Battle of Monte Santiago
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|Battle of Monte Santiago|
|Part of Cisplatine War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|James Norton||William Brown|
|12 ships in the first day, 16 in the second
|Casualties and losses|
|2 brigs destroyed
1 brig and 1 schooners damaged
40+ dead and wounded
|2 brigs sunk
1 schooner damaged
75 - 150 dead and wounded
The naval Battle of Monte Santiago was a naval battle on 7–8 April 1827, between the Argentine Navy and Brazilian Imperial Navy, during the Cisplatine War. It was a decisive Brazilian victory, with the allied forces losing its best ships. The battle is highlighted by Argentine historians as one of the most courageous and ferocious naval encounters in the country's history. On that day, Sgt. Mayor Francis Drummond (engaged to Admiral Brown's daughter Elisa) died on deck, firing his marooned ship's cannons instead of retreating.
Despite the balanced result of the battle, and the fact that it did not change the status quo in the River Plate, it still represented a severe setback for the smaller Argentine Navy. From that moment on, only corsary raids against commerce ships could be undertaken by the Argentine Navy; and the Naval blockade posed grave problems to the export oriented Argentine economy.
While the Brazilian Navy had high seas vessels, with more firepower but lesser speed, the Argentine Navy relied on fast maneuvering ships. Some Argentine commanders believed that the lack of maneuvering of the Imperial vessels in shallow waters and the speed of their own ships could decide some engagements in their favor.
The Argentine commander was confident that, by using the surprise element, his more maneuverable ships could inflict damage and that he could escape before the Brazilian force could counterattack.
Unfortunately for him, he was unaware of the enemy's initial three-to-one advantage in terms of ships on the first day of battle (which escalated into a four-to-one advantage by the second day). Brown also underestimated the Brazilian fleet's ability to cut off any route of escaping in time. As a result, the battle was a two-day pouring of shells onto his men.
On the second day, the Brazilian vessel Paula opened fire at the brigantine Independencia. The Independencia (which had lesser firepower) lost its masts, and to prevent the ship from sinking, 12 cannons were thrown overboard. As a consequence Francis Drummond, its captain, was wounded by a sliver that cut his ear. At 4 pm Drummond had no powder left, and had already fired his supply of three thousand rounds. Drummond managed to use anchor chains as ammunition. He ordered "abandon ship", but the crew fiercely refused his command. Then Drummond, in order to resupply ammunition, sailed in a lifeboat to the flagship Republica. At that moment he was hit by a 24 lb cannonball that destroyed his pelvis and right leg and died.
The losses in this battle, along with the loss of the 25 de Mayo (Argentine major vessel) in the battle of Punta Lara-Quilmes (June 29–30, 1826), kept the Brazilian Navy control of the River Plate. From that moment on, only raids against commerce ships could be undertaken by Argentine Navy, mostly from its Atlantic base at Carmen de Patagones, but no major operations to challenge the larger ships of the Brazilian Navy were possible. The war reached a standstill: Argentine Army had a greater control in the land operations, but lacked the means to expel the Brazil army from Colonia and Montevideo, the two largest cities of Uruguay (which would remain under the control of Brazil throughout the whole conflict), and lacked larger ships to challenge the control of the river; at the same time, the heavy losses sustained by the Brazilians during the previous battles discouraged them from extending the naval war into the interior rivers of Argentina or attempting a direct attack against Buenos Aires. This situation continued until the Preliminary Peace Convention, by which Oriental Province became the independent nation of Uruguay.
- Scheina,Robert L. Latin America's Wars, Volume I: The Age of the Caudillo, 1791-1899, Potomac Books Inc., 2003, ISBN 1574884492
- Laurio H. Destefani, The Battle of Monte Santiago (in Spanish).
- Brownian National Institute, Chronology of William Brown's Career (in Spanish).
- Painting of the action