Robert Winthrop Simpson

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Rear-Admiral Robert Simpson
Robert Winthrop Simpson.jpg
Born (1799-12-14)14 December 1799
Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
Died 23 December 1877(1877-12-23) (aged 78)
Valparaíso, Chile

Robert Winthrop Simpson (14 December 1799 – 23 December 1877) was a British-born Chilean rear-admiral of the Chilean Navy, who distinguished himself during the wars of independence in Latin America and later in the War of the Confederation.

Early life[edit]

Robert Winthrop Simpson was born c. 1799 in Hampshire, England, arriving in Spanish Chile as a midshipman on the sloop Rose with the train of Lord Cochrane, who was involved in the formation of the Chilean Navy during the Chilean War of Independence. By 1821, Simpson was already a second lieutenant in the Chilean Navy, and in the same year during the Peruvian War of Independence he participated in the capture of the Spanish ships Resolución, San Fernando and Milagro in Callao, being promoted to Captain as a reward on 7 October 1821. Admiral Cochrane gave Simpson the command of the Araucano and ordered him to Acapulco to harass Spanish shipping, and from there he moved onto California to purchase supplies. While in 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, Simpson was given the command of the Voltaire, and together with the Galvarino under the command of Captain Cobbet maintained the blockade of the Chiloé Archipelago for 4 months. In 1825, he participated in another blockade of Callao under Admiral Manuel Blanco Encalada.

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

War of the Confederation[edit]

Naval Battle of Casma

By the declaration of the War of the Confederation in 1836, Simpson was in command of the Valparaíso, the flagship of Admiral Encalada. On 26 January 1837, he was named commander of the Aquiles, and his first mission was to notify the government of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation 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, and captured the Confederación, taking its command. On 12 January 1839, while the Chilean squadron under his command was at Casma taking provisions, the Confederación 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 when 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 Ocean. As a reward, Simpson was promoted to Commodore on 8 May 1839.

Later life and death[edit]

After the dissolution of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation at the Battle of Yungay in 1839, 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 Chile, a frigate used as Chile's training ship where he had Francisco Hudson as a subordinate.

On 15 January 1852, Simpson adopted Chilean nationality and was elected Senator. That year he travelled to England to supervise the construction of the Esmeralda, becoming its first commander upon completion. In 1853, he became a Rear-Admiral and continued his naval career until 1871, when he retired after 53 years in the Chilean Navy.

Simpson died in Valparaíso on 23 December 1877.

Personal life[edit]

Simpson married twice, first to Mercedes Baeza, a Chilean woman with whom he had two sons and two daughters: Enrique Manuel Simpson Baeza (1835–1901), who joined the Chilean Navy in 1851 and reached the rank of admiral, Carmela Simpson Baeza, Isabel Simpson Baeza, and Eduardo Simpson Baeza. After becoming a widower, in 1843 Simpson married Catalina Searle, widow of fellow officer James L. Swett, with whom Simpson had another four children: 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
Succeeded by
José Joaquín Prieto
Preceded by
José Joaquín Prieto
Navy General Commander
Succeeded by
Santiago Aldunate
Preceded by
Manuel Blanco Encalada
Navy General Commander
Succeeded by
Julián Riesco