By Carlos López Urrutia
In 1871 Federico Errazuriz was elected President of Chile. Errazuriz had served as Minister of War during the Spanish War. He resisted all efforts to disarm Chile. When faced with complaints that the Army was useless and that it could be replaced by an irregular militia such as the National Guard, he refused to yield. The Chilean Army had a esprit de corps and an image based on literature myths and historical facts that went as far back as Lautaro and Valdivia, and was reinforced during the War of Independence by the heroic deeds of O’Higgins, Rodriguez, and Carrera. The Army had been trained in frontier war and molded into a disciplined and loyal force under the leadership of Portales’ generals. Errazuriz provided it with the most modern weapons available. The President was keenly aware of Chile’s vulnerability from sea attack. He not only accepted the purchase of two ironclad corvettes, the Chacabuco and O’Higgins, but he insisted on purchasing two ironclads of the most advanced design. Powerful, heavily ar med, and thickly armored, the Cochrane and Blanco Encalada were ships that would soon revolutionize naval warfare. Admiral José A. Goñi travelled to England and insisted that the design provide heavy armament, thick armored plates, and powerful engines. At the same time several auxiliary craft were added to the Navy. The defenses of Valparaíso were reinforced and garrisoned by a strong, well trained group of artillery men who could double as marines. But by far Errazuriz’s greatest contribution to national defense was sending Army and Navy officers to Europe where they gained knowledge and experience that no other Latin American officers had. Thanks to him, the Chilean Navy was not larger but at least equal to, and better trained, than the squadrons of neighboring countries. When an economic crisis required the country to go on an austerity program, the President insisted that the defense budget not be touched and dismissed outright suggestions that he sell the ironclads.
His successor President Anibal Pinto inherited the growing problems of Chile’s expansion. The most serious was the southern tip where Argentina disputed Chile’s claims to the Straits, Tierra del Fuego, and Patagonia. Except for the small colony at Punta Arenas, the immense region was inhabited by Indians whose quality of life was so wretched and whose conditions so miserable that nobody had thought of civilizing them. The only contacts with them were belligerent. Unfortunately for Chile opinions were divided and those who thought Patagonia worthless were in charge of negotiations. Chile offered to give up its claim to the Eastern Coast of Patagonia and settle the boundary South of Gallegos river. Neither concession satisfied the Argentinians. When the gunboat Magallanes captured the American bark Devonshire, which was loading guano in disputed waters but with Argentinian permission, the public outcry in Buenos Aires could not be contained. The government responded by sending a squadron to the Santa Cruz river . Pinto ordered the Navy to man its squadron and to get ready for war. Chilean ships concentrated in Lota where the shops of the coal mines could repair and overhaul the ships.
Both countries realized that a war would be costly and the Chilean concessions were accepted in a Treaty signed and ratified in the early days of 1879: Chile retained control of the Straits, the borders with Argentina were settled, and Chilean expansion in Patagonia was checked.
While the squadron was still at Lota, a new conflict with Bolivia arose over the latter’s increase of taxes on the production of nitrates in open violation of an existing treaty. The Chilean mining companies in Bolivian territory refused to pay more tax. The Bolivian government ordered the seizure of the properties and their sale at public auction. Pinto ordered the immediate occupation of the Bolivian port of Antofagasta. The operation was executed by the ironclads Cochrane, Blanco, and the corvette O’Higgins.
The government of Peru made a feeble attempt to negotiate the dispute while simultaneously preparing for war. Peru had already signed a secret treaty of alliance with Bolivia and Pinto felt the negotiator was acting in bad faith. On April 5, 1879 Chile declared war on Peru.
The barren deserts, without water, roads, or centers of population, made it necessary that the belligerent countries struggle for control of the sea. Peru had a fair Navy built around two ironclads, the turret monitor, Huascar, with two 300 pound Dalhgren guns and six inches of armor protection , and the steam frigate Independencia with five inches of armour plate and smaller guns. Peru also had two wooden but fast corvettes, the Pilcomayo and the Union , and two shallow water monitors, the Atahualpa and the Manco Capac, which had previously belonged to the United States as the Catawa and Oneonta. All four ironclads were armed with powerful rams.
Chile had the two sister ships Blanco Encalada and Cochrane, each armed with six 9-inch Armstrong guns and protected by a 9 inch armor belt. In addition to the two ironclad corvettes from which the iron plates had been removed, Chile had two older ships, the corvettes Esmeralda and Abtao. They were both in bad shape. The Abtao had been sold into private hands just before the war and it was necessary to cancel the sale. The Esmeralda leaked badly, was armed with obsolete guns, and had an almost inoperative engine. The sloops Magallanes and Covadonga were too smaller ships but at least in good running conditions. But while the Chilean officers and men had been trained in British methods and maintained a tradition of excellence which made them an efficient fighting force, the Peruvian Navy was poorly trained, poorly paid, and the best sailors were foreign. In fact, upon the declaration of war many Chileans who were serving in Peruvian ironclads went directly into the Chilean Navy.
Bolivia had no Navy and her Army, poorly armed, consisted of Indians shod in sandals and with improper uniforms. Still, accustomed to long journeys and heavy loads, they possessed endurance and determination that would have made them effective warriors had they been properly trained, led and equipped.
The Chilean government had fostered a strong Navy because it was fully aware that sea power was of vital importance to the nation’s defense. Once hostilities were imminent, Chile showed her intention to carry out all naval operations by steam alone. All upper spars, top masts, and non-essential rigging were sent ashore to be used as derricks. The crews were increased to full complements and all retired officers were recalled to active duty.
February 14, 1879, the very day on which the auction of the nitrate companies was to take place, Colonel Emilio Sotomayor landed at Antofagasta at the head of 500 men. He met no resistance and was able to advance into the interior and secure his position.
The Navy was under the command of Rear Admiral Juan Williams, the man who had distinguished himself in the previous War with Spain and son of Juan Guillermos. Williams ordered the occupation of Cobija and Tocopilla so that by April 5th, when the war between Peru and Chile was declared, all of the coastal territory of Bolivia was under Chilean control. He set out to blockade Iquique, the main Peruvian port in the area and the center of Peruvian nitrate shipping. His squadron proceeded systematically to destroy all loading lighters, launches, piers and docks in the southern ports of Peru. Attacks were carried on as far north as Mollendo which was bombarded on April 17th. The next day the Blanco and O’Higgins bombarded Pisagua.
The Chilean Army concentrated at Antofagasta and all supplies and troops had to be brought therefrom central Chile by sea. Shipping merchants who provided transports were in constant danger from raiding Peruvian warships. Little consideration was given to their safety, even after a daring ambush attempt on April 12th. Commander Juan José Latorre in the Magallanes was carrying dispatches when he found the Peruvian corvettes Union and Pilcomayo waiting for him near Punta Chipana at the mouth of the River Loa. Latorre could have turned and fled south, he chose instead to force his way through. His armament was far inferior to that of his attackers but by increasing his speed he fought with only one enemy ship at a time. Both Peruvian ships were hit and the Union had to retire to Callao for repairs. Latorre arrived at Antofagasta without mishap or even delay, but without his dispatches. He was so unsure of the outcome of the encounter that he had thrown them overboard to avoid capture by the enemy.
President Prado of Peru decided to take command of the war at the very center of the theater of operations. He left Callao in the Huascar, in convoy with the Independencia and the transports Limeña and Chalaco. At the same time, Williams had decided to attack Callao with his squadron. The two convoys passed without sighting each other. On May 21st, Williams found Callao empty and rather than take his chances with the shore batteries, he ordered a return to Iquique.
Two Chilean ships had been left to blockade Iquique. They were, with the possible exception of the Abtao, the two worst hulks afloat: the old corvette Esmeralda and the smaller Covadonga. The senior officer was Commander Arturo Prat Chacon of the Esmeralda. There is no doubt that the two ships had been left behind because of their slow speed and their poor condition. On the other hand, Prat and his officers were probably the best junior officers in the Navy, as their subsequent action actions clearly indicated.
Prado arrived off Arica and landed the troops. He was informed that two weak ships had been left in charge of the blockade of Iquique. He called Captain Miiguel Grau of the Huascar and entrusted him with the seemingly easy mission of capturing the Chilean ships and lifting the blockade. Grau was then ordered to proceed to Antofagasta and bombard the town and Chilean Army headquarters there. Grau was a capable, responsible, and cautious man. Knowing full well that his two ironclads were Peru’s only hope, he made sure, by stopping at Pisagua and checking by telegraph, that the main Chilean squadron had not yet returned to Iquique.
Commander Arturo Prat was a serious and dedicated man. He was born in the Central Valley south of Santiago; he had entered the Naval Academy at Valparaíso and followed a career marked by devotion to duty; he had participated during the War with Spain in the combats at Papudo and Abtao and was well liked by his officers and men; he had managed to study law , passed the bar and even taught night school. Williams is said to have disliked him because he was a “literary mariner”. Nevertheless, the Admiral did choose him to command the blockade. He was 33 years old.
In the early morning hours of May, 21st, the two Peruvian ironclads approached Iquique. The Covadonga , under command of Lieutenant Commander Carlos Condell, was patrolling outside the bay and on sighting the enemy fired a warning gun and approached the Esmeralda. The Captains addressed each other through speaking trumpets. Prat ordered Condell to follow him and to take a position in the shallows in front of the town. He hoped to force the Peruvians to fire into their own countrymen ashore. As they were moving into position the first shot was fired by the Peruvians and Condell realized that he could escape by rounding the island at the mouth of the bay. He decided to try it, a decision which was reinforced by the fact that several launches with Peruvian soldiers were seen preparing to set out from the beach; the small Covadonga could easily have been boarded while under attack by the ironclads. The Independencia under the command of Captain Moore, set out in pursuit of Condell.
Prat rallied his men. At no time did he think of surrendering; he was ready to give up his life. He could not escape on account of the slow speed of his ship, neither was his armament any match for the enemy’s iron plates. Still, he cleared his ship for action, ordered the men on deck, and told them in plain words what he expected to do:
“My boys, the odds are against us; our flag has never been lowered in front of the enemy; I hope it will not be today. As long as live that flag shall fly in its place and if I die, my officers will know how to do their duty. Viva Chile!”
The crew responded with a cheer and took their battle stations. The Huascar placed itself at a comfortable distance and proceeded to discharge its heavy turret guns towards the Esmeralda. She remained motionless but active; from her tops, rigging, and decks a steady rifle fire was maintained. So strong was the fusillade that Captain Grau thought it was coming from machine guns. Nonetheless, the Esmeralda’s obsolete guns could only cause minor damage to the ironclad. After three hours of this duel, the Esmeralda was barely damaged because of the inaccuracy of the Peruvian gunners and the odd angle at which they had to fire to avoid the town. Meanwhile the Peruvians on shore brought a field piece to the beach and this gun inflicted serious damage to the corvette. Prat could not maintain this position any longer and decided to move. During this critical maneuver one of the four boilers burst, leaving him with almost no power. Until that time Captain Grau had not attempted to ram his enemy for fear that the Esmer alda was at anchor protected by mines or torpedoes. But now it was clear that she had no protection and Grau ordered a ram at full speed. Prat saw him coming and almost avoided the collision in spite of his low power. The Huascar struck at an angle and the impact carried her alongside the Esmeralda toward her stern. Captain Prat climbed over the railing and jumped on board the monitor calling on to his men to follow. Only marine Sergeant Juan Aldea was able to do so. As the Huascar retreated, one more sailor jumped on board her. The three were killed almost immediately on board the Huascar, though Captain Prat succeeded in advancing towards the turret and killed Lieutenant Valverde before being shot himself.
Command of the Esmeralda fell to Lieutenant Luis Uribe. Everybody on decks and rigging of the Esmeralda had seen their captain die. Now, more than ever, they resolved to fight to the death. If they could not avenge Prat they would follow his example. Another ramming afforded Lieutenant Ignacio Serrano the opportunity to try a second boarding. This he accomplished but Serrano and his twelve men were almost quickly overcome and killed on the deck of the Huascar. The Peruvians kept firing their guns before and after the collision, so that the carnage on board the Esmeralda was appalling. By the second ramming, half the men had been killed. The magazine, the boilers, and the lower compartments were under water. The rigging was shot away and the guns dismounted. She would not surrender and whoever could still discharged his pistol or rifle towards the enemy. When the Huascar rammed for a third time nobody was left to board her. Seconds later Esmeralda sank as Midshipman Ernesto Riquelme fired the last round from t he last gun afloat. Down went 150 of her 200 men crew.
Lieutenant Uribe was later rescued. He and his men were imprisoned in Iquique. The fight had lasted four hours. Damage to the Huascar was considerable, but not serious: as a result of the ramming her forward compartment was flooded and the turret was out of alignment.
While Prat’s ship was unable to move, the Covadonga was making good progress south, followed closely by the Peruvian ironclad. Condell, like Prat, ordered his men up into the riggings. From there, they succeeded in preventing the enemy from manning the Independencia’s bow guns. Condell maneuvered close to land and successfully evaded two attempts to ram. Off Punta Gruesa his ship touched bottom. Realizing his tremendous advantage he presented his broadside to the enemy. Moore charged to ram only to strike the reef at full speed. The Independencia keeled over, her bottoms ripped open, her back broken, and her guns dangling at impractical angles. Condell ordered his ship to turn around, and placing himself in the dead angle of the enemy’s armament , proceeded to rake her deck until her flag was struck. At about that time the Huascar was sighted and Condell, realizing that everything was lost at Iquique, escaped at full speed. He left behind the smoldering wreck of what had been Peru’s proud ironclad. Grau attem pted to salvage the frigate, but all he could do was rescue the crew. The ship was a total loss.
The effect of this gallant behavior at Iquique was electrifying. Few times in History has the conduct of one man so profoundly affected a nation. There had been some resistance to the war until that time but Prat, a modest, unknown officer, who had given all he had in defense of his country, awakened the dormant patriotism in every Chilean. From that moment on, everyone rallied to his example. Young men had to be turned back from Army barracks, children ran away from school to join the ranks of the Army and Navy, and donations for the purchase of a new Esmeralda soon amounted to enough cash to pay for the ship in cash. For all practical purposes, Prat had lost his ship and possibly the battle, but won the war for Chile.
Lieutenant Theodore B. Mason, writing for the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence commented on Prat as follows:
Was this young senior officer fitted by his antecedents to surrender? The answer to this questions is his conduct in the engagement that was about to take place– a fight that astonished the naval world; which established the precedent that, no matter what the odds be, vessels must be fought to the last, and which on account of the intelligence and intrepidity that characterized it, and on account of the harm that was actually done to the powerful opponent, deserves a whole page in the records of fame.
The War of the Pacifics: Angamos
Although Chile was swept by patriotism and enthusiasm, the squadron’s morale sank when the crews and officers learned the news of Iquique. In spite of Prat’s brave actions, the fact that he and 150 of his men had been killed because they had been left behind caused much displeasure among the officers and men. Williams had to accept full blame for his ill-conceived plan to attack Callao and returned to the blockade of Iquique. En route he encountered the Huascar on the high seas, but was unable to get close enough to engage. The monitor succeeded in reaching Callao where it went into the shipyard for repairs. After destroying the Esmeralda and chasing away the Covadonga, she had twice engaged the shore batteries at Antofagasta with little success.
Grau set out to disturb Chilean communications as much as possible. With the Huascar’s high speed and freedom to maneuver he became the scourge of the Chilean Navy. Entering Chilean ports he would destroy launches, pontoons, piers, and captured several small sailing vessels. Grau always managed to get away before the Chilean ironclads could close in.
On the night of July 10th, the Huascar entered Iquique and attempted to capture the collier Matias CousiZo. Before Grau could take possession, the Magallanes with Latorre in command appeared out of the darkness and engaged in close fire. Four times Grau turned his ship to ram, but Latorre managed to evade by using the rudder and the twin screws of the gunboat. The Chileans kept a regular fusillade of small arms fire and even managed to hit the Huascar with a 115 pound shot. But all these impacts had little effect. The Magallanes had not ben hit when the Cochrane finally appeared attracted by the explosions and by numerous rockets that Latorre had fired. Grau had strict orders from President Prado not to engage the ironclads and fled into the darkness. Latorre whose name was already a household word because of his gallant behavior at Chipana on April 12th, was lauded by the press. Public outcry over the effectiveness of the Navy demanded an ironclad for Latorre. He would eventually take over the Cochrane.
On July 23rd the Huascar, in company with the Union, captured the Chilean transport Rimac off Antofagasta. This ship was carrying a cavalry regiment with 300 horses. Grau was at the height of his glory. The horses were turned over to the Peruvian army, the prisoners were landed at Arica, and the transport was armed and commissioned as a Peruvian cruiser.
Public outrage in Santiago rose to unexpected violence. The Minister of War, Gregorio Urrutia, was stoned as he left Congress. The parliament bitterly attacked him and demanded changes. Pinto reacted by appointing Rafael Sotomayor, a civilian, as Minister of War. Sotomayor ordered Admiral Williams to lift the blockade of Iquique and brought the ironclads, one at a time, to Valparaíso to have their hulls cleaned by divers and their machinery overhauled. It was felt that Williams lacked the skill to command the squadron and he was relieved. Captain Galvarino Riveros was put in command. Latorre was appointed captain of the Cochrane and soon she was ready, like the rest of the ships, rearmed, repaired, repainted, and under new command. Not only was the squadron thoroughly reorganized, but the Minister of War moved to Antofagasta where he could be near the theater of operations.
The object of all these preparations was to capture or sink the Huascar. But for a while at least Grau succeeded in preventing the Chilean commanders from achieving their offensive campaign. On August 27th she entered of Antofagasta and engaged the Magallanes and Abtao at long range. That night she launched a Lay torpedo at the Abtao, but the wires became tangled and the torpedo turned back toward the Huascar. The Peruvians claimed that Lieutenant Diez Canseco jumped overboard and deflected the torpedo. But Grau, who usually praised his men when they deserved it, wrote a short battle report saying:”one of the torpedoes was launched but so unsuccessfully that, that we had to lower one of the boats to pick it up.”
He continues to say that he spent the rest of the night searching for it. If Lieutenant Canseco did perform this heroic deed, his commanding officer certainly did not mention it.
During this action the Huascar was hit by a 300 pound shell that caused considerable damage on deck, killing one officer and wounding several men.
By October 1st, Riveros was ready. He received explicit orders from the Minister of War: attack and destroy– sink or capture the Huascar no matter where she is found.The task was an extremely difficult one but Riveros proceeded methodically and diligently and his efficiency paid off. He sailed north to Arica and from some fishermen whom he met at sea he learned that the Huascar had gone south. He was determined that this time Grau would not escape. Riveros decided to cover as wide a range as possible. For this he divided his squadron into two divisions.
The first was placed under Latorre with the Cochrane and the fastest ships. Riveros retained the Blanco and the rest of the ships. Latorre was to cruise 20 or 30 miles off the coast, while Riveros would cruise 50 miles ahead and close to the shore inspecting all ports, bays, and inlets where Huascar might hide.
In the early morning hours of October 8th the Huascar and Union were steaming north. Lookouts sighted columns of smoke on the horizon and awakened Grau. The commanding officer, now promoted to Rear-Admiral, ordered a change of course to the west and trusted his superior speed to do the rest. So confident was he that he went back to sleep. The monitor was gaining on his pursuers when at 7:30 AM three more columns of smoke were sighted dead ahead. Grau was called again to the bridge and he must have realized that he was trapped. He ordered the Union to run north at full speed and rather than take further evasive maneuvers to the west he attempted to escape by passing between the Cochrane and the coast.
The Cochrane could now make close to eleven knots and under the command of Latorre, who had shown his skill before, the crew was in prime condition for a fight. In less than two hours the ships were within range. Latorre did not want to lose speed by veering off to fire a salvo so he kept his guns silent until he could be sure that the Huascar could not escape.
At 9:25 AM Huascar opened fire. Her shots fell short but the fourth attempt ricocheted and, passing through the bow plates, struck the Cochrane’s galley. Latorre relentlessly continued and when he was barely 600 yards away from the Huascar he opened fire with devastating effect. Hardly a shot was missed. On the first salvo the Huascar was pierced under the tower. Her steering gear was put out of commission; and in the following salvos a shell struck the conning tower and exploded inside, killing Admiral Grau. The Huascar was still dangerous: one of her 300 pound guns was still firing and her powerful ram was an extreme menace. In fact, both ships attempted to ram each other, but neither could do so. The Chileans kept up a brisk fusillade with rifles and two machineguns in the tops, which required the decks of the Huascar to be evacuated.
By 10:00 AM, after half an hour of combat, the ironclad Blanco Encalada reached the scene, coming at such high speed and her crew so eager to join the fight, that she almost ran into the Cochrane. Latorre had to maneuver to get out of the way of his own Commodore. Under fire from the two ironclads and other smaller ships, including the Covadonga, Huascar was almost disabled. When her flag was shot away it was thought she had surrendered, but she kept fighting and raised a new flag. By 11:00 AM she could not carry on and surrendered. A fire was started and her sea cocks were opened. But Latorre was prepared for this eventuality and two fast boats from the Cochrane under the command of Lieutenants Juan T. Rogers and Juan Enrique Simpson were sent over. Pistols in hand, they forced the crew to flood the magazine and put out the fire. The sea cocks were shut just in time.
Few ships in history have sustained such terrible damage and still remained afloat. The Chilean armament had been devastating and the accuracy superb. Nearly fifty per cent of the shots had found the target. The scene on board the Huascar was dreadful. Dead and wounded were lying everywhere; one third of the crew was dead or wounded. The weak armor of the Huascar had been worse than useless because the Chilean shots easily penetrated and exploded inside and sent thousands of pieces of shrapnel everywhere.
The rams were equally unavailing. Only armament had brought the fight to an end. The Peruvians had shown great valor fighting against such odds but they had lost the Huascar and with her their last hope of controlling the sea. Now the Chileans could carry out their plans ashore, attacking, landing, and supplying troops at will.
The Huascar was taken to Valparaíso after some hasty repairs. A few guns were added and the ship joined the Chilean squadron under the command of Manuel Thomson. The Union had successfully escaped Angamos, easily outrunning the Chilean corvettes which had abandoned the Cochrane to pursue her.
The Navy and the Invasion of Peru
With the sea under their control, the Chilean could now move on shore. Sotomayor now executed his plan to capture the nitrate rich province of Tarapacá. On the morning of November 2,1879 a Chilean fleet composed of six warships and ten steamers appeared before O’Higgins managed, by shifting all but one gun to the opposite side, to bring the gun to bear on enemy trenches. It was a bloody fight, every inch of the way with loss of nearly half the attackers. In two hours the bluff had been cleared and the railroad stock– cars, engines, and all gear– captured. The force scheduled to land at Junin could not be landed in time because of high seas and therefore played no part in the battle.
The Chilean Army, 7000 strong, moved inland and took up positions at San Francisco. There it was attacked by combined Peruvian Bolivian forces which the Chileans routed. Although the Peruvians achieved a small victory at the town of Tarapacá, the allies evacuated Iquique and gave up the whole province to the Chileans.
With the province of Tarapacá in Chilean hands, the squadron established a blockade of the Peruvian coast from Arica to Mollendo. Riveros, cruising with the Blanco Encalada alone, encountered the Peruvian corvette Pilcomayo which was abandoned and set afire by her crew upon sighting the ironclad. Chilean sailors boarded the ship, put out fires, and hoisted their flag. Peru’s effective Naval power had been reduced to just the Union and her coast defense monitors.
The next step for the Chileans was to capture Arica. Twenty transports were concentrated in Pisagua and on February 24th, 1880 they appeared off Pacocha, a small town north of Arica where the Army of 12000 men was landed without opposition. At the head of the Chilean land forces rode a new commander, General Manuel Baquedano. Baquedano pushed his Army into the desert, attacked and dislodged the Peruvians entrenched at Los Angeles hills, and then defeated the combined Peruvian and Bolivian Armies at Tacna.
Riveros in the meantime, kept steady pressure on Arica from the sea. On February 27,1880, the Huascar and Magallanes entered the bay and fired on a troop train that was ready to leave. Arica is protected by a huge rock: the Morro. From this high rising bluff just south of the city, Peruvian artillery opened up on them. Although struck by a shell the Huascar retreated only temporarily from the line of fire and when Captain Manuel Thomson again guided her closer to the enemy, the monitor was hit several times as she engaged not only the forts but also the ironclad Manco Capac. When the Manco moved to close the range, Thomson attempted a daring maneuver: circle around his enemy and take her former position under the Morro thus preventing the Manco from returning to her anchorage. But at a critical moment her engine failed and Huascar became an easy target for the 200 pound Rodman guns mounted on the Manco. A well-aimed shot landed on deck and exploded; Captain Thomson was instantly killed, his head and sword bei ng left on deck. Commander Valverde, second in command, needlessly exposed the ship to one more hour of heavy gun fire before finally retreating. That evening Captain Condell took command of the Huascar.
The Chileans kept up a tight blockade but captain Villavicencio of the Union managed to land a valuable cargo of supplies for the besieged Army. Just as the Chileans were planning to attack on the Union, Captain Villavicencio brilliantly escaped in broad daylight, running his ship towards the south and confusing the blockading squadron. The Union’s tremendous speed had saved her once more from Chilean guns.
After the crushing defeat at Tacna, the Bolivians abandoned the fight and did not actively participate in the war. The remnants of the Peruvian Army retreated to Arica but the town was evacuated and all defenses concentrated on the Morro. On June l6th the Chileans launched a combined sea and land attack against the bastion. Peruvian artillery silenced the Chilean field guns and opened a devastating fire on the ships within range. The Magallanes and Covadonga were hit. One shot entered the gunport of the Cochrane’s second starboard gun, exploding the shell that was being loaded and an additional charge that was being readied in the compartment. A series of explosions followed and twenty-seven men were wounded. The Cochrane was seen retreating in a cloud of black smoke but the damage was not serious.
The next morning a Chilean infantry column assaulted the fortress and succeeded in reaching the top of the rock after a bloody bayonet charge. Colonel Bolognesi in command, and Captain Moore of the ill-fated Independencia were killed in the fight. The Manco Capac was scuttled and her crew surrendered to the nearest Chilean ship. A torpedo boat that attempted to escape was driven into the breakers and destroyed by the tender Toro.
The conquest of Arica marked the end of the Chilean expansion campaign. It was now thought that peace could be negotiated. Baquedano, with this in mind, ordered his Army quartered at Arica for the winter. Chile accepted a mediation offer from the United States and representatives of the three nations met on board the U.S.S. Lackawanna. But Chilean conditions were not acceptable to either Peru or Bolivia and when it became clear that the Peruvians were not yet convinced of their defeat, it was decided to carry the war to the capital of Peru, Lima.
After the capture of Arica, Riveros agreed to allow the transport Limeña to carry wounded and sick Peruvian soldiers to Lima. Since there were more troops that the Limeña could carry, some of them were placed on board the Chilean warship Loa and safely delivered to the hospitals of Lima and Callao. On July 3, 1880 the Loa came upon a small coasting vessel loaded with fresh provisions. As the last crate was being removed, a terrific explosion blew a large hole on the side of the Loa, and the ship sank almost immediately with great loss of life. Less than two months later, a similar fate befell the historic Covadonga at Chancay. Only fifteen men succeeded in escaping. Although it was obvious that the Peruvians could not possibly have selected the two ships to be sunk, the Chileans were angered by what they considered cruel and inhuman acts of war. The Loa had just returned from a humanitarian mission in Peru’s interest; and sabotage to the Covadonga was an insult and outrage to Chile as well, for the ship had b een captured during the War with Spain that Chile had entered in defense of Peru. Public pressure demanded that Riveros put an end to the torpedo menace and he retaliated as strongly as he could. First he demanded that the Union and Rimac surrender; when the Peruvians refused as expected, he ordered the bombardment of Chorrillos, Chancay, and Ancon.