Siege of Humaitá

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Siege of Humaitá
Part of the Paraguayan War
Guerra do Paraguai-Operações Passagem Humaita 1866-1868.png
Graphic scheme of the Siege of Humaitá, that was a military operation, which was formed in order to encircle the Fortress of Humaitá
Date2 November 1867 – 25 July 1868
LocationParaguay River, Humaitá
Result Allied victory
 Paraguay Empire of Brazil Empire of Brazil
Commanders and leaders
Paraguay Solano López
Paraguay Francisco Martinez
Paraguay Colonel Pedro Hermosa
Argentina Bartolomé Mitre
Empire of Brazil Marquis of Caxias
Empire of Brazil General Osorio
2,500+ soldiers 8,000 Brazilian and Argentine soldiers
Casualties and losses
250 dead
100 wounded
400 dead
1,200 wounded

The Siege of Humaitá (Spanish: Cerco de Humaitá) was a prolonged operation of encirclement that occurred at the Fortress of Humaitá, on the Paraguay River. Humaitá was surrounded by land on November 2, 1867, by water on February 19, 1868, and surrendered on July 25, 1868.

Fortress Defences[edit]

The Fortress of Humaita was built on the strategic bend of the Paraguay River that would force ships to steam head first into artillery fire. The Allied Command assumed that because of that and the chains installed, the fortress as impassible.[1]


Plan of fortress of Humaitá, detail. The red arrow indicates the position of chain boom; the blue arrow, of the church (seen in next image).

On August 1, 1867, the Argentine general Bartolomé Mitre commanded the Brazilian imperial fleet to secure a passage through Curupaiti and Humaitá. On August 15, two divisions of five battleships passed Curupaiti without incident but the artillery fire forced them to stop at Humaitá.[2]:73 This news caused conflict in the Allied high command. The Brazilian commanders were determined that attacking the fortress from the river would be futile and withdrew their fleet, pending a land-based attack that began on August 18.

From Tuyucuê, the Allies headed north and took the villages of São Solano, Tayi and finally laid siege to Humaitá itself, isolating it from Asunción by November 1867.[2]:73–75 On February 19, 1868, Marshal Caxias and Vice Admiral Baron de Inhauma ordered the fleet up the River Paraguay past Humaitá. There were few casualties and minimal damage caused to any of the ships.[2]:80 On February 24, the Bahia, Barroso and Rio Grande do Sul shelled Asunción, which had been evacuated earlier.[2]:82

Paraguayan President Francisco Solano López decided to evacuate Curupayti and Humaita. He crossed the Paraguay River to the Chaco side on March 3, 1868. Solano López left Colonel Francisco Martinez in charge of a force of 3,000 men and 200 cannons. General Argollo attacked Sauce on March 21, resulting in the Paraguayans retreating to Paso Pacu. Curupayti was abandoned the next day. The Bahia, Rio Grande and Para bombarded Humaitá on March 23 and 24, 1868. At the end of April, Allied forces had troops on the Chaco side of the river.[2]:83–84

Battle of Acayuazú[edit]

Recognition of Humaitá by General Osório on 16 July 1868.

The Allied army advanced on July 16, 1868, when it appeared Curupayti and Humaitá were abandoned. General Osório and 6,000 troops led an attack on the northeast side of Humaitá, unaware of the 46 concealed Paraguayan guns and over 2,000 men under the command of Colonel Pedro Hermosa.

At the command of "Muerte a los cambas", the Brazilians retreated. The Brazilian casualties consisted of 279 dead, 754 wounded and 100 captured, while the Paraguayan casualties were 89 killed and 104 wounded.[2]:86

General Rivas ordered an attack on the Paraguayan Cora redoubt on July 18, (year). An allied force of Argentinian and Brazilian infantry men were ambushed by a force led by Colonel Caballero. The Argentinian losses amounted to 90 killed, 87 wounded and 35 captured, while the Brazilians had 67 killed, 221 wounded and 2 captured. The Paraguayans suffered 120 casualties.[2]:86

Evacuation of Humaitá[edit]

The Rev. Father Esmerata, chaplain of the Brazilian Squadron, exhorting the Paraguayans to surrender.

Col. Martinez asked Solano López for permission to start evacuating Humaitá on July 19. Solano López ordered Martinez to hold out five more days, but the first wave of Paraguayan withdrawal started on the 24th with 1,200 men. The remainder left on the 25th after spiking their guns. The Allied force entered Humaitá ten hours later.


Col. Martinez, along with 1,228 men, 96 officers, and women and children, were caught trying to cross Laguna Vera. He finally surrendered on August 5, 1868. Lopez branded Martinez a traitor and sought vengeance by murdering his wife.[2]:86–87 The allies captured 146 iron guns and 36, but most were unserviceable. A few men, Col. Alen among them, managed to escape the encirclement and make it back to Paraguayan lines via the jungle. However Col. Alen wasn't received with much adulation and was instead arrested for desertion.[3]




  1. ^ Burton, p. 296.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hooker, T.D., 2008, The Paraguayan War, Nottingham: Foundry Books, ISBN 1901543153
  3. ^ Kohn, Roger (2008). Weep, Grey Bird,Weep, p. 239. Author House, Milton Keynes. ISBN 978-1-4343-1979-1.


  • Donato, Hernâni. Dicionário das Batalhas Brasileiras. São Paulo, Editora Ibrasa, 1987.