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The Paraguayan War (Spanish: Guerra del Paraguay; Portuguese: Guerra do Paraguai), also known as War of the Triple Alliance (Spanish: Guerra de la Triple Alianza; Portuguese: Guerra da Tríplice Aliança), and in Paraguay itself as the "Great War" (Spanish: Guerra Grande, Guarani: Ñorairõ Guazú), was an international military conflict in South America fought from 1864 to 1870 between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance of Argentina, the Brazil, and Uruguay. It caused approximately 390,000 deaths, more proportionally to the number of actual combatants than any other war in modern history, and particularly devastated Paraguay, killing most of its male population.
Several theories exist regarding the origins of the war. The traditional view emphasizes the aggressive policy of Paraguayan president Francisco Solano López towards Platine matters. Conversely, popular belief in Paraguay, and Argentine revisionism since the 1960s give a preponderant role to the interests of the British Empire, although there is no historical basis for this. The war began in late 1864 with combat operations between Brazil and Paraguay; from 1865 onwards, one can properly refer to the "War of the Triple Alliance."
The war's initiation is attributed to reasons such as the after-effects of colonialism in South America, the struggle for physical power over the strategic Río de la Plata region, Brazilian and Argentine meddling in internal Uruguayan politics, British economic interests in the region, the intentions of Solano López in helping his allies in Uruguay (previously defeated by Brazilians), and the presumed expansionist ambitions of Solano López. Paraguay had had boundary disputes and tariff issues with Argentina and Brazil for many years, and helping its allies in Uruguay worsened its relations with those countries.
The outcome of the war was the utter defeat of Paraguay. After the Triple Alliance defeated Paraguay in conventional warfare, the conflict turned into a drawn-out guerrilla-style resistance that devastated the Paraguayan military and civilian population. The guerrilla war lasted until López was killed on March 1, 1870. One estimate places total Paraguayan losses—through both war and disease—as high as 1.2 million people, or 90% of its pre-war population.
A different estimate places Paraguayan deaths at approximately 300,000 people out of its 500,000 to 525,000 prewar inhabitants. According to Steven Pinker the war killed more than 60% of the population of Paraguay, making it proportionally the most destructive war in modern times.
It took decades for Paraguay to recover from the chaos and demographic imbalance in which it had been placed. In Brazil, the war helped bring about the end of slavery, moved the military into a key role in the public sphere, and caused a ruinous increase of public debt, which took a decade to pay off, seriously reducing the country's growth. It has been argued that the war played a key role in the consolidation of Argentina as a nation-state. That country eventually became South America's wealthiest nation, and one of the wealthiest in the world by the early 20th century.[verification needed] For Uruguay, it was the last time that Brazil and Argentina would take such an interventionist role in its internal politics.
Paraguay before the war
Historians have long considered that Paraguay under José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia (1813–1840) and Carlos Antonio López (1841–1862) developed quite differently from other South American countries. The aim of Rodríguez de Francia and Carlos López was to encourage self-sufficient economic development in Paraguay by imposing a high level of isolation from neighboring countries.
The regime of the López family was characterized by a harsh centralism in the production and distribution of everything. There was no distinction between the public and the private sphere, and the López family ruled the country as it would a large estate of land.
The government exerted its control on all exports. The export of yerba mate and valuable wood products maintained the balance of commerce between Paraguay and the outside world. The Paraguayan government was extremely protectionist, never accepting loans from abroad and, through high tariffs, refusing the importation of foreign products. This protectionism made the society self-sufficient. This also avoided the situation suffered by Argentina and Brazil which were in debt. Francisco Solano López, the son of Carlos Antonio López, replaced his father as the President-Dictator in 1862, and he generally continued the political policies of his father.
In the area of the military, however, Solano López modernized and expanded industry and the Paraguayan Army. The government hired more than 200 foreign technicians, who installed telegraph lines and railroads to aid the expanding steel, textile, paper, ink, naval construction, weapons and gunpowder industries. The Ybycuí foundry, completed in 1850, manufactured cannons, mortars and bullets of all calibers. River warships were built in the shipyards of Asunción.
During the 1960s and 1970s many historians claimed that the Paraguayan War was caused by pseudo-colonial influence of the British, who were in need of a new source of cotton, as their main cotton supplier, the United States, was embroiled in a civil war. However, the claim of British influence has been disputed by several historical works published since 1990. Although the British economy and commercial interests benefited from the war, the British government was opposed to it from the start, the general view being that all war damaged international commerce, and it was discontented with the secret clauses in the Treaty of the Triple Alliance. Britain also had a growing supply of Egyptian cotton and was not in need of a new supply from Paraguay. However, it is clear that Sir Edward Thornton, the British Minister to the Argentine Republic, personally supported the Triple Alliance and was present at the signing of a treaty of alliance between Brazil and Argentina on 18 June 1864 in Puntas del Rosario, which Jose Antonio Saraiva later declared to be the real start of their alliance, showing in some way their interest in the alliance against Paraguay. Thornton's role was briefly taken by William Doria (the Charge D'Affairs for Paraguay), who joined French and Italian diplomats in condemning Mitre's involvement in Uruguay; Thornton reversed this and threw his full backing behind Mitre when he returned to the job in December 1863.
Other historians say that the building up of the Paraguayan army was for expansionist intentions. Solano Lopez encouraged the development of war industries, mobilized a large number of men for the army (mandatory military service was already in effect in Paraguay), subjected them to intensive military training and built fortifications at the mouth of the Río Paraguay. He also set about building armed riverboats. Even though the building up of the Paraguayan army started during this period, previous wars between Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil show that it might have been necessarity for Solano Lopez to build his army up in order to protect his country.
In 1864 President López thought that the balance of power was threatened when Brazil became involved in Uruguay's internal politics and the struggle for leadership. This was the spark that led López to declare war on Brazil, and not the mainly expansionist intentions that some historians argue. Argentina stayed neutral; however, López doubted that neutrality since brazilian ships could navigate in the Argentine rivers in the Plate region. In fact Paraguayan and Brazilian ships had the same clearence of movement in the region. Paraguay saw this neutrality as favorable only to Brazil, so Paraguayan forces invaded the Corrientes Province of Argentina when Mitre rejected the request that Solano made to use Argentine territory to move his troops to fight in Uruguay against Brazil. Argentina only declared war only when this invasion happened.
Politics of the Río de la Plata
Since Brazil and Argentina had become independent, the fight between Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro for hegemony in the Río de la Plata profoundly marked the diplomatic and political relations among the countries of the region.
Brazil, under the rule of the Portuguese, was the first country to recognize the independence of Paraguay, in 1811. While Argentina was ruled by Juan Manuel Rosas (1829–1852), a common enemy of both Brazil and Paraguay, Brazil contributed to the improvement of the fortifications and development of the Paraguayan army, sending officials and technical help to Asunción. As no roads linked the province of Mato Grosso to Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian ships needed to travel through Paraguayan territory, going up the Río Paraguay to arrive at Cuiabá. Many times, however, Brazil had difficulty obtaining permission from the government in Asunción to sail those waterways.
Brazil carried out three political and military interventions in Uruguay: in 1851, against Manuel Oribe to fight Argentine influence in the country; in 1855, at the request of the Uruguayan government and Venancio Flores, leader of the Colorados, who were traditionally supported by the Brazilian empire; and in 1864, against Atanásio Aguirre. This last intervention would light the fuse for the Paraguayan War.
Intervention against Aguirre
In April 1864 Brazil sent a diplomatic mission to Uruguay, led by José Antônio Saraiva, to demand payment for the damages caused to gaucho farmers in border conflicts with Uruguayan farmers. Uruguayan president Atanásio Aguirre, of the National Party, refused the Brazilian demands.
Solano López offered himself as mediator, but was turned down by Brazil. López subsequently broke diplomatic relations with Brazil in August 1864 and declared that the occupation of Uruguay by Brazilian troops would be an attack on the equilibrium of the Río de la Plata region.
On October 12 Brazilian troops invaded Uruguay. The followers of Colorado party leader Venancio Flores, who had the support of Argentina, united with the Brazilian troops and deposed Aguirre.
Course of the war
When attacked by Brazil, the Uruguayan Blancos asked for help from Paraguay. With the intention of showing his (Solano López's) disagreement with Brazilian actions against Uruguayan Blancos, on November 12, 1864, the Paraguayan ship Tacuarí captured the Brazilian ship Marquês de Olinda, which had sailed up the Río Paraguay to the province of Mato Grosso. Paraguay declared war on Brazil on December 13 and on Argentina three months later, on March 18, 1865. Uruguay, already governed by Venancio Flores, aligned itself with Brazil and Argentina.
At the beginning of the war, the military force of the Triple Alliance was inferior to that of Paraguay, which included — according to some historians— more than 60,000 well-trained men — 38,000 of whom were currently under arms — and a naval squadron of 23 steamboats (vapores) and five river-navigating ships, among them the Tacuarí, a gunboat. Its artillery included about 400 cannons. However, recent studies have shown a different picture. Although the Paraguayan army had somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 men at the beginning of the conflict, they were badly equipped. Most of the infantry armaments consisted of inaccurate smooth-bore muskets and carbines, slow to reload and with short range. The artillery was similarly in bad shape. Military officers had no training or experience and there was no command system, as all decisions were made by López. Food, ammunition and armament were scarce and logistics and hospital care were deficient or nonexistent.
The armies of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay were far smaller than the Paraguayan forces. Argentina had approximately 8,500 regular troops and a naval squadron of four vapores and one goleta. Uruguay entered the war with fewer than 2,000 men and no navy. Many of Brazil's 16,000 troops were located in its southern garrisons. The Brazilian advantage, though, was in its navy, comprising 42 ships with 239 cannons and about 4,000 well-trained crew. A great part of the squadron had already met in the Rio de la Plata basin, where it had acted, under the Marquis of Tamandaré, in the intervention against Aguirre.
Brazil, however, was unprepared to fight a war. Its army was disorganized. The "troops" used in the interventions in Uruguay were composed merely of the armed contingents of gaucho politicians and some National Guard staff. Even though the Brazilian version of the war say that the infantry who fought in the Paraguayan War were not professional soldiers but volunteers, the so-called Voluntários da Pátria, the Argentinian revisionism and Paraguay version argue that the Brazilian infantry was composed mainly of slaves who received the promise of free land if they took part of the war. The army was heavily recruited from the landless, largely black, underclass. The cavalry was formed from the National Guard of Rio Grande do Sul. From the end of 1864 to 1870 about 146,000 Brazilians fought in the war, while 18,000 members of the National Guard stayed behind in Brazilian territory to defend it. The Brazilian forces actively engaged in the war consisted of 10,025 army soldiers stationed in Uruguayan territory in 1864, 2,047 that were in the province of Mato Grosso, 55,985 Fatherland Volunteers, 60,009 National Guards, 8,570 ex-slaves who had been freed to be sent to war, and 9,177 navy personnel.
Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay signed the secret Treaty of the Triple Alliance in Buenos Aires on May 1, 1865. They named Bartolomé Mitre, president of Argentina, as supreme commander of the allied forces.
During the first phase of the war Paraguay took the initiative. The armies of López dictated the location of initial battles — invading Mato Grosso in the north in December 1864, Rio Grande do Sul in the south in the first months of 1865 and the Argentine province of Corrientes. Two separate Paraguayan forces invaded Mato Grosso simultaneously. Five thousand troops, transported in ten ships and commanded by Col. Vicente Barrios, went up the Río Paraguay and attacked the fort of Nova Coimbra. The Brazilian garrison of 155 men resisted for three days under the command of Lt. Col. Hermenegildo de Albuquerque Porto Carrero, later baron of Fort Coimbra. When the munitions were exhausted the defenders abandoned the fort and withdrew up the river towards Corumbá on board the gunship Anhambaí. After they occupied the empty fort the Paraguayans advanced north, taking the cities of Albuquerque and Corumbá in January 1865.
The second Paraguayan column, led by Col. Francisco Isidoro Resquín and including 4000 men, penetrated a region south of Mato Grosso and sent a detachment to attack the military frontier post of Dourados. The detachment, led by Maj. Martín Urbieta, encountered tough resistance on December 29, 1864, from Lt. Antonio João Ribeiro and his 16 men, who were all eventually killed but did not yield. The Paraguayans continued to Nioaque and Miranda, defeating the troops of Col. José Dias da Silva. Coxim was taken in April 1865.
The Paraguayan forces, despite their victories, did not continue to Cuiabá, the capital of the province. Augusto Leverger had fortified the camp of Melgaço to protect Cuiabá. The main objective was to distract the attention of the Brazilian government to the north, as the war would lead to the south, closer to the Río de la Plata estuary. The invasion of Mato Grosso was a diversionary tactic.
The invasion of Corrientes and Rio Grande do Sul was the second phase of the Paraguayan offensive. To raise the support of the Uruguayan Blancos, the Paraguayans had to travel through Argentine territory. In March 1865 López asked the Argentine government's permission for an army of 25,000 men (led by Gen. Wenceslao Robles) to travel through the province of Corrientes. Argentine President—Bartolomé Mitre, an member of the Alliance signed previously and ally of Brazil in the intervention in Uruguay—refused. On March 18, 1865, Paraguay being denied by Argentina but seeing that Argentina permitted Brazilians troops though its territory, declared war on Argentina. A Paraguayan squadron, coming down the Río Paraná, trapped Argentine ships in the port of Corrientes. Immediately, Gen. Robles' troops took the city.
By invading Corrientes, López tried to obtain the support of the powerful Argentine caudillo Justo José de Urquiza, governor of the provinces of Corrientes and Entre Ríos, and the chief federalist hostile to Mitre and to the government of Buenos Aires. However, Urquiza remained ambiguous towards the Paraguayan troops. They advanced approximately 200 kilometres (120 mi) south before ultimately ending the offensive in failure.
Along with Robles' troops, a force of 10,000 soldiers under Lt. Col. Antonio de la Cruz Estigarriba crossed the Argentine border south of Encarnación in May 1865, driving for Rio Grande do Sul. They traveled down Río Uruguay and took the town of São Borja on June 12. Uruguaiana, to the south, was taken on August 5 with little resistance. The Brazilian reaction was yet to come.
Reaction of Brazil
Brazil sent an expedition to fight the invaders in Mato Grosso. A column of 2,780 men led by Col. Manuel Pedro Drago left Uberaba in Minas Gerais in April 1865, and arrived at Coxim in December after a difficult march of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) through four provinces. However, Paraguay had abandoned Coxim by December. Drago arrived at Miranda in September 1866, and Paraguay had left once again. In January 1867 Col. Carlos de Morais Camisão assumed command of the column, now with only 1,680 men, and decided to invade Paraguayan territory, which he penetrated as far as Laguna. The expedition was forced to retreat by the Paraguayan cavalry.
Despite the efforts of Col. Camisão's troops and the resistance in the region, which succeeded in liberating Corumbá in June 1867, Mato Grosso remained under Paraguayan control. They finally withdrew in April 1868, moving their troops to the main theatre of operations, in the south of Paraguay. Communications in the Río de la Plata basin were solely by river; few roads existed. Whoever controlled the rivers would win the war, so the Paraguayan fortifications had been built on the banks of the lower end of Río Paraguay.
The naval battle of Riachuelo occurred on June 11, 1865. The Brazilian fleet commanded by Adm. Francisco Manoel Barroso da Silva won, destroying the powerful Paraguayan navy and preventing the Paraguayans from permanently occupying Argentine territory. The battle practically decided the outcome of the war in favour of the Triple Alliance, which controlled, from that point on, the waters of the Río de la Plata basin up to the entrance to Paraguay.
While López ordered the retreat of the forces that occupied Corrientes, the Paraguayan troops that invaded São Borja advanced, taking Itaqui and Uruguaiana. A separate division (3,200 men) that continued towards Uruguay, under the command of Maj. Pedro Duarte, was defeated by Flores in the bloody Battle of Jataí on the banks of the Río Uruguay.
The allied troops united under the command of Mitre in the camp of Concordia, in the Argentine province of Entre Ríos, with Field Marshal Manuel Luís Osório at the front of the Brazilian troops. Some of the troops, commanded by Lt. Gen. Manuel Marques de Sousa, baron of Porto Alegre, left to reinforce Uruguaiana. The Paraguayans yielded on September 18, 1865.
In the subsequent months the Paraguayans were driven out of the cities of Corrientes and San Cosme, the only Argentine territory still in Paraguayan possession. By the end of 1865 the Triple Alliance was on the offensive. Its armies numbered more than 50,000 men and prepared to invade Paraguay.
On September 12, 1866, López invited Mitre to a conference in Yatayty Cora. He had realized that the war was lost and was ready to sign a peace treaty with the Allies. No agreement was reached, though, since Mitre's conditions for signing the treaty were that every article of the secret Treaty of the Triple Alliance was still to be carried out, a condition that López refused. Despite López's refusal, Article 6 of the treaty not only rendered truce or peace nearly impossible but also stipulated that the war was to continue until the then government ceased to be, which meant the death or removal of López.
After the conference, the allies marched into Paraguayan territory, reaching the defensive line of Curupayty. Trusting in their numerical superiority and the possibiliy of attacking the flank of the defensive line through the Paraguay River, using the Brazilian Ships, the Allies frontal-assaulted the defensive line, supported by the flank fire of the battleships. But the paraguayans, commanded by general José E. Díaz, stood strong in their positions, previously arranged for a defensive battle, and inflicted tremendous damage to the Allied troops. The Battle of Curupayty resulted in an almost catastrophic defeat for the Allied forces, losing over 10,000 men, between killed and injured, against a few 100 losses in the Paraguayan side. The Allied command was changed after this.
Caxias in command
Assigned on October 10, 1866 to command the Brazilian forces, Marshal Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, Marquis and, later, Duke of Caxias, arrived in Paraguay in November, finding the Brazilian army practically paralyzed. The contingent of Argentines and Uruguayans, devastated by disease, were cut off from the rest of the allied army. Mitre and Flores returned to their respective countries because of difficult internal political conditions. Tamandaré was replaced in command by Admiral Joaquim José Inácio, future Viscount of Inhaúma. Osório organized a 5,000-strong third Corps of the Brazilian army in Rio Grande do Sul. In Mitre's absence, Caxias assumed general command and restructured the army.
Between November 1866 and July 1867, Caxias organized a health corps (to give aid to the endless number of injured soldiers and to fight the epidemic of cholera) and a system of supply of the troops. Military operations were limited to skirmishing with the Paraguayans and bombarding Curupaity. López took advantage of the disorganization of the enemy to reinforce his stronghold in Humaitá.
The march to outflank the left wing of the Paraguayan fortifications constituted the basis of Caxias's tactics. Caxias wanted to bypass the Paraguayan strongholds, cut the connections between Asunción and Humaitá, and finally encircle the Paraguayans. To this end, Caxias marched to Tuiu-Cuê. But Mitre, who had retaken command in August 1867, insisted on attacking the right wing, a strategy that had previously been disastrous in Curupaity. Under his orders the Brazilian squadron forced its way past Curupaity but was forced to stop at Humaitá. New splits in the high command arose: Mitre wanted to continue, but the Brazilians instead captured São Solano, Pike and Tayi, isolating Humaitá from Asunción. López reacted by attacking the rearguard of the allies in Tuyutí, but suffered further defeats.
With the removal of Mitre in January 1868, Caxias reassumed supreme command and decided to bypass Curupaity and Humaitá, carried out with success by the squadron commanded by Captain Delfim Carlos de Carvalho, later Baron of Passagem. Humaitá fell on 25 July after a long siege.
En route to Asunción, Caxias's army went 200 kilometres (120 mi) north to Palmas, stopping at the Piquissiri river. There López had concentrated 18,000 Paraguayans in a fortified line that exploited the terrain and supported the forts of Angostura and Itá-Ibaté. Resigned to frontal combat, Caxias ordered the so-called Piquissiri manoeuvre. While a squadron attacked Angostura, Caxias made the army cross to the west side of the river. He ordered the construction of a road in the swamps of the Chaco along which the troops advanced to the northeast. At Villeta, the army crossed the river again, between Asunción and Piquissiri, behind the fortified Paraguayan line. Instead of advancing to the capital, already evacuated and bombarded, Caxias went south and attacked the Paraguayans from the rear.
Caxias had won a series of victories in December 1868, when he went back south to take Piquissiri from the rear, capturing Itororó, Avaí, Lomas Valentinas and Angostura. On December 24 the three new commanders of the Triple Alliance (Caxias, the Argentine Juan Andrés Gelly y Obes, and the Uruguayan Enrique Castro) sent a note to Solano López asking for surrender, but López refused and fled to Cerro Leon.
Asunción was occupied on January 1, 1869 by commands of Colonel Hermes Ernesto da Fonseca, father of the future Marshal Hermes da Fonseca. On the fifth day, Caxias entered the city with the rest of the army, and 13 days later left his command.
End of the war
Command of Count d'Eu
The son-in-law of the Emperor Dom Pedro II, Luís Filipe Gastão de Orléans, Count d'Eu, was nominated to direct the final phase of the military operations in Paraguay. He sought not just a total rout of Paraguay, but also the strengthening of the Brazilian Empire. In August 1869, the Triple Alliance installed a provisional government in Asunción headed by Paraguayan Cirilo Antonio Rivarola.
Solano López organized the resistance in the mountain range northeast of Asunción. At the head of 21,000 men, Count d'Eu led the campaign against the Paraguayan resistance, the Campaign of the Mountain Range, which lasted over a year. The most important battles were the battles of Piribebuy and of Acosta Ñu, in which more than 5,000 Paraguayans died.
Death of López
Two detachments were sent in pursuit of Solano López, who was accompanied by 200 men in the forests in the north. On March 1, 1870, the troops of General José Antônio Correia da Câmara surprised the last Paraguayan camp in Cerro Corá. During the ensuing battle, López was wounded and separated from the remainder of his army. Too weak to walk, he was escorted by his aide and a pair of officers, who led him to the banks of the Aquidaban-nigui River. The officers left Lopez and his aide there while they looked for reinforcements, but while they waited for the men's return, General Câmara arrived with a small number of soldiers. Though he offered to permit López to surrender and guaranteed his life, López refused and, shouting "¡Muero por mi patria!" ("I die for my homeland!"), tried to attack Câmara with his sword. He was quickly killed by Câmara's men, thereby bringing a final end to the long conflict.
At the end of the war and with Paraguay suffering severe shortages of weapons and supplies, López reacted with draconian attempts to keep order, ordering troops to kill any combatant, including officers, who talked of surrender. As a result, paranoia prevailed in the army, and soldiers fought to the bitter end. Paraguay suffered massive casualties, losing perhaps most of its population.
The specific numbers of casualties are hotly disputed. It has been estimated that 300,000 Paraguayans, mostly civilians, died. It has also been reported that up to 90% of the male population was killed, though this figure is without support. According to one numerical estimate, the prewar population was approximately 525,000 Paraguayans (a survey of 14 estimates varied between 300,000 and 1,337,000; see F. Chartrain : "L'Eglise et les partis dans la vie politique du Paraguay depuis l'Indépendance", Paris I University "Doctorat d'Etat", 1972, pages 134–135. His own calculation, based on a 1879 census and the military forces, gives between 700,000 and 800,000 inhabitants). A 1871 census gave 221,079 inhabitants, of which 106,254 were female, 86,079 were children with no indication of sex or upper age limit and 28,746 were male. These figures, considering the local situation, cannot be more than a very rough estimate; many men and boys fled during the war to the countryside and forests. Thus accurate casualty numbers may never be determined.
A 1999 study by Dr. Thomas Whigham from the University of Georgia published in the Latin American Research Review under the title "The Paraguayan Rosetta Stone: New Evidence on the Demographics of the Paraguayan War, 1864–1870" and later expanded in the 2002 essay titled "Refining the Numbers: A Response to Reber and Kleinpenning" gives somewhat more accurate figures. Based on a census carried out after the war ended, in 1870 and 1871, Dr. Whigham came up with a much lower figure of 150,000–160,000 Paraguayan people left, of which only 28,000 were adult males. This leaves a woman/man ratio of 4 to 1, while in the most devastated areas of the nation the ratio was as high as 20 to 1.
Concerning the population before the war, Dr. Whigham used a census carried out in 1846 in order to calculate, based on a population growth rate of 1.7% to 2.5% annually (which was the standard rate at that time), that the immediately pre-war population in 1864 was approximately 420,000–450,000 Paraguayans. This figure results in a loss of 60% to 70% of the population.
Of the approximately 123,000 Brazilians who fought in the Paraguayan War, the best estimates are that around 50,000 men died. Uruguayan forces counted barely 5,600 men (some of whom were foreigners), of whom about 3,100 died. Argentina lost around 18,000 of its 30,000 combatants.
The high rates of mortality, however, were not entirely the result of armed conflict. Bad food and very poor hygiene caused most of the deaths, many of which were due to cholera. Among the Brazilians, two-thirds of the war dead died either in a hospital or on the march. At the beginning of the conflict, most of the Brazilian soldiers came from the north and northeast regions of the country; the change from a hot climate to a colder one, along with restricted food rations, may have been a contributing factor. Drinking water from the rivers was also sometimes fatal to entire battalions of Brazilians and made cholera the most likely chief cause of death during the war.
Consequences of the war
Slavery was undermined in Brazil as slaves were freed to serve in the war. The Brazilian army became a new and influential force in national life. It transformed itself into a strong institution that, with the war, gained tradition and internal cohesion, and would take a significant role in the later development of the history of the country.
The economic depression and the strengthening of the army later played a large role in the deposition of the emperor Dom Pedro II and the republican proclamation in 1889. General Deodoro da Fonseca became the first Brazilian president.
In December 1975, after presidents Ernesto Geisel and Alfredo Stroessner signed a treaty of friendship and co-operation in Asunción, the Brazilian government returned some of its spoils of war to Paraguay, but kept others as the Paraguayan national archives which had been removed during the ransacking of Asunción and taken to the National library in Rio de Janeiro.
The war still remains a controversial topic, especially in Paraguay, where it is considered either a fearless struggle for the rights of a smaller nation against the aggressions of more powerful neighbours, or a foolish attempt to fight an unwinnable war that almost destroyed a whole nation. In Argentina, as the war wore on, many Argentines saw the conflict as Mitre's war of conquest, and not as a response to aggression. They remembered that Solano López, believing he would have Mitre's support, had seized the opportunity to attack Brazil created by Mitre when he used the Argentine Navy to deny access to the Río de la Plata to Brazilian ships in early 1865, thus starting the war. A stalemate began, and the Brazilian army, which was in complete control of Paraguayan territory, remained in the country for six years after the final defeat of Paraguay in 1870, only leaving in 1876 in order to ensure the continued existence of Paraguay. During this time, the possibility of an armed conflict with Argentina for control over Paraguay became increasingly real, as Argentina wanted to seize the Chaco region, but was barred by the Brazilian Army.
In Brazil, many consider that the United Kingdom financed the allies against Paraguay, that is, that it was British imperialism that caused the war. In fact there are no sources to support these claims. In fact, Brazil and the United Kingdom were in the middle of a diplomatic crisis from 1863 to 1865, five months since the war had started and whad cut relations. Also, a British diplomat in 1864 sent a letter to Solano Lopez asking him to not start hostilities in the region. There is no proof of Britain forcing the allies to attack Paraguay. It is a fact that it was Solano Lopez that started the war by invading Mato Grosso, a Brazilian region, and months later Lopez brought Argentina and Uruguay to the war by invading Corrientes, an Argentine province.
In Paraguay it resulted in the destruction of the current government, loss of territories and a economic crisis, which even years after the war Paraguay could not develop as quickly as its neighbours. Some sources claim it lost nearly 69% of the population, but recent study claims it was nearer 30%, most deaths caused by hunger, sickness and exhaustion.
In Brazil the war exposed the fragility of the Empire, and dissociated the monarchy with the army. Nearly 50,000 deaths, most by sickness and the harsh climate.
Brazil wasted close to 614 thousand réis (the Brazilian currency at the time) which were provived by these sources:
49 (thousand) Foreign loans
27 Domestic loans
102 Paper emission
171 Title emission
Brazil run in a deficit between 1870 and 1880, which by then was finally paid off. Note the low ammount of foreign loans.
Argentina faced many federalist revolts against the national government. Economically it was beneficiated, since it supplied the Brazilian army with products from Buenos Aires, but it also bled the national treasure. The war asssisted on the consolidaton of the centralized government after the revolutions were put down. Close to 30,000 deaths.
Uruguay faced smaller impacts, and nearly 5,000 soldier deaths.
Territorial changes and treaties
Following Paraguay's defeat in 1870, Argentina sought to enforce one of the secret clauses of the Triple Alliance Treaty which permitted Argentina to annex a large portion of the Gran Chaco region, an area that was rich in quebracho wood (a product used in the tanning of leather). The Argentine negotiators proposed to Brazil that Paraguay should be divided in two, with each of the victors incorporating half into its territory. The Brazilian government, however, was not agreeable to such an idea for one reason: The Brazilians wanted to maintain Paraguay as a buffer between themselves and Argentina. Accordingly, the Argentine proposal to incorporate Paraguay in its entirety was rejected.
Eventually the post-war border between Paraguay and Argentina was resolved through long negotiations and was finalized on February 3, 1876 with a treaty which granted Argentina roughly a third of the area it had originally desired. The only region about which no consensus was reached, the area between the Río Verde and the main branch of Río Pilcomayo, was arbitrated by US President Rutherford B. Hayes, who declared it Paraguayan (the Paraguayan department Presidente Hayes was named after Hayes due to his arbitration decision). Brazil signed a separate peace treaty with Paraguay on January 9, 1872, in which it obtained freedom of navigation on the Río Paraguay. Brazil also retained the borders it had claimed before the war. The treaty also stipulated that a war debt was to be paid to the Brazilian government. Only when there was almost nothing left to pay, Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas in 1943 cancelled it.
Argentina annexed part of Paraguayan territory and became the strongest of the River Plate countries. During the campaign, the provinces of Entre Rios and Corrientes had supplied Brazilian troops with cattle, foodstuffs and other products.
In total, Argentina and Brazil annexed about 140,000 square kilometers (54,054 sq mi) of Paraguayan territory: Argentina took much of the Misiones region and part of the Chaco between the Bermejo and Pilcomayo rivers, an area that today constitutes the province of Formosa; Brazil enlarged its Mato Grosso province by claiming territories that had been disputed with Paraguay before the war. Both demanded a large indemnity, which was paid for the next century, needing refinancing and worsening Paraguayan economy. Meanwhile, the Colorados had gained political control of Uruguay and retained it until 1958.
Impact on yerba mate industry
Since colonial times, yerba mate has been a major cash crop for Paraguay and it had, until the Paraguayan War, generated significant revenues for the country. The war caused a sharp drop in harvesting of yerba mate in Paraguay, reportedly by as much as 95% between 1865 and 1867. It has been reported that there was extensive use of yerba mate by soldiers from all sides to diminish hunger pains and alleviate combat anxiety. As a result, after the war concluded in 1870, Paraguay found itself demographically as well as economically ruined. This provided an opportunity for foreign entrepreneurs to take control of yerba mate production and industry in Paraguay. Additionally, as much of the 156,415 square kilometers (60,392 sq mi) lost by Paraguay to Argentina and Brazil as a result of the war was rich in yerba mate, by the end of the nineteenth century Brazil became the leading producer of the crop.
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