The War of the Pacific

April 5, 1879 – October 20, 1883

Chile vs Bolivia & Peru

Guerra del Pacífico





  The Land War


Battle of San Francisco on November 19, 1879


Marching south towards the city of Iquique with 6,000 troops, the Chilean Army held off a sudden 7,400-strong Allied counterattack at the Battle of San Francisco on November 19, 1879, with high casualties to both sides. The Bolivian force with a weak leadership withdrew during the battle, forcing the Peruvian Army to retreat to the city of Tarapacá. Four days later, the Chilean Army captured Iquique with little resistance.


Escala sent a detachment of 3,600 soldiers, cavalry and artillery to wipe out the rest of the Peruvian Army, estimated at fewer than 2,000 poorly trained and demoralized men. The Battle of Tarapacá, on 27 November, took place as the Chilean attack found the Peruvian force in better morale and at almost double the number expected. Led by Colonel Andrés Cáceres, the Peruvian Army routed the Chilean expedition, which left behind significant quantities of supplies and ammunition. The Peruvian victory at Tarapacá would have little impact on the war. General Buendía's army, down to 4,000, retreated further north to Arica by 18 December.



Narciso Campero


 Manuel Baquedano ( 1823 - 1897 )

Commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army

 during the War of the Pacific


A new Chilean expedition left Pisagua and on 24 February 1880 disembarked nearly 12,000 soldiers at Pacocha Bay. Commanded by General Manuel Baquedano ( 1823 - 1897 ) , this force isolated the provinces of Tacna and Arica destroying any practical hope for reinforcements from Peru. On the outskirts of Tacna combatants from the three contending countries met on what would later be known as The Battle of Battle of Tacna or El Alto de la Alianza. Commanding the allied army was Narciso Campero the Bolivian president himself. In the subsequent carnage Chilean artillery proved superior. As a result Chile wiped out most of Peru's professional army, after the battle Bolivia withdrew completely from the war.


Battle of Tacna




The Battle of Arica 




The Battle of Arica by Juan Lepiani ( 1864 - 1932 ) depicts

 Bolognesi's final moments.




On 7 June, some 4,000 Chilean forces backed by the Navy successfully attacked a Peruvian garrison in Arica, which was under the command of Colonel Francisco Bolognesi. Chilean forces, directed by Colonel Pedro Lagos ( 1832 - 1884 ) , had to run up the Morro de Arica (a steep and tall seaside hill) facing 2,000 Peruvian troops commanded by Colonel Francisco Bolognesi Cervantes

( 1816 - 1880 ).



Francisco Bolognesi Cervantes a Peruvian military hero



 Documentary on Colonel Francisco Bolognesi


The assault became known as the Battle of Arica, which turned out to be one of the most tragic and at the same time the most emblematic event of the war: Chile suffered 479 mortal casualties, while almost 900 Peruvians lost their lives, including Colonel Bolognesi himself. He commanded the Peruvian forces surrounded in Arica by Chilean troops following the Chilean victory at Tacna. He organized and led a spirited defense of the port city by about 1,600 men against over 5,300 Chilean troops with extensive naval support.


When Chilean messengers demanded surrender of Arica because of their 3 to 1 numerical superiority, he replied, "Tengo deberes sagrados que cumplir y los cumpliré hasta quemar el último cartucho" ("I have sacred duties to fulfill, and I will fulfill them until I fire the last round"). The expression "hasta quemar el último cartucho" ("Until the last round is fired") has passed into the Spanish language.

On June 7, 1880, a Chilean assault took Arica at a cost of 474 troops. Almost 1,000 of the Peruvian defenders, including Colonel Bolognesi, were killed in defense of the town or in subsequent actions against the Peruvian prisoners.



Bolognesi's sons Enrique and Augusto also fought in the War of the Pacific, and died later, during the Battle of San Juan and the Battle of Miraflores in Lima. This battle was especially bloody since most Chileans died because of landmines and with bullets running low most of the Peruvians deaths were in the hands of Corvo-wielding berserked Chileans. The multiple cuts on the corpses made many speculate about execution of prisoners, but most authors say that the Captains were actually holding back the enraged Chileans to prevent the deaths of routed soldiers.



aftermath of the battle at Arica


Other high ranking Peruvian officers who also perished were Colonel Alfonso Ugarte, and Colonel Mariano Bustamante, his Chief of Detail. These three Peruvian officers belonged to the group that, on the eve of the battle, had gallantly rejected an offer to surrender the garrison to the Chilean army, and prompted Colonel Bolognesi to vow to the Chilean emissary that he was to defend the garrison to the last shot.


Since the Morro de Arica was the last bulwark of defence for the allied troops standing in the city, its occupation by Chile has been of utmost historical relevance for both countries.


 The march on Lima


El repase by Ramón Muñiz 1888 .


The "repase" was the practice of ensuring the death of the enemy by stabbing fallen opponents with bayonets; it also included the killing of wounded soldiers in the battlefield. The image depicts a Chilean soldier about to conduct a "repase" while a rabona, the fallen soldier's aide (probably his wife), attempts to stop him. At the Battle of Huamachuco July 10, 1883 , last major battle of the War of the Pacific.


Battle of Huamachuco July 10, 1883


In October 1880, the United States unsuccessfully mediated in the conflict aboard USS Lackawanna at Arica Bay, attempting to end the war with diplomacy. Representatives from Chile, Peru, and Bolivia met to discuss the territorial disputes, yet both Peru and Bolivia rejected the loss of their territories to Chile and abandoned the conference. Chile demanded the formal cession of the nitrate territory and an indemnity. The President of Peru Mariano Ignacio Prado ( 1826 - 1901 ) left for Europe during this time to leave for Europe to buy more armament and obtain more money for the war. Many Peruvians viewed this as cowardice . During his absence, Nicolás de Piérola

( 1839 -1913 ) was able to stage a successful coup d'état and later declared himself commander-in-chief of Peru on December 23, 1879.

 Prado did not return to Peru until till near the end of the war,after  defecting to Chile, where he was made a General. The funds entrusted to him for the war effort were misplaced in Chilean coal mines, which considerably increased his personal wealth.



Battle of Chorrillos

Jan 13, 1891

Aftermath of the Battle of Chorrillos


The Battle of Miraflores

Jan 15, 1881

The Battle of Miraflores at the Miraflores District of Lima, Peru. I The Chilean army led by Gen. Manuel Baquedano defeated the army commanded by Nicolás de Piérola ( 1839 -1913 ) guarding the second defensive line of the Peruvian capital city. Two days later, Lima, the capital city of Peru was occupied by Chilean troops. Gen. Baquedano's forces marched into Lima triumphant, while Peru's president and his officers fled into the interior, leaving the country without any government. Even after the fall of Lima, the war continued between the occupation army and the troops of Andres Caceres for another three years. During the occupation of Lima, Peru's National Library was burned, of the 56,000 works the library possessed before the war, only 378 were left at the end of the occupation.  A number of other monuments were ransacked by Chilean forces and taken as war trophies.


The Peruvians refused such hard terms, hoping against hope for foreign intervention. This passive obstinacy enraged the Chilean government, and after a delay of several months it was determined to capture the capital and dictate terms at Lima. Late in December, 1880, a splendidly equipped army of twenty-six thousand men landed a short distance south of Lima and marched on the city. Only a few fragments of the Peruvian regular army had survived the defeats in the south, but the population rallied en masse to resist the invaders. At Chorrillos, a few miles south of Lima, the militia waited behind a hastily constructed line of defence. The assault of the Chilean regulars was irresistible; four thousand Peruvians perished, and as many more were taken prisoners. The survivors fell back on a second line of defence, only six miles from Lima, and were there defeated in a second battle in which two thousand were killed and wounded. The Chilean losses in the two fights reached five thou- sand. On the following day the mayor of Lima formally surrendered the city, and on the 17th of January the Chilean army took possession. The helpless citizens were required to make up a contribution of a million dollars a month; the customs duties were confiscated, and the Chileans violated all the rules of civilised warfare by wantonly destroying the great and valuable public library — the best in South America.


Chilean troops in Lima .


Pierola escaped to Guamanga, but succeeded in rallying no forces. He gave it up and went to Europe. It became necessary to organise a government which could treat for peace. The citizens of Lima, with the consent of Chile, made Francisco García Calderón ( 1835 - 1905 ) provisional president, but when the discussion of terms began the Chileans repeated their demand for the unconditional cession of the nitrate territory, and Calderon did not dare assent. The enemy sent him as a prisoner to Santiago, while Miguel Iglesias ( 1830 - 1909 ) in the northern departments, Caceres in the centre, and Carrillo in the south each kept out) an independent resistance with a few militia. The Chileans made no serious attempt to conquer the interior, contenting themselves with pocketing the Peruvian customs revenues. This situation lasted two years and a half, until Iglesias came to the conclusion that peace could only be obtained by complete submission.



Half American Juan Fanning


The Death of Juan Fanning 


Regular Peruvian army and poorly armed citizens set up to defend Lima. However, Peruvian forces were defeated in the battles of San Juan and Miraflores ( During the battle, Peruvian naval officer Captain Juan Fanning ( 1824 - 1881 ) , Fanning, the son of American businessman John Fanning and Peruvian lady Micaela Garcia, became a national hero for leading a spectacular infantry charge of marines that nearly outflanked the enemy. Fanning's brigade caused some Chilean casualties until running out of ammunition, then continued to fight with knife and bayonet until Fanning was mortally wounded. 400 of Fanning's 524 men were killed during the charge) , and the city of Lima fell in January 1881 to the forces of General Baquedano. The southern suburbs of Lima, including the upscale beach area of Chorrillos, were looted. Every civilian was forced to surrender their valuables or suffer a bitter end. This desperate order was issued to raise money to pay the wages of the soldiers and prevent an uprising (The wages were late because most of the Chilean politicians had lost interest in a war fought so far from home).


 Occupation of Peru


Chilean army marching on Lima, Peru 1881


With little effective Peruvian central government remaining, Chile pursued an ambitious campaign throughout Peru, especially on the coast and the central Sierra, penetrating as far north as Cajamarca. Even in these circumstances, Chile was not able to completely subjugate Peru. As war booty, Chile confiscated the contents of the Peruvian National Library from Lima and transported thousands of books (including many centuries-old original Spanish, Peruvian and Colonial volumes) to Santiago de Chile, along with much capital stock. These books were partially returned (4000 of 30 000) to Peru in November of 2007


Treaty of Ancón

Oct. 20, 1883



Miguel Iglesias ( 1830 - 1909 )


Peruvian resistance continued for three more years, with apparent U.S. encouragement. The leader of the resistance was General Andrés Cáceres ( 1836 - 1923 ) (nicknamed the Warlock of the Andes), who would later be elected president of Peru. Under his intelligent lead, Peruvian militia forces inflicted painful defeats upon the Chilean army in the battles of Pucara, Marcavalle and Concepcion. However, after a substantial defeat Battle of Huamachuco, there was little further resistance. Miguel Iglesias ( 1830 - 1909 ) has been severely judged by Peruvian historians because he represented blunt reality as he saw the fundamental question was whether Peru was going to exist as a nation, or not. Iglesias saw that a few more years of prolonged occupation of Peru by Chile would render Peru into a colony of Chile, rather than a sovereign nation. Because he saw this clearly, he decided to convene a congress of the northern departments of Peru to proclaim him president of the whole country and him empower him with authority to negotiate with the Chileans. This claim to the Presidency recognised by Chile, Iglesias proceeded to the small seaside resort of Ancón, a short distance from Lima, to fulfill his grim mission of statesmanship. On 23 October 1883 Igleasias signed the Treaty of Ancón on behalf of Peru thereby ending the hostilities.Finally, on 20 October 1883, Peru and Chile signed the Treaty of Ancón, by which Tarapacá province was ceded to the victor. On its part, Bolivia was forced to cede Antofagasta .


Long-term consequences of the war 


The War of the Pacific left traumatic scars on Bolivian and Peruvian society. For Bolivians, the loss of the territory which they refer to as the litoral (Spanish for "littoral," the coast) remains a deeply emotional issue and a practical one, as was particularly evident during the internal natural gas riots of 2004. Popular belief attributes much of the country's problems to its landlocked condition; conversely, recovering the seacoast is seen as the solution to most of these. However, the real issue is the fear of being too dependent on Chile or Peru (Both nations are not trusted by Bolivians). In 1932, this was a contributing factor to the Chaco War of 1932 - 35 with Paraguay, over territory controlling access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Paraguay River. In recent decades, all Bolivian Presidents have made it their policy to pressure Chile for sovereign access to the sea. Diplomatic relations with Chile have been severed since 17 March 1978, in spite of considerable commercial ties. Currently, the leading Bolivian newspaper "El Diario" still features at least a weekly editorial on the subject.


Monument at Arica






 The War at Sea

 The Chilean Navy

Huáscar's Exploits


 Timeline of the War of the Pacific