Robert Winthrop Simpson

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For other people of the same name, see Robert Simpson (disambiguation).
Rear-Admiral Robert Simpson
Simpson001.jpg
Born (1799-12-14)14 December 1799
England
Died 23 December 1877(1877-12-23) (aged 78)
Valparaíso, Chile

Robert Winthrop Simpson (1799 - 23 December 1877) was a Rear-Admiral of the Chilean navy and a hero of the War of the Confederation.

Early life[edit]

Simpson was born in England[where?], probably in 1799, and arrived to Chile with the train of then-Lord Cochrane, as a midshipman on the sloop Rose. By 1821 he already was a second lieutenant on the Chilean navy. In the same year, during the independence war of Peru, he participated of the capture in Callao of the Spanish ships Resolución, San Fernando and Milagro, being promoted as a reward to Captain on 7 October 1821.

Admiral Cochrane gave Simpson the command of the Araucano and ordered him to Acapulco, to harass Spanish shipping. From there, he moved onto California to purchase supplies. While on port, the British under-officer convinced the foreign crew to take over the ship and leave for Australia, leaving him behind. Back in Chile, in 1824 was given the command of the Voltaire, and together with the Galvarino under the command of captain Cobbet maintained the blockade of the Chiloé islands during 4 months. In 1825, participated in the blockade of Callao, under Admiral Manuel Blanco Encalada.

Simpson participated actively on all the naval encounters of the war of independence in Chile and Peru between 1825 and 1826. When the Chilean fleet was dispersed in that year (1826), Simpson went into the reserve and took command of the Peruvian ship Congreso. In 1827 took command of a Mexican ship also named Congreso. He finally returned to Chile in 1829, when named Naval Governor of Coquimbo. From 1830 to 1836 commanded the Aquiles and in December 1834 became the first Chilean hydrographer. On 1836 he was in command of the Valparaíso, flagship of Admiral Blanco Encalada when war was declared.

War of the Confederation[edit]

Naval Battle of Casma

On 26 January 1837, during the War of the Confederation, he was named commander of the Aquiles, and his first mission was to notify the Confederate government of the Chilean government's repudiation of the Treaty of Paucarpata. Later he cruised the Peruvian coast and was in charge of disturbing their commerce. He captured the Confederación, taking its command.

On 12 January 1839 while the Chilean squadron under his command was at Casma taking provisions, it was attacked by the Confederate fleet under the command of the French sailor Juan Blanchet. At the Naval Battle of Casma the Chileans had a resounding victory. During the battle Blanchet was killed and the Confederate ship Arequipeño was sunk, but not before the Chilean fleet had been badly battered. Nonetheless, the defeat of the Confederate fleet at Casma by the smaller Chilean squadron left Chile in absolute control of the southeastern Pacific. As a reward, Simpson was promoted to Commodore on 8 May 1839.

Later life[edit]

After the dissolution of the Confederation at the Battle of Yungay, Simpson returned to Chile along with the fleet. Between 1840 and 1852 he had a long and varied career in the Chilean navy, rising as high as becoming General Commander of the Navy twice. In 1848 he was in command of the frigate Chile, Chile's training ship, there he had Francisco Hudson as subordinate.

On 15 January 1852 Simpson adopted the Chilean nationality, and was elected Senator. That year he travelled to Europe to supervise the construction of the Esmeralda (1855), the fabled Chilean ship, becoming its first commander. In 1853 he became a Rear-Admiral. He continued his naval career until 1871, when he retired after 53 years in the navy.

Simpson married twice, first to Mercedes Baeza, a Chilean lady with whom he had two sons and two daughters. After becoming a widower, he remarried in 1843 to Catalina Searle, widow of fellow officer James L. Swett, with whom Simpson had another four children. He died in Valparaíso on 23 December 1877.

Descendants[edit]

Children with Mercedes Baeza:

Enrique Manuel Simpson Baeza (1835–1901); joined the Chilean Navy in 1851 and reached the rank of Admiral. Carmela Simpson Baeza; Isabel Simpson Baeza; Eduardo Simpson Baeza

Children with Catalina Searle:

Juan Manuel Simpson Searle (1851–1928); joined the Chilean Navy and reached the rank of Admiral. Ricardo Simpson Searle; Roberto Simpson Searle

See also[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
José María de la Cruz
Navy General Commander
1843-1844
Succeeded by
José Joaquín Prieto
Preceded by
José Joaquín Prieto
Navy General Commander
1845-1846
Succeeded by
Santiago Aldunate
Preceded by
Manuel Blanco Encalada
Navy General Commander
1852-1853
Succeeded by
Julián Riesco