Caceres, probably the best Peruvian soldier of his time.
That afternoon, the Chilean army attacked, and the so-called Battle of Miraflores started. The Chilean Division under Colonel Pedro Lagos was ordered to occupy the Peruvian positions at the reducts. The Aconcagua regiment, part of the Lagos force, fiercely charged against their objective. After one hour of fierce fighting, Colonel Caceres, who was very much aware that the best defense was to attack, ordered a counter-offensive, and the gallant Fanning marched with his brave men to contain the Chilean assault (3).
At three o’clock, Fanning, mounted on his white horse and sword in hand ordered the Chalacos to fix bayonets and charge. His mariners advanced against the enemy with great determination and courage. The attack was such that the Chilean battalions Aconcagua and Navales not only stopped their initial charge but also were forced to retreat. The proud Chilean officers ordered their men to remain in their positions and stand the Peruvian charge, but it was impossible. The soldiers run, hid or simply disbanded. In their desperation they abandoned four guns and put in risk the brigade Barcelo, whose right flank was almost surpassed by the Peruvians.
Famed Chilean author Benjamin Vicuña McKenna, who was a witness of the war, said that:
“It was never seen before and there are no words to describe the gallantry and determination of the Peruvians. Our enemies seemed like if they dropped from the clouds or as if they grew from the earth. Our bands played martial music and Colonel Lagos requested reinforces, which the Chilean high command start to send to him with desperation”.
In vain the Chilean officers ordered the troops to regroup. They simply did not obey. Gradually however the chaos ceased with the arrival of reinforcements from the regiments Valparaiso, Caupolican and Santiago. Once reorganized, the Chileans executed another assault and the Guardia Chalaca again was sent to contain them.
Fanning shouted to his men:
Go on! Go on! Guarnicion de Marina, go on!
And so, the brave naval officer and his Chalacos charged like demons with the bayonet.
The battle reached its peak. At about 17: 00 the novel Peruvian defenses started to withdraw, but not the Chalacos, who kept fighting until the shadows of the night, without receiving any support. And when there was no more ammunition left the knife and the bayonet remained as the only Peruvian weapons of the bloody fight.
And as the number of the Chileans increased the brave Chalacos, without other troops to back them began to fall, one by one, not giving, not asking for quarter. They remained there, in the field, fighting to the end, giving their last drop of blood, knowing that their fate was sealed.
From the 524 men of the “Guarnicion de Marina”, 400 of them died in combat. From its thirty-seven officers, twenty-three of them perished in action, among them Captain Manuel Pino Diaz, Lieutenant Guillermo Higginson and the Richardson brothers. One of the few officers that miraculously saved his live, though severely wounded, was the brigade’s deputy commander, Colonel Andres Suarez.
The Chileans had during the battles of San Juan and Miraflores more than 5,000 casualties, including 1,250 deaths. It is clear that the biggest percentage of those casualties was a result of the amazing charge performed by Fanning’s brave marines.
The rich, fancy and valiant Captain Fanning was also mortally wounded. Agonizing, he was sent in an ambulance to his home, downtown Lima. The next day, January the 16th, the 57 old naval officer died in the arms of his wife.
His last words were, “I am dying for my country!”
And he expired.
. . . .
(1) Fanning’s brigade would be incorporated into the First Army Corps under Colonel Caceres, which was composed of two divisions, reserve and artillery. The First Division was composed of the battalions Guardia Peruana, Cajamarca and 9 de Diciembre. The Second Division had the battalions Junin, Jauja, Lima, Canta, 28 de Julio, Piura, Zepita, Arica, Manco Capac, Ayacucho, Libres de Cajamarca and Columna de Guias. The reserve was composed of the batalion Artillería Volante, Guarnicion de Marina and Canta. The artillery had 2 Rodmans, 2 Parrots and 2 bronze guns. The Chief of Staff of the army was General Pedro Silva.
(2) All men between 16 and 60 years were called for arms.
(3) In this first charge the battalion Jauja supported the Guarnicion de Marina.
The main plaza in Arequipa, the city where Admiral Lizardo Montero established his headquarters and proclaimed himself president of Peru during the Chilean occupation.
Peru and the War of the Pacific
One of the most destructive events in modern Peruvian history was the nation’s ill-advised and ultimately catastrophic involvement in the War of the Pacific from 1879 to 1885. Not only did Peru lose militarily, it suffered a prolonged and aggressive invasion and occupation by Chilean forces, which in turn fragmented the Peruvian political leadership and economy even further. When the war finally ended, Peru had lost its southernmost nitrate-rich provinces, it had given up its guano income, and its remaining economy was shattered. Yet, in spite of the devastating consequences of the War of the Pacific, the nation recovered, and the final two decades of the 19th century brought Peru closer to its goal of modernization by establishing new patterns of trade and regional economic production.
The War of the Pacific
When Bolivian president Hilarión Daza in 1878 impetuously attempted to seize Chilean-owned nitrate producing companies in the Antofagasta region of the Atacama desert, he plunged his nation and Peru into a war with their powerful neighbor to the south. Bound by a mutual defense treaty with Bolivia, Peru entered the war. Neither Peru nor Bolivia had serious armed forces. Most commanders on the Peruvian and Bolivian side had no rigorous military training, and most soldiers were recently recruited Quechua-speaking Indians. Peru had what still appeared to be a strong navy, but advancing technology had made most of her warships obsolete and ineffective against the Chilean navy’s better-armed and better-protected ironclads. Moreover, as one historian has written, Chile was a relatively cohesive country with a strong national tradition, whereas Peru and Bolivia were “fractured nations” where mountain barriers divided their people physically “while an almost unspannable cultural chasm separated their Indian and non-Indian citizens” (Wehrlich 1978, 112).
The military campaign opened with a series of naval engagements, the most serious of which was the Battle of Iquique Bay in May 1879 when the Chileans defeated the Peruvian flotilla. Though the Peruvian navy’s most powerful vessel, the Huascar, escaped to fight on for a while as a raider, this victory allowed Chile to control the sea routes along the Pacific coast. These were vital to fighting the land war, since supplying or transporting armies on inland roads was nearly impossible. The Chilean navy could enforce a blockade when and where it wished from this point forward, and it could land and supply its own armies wherever it desired.
The first battles of the land war also proved disastrous for the Peruvian and Bolivian armies that attempted to defend the contested southern nitrate provinces of Arica, Tacna, and Tarapacá. After temporarily checking the Chilean forces in Tarapacá in November 1879, the Peruvian and Bolivian armies were crushed in a series of losses to the much better equipped and trained Chileans in Tacna and Arica. The victors took complete control of what had been Peru’s southern provinces, and all resistance there collapsed. President Daza of Bolivia deserted his armies, forfeited his office, and fled the country. Peruvian president Mariano Ignacio Prado (1826–1901), elected in 1876, fared scarcely better. After commanding troops in the south, he returned to Lima, handed over the government to Vice President Antonio de la Puerta, and left for Europe, claiming he was going to seek help in the war effort; in fact he deserted, too.
Peruvian national leadership disintegrated with the military defeat at the hands of the Chileans and, over the following months and years, became a tangle of competing figures who tried to seize office. Nicolás Piérola, for example, ousted the vice president and proclaimed himself president in December 1879. After peace talks arranged by the United States failed, the Chileans landed a large army south of Lima and advanced on the city, which surrendered in January 1881 after two bloody Peruvian losses in the suburbs of San Juan and Miraflores. Piérola fled to the mountains, and the Chileans occupied Lima, bringing havoc and destruction. They looted the national library and even carted off the animals from the zoo in addition to seizing property and extorting cash from the residents.
The degree to which Peru’s popular classes participated, willingly or unwillingly, in the war is a matter of debate, and so is the role played by the military and political leaders. Chilean officials received strict orders not to interfere with Peruvian Indian peasants, letting them know that this was not their war, thus avoiding that Indians sided with regional and national white elites. How deep-seated racial cleavages still were after more than a half century of political independence from Spain is evidenced by the conflicts between racial groups during the War of the Pacific. 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 properties 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.
The lack of national cohesiveness was most sharply demonstrated in the confusion and confrontations among Peru’s would-be wartime leaders. Over the course of the next 10 years (1879–89, approximately), they often were as much in conflict among themselves as with the invaders. Piérola, for example, withheld support from some Peruvian troops and commanders in order to forestall future challenges to his own power. In some places, however, such as the central highlands, opposing racial-ethnic groups joined forces to fight for Peru, resisting Chilean troops with a more united front. As a result, an incipient sense of nationalism emerged in the wake of the war.
Since they did not want to negotiate with him, the Chilean occupiers did not recognize Piérola’s claim to the presidency. Instead, with the assistance of a group of “notables” from the Partido Civil, they designated the lawyer Francisco García Calderón (1834–1905) as the new president. The Chilean generals declared the Lima barrio of La Magdalena as neutral territory and allowed García Calderón to set up a government there. García Calderón’s nomination deepened civil strife: Piérola had widespread popular support as well as support from among the Civilistas. In the following months neither president showed much interest in facing the enemy. They were more concerned with their own power struggle, while the Chilean army controlled the capital and most of the Peruvian coast.
García Calderón failed to win support outside his small enclave, but he did manage to obtain diplomatic support from the United States, which offered to help him attain peace without territorial concessions to Chile. This offer mainly was prompted by the belief of the U.S. ambassador to Peru that the country might be ripe for U.S. annexation; furthermore, U.S. Secretary of State James Blaine believed he could benefit financially from a settlement. Both U.S. officials were frustrated in the end, and U.S. involvement in the negotiations collapsed (Manrique 1995, 167).
García Calderón initiated peace talks with Chile, and he proved to be a tough negotiator. He was willing to pay for a lost war; however, he was unwilling to cede any territory to Chile, although Chile claimed by right of conquest the southern province of Tarapacá, where Peru’s richest nitrate fields were located. In response to García Calderón’s hard line, the Chileans in November 1881 dissolved his government and exiled him to Chile. After much maneuvering from his position in the highlands, Piérola gave up and left for Europe. In their places Admiral Lizardo Montero declared himself president from his base in Arequipa. His authority was challenged, however, by General Andrés Cáceres (1833–1923), who had organized resistance forces in the highlands.
Emergence of Cáceres
Cáceres had hidden for three months in Lima after the Chilean invasion, nursing wounds suffered in the Battle of Miraflores. He escaped to the central highlands in April 1881 to join Piérola. Piérola feared Cáceres as a rival for power but named him the military chief of the central departments before fleeing to Europe. Over the next two years Cáceres created a 5,000-man army and won a sequence of victories against the Chileans in the Breña Campaign in July 1882 in the Mantaro Valley at Pucará, Marcavalle, and Concepción. The Chilean army lost 20 percent of its soldiers and Chilean troops were forced to retreat to Lima.
Cáceres’s successes in the central highlands had much to do with how the relationships between haciendas and peasant communities had developed in earlier decades, and the relative strength of its peasant population. The Mantaro Valley was ethnically more heterogeneous than other places in Peru, and it was more commercially advanced, with long-standing links to urban cities, especially Huancayo and Lima. Cáceres’s military talents were also a part of his success. He was a skillful strategist, and, perhaps more important he was a landowner and fluent Quechua speaker. Peasants referred to him as tayta (“father” or “protector” in Quechua).
In spite of his promising start, Cáceres was unable to stand up to new Chilean offensives, in part because of the emergence of a new claimant to Peruvian leadership, the northern hacienda owner Miguel Iglesias (1830–1909) from Cajamarca, who had lost a son in the battles for Lima. The Chileans recognized Iglesias as president because they thought he would negotiate with them for peace. This turned out to be correct, and in October 1883 Iglesias signed the Treaty of Ancón, which technically ended the War of the Pacific. Under the terms of the treaty Peru gave up Tarapacá province immediately. Chile was to administer Tacna and Arica for 10 years, at which point a vote of the people of these provinces would determine which country they belonged to; the loser would receive 10 million pesos as compensation. Through the treaty the Chileans not only got Peru’s rich nitrate fields but also its remaining guano reserves.
Iglesias was able to represent himself as the sole negotiator for Peru because at the time Cáceres was not in a position to contest his claims. When the central highland provinces had begun to show signs of economic exhaustion and it became increasingly difficult to sustain a standing army, Cáceres had decided to march north to attack Iglesias, in an attempt to restore a unified political leadership. However, Chile had mobilized all its available resources to simultaneously defend Iglesias and attack Cáceres’s remaining troops in the central highlands. Iglesias had not hesitated to provide the Chilean army with all the information and resources they needed in order to administer a crushing defeat to his rival Cáceres at the Battle of Huamachuco in July 1883.
Meanwhile Admiral Montero had installed his government of Peru first in Cajamarca and then, in August 1882, in Arequipa, where he stayed until 1883. He refused support to Cáceres, in spite of promises to do so. In fact, when the victorious Chilean army reached Arequipa after the Battle of Huamachuco, it found a large cache of arms and other military items sent from Bolivia that Montero had withheld from Cáceres; consequently Cáceres’s men fought the invaders wearing ojotas (Indian sandals) and brandishing obsolete rifles. With the arrival of the Chilean army Montero fled Arequipa across Lake Titicaca, going first to Argentina and then to Europe. While crossing the lake he appointed Cáceres president.
In June 1884 Cáceres finally recognized the peace treaty signed by Iglesias, and this meant new civil strife. Cáceres and Iglesias led their armies against each other until Iglesias, still the president, was defeated in December 1885. Cáceres, then, won the elections in June 1886. War against Chile was no longer feasible. Cáceres demanded that Chilean troops leave Peru and allow Peruvians to resolve their disputes themselves without foreign interference. Chilean occupation had lasted three years, during which coastal hacienda owners and city-based merchants had had to pay cupos (cash reparations) to the Chilean army under the threat of destruction of their properties. Chilean generals drew up a list of the 50 most prominent members of Lima’s society and forced each to pay 20,000 pesos a month, an amount that was six times the monthly salary of Peru’s president. The last Chilean troops pulled out of Peruvian territory in August 1884, leaving the Peruvian state economically and politically bankrupt.