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The War of the Pacific ( ), occurring from 1879-1884, was a conflict between Chilemarker and the alliance of Boliviamarker and Perumarker. Also known as the "Saltpeter War," the war arose from disputes over the control of territory that contained substantial mineral-rich deposits.

About the causes of the war, there is debate among historians on: if the tax of 10 cents of 14 February 1878 was legal or illegal, if Daza's decree of 1 March 1879 was a declaration of war or not, and, if the treaty of alliance of 1873 was defensive or offensive to Chile.

The conclusion of the conflict ultimately led to the Chilean acquisition of the Peruvian territories of department of Tarapaca and province of Arica, as well as the disputed Bolivian department of Litoral, leaving Bolivia as a landlocked country.


The dry climate of the Peruvian and Bolivian coasts had permitted the accumulation and preservation of vast amounts of high-quality nitrate deposits such as guano and saltpeter. In the 1840s, the discovery of the use of guano as a fertilizer and saltpeter as a key ingredient in explosives made the Atacama desertmarker strategically and economically valuable. Boliviamarker, Chilemarker, and Perumarker suddenly found themselves sitting on the largest reserves of a resource that the world needed.

During the Chincha Islands War (1864-1866), Spainmarker, under Queen Isabella II, attempted to use an incident involving Spanish citizens in Peru to dominate the guano-rich Chincha Islands and re-establish Spanish influence over an area that they had previously controlled with the Viceroyalty of Peru. Peru and Chile signed a defensive and offensive alliance against Spain in December 5, 1865. Together, with the minor aid of Bolivia and Ecuadormarker (who had previously had an inconclusive war with Peru from 1858 to 1860), they forced the Spanish to withdraw after achieving victories at Papudomarker, Abtao, and Callao. Chile, however, had to endure terrible losses after the bombardment of Valparaiso by the Spanish fleet on 31 March 1866.

While during this time Peru and Chile enjoyed an alliance based on mutual interests, a conflicting situation between Bolivia and Chile developed because no permanent borders had been established between both nations. Claiming their borders according to the uti possidetis principle, Bolivia and Chile disagree on whether the territory of Charcas, originally part of the Viceroyalty of Peru and, later, part of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, had access to the sea. Eventually, the two countries negotiated the Boundary Treaty of 1866 (commonly referred to as the "Treaty of Mutual Benefits") that established the 24th parallel as their national boundaries, and entitled Chile and Bolivia equal rights to share the tax revenue on mineral exports from the territory between the 23rd and 25th parallels, which comprised a large part of the Atacama desertmarker. In 1872, Peru began to get involved in the dispute when it attempted to use its naval power to help Bolivia obtain a definite boundary.

The population of the Atacama became quickly populated by Chilean investors backed by European, mainly British, capital. Due to the natural barrier that the Andes mountains created between the Bolivian altiplanomarker, Bolivians were not able to colonize the area with as great a quantity. Chilean and foreign enterprises in the region eventually extended all the way to the Peruvian saltpeter mines. During the 1870s, Peru decided to capitalize on the guano exploitation and nationalized all industries in the region, which caused Peru to hold 58.8% of all saltpeter production, while Chile held 19% and Great Britainmarker 13.5% of the production. After the War of the Pacific, Peru was left without saltpeter production, Chile decreased its production to 15%, and Great Britain increased its production to 55%.

On February 6, 1873, Peru and Bolivia signed a treaty of defensive alliance which guaranteed the independence, sovereignty and the integrity of their territories, and obliged them to defend each other against all foreign aggression. An additional clause kept the treaty secret among the allies. Argentinamarker had begun talks with Peru and Bolivia to join the alliance, and the Chamber of Deputies, in a secret session, approved the law, but the Argentine Senate postponed the matter to 1874. Chile was not directly mentioned in the text of the treaty, but was not informed about its existence, which leads Chilean historiography to explain that the treaty was in reality aimed against Chile.

In 1874, Chile and Bolivia superseded the boundary treaty signed in 1866 with a new boundary treaty granting Bolivia the authority to collect full tax revenue between the 23rd and 24th parallels, fixing the tax rates on Chilean companies for 25 years and calling for Bolivia to open up. Heavy British capital investment drove development through the area, and most of the exploitation of the coastal region of Atacama was conducted by Chilean companies and British investments. On December 26, 1874, the recently built ironclad Cochrane arrived in Valparaiso; it remained in Chile until the completion of the Blanco Encalada, throwing the balance of power in the south Pacific ocean towards Chile. In 1875 Peru postponed the Argentine signing of the alliance treaty.


A major crisis took place in 1878 when the National Congress of Bolivia and a National Constituent Assembly found an 1873 contract authorizing the Antofagasta Nitrate & Railway Company to extract saltpeter duty-free for 15 years to be incomplete due to a lack of ratification from the Bolivian Congress as required by the constitution of 1871. The Bolivian Congress proposed to approve the contract only if the company would pay a 10 cents tax per quintal of mineral extracted, but the company complained the increased payments were illegal and demanded an intervention from the Chilean government which, in response, claimed the border treaty of 1874 did not allow for such a tax hike; then Bolivian government suspend tax in April 1878. In November 1878, Chilean government suggested the possibility of nullifying the Treaty of 1874 if Bolivia continued to insist on tax law; then Bolivian government said the tax was unrelated to the Treaty of 1874 and that the claim of the Nitrate Company should be treated in Bolivian courts, reviving the tax. When the Antofagasta Nitrate & Railway Company refused to pay the tax, the Bolivian government under President Hilarion Daza threatened to confiscate its property and, in December 1878, Chilemarker sent a warship to the area.

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After the company failed to pay the tax, Bolivia announced the seizure and auction of the Antofagasta Nitrate & Railway Company on February 14, 1879. Chile threatened that such an action would render the border treaty null and, on the day of the auction, 500 Chilean soldiers arrived by ship and occupied the Bolivian port city of Antofagastamarker, without a fight. According to Peruvian historian Jorge Basadre, not only did the Chilean troops occupy the city without any major resistance, but they also received widespread support and encouragement.; Antofagasta's population was 93%-95% Chilean.

On February 18, while in Antofagasta, Chilean colonel Emilio Sotomayor intercepted a letter directed to Bolivian prefect-colonel Severino Zapata from Hilarión Daza that mentioned, according to Chilean historian Gonzalo Bulnes, Daza's worry of Chilean intervention in Bolivia's nationalization of British saltpeter companies in the region, and made mention of a secret treaty that they would, if necessary, demand Peru to honor in case Chile declared war.[32501] Gonzalo Bulnes. War of the Pacific. Antofagasta and Tarapaca. 1911.

Tengo una buena noticia que darle. He fregado a los gringos (se refiere a Mr. Hicks) decretando la reivindicacion de las salitreras i no podran quitarnoslas por mas que se esfuerce el mundo entero. Espero que Chile no intervendra en este asunto... pero si nos declara la guerra podemos contar con el apoyo del Peru a quien exijiremos el cumplimiento del Tratado secreto. Con este objeto voi a mandar a Lima a Reyes 0rtiz. Ya ve Ud. como le doi buenas noticias que Ud. me ha de agradecer eternamente i como le dejo dicho los gringos estan completamente fregados i los chilenos tienen que morder i reclamar nada mas. After the Chilean disembark in Antofagasta, Hilarión Daza made a presidential decree on March 1, 1879, which demanded the expulsion of Chileans, the nationalizing of Chilean private property and prohibited trade and communications with Chile "as long as the war lasts". Due to its aggressiveness the Chilean government understood the decree as a declaration of war. However, although both nations had already taken aggressive actions, in reality no war had yet been formally declared from either side of the conflict. Bolivia then requested Peru to activate the treaty of 1873 as they felt that the Chilean disembark in Antofagasta constituted a casus foederis of the alliance.

Peru attempted to peacefully mediate the conflict by sending Jose Antonio Lavalle, a senior diplomat, to negotiate with the Chilean government and request that Chile to return Antofagasta to Bolivian authorities. Nonetheless, previous Peruvian demands favoring Bolivia and the Lavalle's denial of knowing about the existence of a secret treaty caused the Chilean government to stall negotiations under suspicion that Peru's mediation was not Bona fide, and that it was only trying to gain time while it hurried its war preparations. 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 Mariano Ignacio Prado who, the following day, told Godoy that there existed a treaty allying Peru with Bolivia.

A few days later, on March 23, 1879, while on their way to occupy Calamamarker, north of 23th parallel, 554 Chilean troops and cavalry were opposed by 135 Bolivian soldiers and civilian residents dug in at two destroyed bridges next to the nearby Topáter river. This Battle of Topáter became the first battle of the war, and the Bolivian troops under the command of Dr. Ladislao Cabrera refused to listen to calls of surrender prior and during the battle. Outnumbered and low on ammunition, most of the Bolivian force withdrew except for a small group of civilians who led by Colonel Eduardo Abaroa, fought to the end. Further land battles would not take place until the war at sea was resolved.

On March 24, Peru responded to Chile and Bolivia by proposing consideration in the Peruvian Congress of April 24 of both the Chilean proposal for neutrality and the Bolivian request of alliance.. On March 31, after receiving the treaty from Lima, Lavalle proceeded to read the whole text to Fierro and told him that it was not offensive to Chile. Acknowledging awareness of the Bolivia-Peru alliance, Chile responded by breaking diplomatic ties and formally declaring war on both Bolivia and Peru on April 5, 1879. On April 6, Peru declared casus foederis of the alliance treaty, stating that it had officially come into effect.

The War

Belligerents military strength comparison

At the beginning of the war the Peruvian Army numbered 5241 men as all ranks, organised in seven infantry battalions, three squadrons of cavalry and two regiments of artillery, 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 most of British-made Blakely guns and counts with four machine guns, the artillery dates from 1866, and was bought for the Chincha Islands War against Spain. The mounts used by the cavalry were small and inferior to those of the Chileans.

The Bolivian Army numbered no more than 2175 soldiers, divided into three infantry regiments, two cavalry squadrons, and two sections of artillery, the Colorados Battalion ,Daza's personal guard, was armed with Remington Rolling Block rifles but the remainder infantry was armed with odds and ends including flintlock muskets, the artillery had three rifled pounders and four machine guns and the cavalry rode mules because the shortage of good horses.

Prior to the war, The regular Chilean Army, fairly well equipped, was composed of 2694 men, but by April 5, the day when Chile formaly declared war on Peru and Bolivia, the army swelled to 7906 men. The regular infantry was armed with the modern Belgian Comblain rifle which Chile had a stock of some 13000, Chile also had Grass, Minie, Remington and Beaumont rifles but most fired the same caliber cartridge (11 millimeter); 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 carabines.

Naval campaign

Given the few roads and railroad lines, the nearly waterless and largely unpopulated Atacama Desertmarker was a rough terrain to conquer and maintain occupied for long. From the beginning of the war it became clear that, to control the local nitrate industry in a difficult desert terrain, control of the sea would be the deciding factor.

Ironclads of Chile and Peru at the beginning of the War of the Pacific
Warship tons
Main Artillery Built
Cochrane 3,560 2,000 9-12,8 up to 9 6x9 Inch 1874
Blanco Encalada 3,560 3,000 9-12,8 up to 9 6x9 Inch 1874
Huascarmarker 1.130 1,200 10-11 2x300-pounders 1865
Independencia 2,004 1,500 12-13 2x150-pounders 1865
Manco Cápac 1.034 320 6 10 2x500-pounders 1864
Atahualpa 1.034 320 6 10 2x500-pounders 1864

By 1879 Bolivia didn't possess ships, but on 26. March 1879 Daza formally offered letters of marque to combat for Bolivia. Bolivia hadn't signed the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law but the USAmarker, Englandmarker and Francemarker refused the legality of Bolivia's act. Since Bolivia hadn't ports anymore because of the Chilean occupation and Peru discouraged the measure, the naval conflict was left to be resolved between the Chile and Perú.

The power of the Chilean navy was based on the twin central-battery ironclad frigates, Cochrane and Blanco Encalada. The rest of the fleet was formed by the corvettes O'Higgins, Chacabuco, Abtao, and Esmeralda, the gunboat Magallanes, and the schooner Covadonga.

The Peruvian navy based its power on the broadside ironclad frigate Independencia and the monitor Huáscar. The rest of the fleet was completed by the corvette Unión, the gunboat Pilcomayo, and the coastal monitors Atahualpa and Manco Cápac, purchased from the United States at the end of the civil war, cannot be classed among the sea-going ships of Perú as they were permanently stationed, one at Callao and the other at Arica. Although both the Chilean and Peruvian ironclads seemed evenly matched, the Chilean ironclads had twice the armor and held a greater range and hitting power.
Wooden Steamboats of Chile and Peru at the beginning of the War of the Pacific
Warship tons
Main Artillery Built
O'Higgins 1,101 300 12 3x115-2x70-2x12-pounders 1874
Chacabuco 1,101 300 11 1x115-2x70-2x12-pounders 1874
Abtao 1,051 300 8 3x115-3x30-pounders 1870
Magallanes 772 260 11,5 1x115-1x64-2x20-pounders 1874
Covadonga 412 140 7 2x70-3x40-pounders 1859
Esmeralda 854 200 8 16x32-2x12-pounders 1855
Unión 1.150 320 13 12x68-1x9-pounders 1864
Pilcomayo 600 180 10,5 2x70-4x40-pounders 1864
In one of the first naval tactical moves of the war, the Peruvian port of Iquiquemarker was blocked by of the Chilean Navy. In the Battle of Iquique, which took place on May 21 of 1879, the Peruvian monitor Huáscar, sank the Chilean corvette Esmeralda. At around the same time, the Peruvian frigate Independencia, chases the Chilean schooner Covadonga through shallow coastal zones which eventually caused the heavier Independencia to crash at Punta Gruesa. The tactical results of the naval battles of Iquique and Punta Gruesa were the lift of the blockade of the port of Iquique, the Chilean wooden ship Esmeralda and the Peruvian ironclad Independencia sunk.

The outgunned Huáscar managed to avoid engagement with the superior battleships of the Chilean navy for six months. Among the actions of these "Excursions of the Huáscar" are the Battle of Antofagasta (May 26, 1879) and the Second Battle Antofagasta (August 28, 1879). The most successful of the excursions was the capture of the steamship Rímac on July 23, 1879. Not only is the ship captured, but the cavalry regiment Carabineros de Yungay which was on board is also captured, making this the largest loss the Chilean army had thus far had in the war. This causes a crisis in the Chilean government which causes the resignation of admiral Juan Williams Rebolledo commander of the Chilean fleet, who was replaced by commodore Galvarino Riveros Cárdenas, who devises a plan to catch the Huáscar.

The decisive battle of the sea campaign took place in Punta Angamos, on October 8, 1879. In this battle, the monitor Huáscar was finally captured by the Chilean Navy, despite the attempts of its crew to sink the ship. Finally the Peruvian Navy was completely defeated during the blockade of Callao, where the Peruvian fleet was set on fire and the coastal defenses of Callaomarker were destroyed or taken to Chile.

Campaign of Tarapaca

Once the naval superiority was achieved, the troops of the Chilean army began the occcupation of the Peruvian province of Tarapacá.

On 2 November 1879 at 7:15 began the naval bombardment and disembarkment at the small port of Pisaguamarker and the Junin Cove, –some 500 km North of Antofagasta. At Pisagua, several landing waves Chilean troops attacked beach defenses held by Allies, and took the town. By the end of the day, the Chilean army were ashore and moving inland

From Pisagua the Chileans marched south towards the city of Iquiquemarker with 6,000 troops and defeated on 19 November 1879 the 7,400 troops allies gathered in Agua Santa in Battle of San Francisco/Dolores. Bolivians forces retreated to Oruro and Peruvians to Tiliviche. Four days later, the Chilean army captured Iquique without resistance.

Chileans operations in the war.

A detachment of 3,600 Chilean soldiers, cavalry and artillery, was sent to face the Peruvian forces in the small town of Tarapaca. Peruvian forces started a march towards Arica to find Bolivian troops led by Hilarion Daza coming from Arica southwards, but in Camarones Daza decided to return towards Arica.

Chileans and Allies met on 27. November 1879 in the Battle of Tarapaca, where the Chilean forces were defeated but the Peruvian forces, unable to maintain the territory, retreated further north to Aricamarker by 18 December 1879.

About the importance of the campaign Bruce W. Farcau wrote:
"The province of Tarapaca 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."

giving Santiago not only a economic bonanza but also a diplomatic asset

Downfall of President Prado in Peru and Daza in Bolivia

The Peruvian government was confronted with widespread rioting in Lima because of the disastrous handling of the war to date.

On 18 December 1879 the Peruvian President Mariano Ignacio Prado suddenly took a ship from Callaomarker to Panamamarker with allegedly six million pesos in gold to oversee the purchase of new arms and warships for the nation. In a statement in the newspaper El Comercio he turned over the command of the country to Vice President La Puerta. After a putsch and more than 300 dead Nicolás de Piérola overthrew La Puerta and took power in Peru on 23 December 1879.

Back to Arica from the aborted expedition to Iquique, on 27 December 1879 Daza received a telegram from La Paz informing him the army had overthrown him. He departed to Europe with $500,000. In Bolivia General Narciso Campero became president.

Bolivia's president Campero remained in office until the end of the war, but Pierola was recognized as president only by the occupation of Lima.

Election of Domingo Santa Maria in Chile

During the Bolivian tax crisis, 1879, Chile voted a new congress on schedule and in 1881 Domingo Santa Maria was elected as president of the republic, who assumed the office on 18. September 1881. A new congress was elected in 1882.

Campaign of Tacna and Arica

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After the failure of the peace talks the Chilean forces began to prepare the occupation of South Peru. On 28 November 1879 declared the formal blockade of Arica. Later also the port Callao was put under blockade.

A Chilean force of 600 men carried out an amphibious raid at Ilo as a reconnaissance in force, to the north of Tacna, on December 31, 1879, and withdrew the same day.

On 24 February 1880 approximately 11,000 men in nineteen ships protected by the warships Blanco Encalada, Toro and the Magallanes as two torpedo boats sailed from Pisagua and arrived off Punta Coles, near Pacocha, Ilomarker on 26 February 1880. The landing took several days and occurred without resistance and the Peruvian commander, Lizardo Montero, refused to try to drive the Chileans from the beachhead, as the Chileans expected.

On 22 March 1880 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).

After the Battle of Los Ángeles there were three allied positions in South Peru; at Arequipamarker was General Leyva's 2th Army (some survivors of Los Angeles included), at Arica was Bolognesi's 7th and 8th Division and at Tacna was the 1st Army, all under the command of the Bolivian president Campero. But they were unable to concentrate troops or at least to move from their places.

After crossing of desert, on 26 May 1880 the Chilean army (14,147 men ) destroyed the allied army of 5,150 Bolivians and 8,500 Peruvians in the Battle of the Halt of the Alliance.

The need of a port near the army to supply and reinforce the troops and the evacuate the wounded made the Chilean command concentrate on the remaining Peruvian stronghold of Arica. On June 7, 1880, 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. Bolivia effectively dropped out of the war.

Lackawanna Conference

Prior to the United States becoming formally involved into the matter, the united proposal of France, England, and Italy was to provide Chile with Tarapaca while they retreated their troops to the Camarones River; Chile found this solution to be acceptable.

On October 22, 1880, delegates of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and the Minister Plenipotentiary of the Unites States of Americamarker in Chile held a 5-day conference aboard the USS Lackawanna in Arica. The Lackawanna Conference, also called the Arica conference, attempted to develop a peace settlement for the war. Chile demanded the Peruvian Tarapaca province and the Bolivian Atacama, an indemnity of $20,000,000 gold Pesos, restoration of property taken from Chilean citizens, the return to Chile of the transport vessel Rimac, the abrogation of the alliance treaty between Peru and Bolivia, the formal commitment on the part of Peru not to mount artillery batteries in Arica's harbor once returned by Chile and to limit that port to commercial use only. and the retention by Chile of the territories of Moquegua, Tacna, and Arica until all previous 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 refused to accept these terms and the negotiations failed.

Lynch's Expedition

To show Peru the futility of further resistance against Chilean forces, on 4 September 1880 the Chilean government dispatched an expedition of 2,200 men to northern Peru under the command of Captain Patricio Lynch to collect war taxes from wealthy landowners. Lynch's Expedition arrived on 10 September to Chimbotemarker levied taxes of $100,000 in Chimbote, $10,000 in Piata, $20,000 in Chiclayomarker, and $4,000 in Lambayeque in local currencies; those who did not comply had their property impounded or destroyed. On September 11, 1880, the Peruvian government made a decree that made the payment of these taxes an act of treason, but most land owners still paid the Chileans under the belief that denizens of occupied areas had to comply with the occupying army.

Campaign of Lima

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After the campaign of Tacna and Arica, the southern departments of Peru was in Chilean hands, and the allies armies were smashed, so for chilean government there was no reason to continue the war, but public pressure as well as expansionist ambitions pushed the war farther north. Also the defeated allies not only didn't realize their situation but also even more controversially in Bolivia, despite the empty Bolivian treasury, on 16 June 1880 the national assembly voted in favour of a continuation of the war and on 11 June 1880 was signed in Peru a document declaring the creation of the United States of Peru-Bolivia.

This forced both the Chilean government and its high command to plan a new campaign with the objective to obtain an unconditional capitulation at the Peruvian capital city,

The Chilean forces would have to confront virtually the entire male population of Lima defending prepared positions and supported by a formidable collection of coastal guns of Lima within a few miles of the capital's arsenal and supply depots. Pierola ordered the construction of two parallel lines of defenses at Chorrillos and Miraflores a few kilometers south of Lima. The line of Chorrillos had long, lying from Marcavilca hill to La Chira, passing through the acclivities of San Juan and Santa Teresa . The Peruvian forces were approximately 26,000 men strong between Arequipa and Lima
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A small Chilean force went ashore near Pisco, approximately South of Lima, and the gross of the army disembarked in Chilca only from Lima.

On January 13, 1881 the 20,000 Chilean troops charged 14,000 Peruvian defenders in Chorrillos. During the Battle of Chorrillos, the Chileans inflicted a harsh defeat to the Peruvian army and eliminated the first defensive line guarding Lima. Two days later, on January 15, 1881, after the triumph in the Battle of Miraflores the Chilean army entered Lima.

After the battle there were fires and sackings in the towns of Chorrillos and Barranco.

Occupation of Peru

Chileans troops entered Lima on 17 January 1881. . The Peruvian dictator Nicolás de Piérola retreated from the capital to try governing from the rear area, and he still refused to accept Chile's demand for territory and indemnity.

In absence of a Peruvian president who was willing to accept their peace terms, on February 22, 1881, the Chileans allowed a convention of Peruvian "notables" outside of Lima that elected Francisco García Calderón as president. Garcia Calderón was allowed to raise and arm two infantry battalions (400 men each) and two small cavalry squadrons to give more legitimacy to the provisional government.

The commander of the Chilean occupation, Vice-admiral Patricio Lynch, set down his military headquarters in the Government Palace of Perumarker in Lima. After the confrontations in San Juan and Miraflores, the then Peruvian Colonel Andrés Avelino Cáceres decided to escape to the central Andes to organize and reinitiate the Peruvian resistance to the Chilean occupation army in the mountain range, which would come to be known as the Campaign of the Breña or Sierra, facing abundant acts of rebellion in Lima and, later, a clearly organized Peruvian resistance.

Meanwhile, in Chile the new administration under the command of Domingo Santa Maria pushed for an end to the costly war.

Letelier's expedition

In February 1881, the Chilean forces started under the command of Lt. Col. Ambrosio Letelier the first Expedition, 700 men, to defeat the last guerrilla bands from Huanucomarker (30 April) to Junin, but after many loses the expedition achieved very little and came back to Lima in early July , where Letelier and his officers were court-martialed because they illegally diverted money into their own pocket.

First campaign of La Sierra

To annihilate the guerrilla, Lynch started in January 1882 a new offensive with 5,000 men first in direction Tarma and then southeast: Huancayo, until Izcuchaca. The Chilean troops suffered enormous hardships: cold, snow, mountain sickness (more than 5,000m). On 9 July 1882 was fought the emblematic Battle of La Concepción. The Chileans had to pull back with a lost of 534 soldiers: 154 died in combat, 277 died to disease and 103 deserted.

Rise of Miguel Iglesias

During the administration of James A. Garfield (Mar. 4, 1881 – Sep. 19, 1881) in the USA, the anglophobic secretary of state James G. Blaine wanted to advance America's presence in Latin America and believed that England had prodded Chile into war on Peru to secure England's stake. Blaine made a proposal that called for Chile to accept monetary indemnity and renounce to Antofagasta and Tarapaca. These American attempts reinforced Garcia Calderon's refuse to discuss the matter of territorial cession. When it became known that Blaine's man by Garcia Calderon, Stephen Hurlburt, would personally profit from the business trade-off, was clear that Hurlburt was complicating the peace process.

Because of president Calderon's refusal to relinquish Peruvian control over Tarapacá, he was placed under arrest. Before Garcia Calderon left Peru to Chile, he named Admiral Lizardo Montero as successor. At the same time Pierola stepped back and supported Avelino Caceres. Caceres refused and also supported Lizardo Montero, who moved to Arequipa. In this way Garcia Calderon's arrest achieved the union of the forces of Pierola and Caceres.

Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, successor of Blaine as secretary of state after the unexpected death of President Garfield, publicly disavowed Blaine's policy while abandoning any notion of intervening militarily in the dispute and recognizing Chile's right to annex Tarapaca.

On 1 April 1882 Miguel Iglesias, former Defence minister of Pierola, became convinced that the war had to be brought to an end if Peru was not to be completely devastated. He issued a manifesto, "Grito de Montan", calling for peace and in December 1882 called a convention of representatives of the seven departments of northern Peru where he was elected "Regenerating President"

Second campaign of La Sierra

To protect and support Iglesias against Montero, on 6 April 1883, Patricio Lynch started a new offensive to drive the montoneros from central Peru and destroy Caceres' little army. Unlike in previous plans, The Chileans troops pursued Caceres to northwest through narrow mountain passes until 10 July 1883 as the definitive Battle of Huamachuco was fought. It was the last battle of the war.

End of Occupation

After the signing of the peace on 20 October 1883 with the government of Iglesias, Lizardo Montero tried to resist in Arequipamarker, but fortunately for Chile, the only arrival of the its men stampeded Montero's troops and Montero went for a Bolivian asylum.

On 29 October 1883 ended the Chilean occupation of Lima.


Peace treaty with Peru

On October 20, 1883 hostilities between Chile and Peru formally came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Ancón. Under the terms of the treaty Chile was to occupy the provinces of Tacna and Arica for 10 years, after which a plebiscite was to be held to determine nationality. The two countries failed for decades to agree on the terms of the plebiscite. Finally in 1929, through the mediation of the United States under President Herbert Hoover, an accord was reached by which Chile kept Arica. Peru reacquired Tacna and received some concessions in Arica.

Peace treaty with Bolivia

In 1884, Bolivia signed a truce that gave control to Chile of the entire Bolivian coast, the province of Antofagastamarker, and its valuable nitrate, copper, and other mineral deposits, and a further treaty in 1904 made this arrangement permanent. In return, Chile agreed to build a railroad connecting the capital city of La Paz, Boliviamarker with the port of Arica, and Chile guaranteed freedom of transit for Bolivian commerce through Chilean ports and territory.

International Law of War

The three nations involved in war adhered to the Geneva Red Cross Convention to protect the war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants.

At that time there was no other binding international law between both countries about this issue. Nevertheless there are accusations of atrocities committed during the war.

Strategy and technology

It was clear from the beginning that strategic control of the sea would be the 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 plateaumarker. While the Chilean Navy started an economic and military blockade of the Allies' ports, Peru took the initiative and utilized its smaller but effective navy as a raiding force. Chile was forced to delay the ground invasion for six months, and to shift its fleet from blockading to hunting the Peruvian ship Huascar until it was captured. After achieving naval supremacy, sea mobile forces proved to be an advantage for desert warfare on a long coastline. Peruvian and Bolivian defenders found themselves hundreds of kilometers away from home while Chilean invading forces were usually a few kilometers away from the sea.

Chilean ground strategy focused on mobility. They landed ground forces in enemy territory to raid Allied ground assets, landed in strength to split and drive out defenders and, leaving garrisons to guard territory as the war moved north. Peru and Bolivia fought a defensive war: maneuvering along long overland distances; relying where possible on land or coastal fortifications with gun batteries and minefields; coastal railways were available to central Peru, and telegraph lines provided a direct line to the government in Lima. When retreating, Allied forces made sure that little if any assets remained to be used by the enemy. According to "Chinese Migration into Latin America – Diaspora or Sojourns in Peru?" some Chinese coolies supported the Chilean army against their plantation owners in Peru. Massive raids from demoralized Peruvian soldiers and invading Chilean forces destroyed several Peruvian towns and cities across the coastline.

The occupation of Peru between 1881 and 1884 was a different story altogether. The war theatre was the Peruvian Sierra, where Peruvian resistance had easy access to population, resource and supply centres further from the sea; it could carry out a war of attrition indefinitely. The Chilean army (now turned into an occupation force) was split into small garrisons across the theatre and could devote only part of its strength to hunting down rebels without a central authority. After a costly occupation and prolonged anti-insurgency campaign, Chile sought to achieve an exit through a political strategy. Rifts within Peruvian society and the Peruvian defeat in the Battle of Huamachuco resulted in the peace treaty that ended the occupation.

The war saw the use by both sides of new, or recently introduced, late 19th century military technology such as breech-loading rifles & 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 a major power was not involved, and it drew the attention of British, French, and U.S. observers of the war. During the war, Peru developed the Toro Submarino ("Submarine Bull"). Though completely operational, she never saw action, and she was scuttled at the end of the war to prevent her capture by Chilean forces.

The U.S.S. Wachusett with Alfred Thayer Mahan in command, was stationed at Callao, Peru, protecting American interests during the final stages of the War of the Pacific. He formulated his concept of sea power while reading a history book in an English gentleman’s club in Lima, Peru. This concept became the foundation for his celebrated The Influence of Sea Power upon History.

World perspectives

The war remained largely relatively unregarded outside South America because neither the USA nor any major European power had a stake in the dispute. After the beginning of the war, the government of Great Britainmarker declared its neutrality and refused to allow Peru, Bolivia, and Chile to take delivery of military or naval material on English soil.

A different matter was the case of persons or companies having some kind of investment in the countries involved in war.

In the 1870s Peru's president Manuel Pardo established a government monopoly to control the sale of nitrate and in 1875 expropriated the salitreras. The Peruvian Government issued interest bearing certificates for the former owners and promised to redeem in two years.

Other group was the "Credit Industrial" and the "Peruvian Company", representing European and American creditor of Peru. They offered to lend the money that Peru required to pay reparations to Chile (to avoid Chilean annexation of Tarapaca). In return Peru would have to grant mining concessions in Tarapaca.

Since the nitrate traders and the holders of debts were all aware that they would receive payment only if the war ended, they influenced for a quick settlement to the conflict. These groups, and of course others on the Chilean side, acted more other less to obtain a convenient solution for its interests.

Consequences of the war

The War of the Pacific left traumatic scars on all societies involved in the conflict.


For Bolivians, the loss of the territory which they refer to as the Litoral (the coast) remains a deeply emotional issue and a practical one, as was particularly evident during the internal natural gas riots of 2003. Popular belief attributes much of the country's problems to its landlocked condition; accordingly, recovering the seacoast is seen as the solution to most of these difficulties. In 1932, this was a contributing factor in the failed Chaco War with Paraguaymarker, over territory controlling access to the Atlantic Oceanmarker 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" ([32502]) still features at least a weekly editorial on the subject, and the Bolivian people annually celebrate a patriotic "Dia del Mar" (Day of the Sea) to remember the crippling loss.


Economically, Chile fared better, gaining a lucrative territory with major sources of income, including nitrates, saltpeter and copper. The national treasury grew by 900% between 1879 and 1902 due to taxes coming from the newly acquired Bolivian and Peruvian lands.. British involvement and control of the nitrate industry rose significantly after the war. High nitrate profits lasted for only a few decades and fell sharply once synthetic nitrates were developed during World War I.

Territorially, during the war Chile waived most of its claim over the Patagonia in the Boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina, in order to ensure Argentina's neutrality during the conflict. After the war, the Puna de Atacama dispute grew until it was solved in 1899, since both Chile and Argentina claimed former Bolivian territories. On 28 August 1929, Chile returned the province of Tacna to Peru. In 1999, Chile and Peru at last agreed to complete the implementation of the last parts of the Treaty of Lima, providing Peru with a port in Aricamarker.


According to Bruce W. Farcau "in Peru, the wounds run less deep, than in neighboring Bolivia.

On the other hand, George J. Mills argues that after Peru's defeat, "Peruvian resentment, born of the loss of her nitrate territories, is still smoldering."


  • in Spanish Language

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