Battle of Angamos

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Battle of Angamos
Part of War of the Pacific
Naval Battle of Angamos 1879.jpg
Naval Battle of Angamos
Date 8 October 1879
Location Near Mejillones, Antofagasta in Bolivia (present day Chile).
Result Decisive Chilean victory
Belligerents
 Chile  Peru
Commanders and leaders
Chile Juan Jose Latorre
Chile Galvarino Riveros
Peru Miguel Grau 
Strength
2 ironclads
2 corvettes
2 transports
1 ironclad
1 corvette
Casualties and losses
1 dead
9 wounded[1]
31 dead
4 missing
162 captured
1 ironclad captured

The Battle of Angamos (Combate naval de Angamos) was fought on October 8, 1879, during the naval stage of the War of the Pacific (Guerra del Pacífico). The Chilean Navy, commanded by Captain Galvarino Riveros and Captain Juan Jose Latorre surrounded and captured the ironclad Huáscar, commanded by Rear Admiral Miguel Grau Seminario, who died in combat. After the battle, the crippled Peruvian Navy was unable to prevent the invasion of its territory. The Huascar was repaired and served under the Chilean flag until its decommission, and now sits as a floating museum in the port of Talcahuano.

Background[edit]

After the Naval Battle of Iquique, the Peruvian ironclad Huascar made several incursions into Chilean waters, challenging the Chilean navy's domination along its entire coast; the Huascar attacked ports and captured transports.

Chile's plan was to achieve naval supremacy prior to invading Bolivian and/or Peruvian territory to establish the logistic advantage needed to launch a terrestrial campaign. No attempt to disembark troops could be made by the Chileans, because the Huascar was preventing the entire Chilean Navy from taking control of the sea; the Chilean fleet was in a diminished state of readiness after a long campaign away from its base. In order to initiate the naval stage of the compaign the Huascar had to be eliminated or captured.

The Chilean government accelerated their naval campaign to secure the logistic support for the planned land invasion of Peru. On September 20, the Chilean fleet sailed north, escorting an important convoy with troops bound for Antofagasta. Once at the port of Mejillones, Captain Galvarino Riveros reorganized the fleet into two divisions:

  • 1st Division—Commodore Galvarino Riveros.

Ironclad Blanco Encalada : Commodore Galvarino Riveros
Schooner Virjen de Covadonga : Lt. Captain Manuel Orella
Transport Matias Cousiño : Lt. Captain Augusto Castleton.

  • 2nd Division—Commander Juan Jose Latorre

Ironclad Almirante Cochrane : Commander Juan Jose Latorre
Corvette O’Higgins : Lt. Captain Jorge Montt Alvarez
Transport Loa : Lt. Captain Javier Molinas Gacitua.

Chilean strategy[edit]

Naval Combat of Angamos by Thomas Somerscales

Commander in Chief Galvarino Riveros on October 1 summoned his officers to a council, where it was decided to hunt down the Peruvian vessel at Arica. The same day Grau in his flagship Huascar gave orders to sail along the Chilean coast as far south as Coquimbo, accompanied by the corvette Union. Because the Chilean fleet sailed close to the shore and the Peruvian fleet was farther out in the open sea, the formations passed in opposite directions without seeing each other.

Chilean Minister of War Sotomayor conceived a plan that called for Latorre’s division to cruise perpendicular to the coast at Mejillones, while Riveros’ division sailed to Antofagasta to observe and to defend the city. So, if the Huascar tried to attack the port, it would be surrounded by the Blanco Encalada and the heavier warships. On the other hand, if Grau passed by, Riveros could follow, keeping him from escaping southward and forcing the Peruvian admiral northward toward Latorre's division.

In Mejillones, on October 7, a plan was approved to deceive the Peruvian ships. Riveros would wait for Grau at Antofagasta while Latorre would set up an east-west barrier-like formation about twenty miles (36 km) from shore. If Riveros spotted the Huascar, he would follow and keep it from retreating to the south until Latorre engaged the Peruvian fleet.

During the night the Peruvian warships were sailing off the Chilean coast northward toward Arica when they saw the light of Antofagasta. Admiral Grau decided to engage any Chilean vessel in port, intending to inflict some damage.

At 01:10 hrs on October 8, the Huascar searched the bay without encountering any targets. She came up with the Union at 03:00 hrs, and the two warships resumed their northward heading. At the same hour lookouts on the Chilean Blanco Encalada saw two smoke columns on the horizon. Simultaneously, Grau was informed that there were three columns of smoke to the north; he decided to investigate.

Both fleets spotted each other and the Peruvian ships turned back to the south. Riveros ordered a reduction in speed of the Chilean ships to make Grau think it was possible to turn back north and sail for Peru. At 05:40 hrs indeed the two Peruvian ships began to slowly turn once again to the north. The Blanco Encalada increased speed and began closing on the Peruvians to discourage Grau from again turning back to the south.

At 07:15 hrs, steaming northward, the two Peruvian vessels spotted smoke columns ahead; it was Latorre’s division approaching. Since the Peruvian Union could manage 13 knots, she was able to sail northeastward and escape, but the Huascar had to stay the course and fight

The Struggle[edit]

Drawing of the Battle of Angamos
Battle of Angamos

Off Punta Angamos at 09:25 hrs the Huascar opened fire on the Cochrane, but the latter didn't answer and kept trying to get closer. After reaching her effective cannon range of 2,200 meters 15 minutes later, the Cochrane began to shell the Peruvian ironclad. One of these shots pierced the Huascar's turret, wounding the twelve crew members manning the 300-pound cannons. Another shot perforated the armour just above the Huascar's waterline, cutting her left rudder chain and leaving her temporarily adrift. The Huascar now was listing hard to starboard and was hampered also by a deformation in the hull acquired when she rammed the Esmeralda during their engagement at Iquique five months earlier. Barely ten minutes later an emergency rudder had been set by the Huascar's crew.

At 10:00 hrs another shell from the Cochrane hit the Huascar, piercing the bridge cabin and killing Admiral Grau and his adjunct, Diego Ferre.[2] Command then fell to Captain Elías Aguirre. The explosion also shattered the rudder wheel. Lt. Captain Gaona’s gunners caused heavy casualties among the Peruvian crew: the Chileans were using Palliser type armor-piercing rounds, which exploded right after penetrating the hull.

At 10:10, the Huascar's flag was brought down from its hoist by the intense gunfire. Latorre ordered a halt to the fire, thinking that the ship had surrendered. However, the monitor kept up its pace and within minutes an unidentified officer hoisted the flag again, resuming the combat.[3] Meanwhile, the crew of the Huascar had again repaired the rudder wheel.

At 10:22 hrs, with the Blanco Encalada and the Covadonga at close range, a shot from the Blanco Encalada, perforated the Huascar's artillery tower, killing almost all of the sailors within and damaging the rightmost cannon. Another shot, from the Cochrane, passed through the officers' quarters and wrecked the emergency rudder station, which had been disabled already twice before. The Huascar now could sail only in a wide semicircle to starboard. Once rudder control was regained, Captain Aguirre of the Huascar tried to ram the Cochrane. Latorre was also maneuvering to ram the Huascar, but the Peruvian ironclad, whose steering was again enabled, suddenly veered to port and both ships passed by each other. Another shell pierced the Huascar's artillery tower 12 minutes later, killing all within, including Captain Aguirre. Command of the ship went to Lt. Pedro Garezon, who in conference with the remaining officers decided to scuttle the ship rather than allow it to be captured. At 10:54 hrs the order was given to evacuate the wounded from the engine room and open the main condensator to scuttle the ship and hence prevent its capture.

At 10:55 hrs Huascar's flag chain was caught (a second time) by the intense gunfire of the Chilean vessels. The Chilean warships, noticing that the Huascar was decreasing speed, mustered their boarding parties. At 11:08 hrs, 14 to 20 Chileans sailors boarded the Huascar, without encountering any resistance. They closed the main condensator water leaks (with 1.2 meters of water in the engine room) and extinguished several fires while the now captured Peruvian crew was being transported to the Chilean vessels as prisoners of war. Acting commander Pedro Garezon pointed out to the Chilean officers that the flag was on deck together with the chain because they had all been cut off by the enemy shots, thus the flag was never brought down, nor had the ship been surrendered by the Peruvians. One of the Chilean officers observed that something similar happened to the Chilean ship Magallanes.

Consequences[edit]

With the capture of the Huascar, plus the previous neutralization of the Independencia at Punta Gruesa, the firepower of the Peruvian Navy was drastically reduced, and the Chilean Navy was able to use the Huascar as one of its own ships. The loss of these two ships, plus the death of Admiral Grau, the Peruvians' best officer, left the Chilean navy in uncontested control of the seas, bringing the sea campaign of the War of the Pacific to an end.

The decisive victory at Angamos allowed the Chilean Army to freely pursue the plan to attack the Allies, and the land invasion of Peru and Bolivia began.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Bulnes, Gonzalo. Guerra del Pacífico, Tomo I, p 490
  2. ^ Meliton Carvajal's official report of the Battle of Angamos
  3. ^ La Guerra del Pacífico en imágenes, relatos, testimonios, p. 140
Bibliography
  • Navy of Chile
  • Ahumada Moreno, Pascual (1884–1892). Guerra del Pacífico. Recopilación de todos los documentos oficiales, correspondencia y demás publicaciones referentes a la Guerra que ha dado a luz la prensa de Chile, Perú y Bolivia, conteniendo documentos inéditos de importancia. Imprenta del Progreso. 
  • Farcau, Bruce W. (2000). The Ten Cents War: Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884. ISBN 0-275-96925-8. 
  • Navies in Modern World History (2004). Sondhaus, Lawrence. ISBN 1-86189-202-0. 

External links (in Spanish)[edit]