Battle of Miraflores

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Battle of Miraflores
Part of the War of the Pacific
Battleofmiraflores.JPG
Date January 15, 1881
Location Miraflores District, Peru
Result Decisive Chilean victory
Belligerents
 Chile  Peru
Commanders and leaders
Chile Manuel Baquedano
Chile Patricio Lynch
Chile Emilio Sotomayor Baeza
Chile Pedro Lagos
Peru Nicolás de Piérola
Peru Andrés Avelino Cáceres
Peru Belisario Suárez
Peru Justo Pastor Dávila
Strength
~ 10,000 - 13,000 soldiers
88 cannons
~ 10,500 - 11.000 soldiers & civilians[1]
Casualties and losses
2,124 casualties 3,000 casualties

The Battle of Miraflores occurred on January 15, 1881 in the Miraflores District of Lima, Peru. It was an important battle during the War of the Pacific that was fought between Chile and the forces of Peru. The Chilean army led by Gen. Manuel Baquedano defeated the army commanded by Nicolás de Piérola guarding the second defensive line of the Peruvian capital city.[2] 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, while a number of other monuments were ransacked by Chilean forces and taken as war trophies.

During the battle, Peruvian naval officer Captain Juan Fanning 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.

Prelude[edit]

After the Chilean victory at Chorrillos, a truce was declared between both sides while peace conversations took place. The Chilean objective was to obtain an unconditional capitulation and avoid another battle before entering Lima. To that end, General Baquedano held talks with Nicolás de Piérola and mediators Spencer St John of England, Jorge Tezanos Pinto of El Salvador and M. de Vorges of France. The failure of these peace talks led to the second battle for control of Lima.

Peruvian defenses[edit]

Gen. Andrés Cáceres

During the peace conversations, Pierola arranged his army in a second defensive line at Miraflores. The defenses of this line were arranged in a similar way to those at Chorrillos two days earlier. A 12 km. line extended from the beach at Miraflores until the Surco River, formed by 10 strongholds about 900m apart.

This line was divided in three sectors:[3]

  • On the right flank, under the command of General Andrés Cáceres, Redoubt Nº 1 was defended by the 2nd Battalion commanded by the Provisional Colonel Lecca. Right next to this forces, the Guardia Chalaca Battalion, led by Carlos Arrieta, and the Guarnición de Marina Battalion commanded by Captain Juan Fanning. Right next to it, the 4th battalion was posted in the Redoubt Nº 2, under the order of the Provisional Colonel Ribeyro, this stronghold was by the railroad. The Redoubt Nº 3 was defended by 6th Battalion commanded by Provisional Col. de la Colina.
  • On the center of the line was the division commanded by Belisario Suárez.
  • On the left was located the division commanded by Justo Pastor Dávila. The 8th battalion was set on Redoubt Nº 5. The 10th battalion was at the Redoubt Nº 6. 12th Battalion on Redoubt Nº 7, 14th Battalion on the Camacho bridge, and on the right of this last unit, the 16th Battalion. In total, the Peruvian forces had 10.500 men between the regular army and the reserve.

The Chilean Forces[edit]

Gen. Pedro Lagos

The Army of Chile had a strength estimated about 12.000 men and was divided into three divisions and one reserve as it follows:[4]

  • The I Division of Navy Capt. Patricio Lynch had two brigades, the 1st Brigade of Col Juan Martínez formed by the 2nd Line, Talca, Atacama, Colchagua infantry regiments. The 2nd Brigade of Col. José Dgo. Amunátegui had the 4th Line, Chacabuco, Coquimbo, Artillería de Marina infantry regiments and the Quillota and Melipilla infantry battalions.
  • The II Division of Col. Emilio Sotomayor, with two brigades, the 1st Brigade of Col. José Fco. Gana, composed by the "Buin" 1st Line, Esmeralda and Chillán infantry regiments. The 2nd Brigade of Lt. Col. Orozimbo Barboza was formed by the Lautaro and Curicó infantry regiments, and the Victoria Infantry Battalion.
  • The III Division of Col. Pedro Lagos structured in two brigades also, the 1st Brigade of Col. Martiniano Urriola, composed by the Aconcagua Inf. Regiment and the Naval Inf. Battalion. The 2nd Brigade of Col. Francisco Barceló formed by the Santiago and Concepción infantry regiments, plus the Valdivia, Bulnes and Caupolicán infantry battalions.
  • The reserve, made of the 3rd Line, Valparaíso and Zapadores infantry regiments.

The artillery consisted in the regiments Nº1 and Nº2. The cavalry had two regiments also, the Cazadores a Caballo and the Cazadores de Yungay.

First Movements[edit]

Because of a skirmish between a small groups of Chilean and Peruvian forces, in the night of January 14, Colonel Lagos ordered his Chief of Staff Jose Eustaquio Gorostiaga to send out a small force in order to scout the terrain at the south of Barranco. This resulted in the III Division placing on the southern edge of the Surco river. On the vanguard were deployed a company of the "Santiago" 5th Line Regiment and 40 soldiers of the Acongagua Battalion and some artillery pieces, adding up 150 Chilean troops at the north of Barranco.[5] Lagos' division was stationed on the vanguard considering this unit didn't had as many losses as the other two divisions at Chorrillos.

At this time, in the Peruvian lines, Gen. Pedro Silva decided to make a formal review of his troops in order to rise their morale, which was very low due to the impact of the defeat at Chorrillos two days ago. This movement in the defensive lines made the Chilean officers became suspicious and strengthened their advanced troops (at 400 meters of the Peruvian lines at the northern side of the Surco river). The Naval Regiment and the entire 5th Line Regiment were disposed to the right and to the left of the railroad connecting Barranco and Miraflores. Now the Chilean vanguard counts 1,100 men.

At 10:00 hrs, Martinez' reserve was ordered to move in direction to Barranco, arriving at 11:00 to their destination.

At 10:45 hrs Gorosteaga, who was concerned about the vicinity of the Peruvian forces at the other side of the river, and informs this to Col. Lagos who orders to put the entire division in line.

After this, the I Division moved towards Barranco. Col. Martinez' brigade began to move at 13:00 hrs, but Col. Amunategui's brigade didn't advanced until 14:00 hrs. Meanwhile, Gen. Baquedano ordered the cavalry to forward to Barranco. Lagos's division continued evolving on the first line with its 2nd Brigade on the left flank. Its 1st Brigade was not in position, because the troops were unaware of the tense situation, so Col. Lagos urged to force the march and advance quickly to their positions alongside the 1st Brigade of the Artillery Regt. Nº1. All this movement took place in front of the Cáceres' Division on the front western side.[4]

The battle[edit]

The beginning[edit]

At 14:00 hrs, the battle started unexpectedly,[1] catching both sides unprepared. However, the Chilean right wing (about 3,380 troops at that time) were attacked by Cáceres' Corps (about 5,000 men). The Chilean battleships began to fire upon the Peruvian positions trying to ease the pressure. Cáceres sent the Guardia Chalaca and Guarnición de Marina battalions against Barcelo, while a fraction of Col. Suarez' Corps engaged Urriola, who wasn't in complete formation yet. The strength of the Peruvian attack forced the Chileans to retreat. At this time, Lynch's I Division wasn't yet in position, so the cavalry regiments and the artillery pieces withdrew from the front line.[6]

The Chilean Counterattack[edit]

By 15:00 hrs, the first troops of the I Division arrived at their positions on the right flank of Lagos' units. Two reserve battalions had been sent to reinforce Lagos as well, along with two cavalry regiments. Caceres sent the Concepción, Libertad and Paucarpata battalions to strengthen the attack against the Chilean troops, but were stopped and began to refold again.[3]

Col. Lagos ordered the "Santiago" 5th Line Regt. to assail Caceres' forces in a pincer maneuver, and the rest of the brigade were to set upon the Peruvians with a frontal charge. While the "Santiago" performed the flanking attack, three companies of the other units assaulted the trenches, which had to be reinforced with another five.[4] The Chileans succeeded in their attempt and took Redoubt Nº1, breaking the Peruvian line,[5] and Caceres retreated to Redoubt Nº2.

Breakthrough[edit]

With the entire I Division now reunited and Col. Barbosa's brigade reinforcing the left flank, the Peruvian offensive weakened.[1] Barcelo's brigade, now under Lt. Col. Demofilo Fuenzalida (since Colonel Barcelo had been wounded), and backed up by soldiers of the 3rd Line Regiment, outflanked the position and onsetted the next four Peruvian redoubts in the I Sector (gunned with thirty cannons and ten machine guns[1]) from behind and expelled its defenders, then advanced to Miraflores.

Although the Peruvian resistance on the right was fading, on the center the situation was quite different. Here the defenders held their positions a while longer, but began to cede when another two Chilean regiments arrived. When these redoubts were taken, the 8th Battalion in redoubt Nº 5 withdrew, collapsing the entire Peruvian front.[4]

By 18:30, Fuenzalida arrived at Miraflores train station, while the cavalry regiments converged on his position. With the battle already decided, Echeñique ordered the remaining troops not to enter in combat, dissolving his forces and sending them home, avoiding the combat to reach the capital's streets. Nevertheless, the positions at San Bartolomé and San Cristóbal continued firing at the Chilean troops a while longer. Like Chorrillos, Miraflores was burned to the ground. By midnight, Rufino Torrico, Mayor of Lima surrendered the city to Gen. Baquedano.

Finally, Lima had fallen after more than five hours of fierce combats and almost two years of war.

Aftermath[edit]

Military and political consequences[edit]

The casualties in both sides were enormous. The Chilean army lost between 2,200 and 2,600 men, among them Juan Martínez, Commandant of the Atacama Infantry Regiment. Lagos' III Division fought in the front line the entire battle, so had the biggest losses, 1,131 men were dead on wounded. The I Division lost 697 men, and the II Division 347 soldiers. The Chilean reserve suffered the loss of 346 men.

The Peruvian army had losses estimated in about 3,200 men (30.4% of their total force), but it's not been confirmed with official reports. After this victory, Lima surrendered and the Chilean army entered in the City of the Viceroys on January 17, 1881. Also, Nicolás de Piérola left the city in direction to the Andes, as many of his officers did. Among these officers was Col. Andres Caceres,[7] who led the resistance in the mountains against the Chilean occupation army. Another four years of war were necessary until the decisive Chilean victory at Huamachuco, on 1883.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Bulnes, Gonzalo (1955). La Guerra del Pacífico. Editorial del Pacífico. 
  2. ^ Batalla de Miraflores en www.educarchile.cl
  3. ^ a b Basadre, Jorge (2000). "La verdadera epopeya". Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d Ojeda, Jorge (2001). "Batalla de Miraflores". Archived from the original on 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2008. 
  5. ^ a b Colonel Pedro Lagos' official report, Commander of the Chilean Army III Division
  6. ^ Official report of Lt. Col Emeterio Letelier
  7. ^ Mellafe, Rafael; Pelayo, Mauricio (2004). La Guerra del Pacífico en imágenes, relatos, testimonios. Centro de Estudios Bicentenario. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Mellafe, Rafael. La Guerra del Pacífico en Imágenes, Relatos, Testimonios. Centro de Estudios Bicentenario, 2007.
  • Machuca, Francisco. Las Cuatro Campañas de la Guerra del Pacífico. Santiago, 1928.
  • Bulnes, Gonzalo. La Guerra del Pacífico. Editorial del Pacífico, 1955.