NARRATIVE OF SERVICES IN THE LIBERATION OF CHILI, PERU, AND BRAZIL, FROM SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE DOMINATION
THOMAS, EARL OF DUNDONALD, G.C.B. Admiral of the Red; Rear-Admiral of the Fleet, etc. etc.
London: James Ridgway, No 169, Piccadilly
TO THE MOST NOBLE THE MARQUIS OF LANSDOWNE, K.G. ETC. ETC.
I am proud to have been honoured with your Lordship's permission to dedicate to you the following narrative of historical events, respecting which the public has not previously been placed in a position to form a correct judgment. Your Lordship's generous acquiescence enables me to discharge a double debt: First—of thanks to one whose high political character this country will ever warmly cherish;—Secondly—of deep-felt gratitude for the countenance and efficient aid experienced from your Lordship at a period when party faction made me the object of bitter resentment; the injustice of which could in no way be better demonstrated, than by the fact that—in the midst of unmerited obloquy, it was my high privilege to preserve your Lordship's friendship and esteem.
I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's obliged and faithful Servant,
Invitation to take command of Chilian Navy—Arrival at Valparaiso—First expedition to Peru—Attack on Spanish shipping at Callao—Departure for Huacho—Capture of Spanish convoys of money—Paita taken—Return to Valparaiso to reorganise the squadron—Offer to give up my share of prize money to the Republic—This offer declined by the Supreme Director—Popular congratulations—Attempt on Lady Cochrane's life.
Second expedition to Peru—Disappointment at not being provided with troops—Failure of rockets—Departure for Arica—Capture of Pisco—Capture of Spanish ships at Puna—Determine to make an attempt on Valdivia—Arrival off that port, and capture of Spanish brig of war Potrillo—Troops obtained from Conception—Flag-ship nearly wrecked—Attack on forts, and conquest of Valdivia.
Departure for Chiloe—Preparations of the enemy—Capture of Fort Corona—Failure at Fort Aguy, and subsequent retreat—Return to Valdivia—Capture of Osorio—Return to Valparaiso—Enthusiastic reception—Chagrin of the ministry—Importance of conquest of Valdivia in a political point of view—Promotion of officers under arrest—Employment of Indians by the Spaniards—Career of Benavides—Mutinous spirit of the seamen in consequence of their captures being appropriated by Government—Resignation of my commission—Refusal thereof—Renewed offer of an estate—This again declined—Seamen obtain their wages—Private purchase of an estate—Government gives notice of taking it—Appointment of flag captain against my wishes—Annoyance given to me by Minister of Marine—Renewed resignation of the command—Officers of the squadron resign in a body—Government begs of me to retain the command—My consent—General San Martin—The Senate—Zenteno—Corruption of parties in the Administration.
Obstacles to equipping the squadron—Sailing of the liberating expedition—Debarcation at Pisco—Long inaction of the army—General San Martin removes to Ancon—Capture of the Esmeralda—Exchange of prisoners—Acknowledgment of the service by General San Martin—Lady Cochrane's visit to Mendoza.
San Martin's violation, of truth—Removal of blockade—Spanish depression—Troops dying of fever—San Martin's designs on Guayaquil—Mutinous conduct of officers—Refusal to obey orders—Deposition of Viceroy—San Martin gives me troops—Jealousy of San Martin—Attack on Arica—Capture of Tacna—Capture of Moquega—Refusal of more men—an armistice ratified—Distress of Lima—Dissatisfaction of the army—Lady Cochrane in action—Devotion of seamen.
Return to Callao—Lima abandoned—Hesitation of General San Martin to occupy the City—Loss of the San Martin—Excesses of the Spaniards—Proclamation of independence—San Martin assumes autocratic power under the title of Protector—My remonstrance—His reply—Mutinous state of the squadron from neglect.
Tampering with Chilian officers—The Archbishop of Lima—His expulsion—Negociation for surrender of the Forts—This counteracted—San Martin's bombastic Proclamations—His refusal to encounter the enemy—The Spaniards relieve Callao—Delusive proclamation—The unblushing falsehood—Spaniards carry off the treasure—Discontent of the squadron.
Prolonged destitution of squadron—The men mutiny in a body—The seamen's letters—San Martin sends away the public treasure—My seizure of it—Private property restored—San Martin's accusations against me—The squadron paid wages—Attempt on the officers' fidelity—I am asked to desert from Chili—Ordered to quit on refusal—Monteagudo's letter—My reply—Justification of seizing the treasure—- No other course possible.
Arrival at Guayaquil—Address to Guayaquilenos—Injurious monopolies—Ministerial folly—Departure from Guayaquil—Arrival in Mexico—Anchor at Acapulco—Mock Ambassadors—Plot against me—Return to Guayaquil—Venganza taken possession of—Agreement with Junta—General La Mar—Orders to withhold supplies—Abominable cruelty—Courtly splendour—Destruction of a division of the Army—Dissatisfaction of officers—Renewed overtures from San Martin—Their refusal by me—Warning to the Chilian Government.
Return to Valparaiso—Thanks of the Government—Reasons for satisfaction—Illegitimate trade—Turned to good account—Denunciation of Officers deserted—Investigation of accounts—San Martin's charges against me—My refutation—Government refuses its publication—Cruelty to Spanish prisoners—Retirement to Quintero—Political fruits of our success—Destitute condition of squadron—Infamous attempt to promote dissatisfaction therein—Object of this course—Steps taken to defeat it—Disavowed by the Minister—Sympathy of officers—Attempt to get rid of Gen. Freire—Its eventual result—Letter of the Captains.
Negociations with Bolivar—Exile of Monteagudo—Complaints of the Limenos—Extravagance of the Government—Exculpation of San Martin—Effects of popular dissension—Disagreement of Bolivar and San Martin—Vote of Peruvian Congress—Extraordinary neglect of the Chilian Squadron—San Martin's arrival at Valparaiso—I demand his trial—Countenance of the Supreme Director—Squadron at length paid wages—Revolt of Conception—General Freire apprises me of it—Freire asks for my support—His letter not replied to—San Martin's influence.
The squadron taken from me—I accept invitation from Brazil—Letter to the Supreme Director—San Martin quits Chili—His prudence—Opinion of his Aide-de Camp—Ministerial neglect—Permission to quit Chili—Letter to General Freire—For the first time made public—Letter to the Captains and Officers—To the Chilian people—To the foreign merchants—To the President of Peru—San Martin actuated by revenge—This shewn from his letters.
Freire marches on Valparaiso—Elected Supreme Director—He begs of me to return—My reply—Subsequent letter to General Freire.
Injustice to the squadron—Inconsistency of this—Estate taken from me—My losses by litigation—Endeavours to enforce my claims—Petty excuses for evading them—I am charged with expenses of the Army—And with costs for making legal captures—My conduct approved at the time—- Ministerial approbation—Paltry compensation at length given—Ministerial corruption—Proved by San Martin—Cause of official animosity to me—Conclusion.
The first of these volumes forms a history of the consolidation of Chilian independence, and of the subsequent liberation of Peru—through the instrumentality of the Chilian squadron under my command; a service which called forth from the Governments and people of the liberated states the warmest expressions of gratitude to the naval service collectively, and to myself personally, as having planned and conducted the operations whereby these results were attained.
It records also the strangely inconsistent fact that—beyond these marks of national approbation—neither Chili nor Peru ever awarded to the squadron or myself any more substantial reward—though, in a pecuniary sense, deeply indebted to us; for, during the greater portion of the war of independence, the subsistence of the crews, and the repairs and equipment of the Chilian squadron were solely provided for by our own exertions, without cost to the Government; since, in addition to the capture of Spanish ships-of-war and merchant vessels—money, provisions, and stores to a great extent fell into our hands; all of which—though our own stipulated right—were voluntarily devoted to state exigencies, in the full conviction that, at the expiration of the war, the value of our sacrifices would, as a point of national honour, be returned to us by Chili. As regards Peru, our still unpaid for captures of ships-of-war formed her first naval force, for which the only requital has been, a vote of her first National Assembly—almost its inaugural act—ascribing to me the double praise of her liberation from the Spanish yoke, and of her subsequent deliverance from an intolerable military tyranny.
The volume contains another point, which forms a yet stranger sequel to my services on the Western shores of South America. After the expiration of thirty years, Chili granted me the absurdly inadequate sum of L.6,000 in full of all my claims! And this, with the knowledge that, after my return to England I was involved in litigation on account of the legal seizure of vessels under the orders of her former Government—by which I was subjected to a loss, directly and indirectly, of more than three times the amount. The Chilian portion of this history, therefore, resolves itself into the fact, that not only did I reap no reward whatever, for the liberation of Chili and Peru, but that the independence of both countries was achieved at a heavy pecuniary sacrifice to myself! in compensation for which, as well as for my recognised services—Chili has thought its national honour sufficiently vindicated by allotting me one-third of my losses only, without other compensation of any kind! I regret to add, that my necessities at the time, arising for the most part from the pecuniary difficulties to which I had been subjected on Chilian account, compelled me to accept the amount tendered.
The second volume is of a character somewhat similar. It narrates the circumstances under which—by promises the most inviting, and stipulations the most binding—I was induced to accept the command, or rather organization of the first Brazilian navy. It details the complete expulsion of all Portuguese armaments, naval and military, from the Eastern shores of the South American Continent, by the squadron alone, wholly unaided by military co-operation; in the course of which arduous service, ships of war, merchant vessels, and valuable property to the extent of several millions of dollars were captured under the Imperial order, and their value—in spite of previous stipulations—refused to the captors, on the falsely assumed ground that the provinces liberated were Brazilian—though a Brazilian military force had been recently beaten in an attempt to expel the Portuguese—and though these provinces were, at the period of my assuming the command, in the uninterrupted occupation of the very Portuguese fleets and armies afterwards expelled, it was falsely pretended that the property captured was not enemy's property—though expressly described as such in numerous Imperial decrees—and more especially by the instructions given to me by His Imperial Majesty to seize or destroy it wherever found.
It was, in short, subsequently decided by a Court of Admiralty—for the most part composed of Portuguese members, acting under the influence of a Portuguese faction in the Administration—that neither myself nor the squadron were entitled to the prizes made—though most inconsistently, the same tribunal condemned the ships of war taken—as "droits" to the crown—for which, compensation was awarded to the squadron by His Imperial Majesty, but never paid by the ministers to whom the order was directed.
Not to anticipate the contents of the volume devoted to Brazilian affairs. It being found after the expulsion of the enemy, that the stipulations made with myself were too binding to be easily set aside, several futile attempts were made to evade them, but this being found impossible, the unworthy expedient was resorted to of summarily dismissing me from the service, after the establishment of peace with Portugal—an event entirely consequent on my individual services. By this expedient—of the rectitude or otherwise of which the reader will be able to judge from the documentary evidence laid before him—I was got rid of without compensation for my claims, which for thirty years were altogether repudiated; but, at the expiration of that period, fully recognised as having been due from the beginning! The Brazilian Government, however, satisfied its own sense of justice by awarding me less than one-half the simple interest of the amount stipulated in my patents; thus retaining the whole of the principal admitted to be due.
The preceding remarks form a synopsis of my career on both sides of the continent of South America; the narrative, where dispute might arise, being carefully founded on, and in all cases accompanied by documentary evidence, which admits neither dispute nor contradiction.
The trifling amount awarded by Chili, would probably not have been granted at all, but for the earnest remonstrance of Lord Palmerston, warmly seconded by the efforts of the Hon. Mr. Jerningham, British Minister to the Chilian Republic, by whose joint exertions the Government was induced to admit—that national honour was involved in fulfilling national obligations; though an infinitesimal view of either the one or the other was certainly taken when awarding me the insignificant sum previously mentioned.
In Brazil the case was somewhat different. It is to His present Imperial Majesty, Don Pedro II. that I owe any investigation of my claims, by the appointment of a Commission (Seccoes), which reported that they ought never to have been withheld, as being my stipulated right. But even the limited amount awarded in consequence of this decision, was on the point of being further diminished one half by its projected payment in a depreciated currency—and, had it not been for the intervention of Lord Clarendon, and of the Hon. Mr. Scarlett, British Minister at Rio de Janeiro, of whose zealous exertions in my favour I cannot speak too warmly—this further injustice would have been perpetrated without the knowledge or sanction of His present Imperial Majesty.
It may be asked, why—with the clear documentary evidence in my possession—and now adduced—I have for so many years endured an amount of obloquy and injustice, which might at any time have been set aside by its publication? The reply is obvious. The withholding of my claims by the Governments of both sides the South American Continent, and the ruinous expense to which I was put on account of Chili, entailed upon me many years of pecuniary difficulty. To have told even the truth—unbacked as I then was, by the British Government—would have been to have all my claims set at defiance, so that compulsory discretion was a sufficient reason for my silence. It was long before I could induce a British Minister to satisfy himself of the rectitude of my conduct—the soundness of my claims—or the dishonesty of those who, believing me to be powerless, laughed at reiterated demands for my stipulated rights. Yet more I have never sought from those to whom I gave liberty and dominion.
There is, however, a reason for the present publication, of which I have never lost sight. Amidst all the injustice which it has been my lot to sustain, I have ever determined—for the sake of my family—to whom my character is an heir-loom—that no obloquy shall follow me to the grave, for none have I merited. On the day these volumes see the light, this resolution will be partially fulfilled. On that day I shall have completed the eighty-third year of a career strangely chequered, yet not undistinguished; and, therefore, the opinions of either Chilians or Brazilians are now of small moment to me in comparison with a reputation which has been demmed worthy of belonging to history. None of the present ruling powers in either Chili or Brazil can possibly be offended with me for giving a guardedly temperate documentary narrative of what must hereafter form the basis of their national annals. I do not for a moment contemplate that men of enlightened views such as now direct the affairs of both countries have either part or sympathy with self-interested adventurers who in popular revolutions too often rise to the surface, and for a time make confusion worse confounded; till replaced—as a matter of course, no less than by necessity—by men of greater grasp of mind and more exalted aspirations.
But this is as it maybe—my reputation as a British seaman is to me of the highest moment, and it shall not be sullied after my death by the aspersions of those who wilfully revenged the thwarting of their anti-Imperial designs, by imputations which can alone enter into the minds of men devoid of generous impulses and therefore incapable of appreciating higher motives. I have not followed their example, but where it is necessary to bring forward such persons—they will be viewed through the medium of their own documents, which are incontestible and irresistible, and which would as easily convict me of untruth as they convict my maligners of practices unworthy the honour of a nation.
To my own countrymen these volumes can scarcely be matter of indifference; though, perhaps, few reflect that the numerous fleets of British merchantmen which now frequent both shores of South America, are the consequence of the deliverance of these vast territories from an exclusive colonial yoke. It is true that England had previously formed a treaty with Portugal, permitting English vessels to trade to her South American Colonies, but such was the influence of Portuguese merchants with the local governments, that it was nearly inoperative; so that, practically, the Portuguese were in the exclusive possession of that commerce which my expulsion of the fleet and army of the mother country unreservedly threw open to British enterprise. The same, even in a higher degree, may be said with regard to Chili and Peru.
Yet, scarcely had my mission to Chili become known, than the influence of Spain induced the British Ministry to pass a "Foreign Enlistment Act," the penal clauses of which were evidently aimed at me, for having entered into the service of unacknowledged governments without permission—though I had shortly before been most unjustly driven from the service of my native country.
In blind animosity towards me, my former English persecutors failed to perceive the advantage to British commerce, of freeing both sides of South America from lingering war and internal dissension. An amusing instance of this occurred on my return to England. Having occasion to wait upon the then Attorney-General relative to a patent which I had in hand, he brusquely inquired "whether I was not afraid to appear before him?" On my replying that "I was not aware of having reason to fear appearing in the presence of any man," he told me the question had been officially put to him, whether I could be punished under the "Foreign Enlistment Act," for the part I had taken in the liberation of Chili, Peru, and Brazil? To this I replied, that "if Government was indiscreet enough further to persecute me for having thrown open to British commerce the largest field for enterprise of modern times, they could take what steps they chose, for that I, having accepted service in South America before the passing of the Act, was not afraid of the consequences of having infringed its provisions." It is almost needless to say that no such prosecution was instituted, though the will was good, despite the national benefits conferred.
I will not enter farther into the subject in a preface to volumes which themselves form only a summary of events in which I was a principal actor, but at the same time, one, which I hope will prove satisfactory and decisive. It would have been easy to have dilated the narrative, but my object is solely to leave behind me a faithful record of events which must one day become history, and there is no history like documentary history.
To those high personages who have advocated my cause with other nations, the present volume will give satisfaction, as affording additional proof that their advocacy rested upon no visionary basis. To the members of the press, who have adopted the same views, this exposition will be equally satisfactory. To all these I owe the thanks of recognising in me, a love for that service, from which—for a time I was unjustly expelled. It is my intention, if God spare my life, to add to these Memoirs a narrative of my former experience in the British navy, and, what may be of greater utility, an exposition of that which, from jealousy and other causes no less unworthy, I was not permitted to effect. To these I shall add a few remarks upon my connexion with the liberation of Greece, developing some remarkable facts, which have as yet escaped the notice of historians. These reminiscences of the past will, at least, be instructive to future generations and if any remarks of mine will conduce to the permanent greatness and security of my country, I shall deem the residue of my life well spent in recording them.
At my advanced age, such a task as that now partially executed, would, perhaps, have presented insuperable difficulties, but for the assistance rendered me by Mr. Earp, who, with great perseverance, has unravelled—what, in the lapse of time, had become the almost inextricable confusion of my papers. That, however, has, with his assistance, been accomplished in such a way as to base upon original documents every incident contained in the work—the more important of these documents being adduced, so as to admit of neither doubt nor question. The same course will be pursued in the forthcoming English portion of my career, with a result, I trust, equally clear and convincing.
INVITATION TO TAKE COMMAND OF CHILIAN NAVY—ARRIVAL AT VALPARAISO—FIRST EXPEDITION TO PERU—ATTACK ON SPANISH SHIPPING AT CALLAO—DEPARTURE FOR HUACHO—CAPTURE OF SPANISH CONVOYS OF MONEY—PAITA TAKEN—RETURN TO VALPARAISO TO REORGANIZE THE SQUADRON—OFFER TO GIVE UP MY SHARE OF PRIZEMONEY TO THE REPUBLIC—THIS OFFER DECLINED BY THE SUPREME DIRECTOR—POPULAR CONGRATULATIONS—ATTEMPT ON LADY COCHRANE'S LIFE.
In the year 1817, Don Jose Alvarez, accredited agent of the government of Chili—as yet unacknowledged by European powers—applied to me to undertake the organization of a naval force in that country, capable of contending against the Spaniards; who, notwithstanding the successful revolt of the Chilenos by land, still maintained their predominance on the waters of the Pacific.
Having at that time no professional employment, in consequence of my unjust expulsion from the British naval service, by the machinations of the powerful political party which I had offended—and finding that Chili was making great efforts to create a navy, in furtherance of which object a war steamer had been placed on the stocks in London—I accepted the invitation, engaging to superintend her building and equipment, and to take her to Valparaiso when completed.
Meanwhile, Alvarez received orders from his Government, that, if his proposals had been accepted, no time must be lost in my departure, as the position of Chili was critical, the Spaniards threatening Valparaiso by sea, and being still in possession of the continent from Conception to Chiloe, where they were organizing the savage Indian tribes to carry desolation into the newly emancipated provinces. Reliable information had also been received, that the Court of Madrid was making strenuous efforts to recover its lost possessions by a powerful reinforcement to its Pacific squadron, against which the Chileno ships of war, in their present state, were not in a condition to contend.
Alvarez therefore begged me not to wait for the steamer, the completion and equipment of which he would hasten, but at once to sail for Chili in the Rose merchantman, then on the eve of departure. Knowing that the whole of Peru was in the hands of the Spaniards, and that they were also in possession of Valdivia, the strongest fortified harbour to the southward—from both of which there would be considerable difficulty in dislodging them after the arrival of the anticipated reinforcements—I embarked without delay; and on the 28th of November, 1818, landed at Valparaiso, accompanied by Lady Cochrane and our two children.
Our reception, both from the authorities and the people, was enthusiastic, the Supreme Director, General O'Higgins, coming from the seat of Government, Santiago, to welcome us. This excellent man was the son of an Irish gentleman of distinction in the Spanish service, who had occupied the important position of Viceroy of Peru. The son had, however, joined the patriots, and whilst second in command had not long before inflicted a signal defeat upon the Spaniards in the interior; in reward for which service the gratitude of the nation had elevated him to the Supreme Directorate.
A variety of fetes was given at Valparaiso in honour of our arrival, these being prolonged for so many days as to amount to a waste of time. The same scenes were, however, re-enacted at the distant capital, whither the Supreme Director insisted on taking us, till I had to remind His Excellency that our purpose was rather fighting than feasting. Nevertheless, the reception we had met impressed me with so high a sense of Chilian hospitality, that, heartbroken as I had been by the infamous persecution which had driven me from the British navy, I decided upon Chili as my future home; this decision, however, being only an exemplification of the proverb "L'homme propose—Dieu dispose."
The Chilian squadron had just returned from a successful cruise, the gallant Admiral Blanco Encalada, who commanded it, having captured a noble Spanish 50-gun frigate, the Maria Isabel, in the bay of Talcahuano.
The squadron consisted of the recently captured Spanish frigate, now named the O'Higgins, in honour of the Supreme Director; the San Martin, 56 guns, formerly the Cumberland Indiaman, which had been bought into the service; the Lautaro, 44 guns, also a purchased Indiaman; the Galvarino, 18 guns, recently the British sloop of war Hecate; the Chacabuco, 20 guns; and the Aracauno, 16 guns; a force which, though deficient in organization and equipment, was very creditable to the energy of a newly emancipated people.
A few days after my arrival a commission was issued, conferring upon me the title of "Vice-Admiral of Chili, Admiral and Commander in Chief of the Naval Forces of the Republic." Admiral Blanco, with patriotic liberality, relinquishing his position in my favour, though, from his recent achievement, justly entitled to retain it; paying me also the additional compliment of personally announcing to the ships' companies the change which had been effected.
My advent was regarded by the captains of the squadron with great jealousy, the more so, as I had brought with me from England officers upon whom I could place implicit reliance. It so happened that two of the Chilian commanders, Captains Guise and Spry, had shortly before arrived from England with the Hecate, which had been sold out of the British navy, and bought by them on speculation. The Buenos Ayrean Government having declined to purchase her, they had brought her on to Chili, where the Government took her and received her former owners into its service. These officers, together with Captain Worcester, a North American, got up a cabal, the object of which was to bring about a divided command between myself and Admiral Blanco, or, as they expressed it—"two commodores and no Cochrane." Finding that Admiral Blanco would not listen to this, they persuaded one or two of the inferior ministers—whose jealousy it was not difficult to excite—that it was dangerous and discreditable to a republican Government to allow a nobleman and a foreigner to command its navy, and still more so, to allow him to retain his title; the object being to place Admiral Blanco in the chief command, with myself as his second—by which arrangement, as he had not been accustomed to manage British seamen, they expected to control him as they pleased. Admiral Blanco, however, insisted on reversing our positions, offering his services as second in command, in which arrangement I gladly acquiesced. This insignificant squabble would not be worth narrating, but for its bearing on subsequent events; as well as enabling me to confer a pleasing testimony to the patriotic disinterestedness of Admiral Blanco, who is still one of the brightest ornaments of the Republic which he so eminently aided to establish.
On the 22nd of December my flag was hoisted on board the O'Higgins, after which the greatest despatch was used to get the squadron ready for sea. Anxious to avoid delay, on the 16th of January I sailed with four ships only, the O'Higgins, San Martin, Lautaro, and Chacabuco; leaving Admiral Blanco to follow with the Gaharino, Aracauno, and Puyrredon. A mutiny having broken out on board the Chacabuco, it became necessary to enter Coquimbo, where the leading mutineers were landed, tried, and punished.
I shall here narrate an incident which occurred on our departure. Lady Cochrane, with her children, had returned from Santiago to Valparaiso, to take leave of me on embarkation. She had just gone ashore, and the last gun had been fired to summon all hands on board, when, hearing a loud hurrah near the house where she resided, she went to the window, and saw our little boy—now Lord Cochrane, but then scarcely more than five years old—mounted on the shoulders of my flag-lieutenant, waving his tiny cap over the heads of the people, and crying out with all his might, "Viva la patria!" the mob being in a frenzied state of excitement.
The child had slipped out of Lady Cochrane's house with the officer, insisting on being carried to his father; with which request the lieutenant, nothing loth, complied. To the horror of Lady Cochrane, she saw her boy hurried down to the beach amidst the shouts of the multitude, and, before she could interfere, placed in a boat and rowed off to the flag-ship, which was at the time under weigh, so that he could not be sent ashore again; there being no alternative but to take him with us, though without clothes—which were afterwards made for him by the sailors—and with no other attendance save that which their rough but kindly natures could administer.
On our way along the coast we received information that the Antonio was about to sail from Callao for Cadiz, with a considerable amount of treasure, so that, in the hope of intercepting her, we cruized just out of sight of the port till the 21st of February. As she did not make her appearance, preparations were made to put in execution a plan which had been formed to attack the Spanish shipping during the Carnival, when, in the height of that festival, less vigilance than ordinary might reasonably be expected. We had previously ascertained that the naval force in the harbour consisted of the frigates Esmeralda and Venganza, a corvette, three brigs of war, a schooner, twenty-eight gun-boats, and six heavily-armed merchantmen; the whole being moored close in under the batteries, which mounted upwards of 160 guns, whilst the aggregate force of the shipping was 350 guns, as appeared from an official account of their armament.
A direct attack with our small force seemed, therefore, a thing not at present to be attempted; but in its place I had formed the design to cut out the frigates during the carnival, which terminated on the 23rd. Knowing that two North American ships of war were daily expected at Callao, it was arranged to take in the O'Higgins and Lautaro, under American colours, leaving the San Martin out of sight behind San Lorenzo, and if the ruse were successful, to make a feint of sending a boat ashore with despatches, and in the meantime suddenly to dash at the frigates, and cut them out. Unfortunately, one of those thick fogs, so common on the Peruvian coast, arose, in which the Lautaro parted company, and did not rejoin the flag-ship for four days afterwards, when the carnival being at an end, our plan was rendered abortive.
The fog, which in the climate of Peru often continues for a considerable length of time, lasted till the 29th, when hearing heavy firing, and imagining that one of the ships was engaged with the enemy, I stood with the flag-ship into the bay; the other ships, imagining the same thing, also steered in the direction of the firing, when the fog clearing for a moment, we discovered each other, as well as a strange sail near us; which, when taken possession of by the flag-ship, proved to be a Spanish gun-boat, with a lieutenant and twenty men, who, on being made prisoners, informed us that the firing was a salute in honour of the Viceroy, who had that morning been on a visit of inspection to the batteries and shipping, and was then on board the brig of war Pezuela, which we saw crowding sail in the direction of the batteries.
The fog again coming on, suggested to me the possibility of a direct attack, which, if not altogether successful, would give the Spaniards such an idea of our determination of purpose, as would inspire them with respect for the Chilian squadron, and might induce their ships to refrain from the protection of their commerce; in which case a blockade would prevent the necessity of separating our small force in chase of them, should they evince a desire of getting to sea.
Accordingly, still maintaining our disguise under American colours, the O'Higgins and Lautaro stood towards the batteries, narrowly escaping going ashore in the fog. The Viceroy having no doubt witnessed the capture of the gun-boat, had, however, provided for our reception, the garrison being at their guns, and the crews of the ships of war at their quarters. Notwithstanding the great odds, I determined to persist in an attack, as our withdrawing without firing a shot, would produce an effect upon the minds of the Spaniards the reverse of that intended; having sufficient experience in war to know that moral effect, even if the result of a degree of temerity, will not unfrequently supply the place of superior force.
The wind falling light, I did not venture on laying the flag-ship and the Lautaro alongside the Spanish frigates, as at first intended, but anchored with springs on our cables, abreast of the shipping, which was arranged in a half-moon of two lines, the rear rank being judiciously disposed so as to cover the intervals of the ships in the front line. A dead calm succeeding, we were for two hours exposed to a heavy fire from the batteries, in addition to that from the two frigates, the brigs Pezuela and Maypeu, and seven or eight gun-boats; nevertheless, the northern angle of one of the principal forts was silenced by our fire.
A breeze springing up, we weighed anchor, standing to and fro in front of the batteries, and returning their fire; when Captain Guise, who commanded the Lautaro, being severely wounded, that ship sheered off, and never again came within range. As from want of wind, or doubt of the result, neither the San Martin nor Chacabuco had ever got within fire, the flag-ship was thus left alone to continue the action; but as this, from want of co-operation on the part of the other ships, was useless, I was reluctantly compelled to relinquish the attack, and withdrew to the island of San Lorenzo, about three miles distant from the forts; the Spaniards, though nearly quadruple our numbers, exclusive of their gun-boats, not venturing to follow us.
The annexed was the Spanish naval force present: Frigates.—Esmeralda, 44 guns; Venganza, 42 guns; Sebastiana, 28 guns.
Brigs.—Maypeu, 18 guns; Pezuela, 22 guns; Potrilla, 18 guns; and one, name unknown, 18 guns.
Schooner, name unknown, one long 24, and 20 culverins.
Armed Merchantmen.—Resolution, 36 guns; Cleopatra, 28 guns; La Focha, 20 guns; Guarmey, 18 guns; Fernando, 26 guns; San Antonio, 18 guns.
Total, fourteen vessels, of which ten were ready for sea; and twenty-seven gun-boats.
In this action my little boy had a narrow escape. As the story has been told by several Chilian writers somewhat incorrectly, I will recapitulate the circumstances.
When the firing commenced, I had placed the boy in my after-cabin, locking the door upon him; but not liking the restriction, he contrived to get through the quarter gallery window, and joined me on deck, refusing to go down again. As I could not attend to him, he was permitted to remain, and, in a miniature midshipman's uniform, which the seamen had made for him, was busying himself in handing powder to the gunners.
Whilst thus employed, a round shot took off the head of a marine close to him, scattering the unlucky man's brains in his face. Instantly recovering his self-possession, to my great relief, for believing him killed, I was spell-bound with agony, he ran up to me exclaiming, "I am not hurt, papa: the shot did not touch me; Jack says, the ball is not made that can kill mamma's boy." I ordered him to be carried below; but, resisting with all his might, he was permitted to remain on deck during the action.
Our loss in this affair was trifling, considering that we were under the fire of more than two hundred guns; but the ships were so placed that the enemy's frigates lay between us and the fortress, so that the shot of the latter only told upon our rigging, which was considerably damaged.
The action having been commenced in a fog, the Spaniards imagined that all the Chilian vessels were engaged, and were not a little surprised, as it again cleared, to find that their own frigate, the quondam Maria Isabella, was their only opponent. So much were they dispirited by this discovery, that as soon as possible after the close of the contest, their ships of war were dismantled, the top masts and spars being formed into a double boom across the anchorage so as to prevent approach. The Spaniards were also previously unaware of my being in command of the Chilian squadron, but on becoming acquainted with this fact, bestowed upon me the not very complimentary title of "El Diablo," by which I was afterwards known amongst them. The title might have been rendered more appropriate, had my efforts been better seconded by the other vessels.
On the following day, having repaired damages, the flag-ship and Lautaro again went in and commenced a destructive fire upon the Spanish gun-boats, the neutral vessels in the harbour removing out of the line of shot. As the gun-boats withdrew to a position closer under the batteries, where we could make little impression upon them without getting severely punished by the fire of the fortress, we contented ourselves with the demonstration made.
On the 2nd of March, I despatched Capt. Foster with the gun-boat captured from the Spaniards, and the launches of the O'Higgins and Lautaro—to take possession of the island of San Lorenzo, when an unworthy instance of Spanish cruelty presented itself in the spectacle of thirty-seven Chilian soldiers taken prisoners eight years before. The unhappy men had ever since been forced to work in chains under the supervision of a military guard—now prisoners in turn; their sleeping place during the whole of this period being a filthy shed, in which they were every night chained by one leg to an iron bar. The joy of the poor fellows at their deliverance, after all hope had fled, can scarcely be conceived.
From the liberated patriots and the Spanish prisoners, I learned that in Lima there were a number of Chilian officers and seamen taken on board the Maypeu, whose condition was even more deplorable than their own, the fetters on their legs having worn their ancles to the bone, whilst their commander, by a refinement of cruelty, had for more than a year been lying under sentence of death as a rebel. Upon this, I sent a flag of truce to the viceroy, Don Joaquim de la Pezuela, requesting him to permit the prisoners to return to their families, in exchange for the Spanish prisoners on board the squadron, and others in Chili—where there were great numbers, who were comparatively well treated. The Viceroy denied the charge of ill-treatment—asserted his right, if he thought proper, to regard his prisoners as pirates; retorting that after the battle of Maypeu, General San Martin had treated the Spanish Commissioner as a spy, and had repeatedly threatened him with death. The exchange of prisoners was uncourteously refused, the Viceroy concluding his reply with an expression of surprise that a British nobleman should command the maritime forces of a Government "unacknowledged by all the Powers of the globe." To this latter observation, I considered it incumbent upon me to reply that "a British nobleman was a free man, and therefore had a right to adopt any country which was endeavouring to re-establish the rights of aggrieved humanity; and that I had hence adopted the cause of Chili, with the same freedom of judgment that I had previously exercised when refusing the offer of an Admiral's rank in Spain, made to me not long before, by the Spanish Ambassador in London;" this offer having been made by the Duke de San Carlos, in the name of Ferdinand the Seventh.
Our means being clearly inadequate to any decisive attack on the Spanish ships of war, I resolved to try the effect of an explosion vessel, and accordingly established a laboratory on the island of San Lorenzo, under the superintendence of Major Miller, the Commandant of Marines. Whilst engaged in this duty, that able and gallant officer was so severely burned by an accidental explosion, as to render his further services on this occasion unavailable.
On the 22nd of March—our preparations being completed—we again stood towards the batteries, the flag-ship going close in under the combined fire of the forts and shipping, in order to divert the attention of the enemy from the explosion vessel, which was set adrift in the direction of the frigates, but, unfortunately, when within musket shot of them, she was struck by a round shot and foundered, causing complete failure in our object. The San Martin and the Lautaro keeping far astern, there was no alternative but to withdraw from further attack, leaving the explosion vessel to her fate.
As other attempts, with our want of means, would answer no better purpose than useless demonstration, and as the ships were now destitute of water and provisions, we were obliged to fall back upon Huacho, leaving the Chacabuco to watch the movements of the enemy.
The inhabitants of Huacho, who were well disposed to co-operate in any effort for the emancipation of Peru, afforded us every assistance in provisioning and watering the ships, for which the commandant, Cevallos, shot two influential persons who had been foremost in aiding us, and severely punished others; at the same time seizing our water casks, and sending me an insolent letter of defiance, on which a party of seamen and marines was landed and put the garrison to flight; the officer commanding the party however withdrew from pursuit at hearing salutes fired on the arrival of Admiral Blanco with the Galvarino and Puyrredon, mistaking this for an engagement with a newly-arrived enemy. The whole of the Government property found in the Spanish custom-house was captured.
The people of Huacho having volunteered information that a quantity of specie belonging to the Philippine Company had been placed for safety on board a vessel in the river Barranca, she was forthwith overhauled, and the treasure transferred to the flag-ship.
Leaving Admiral Blanco at Huacho with the San Martin and Puyrredon, on the 4th of April we sailed for Supe, with the O'Higgins and Galvarino, having previously ascertained that a sum of money destined for the payment of Spanish troops was on its way from Lima to Guambucho; on the following day a party of marines being landed at Patavilca, captured the treasure, amounting to 70,000 dollars, together with a quantity of military stores. On the 7th, having received further information that the Philippine Company had placed other treasure on board the French brig, Gazelle, at Guambucho, we sailed for that place, and, on the 10th, the seamen of the O'Higgins examined her, and brought off an additional sum of 60,000 dollars.
The secret of our obtaining possession of these and other convoys of Spanish money along the coast, was, that I paid the inhabitants highly for information relative to their transmission, and was thus enabled to seize the treasure even in the interior of the country. As the Chilian Ministry subsequently refused to allow me "secret service money," these, disbursements were actually made at my own expense.
It was also my object to make friends of the Peruvian people, by adopting towards them a conciliatory course, and by strict care that none but Spanish property should be taken, whilst their own was in all cases respected. Confidence was thus inspired, and the universal dissatisfaction with Spanish colonial rule speedily became changed into an earnest desire to be freed from it. Had it not been for this good understanding with the inhabitants, I should scarcely have ventured to detach marines and seamen for operations at a distance into the country, as was subsequently the case; the people giving me the most reliable information of every movement of the enemy.
On the 13th, we arrived at Paita, where the Spaniards had established a garrison. A party of marines and seamen was again landed, on which the enemy fled from the fort, and a quantity of brass ordnance, spirits, and military stores, was captured.
Contrary to strict orders, some marines stole a number of valuable church ornaments, but on the complaint of the authorities I caused them to be restored, punishing the offenders, and at the same time presenting the priests with a thousand dollars to repair the damage done in their churches; this act, though far from conciliating the priests—who dreaded Chilian success—adding greatly to our popularity amongst the inhabitants, which was my object in bestowing the amount. Our thus refraining from plunder was almost beyond the comprehension of a people who had bitter experience of Spanish rapacity, whilst the undisciplined Chilenos, who formed the greater portion of the squadron, as little comprehended why their plundering propensities should be restrained.
On the 5th of May, I proceeded with the flag-ship alone to reconnoitre Callao, having learned that the Chacabuco and Puyrredon had been chased off the port by the Spanish frigates. Finding that these were again moored under shelter of the batteries, we returned to Supe, convinced that our previous visit to Callao had proved sufficient to deter them from putting to sea for the protection of their own coasts; this, indeed, forming my chief reason for having persisted in attacks which, with our small force, could answer no other purpose; but this alone was an advantage gained, as it enabled us to communicate freely with the inhabitants on the coast, and to ascertain their sentiments, which—from our forbearance, no less than command of the sea—were almost uniformly in favour of co-operation with Chili for their emancipation.
Both at Lima and on the coast, the best effect was produced by the circulation of the following proclamation:—
"Compatriots! The repeated echoes of liberty in South America have been heard with pleasure in every part of enlightened Europe, more especially in Great Britain, where I, unable to resist the desire of joining in such a cause, determined to take part in it. The Republic of Chili has confided to me the command of her naval forces. To these must the dominion of the Pacific be consigned. By their co-operation must your chains be broken. Doubt not but that the day is at hand on which, with the annihilation of despotism and your now degraded condition, you will rise to the rank of a free nation, to which your geographical position and the course of events naturally call you."
"But it is your duty to co-operate in preparing for this success, and to remove obstacles, under the assurance that you will receive the most efficacious assistance from the government of Chili, and your true friend, COCHRANE."
This proclamation was accompanied by another from the Chilian government, declaratory of the sincerity of its intentions, so that these combined caused us to be everywhere received as liberators.
On the 8th, we returned to Supe, and having learned that a Spanish force was in the vicinity, a detachment of marines and seamen was, after dark, pushed through a heavy surf, and landed, in the hope of taking them by surprise. But the enemy was on the alert, and on the following morning our little party fell into an ambuscade, which would have proved serious, had not Major Miller, who commanded the marines, promptly formed his men, who, attacking in turn, soon put the enemy to flight at the point of the bayonet, capturing their colours, and the greater portion of their arms. On the 13th, a detachment of Spanish troops arrived from Lima under Major Camba, who, notwithstanding his superiority of numbers, did not venture to attack our small party, which withdrew to the ships with a number of cattle taken from the Spaniards; Camba writing to the Viceroy so effective a description of his having "driven the enemy into the sea," that he was immediately promoted.
Not to enter into further details of our visits to other parts of the coast, where similar captures of provisions and military stores, &c. were effected—it being my practice to compel the Spaniards to supply all the wants of the squadron, nothing being ever taken from the natives without payment,—I resolved—as our means were clearly incommensurate with our main object—to return to Valparaiso, for the purpose of organizing a more effective force, and on the 16th of June reached that port, where we found Admiral Blanco with the San Martin and Chacabuco, he having been obliged to raise the blockade of Callao for want of provisions; a step with which the Government was highly displeased, though with more reason to blame its own negligence or want of foresight in not providing them. Admiral Blanco was nevertheless put under arrest, but a court of inquiry being held, he was honourably acquitted.
The objects of the first expedition had been fully accomplished, viz. to reconnoitre, with a view to future operations, when the squadron should be rendered efficient; but more especially to ascertain the inclinations of the Peruvians with regard to their desire for emancipation—a point of the first importance to Chili, as being obliged to be constantly on the alert for her own newly-acquired liberties, so long as the Spaniards were in undisturbed possession of Peru. To the accomplishment of these objects had been superadded the restriction of the Spanish naval force to the shelter of the forts, the defeat of their military forces wherever encountered, and the capture of no inconsiderable amount of treasure.
It had, however, become evident to me that the passive system of defence which the Spaniards adopted in Callao, would render it a difficult matter to get at them without more effective means than the guns of the ships, which were greatly inferior in number to those of the enemy's fortress and shipping combined, whilst their experience in the use of artillery was greater than that of our crews. The Supreme Director having paid a visit to the squadron—on the 21st of June I addressed to him a letter, stating my apprehension that the finances of the Government might be limited, and that I would gladly give up to the exigencies of the Republic the whole of my share of prize-money taken during our recent cruize, provided it were applied to the manufacture of rockets. This offer was declined, with a compliment from the Supreme Director, on the advantage already gained, by compelling the Spaniards ignominiously to shut "themselves up in their port, in spite of their numerical superiority."
Complimentary addresses from the Chilian people were also presented to me in profusion, and a public panegyric was pronounced at the National Institute of the capital, upon the service rendered; but as this was only a recapitulation of what has been already narrated—conveyed in flowery rhetorical phrases—in the use of which the Occidentals are almost as expert, and often as exaggerated, as are the Orientals—I shall refrain from giving it. Suffice it to say, that the people were not a little delighted with the plain facts, that whereas only a few months before theirs had been the blockaded port, they were now able to beard the enemy in his stronghold, till then believed—both by Spaniards and Chilians—to be inviolable; and that, with only four ships on our part, the Spanish Viceroy had been shut up in his capital, and his convoys, both by sea and land, intercepted, whilst his ships of war did not venture to emerge from their shelter under the batteries of Callao.
The manufacture of rockets was now carried on in earnest, under the superintendence of Mr. Goldsack, an eminent engineer, who had been engaged in England for the purpose. From a mistaken notion of parsimony, the labour of constructing and filling them was allotted to a number of Spanish prisoners, with what result will appear in the sequel.
In these and other preparations two months were consumed, in the course of which another vessel—an American built corvette—was added to the squadron, and named by the Supreme Director the Independencia.
During my absence Lady Cochrane chiefly resided at Valparaiso, where she diligently employed herself in promoting objects essential to the welfare of the squadron; after a time removing to a delightful country house at Quillota, where her life was endangered by a ruffian in the interest of the Spanish faction.
This man, having gained admission to her private apartment, threatened her with instant death if she would not divulge the secret orders which had been given to me. On her declaring firmly that she would not divulge anything, a struggle took place for a paper which she picked off a table; and before her attendants could come to her assistance she received a severe cut from a stiletto. The assassin was seized, condemned, and ordered for execution, without the last offices of the Catholic religion.
In the dead of the night preceding the day fixed for his execution, Lady Cochrane was awoke by loud lamentations beneath her window. On sending to ascertain the cause, the wretched wife of the criminal was found imploring her Ladyship's intercession that her husband should not be deprived of the benefits of confession and absolution. Forgiving the atrocity of the act, Lady Cochrane, on the following morning used all her influence with the authorities, not for this alone, but to save the man's life, and at length wrung from them a reluctant consent to commute his punishment to banishment for life.
SECOND EXPEDITION TO PERU—DISAPPOINTMENT AT NOT BEING PROVIDED WITH TROOPS—FAILURE OF ROCKETS—DEPARTURE FOR ARICA—CAPTURE OF PISCO—CAPTURE OF SPANISH SHIPS AT PUNA—DETERMINE TO MAKE AN ATTEMPT ON VALDIVIA—ARRIVAL OFF THAT PORT, AND CAPTURE OF SPANISH BRIG OF WAR POTRILLO—TROOPS OBTAINED FROM CONCEPTION—FLAG-SHIP NEARLY WRECKED—ATTACK ON FORTS, AND CONQUEST OF VALDIVIA.
On the 12th of September, 1819, I again sailed for the Peruvian coast, with Admiral Blanco as second in command. The squadron consisted of the O'Higgins, San Martin, Lautaro, Independencia, and Puyrredon, the Galvarino and Araucano not being in readiness. Two vessels accompanied the squadron, to be afterwards fitted up as fire-ships.
The Government was exceedingly anxious that some decisive blow should be at once struck. With the exception of the rockets, the squadron was in little better condition than before, a loan having failed, whilst 4,000 dollars only were subscribed by the merchants. The crews for the most part consisted of cholos, or native peasants, whom it was difficult to shape into good seamen, though they fought gallantly when well led. The officers were nearly all English or North American, this being a redeeming feature, but very few of them possessed the tact to bring up the men to anything like a seaman-like standard; a by no means easy task however, as a considerable portion of those embarked did duty both as marines and seamen.
I begged of the Government to supply me with 1,000 troops, asserting that even with that number of men it would be possible to take the castles of Callao, and destroy the whole of the Spanish shipping in the harbour. I was assured that this force had been provided, and was in readiness to embark at Coquimbo, where, on my arrival on the 16th, in place of 1,000 troops I found only 90!—and these in so ragged a condition, that a subscription of 400 dollars was raised by the inhabitants, and given to Major Miller to buy clothing for them.
I was so much annoyed at this, as to be on the point of returning to Valparaiso to throw up my commission; but, reflecting that the squadron was in possession of rockets, and that the Government might even yet forward a military force, I made up my mind to proceed, and on the 29th the squadron again came to an anchor in Callao roads.
The two following days were occupied in making rocket rafts, and in getting ready life-preservers for the men, in case of their falling from the rafts. On the 1st of October the Galvarino, Puyrredon, and Araucano, stood into the bay to reconnoitre, and sustained a heavy fire from the shore, upon which I ordered the Independencia to their aid; but that vessel was brought to an anchor when at the distance of several miles from them. On the same day Lieutenant-Colonel Charles, a most able and gallant officer, reconnoitred in a boat, and made trial of some rockets, upon which he reported unfavourably.
In this affair the mast of the Araucano was struck by a round shot, and severely damaged—the circumstance being merely mentioned to shew the state in which the squadron was equipped; the only means of repairing the damage being by fishing the mast with an anchor-stock taken from the Lautaro, whilst an axe had to be borrowed for the purpose from the flag-ship!
On the 2nd, the Araucano again went in, accompanied by a squadron of boats under the command of Captain Guise, and fired several rockets, but with no perceptible effect—the Spaniards having unrigged their ships; the brig sustained considerable damage from the firing of the forts and shipping.
After dark, an attack by rockets and shells was arranged, the Galvarino taking in tow a mortar raft, under the command of Major Miller, and placing it, under a heavy fire, within half a mile of the enemy's batteries. The Puyrredon followed with another raft, carrying the shells and magazine; the Araucano took charge of a rocket-raft, under Captain Hind, whilst the Independencia towed in a second rocket-raft, under Lieut-Colonel Charles, the rest of the squadron remaining at anchor.
Great expectations were formed, as well by myself as the whole squadron, as to the effect to be produced by these destructive missiles, but they were doomed to disappointment, the rockets turning out utterly useless. Some, in consequence of the badness of the solder used, bursting from the expansive force of the charge before they left the raft, and setting fire to others—Captain Hind's raft being blown up from this cause, thus rendering it useless, besides severely burning him and thirteen men: others took a wrong direction in consequence of the sticks not having been formed of proper wood, whilst the greater portion would not ignite at all from a cause which was only discovered when too late. It has been stated in the last chapter that the filling of the tubes was, from motives of parsimony, entrusted to Spanish prisoners, who, as was found on examination, had embraced every opportunity of inserting handfulls of sand, sawdust, and even manure, at intervals in the tubes, thus impeding the progress of combustion, whilst in the majority of instances they had so thoroughly mixed the neutralizing matter with the ingredients supplied, that the charge would not ignite at all, the result being complete failure in the object of the expedition. It was impossible to blame the Spanish prisoners in the Chilian arsenal for their loyalty, but to me their ingenuity was a bitter ground for disappointment, as with useless rockets we were no better off than in the first expedition; nor indeed so well off, for in the interval the Spaniards had so strengthened their booms at the anchorage, as to render it impossible for the ships to get at them—whilst, by constant practice, their fire had acquired a precision which our crews could not equal.
The only damage effected was by Major Miller's mortar, the shells sinking a gun-boat, and doing some execution in the forts and amongst the shipping. As daylight appeared, I ordered the whole of the rafts to be towed off, there being no further use in their remaining exposed to the heavy fire of the batteries. As it was, our loss was trifling, only about twenty being killed and wounded; but amongst these I had to regret the death of a promising young officer, Lieut. Bealey, who was cut in two by a round shot.
The failure of the rockets was very unfairly attributed by the Chilian Government to Mr. Goldsack, whereas the fault lay in itself for having neither supplied him with proper workmen nor materials. From the scarcity and high, price of spelter, he had also been compelled to make use of an inferior solder for the tubes, and thus the saving of a few hundred dollars frustrated the success of a great object. The consequence to poor Goldsack was utter ruin, though of his capability there could be no question, he having for many years been one of the principal assistants of Sir W. Congreve at Woolwich.
By the 5th, one of the explosion vessels was completed, and I resolved to try her effect on the booms and shipping, for which purpose she was placed in charge of Lieut. Morgell, who carried her in gallant style towards the enemy's shipping, but the wind falling calm, she became a target for their really excellent practice, and was in a short time riddled through and through. As the Spaniards began to fire red-hot shot, Lieut. Morgell was compelled to abandon her, first setting fire to the train, then turning her adrift, thus causing her to explode, though at a distance which did no damage to the enemy.
Whilst this was going on, a strange sail was reported off the bay, and the Araucano went in chase, Captain Crosbie returning the next morning with the intelligence that she was a frigate. Upon this, the squadron got under weigh, in pursuit, when she made all sail, and as I did not deem it expedient to quit the bay of Callao, the chase was given up, and we returned in the evening to our former anchorage. It was afterwards learned that she was the Prueba, of 50 guns, just arrived from Cadiz; whence she had convoyed another ship, with a cargo valued at half a million of dollars; this ship contriving to slip into Callao during the short absence of the squadron in pursuit of the frigate, so that we lost both prizes.
It was useless to remain any longer at Callao, as my instructions peremptorily commanded me not to approach with the ships within range of the enemy's batteries, nor to make any attempt on their squadron, except with the rockets and fire-ships. I was moreover ordered to return within a given time to Valparaiso, these restrictions being insisted on by the Minister of Marine, ostensibly from what he considered my temerity in having attacked the forts and shipping at Callao on the first expedition—but really, from his own narrow-minded jealousy, that I, a foreigner, should effect anything which might give me undue prominence in the estimation of the Chilian people.
I had, however, other reasons for quitting Callao. The newly-arrived Spanish frigate Prueba, was at large, and as I had reason to believe, was sheltering at Guayaquil, from which port I made up my mind to dislodge her. The Government had not sent any of the promised supplies for the squadron, which was running short of provisions, so that it was necessary to resort to my former practice of compelling the Spaniards to furnish them; whilst as no troops had been supplied, it was clear that there had never been an intention of sending any; the assurance of the Minister of Marine that they were waiting for me at Coquimbo being only a ruse on his part to get me to sea without a military force.
We now received intelligence that the Prueba had been accompanied from Spain by two line of battle ships, and that these were daily expected at Arica, whither I proceeded in quest of them, but was disappointed in not finding them. It was subsequently learned, that although they had sailed from Cadiz, in company with the Prueba, they never reached the Pacific, one of them, the Europe, being pronounced unseaworthy on crossing the line; and the other, the Elmo, foundering on the passage round Cape Horn!
On the 5th of November, three hundred and fifty troops—now brought by the experience and zeal of Lieut.-Col. Charles into a tolerably soldier-like condition—were distributed on board the Lautaro, Galvarino, and the remaining fire-ship, and were despatched to Pisco, under the command of Captain Guise, for supplies to be taken from the Spaniards, the troops being under the orders of Lieut.-Col. Charles, and the marines under the direction of Major Miller.
As it was not improbable that the expected Spanish ships would make for Callao, whilst it was more than probable that the Prueha would again attempt to run in, I therefore proceeded towards that port, and on the 8th anchored at San Lorenzo, the United States frigate Macedonia being also at anchor there. The presence of the latter put the Spaniards on their mettle, for shortly after our arrival, they made a show of sending twenty-seven gun-boats to attack us, not however, venturing to get their frigates under weigh. Preparations being made on our part to cut off the gun-boats, they quickly retreated, to the no small amusement of the North Americans, for whose edification the spectacle had been exhibited.
I was not mistaken in the expectation that the Prueba might again attempt to take shelter under the forts of Callao. On her appearance, we immediately gave chase, but she once more escaped in the night. On my return, I fell in with, and captured her boat, which had been sent ashore with despatches to the Viceroy, and from the information gained from the crew, I now felt certain that she would take refuge in Guayaquil, whither I determined to follow her.
Before doing so in the narrative, the success of the expedition despatched to Pisco must be mentioned. It was the intention of the officers commanding to land in the night, and thus take the garrison by surprise; but this plan was frustrated by the wind dying away, so that the landing could not be effected till broad daylight, when the garrison, supported by field artillery and cavalry, were prepared to receive them. Nothing daunted, the patriot troops landed without firing a shot, through the fire of the guns, whilst the Spanish infantry from house tops, and the church tower, thinned their ranks at every step. At length it came to the bayonet, for which the Spaniards did not wait, but rushed into the square of the town, after having mortally wounded the brave Col. Charles. Major Miller instantly followed, when their last volley in the square, before flying in all directions, brought down him also, with three bullets in his body, so that his life was despaired of. The ships remained for four days, during which they obtained all they wanted; but 200,000 gallons of spirits, placed on the beach for shipment, was destroyed by order of Captain Guise, in consequence of his not being able to control the men, who, from the facility of obtaining liquor, were becoming unmanageable.
On the 16th, the Galvarino and Lautaro rejoined me at Santa, which place had previously been taken possession of by the marines left on board the flag-ship. On the 21st, I despatched the San Martin, Independencia, and Araucano to Valparaiso, together with a transport filled with sick—an epidemic of a destructive nature having broken out on board the squadron. This disease, which carried off many men, had been introduced on board by the Minister of Marine's army of ninety men, shipped at Coquimbo.
I now proceeded in search of the Prueba, with the flag-ship, Lautaro, Galvarino, and Puyrredon. On the 27th, we entered the river Guayaquil, and leaving the Lautaro and the brigs outside, the flag-ship crowded all sail during the night—though without a pilot—arriving next morning at the island of Puna, under which two large vessels were anchored, and instantly attacked, when, after a brisk fire of twenty minutes, they struck, proving to be the Aguila, of 20 guns, and Vigonia, of 16 guns, both laden with timber, destined for Lima. The village of Puna was also taken possession of. On rejoining the other vessels with the prizes, they were found ready to sail, imagining from the firing that I had fallen in with the Prueba, and might possibly get the worst of the contest.
The Prueba was at Guayaquil as had been anticipated, but having been lightened of her guns and stores she had been towed up the river, where, from the shallowness of the water, it was impossible to get at her; whilst, as she lay under the protection of the batteries, I did not deem it practicable to cut her out with the boats.
A circumstance here occurred which would not be worth mentioning, did it not bear upon future matters. Captains Guise and Spry—imagining that I should now return to Valparaiso, and that the comparative failure of the expedition would be attributed to me, instead of to the worthless rockets, and to my instructions not to attempt anything beyond their use—endeavoured to get up a mutiny, by circulating a report that I did not intend to permit the ships left outside to share in the prizes, and had indeed left them behind for this purpose; having also permitted my officers to plunder the prizes ad libitum, before leaving the river—further declaring, that I intended to claim a double share, from having acted in the capacity of admiral and captain.
As there was not the slightest doubt of their having sedulously circulated these reports, with the object of entering the port of Valparaiso with the squadron in a discontented condition, I determined to take serious notice of their conduct. On the necessary steps being taken, they both pledged their honour that they had not made or even heard of such a report!
But I had no intention to return to Valparaiso, and still less to make officers so inimical to me acquainted with my future plans.
On the 13th of December, Major Miller was so far recovered as to be removed on board the flag-ship, after which I despatched the Lautaro to Valparaiso with the two prizes, first transferring to her armament the beautiful brass guns taken in the Vigonia; leaving the Galvarino and Puyrredon to watch the movements of the Spanish frigate.
As the reader may suppose, I was greatly annoyed at having been foiled at Callao, from causes altogether beyond my control, for the bad rockets, and worse faith of the Minister of Marine in not supplying me with the promised troops, were no faults of mine. My instructions, as has been said, were carefully drawn up to prevent my doing anything rash—as the first trip to Callao had been represented by certain officers under my command, who had no great relish for fighting. At the same time the Chilian people expected impossibilities; and I had, for some time, been revolving in my mind a plan to achieve one which should gratify them, and allay my own wounded feelings. I had now only one ship, so that there were no other inclinations to consult; and felt quite sure of Major Miller's concurrence where there was any fighting to be done, though a ball in the arm, another through the chest, passing out at his back, and a left hand shattered for life, were not very promising fighting incentives as far as physical force was concerned, yet the moral courage of my gallant guest was untouched, and his capacity to carry out my plans was greater than before, as being more matured by sharp experience.
My design was, with the flag-ship alone, to capture by a coup de main the numerous forts and garrison of Valdivia, a fortress previously deemed impregnable, and thus to counteract the disappointment which would ensue in Chili from our want of success before Callao. The enterprise was a desperate one; nevertheless, I was not about to do anything desperate, having resolved that, unless fully satisfied as to its practicability, I would not attempt it. Rashness, though often imputed to me, forms no part of my composition. There is a rashness without calculation of consequences; but with that calculation, well-founded, it is no longer rashness. And thus, now that I was unfettered by people who did not second my operations as they ought to have done, I made up my mind to take Valdivia, if the attempt came within the scope of my calculations.
The first step clearly was to reconnoitre the place, where the flag-ship arrived on the 18th of January, 1820, under Spanish colours, and made a signal for a pilot, who—as the Spaniards mistook the O'Higgins for the long-expected Prueba—promptly came off, together with a complimentary retinue of an officer and four soldiers, all of whom were made prisoners as soon as they came on board. The pilot was ordered to take us into the channels leading to the forts, whilst the officer and his men, knowing there was little chance of finding their way on shore again, thought it most conducive to their interests to supply all the information demanded, the result being increased confidence on my part as to the possibility of a successful attack. Amongst other information obtained was the expected arrival of the Spanish brig of war Potrillo, with money on board for the payment of the garrison.
As we were busily employing ourselves in inspecting the channels, the officer commanding the garrison began to suspect that our object might not altogether be pacific, this suspicion being confirmed by the detention of his officer. Suddenly a heavy fire was opened upon us from the various forts, to which we did not reply, but, our reconnoissance being now completed, withdrew beyond its reach. Having occupied two days in reconnoitring—on the third the Potrillo hove in sight; and being also deceived by our Spanish colours was captured without a shot—20,000 dollars and some important despatches being found on board.
As nothing could be done without troops, with which the Chilian ministers had been careful not to supply me, I determined to sail to Conception, where Governor Freire had a considerable force to keep in check the savage tribes of Indians whom the Spaniards employed, under the monster Benavides and his brother, to murder the defenceless patriots. On the 22nd of January we anchored in Talcahuano bay, where we found the Buenos Ayrean brig Intrepido and the Chilian schooner Montezuma.
Governor Freire received us with great hospitality; and after explanation of my plans, placed two hundred and fifty men at my disposal, under the command of a gallant Frenchman, Major Beauchef; notwithstanding that Freire was on the eve of attacking Benavides, and by thus weakening his division might incur the displeasure of the Government. No time was lost in embarking the men in the three vessels, the Montezuma being taken into the service, and the Buenos Ayrean brig volunteering to accompany us.
It was highly praiseworthy on the part of General Freire to place these troops under my orders, inasmuch as they were destined for a service in the praise of which, even if successful, he could not participate; whilst, if unsuccessful, he would certainly have incurred great blame. He knew, moreover, that the Ministry had refrained from supplying me with regular troops; yet he not only generously contributed them, but pledged himself not to communicate my plans to the Government; our destination being even kept secret from the officers, who were told not to encumber themselves with baggage, as we were only going to Tucapel, in order to harass the enemy at Arauco, thus making it appear that we were about to aid General Freire against Benavides, instead of his aiding us to capture Valdivia.
But our difficulties, though we had obtained the troops, were not at an end. The flag-ship had only two naval officers on board, one of these being under arrest for disobedience of orders, whilst the other was incapable of performing the duty of lieutenant; so that I had to act as admiral, captain, and lieutenant, taking my turn in the watch—or rather being constantly on the watch—as the only available officer was so incompetent.
We sailed from Talcahuano on the 25th of January, when I communicated my intentions to the military officers, who displayed great eagerness in the cause—alone questioning their success from motives of prudence. On explaining to them that if unexpected projects are energetically put in execution they almost invariably succeed, in spite of odds, they willingly entered into my plans; and Major Miller's health being now sufficiently re-established, his value as a commander was as great as ever.
On the night of the 29th, we were off the island of Quiriquina, in a dead calm. From excessive fatigue in the execution of subordinate duties, I had laid down to rest, leaving the ship in charge of the lieutenant, who took advantage of my absence to retire also, surrendering the watch to the care of a midshipman, who fell asleep. Knowing our dangerous position, I had left strict orders to be called the moment a breeze sprang up, but these orders were neglected, and a sudden wind taking the ship unawares, the midshipman, in attempting to bring her round, ran her upon the sharp edge of a rock, where she lay beating, suspended, as it were, upon her keel, and had the swell increased, she must inevitably have gone to pieces.
We were forty miles from the mainland, the brig and schooner being both out of sight. The first impulse both of officers and crew was to abandon the ship, but as we had six hundred men on board, whilst not more than a hundred and fifty could have entered the boats, this would have been but a scramble for life. Pointing out to the men that those who escaped could only reach the coast of Arauco, where they would meet nothing but torture and inevitable death at the hands of the Indians, I with some difficulty got them to adopt the alternative of attempting to save the ship.
The first sounding gave five feet water in the hold, and the pumps were entirely out of order. Our carpenter, who was only one by name, was incompetent to repair them; but having myself some skill in carpentry I took off my coat, and by midnight got them into working order, the water meanwhile gaining on us, though the whole crew were engaged in bailing it out with buckets.
To our great delight the leak did not increase, upon which I got out the stream anchor, and commenced heaving off the ship, the officers clamouring first to ascertain the extent of the leak. This I expressly forbade, as calculated to damp the energy of the men, whilst as we now gained on the leak, there was no doubt the ship would swim as far as Valdivia, which was the chief point to be regarded, the capture of the fortress being my object, after which the ship might be repaired at leisure. As there was no lack of physical force on board, she was at length floated; but the powder magazine having been under water, the ammunition of every kind—except a little upon deck and in the cartouch boxes of the troops—was rendered unserviceable; though about this I cared little, as it involved the necessity of using the bayonet in our anticipated attack, and to facing this weapon the Spaniards had, in every case, evinced a rooted aversion.
Before making the land to the southward of Punta Galera, the troops in the O'Higgins as well as the marines, were, in a high sea, removed into the Intrepido and Montezuma, to which I shifted my flag, ordering the O'Higgins to stand off and on out of sight of land, to avoid creating suspicion. We then made for the harbour, intending to land the same evening and take the Spaniards by surprise, but, as it fell calm, this plan was frustrated.
The fortifications of Valdivia are placed on both sides of a channel three quarters of a mile in width, and command the entrance, anchorage, and river leading to the town, crossing their fire in all directions so effectually, that with proper caution on the part of the garrison no ship could enter without suffering severely, while she would be equally exposed at anchor. The principal forts on the western shore are placed in the following order:—El Ingles, San Carlos, Amargos, Chorocomayo Alto, and Corral Castle. Those on the eastern side are Niebla, directly opposite Amargos, and Piojo; whilst on the island of Manzanera is a strong fort mounted with guns of large calibre, commanding the whole range of the entrance channel. These forts, with a few others, amounted in the whole to fifteen, and in the hands of a skilful garrison would render the place almost impregnable, the shores on which they stand being almost inaccesible by reason of the surf, with the exception of a small landing place at the Aguada del Ingles.
It was to this landing-place that we first directed our attention, anchoring the brig and schooner off the guns of Fort Ingles, on the afternoon of Feb. 3rd, amidst a swell which rendered immediate disembarkation impracticable. The troops were carefully kept below; and to avert the suspicion of the Spaniards, we had trumped up a story of our having just arrived from Cadiz, and being in want of a pilot: upon which they told us to send a boat for one. To this we replied, that our boats had been washed away in the passage round Cape Horn. Not being quite satisfied, they began to assemble troops at the landing-place, firing alarm guns, and rapidly bringing up the garrisons of the western forts to Fort Ingles, but not molesting us.
Unfortunately for the credit of the story about the loss of the boats, which were at the time carefully concealed under the lee of the vessels, one drifted astern, so that our object became apparent, and the guns of Fort Ingles, under which we lay, forthwith opened upon us, the first shots passing through the sides of the Intrepido, and killing two men, so that it became necessary to land in spite of the swell. We had only two launches and a gig, into which I entered to direct the operation, Major Miller, with forty-four marines, pushing off in the first launch, under the fire of the party at the landing place, by which the coxswain being wounded, the Major had to take the helm, and whilst doing this, received a ball through his hat, grazing the crown of his head. Ordering a few only of his party to fire, the whole leaped ashore at the landing place, driving the Spaniards, before them at the point of the bayonet. The second launch now pushed off from the Intrepido, and, in this way, in less than an hour, three hundred men had made good their footing on shore.
The most difficult task—the capture of the forts—was to come; the only way in which the first, Fort Ingles, could be approached being by a precipitous path, along which the men could only pass in single file; the fort itself being inaccessible except by a ladder, which the enemy, after being routed by Major Miller, had drawn up.
As soon as it was dark, a picked party, under the guidance of one of the Spanish prisoners, silently advanced to the attack, expecting to fall in with a body of the enemy outside the fort, but all having re-entered, our men were unopposed.
This party having taken up its position, the main body moved forward, cheering and firing in the air, to intimate to the Spaniards that their chief reliance was on the bayonet. The enemy, meanwhile, kept up an incessant fire of artillery and musketry in the direction of the shouts, but without effect, as no aim could be taken in the dark. Whilst the patriots were thus noisily advancing, a gallant young officer, Ensign Vidal—who had previously distinguished himself at Santa—got under the inland flank of the fort, and with a few men, contrived unperceived to tear up some pallisades, by which a bridge was made across the ditch, whereby he and his small party entered, and formed noiselessly under cover of some branches of trees which overhung it, the garrison directing their whole attention to the shouting patriots in an opposite direction.
A volley from Vidal's party convinced the Spaniards that they had been taken in flank. Without waiting to ascertain the number of those who had outflanked them, they instantly took to flight, filling with a like panic a column of three hundred men, drawn up behind the fort. The Chilians, who were now well up, bayoneted them by dozens, in their efforts to gain the other forts, which were opened to receive them; the patriots thus entering at the same time, and driving them from fort to fort into the Castle of Corral, together with two hundred more, who had abandoned some guns advantageously placed on a height at Fort Chorocomayo. The Corral was stormed with equal rapidity, a number of the enemy escaping in boats to Valdivia, others plunging into the forest; whilst upwards of a hundred, besides officers, fell into our hands, the like number being found bayoneted on the following morning. Our loss was seven men killed, and nineteen wounded.
The Spaniards had, no doubt, regarded their position as impregnable, which, considering its difficulty of access and almost natural impenetrability, it ought to have been, if properly defended. They had only found out their error when too late, thus justifying my former remark to the military officers, that an attack where least expected is almost invariably crowned with success. Much less had the Spaniards calculated on a night attack, the most favourable of all to the attacking party, as necessitating unity of action—and the least favourable of all to the party attacked, as inspiring doubt and panic, almost certain to end in irresolution and defeat. The garrison consisted of the Cantabria regiment of the line, numbering about eight hundred, with whom was associated a militia of upwards of a thousand.
On the 5th, the Intrepido and Montezuma, which had been left at the Aguada Inglesa, entered the harbour, being fired at in their passage by Fort Niebla on the eastern shore. On their coming to an anchor at the Corral, two hundred men were again embarked to attack Forts Niebla, Carbonero, and Piojo. The O'Higgins now appearing in sight off the mouth of the harbour, the Spaniards abandoned the forts on the eastern side, no doubt judging that as the western forts had been captured without the aid of the frigate, they had—now that she had arrived—no chance of successfully defending them; the patriot troops were therefore disembarked at Fort Niebla till the tide served to take them to the town of Valdivia.
In crossing the harbour, the Intrepido, from want of precaution in taking soundings, grounded on a bank in the channel, where, bilged by the surf, she finally became a wreck. Nor was the O'Higgins in a much better condition, as, from the injury sustained at Quiriquina, it became necessary to put her ashore on a mud bank, as the sole means of saving her from going down in deep water, so that the only vessel left was the little schooner Montezuma.
On the 6th, the troops were again embarked to pursue the flying garrison up the river, when we received a flag of truce informing us that the enemy had abandoned the town, after plundering the private houses and magazines; and, together with the Governor, Colonel Montoya, had fled in the direction of Chiloe. From the disorders which were committed by the Spaniards, previous to their retreat, the town was in great consternation, many of the inhabitants having also fled; a proclamation issued by me, to the effect that no one should be molested in person or property, had, however, the effect of inducing them to return; and an additional order immediately to choose for themselves a Governor, at once restored peace and tranquillity—the disposition of the people being for the most part good, whilst any leaning which might have existed in favour of Spanish rule was dissipated by the excesses which, previous to their flight, the royalist troops had committed.
The fortifications were so numerous, that at first it was my intention to destroy them and embark the artillery, as the Spaniards who had escaped to Chiloe—where another Spanish regiment was stationed—might return after my departure and recover them, the force which could be spared to garrison them being insignificant when distributed amongst fifteen forts. On further reflection, I could not make up my mind to destroy fortresses, the erection of which had cost upwards of a million of dollars, and which Chili would find it difficult to replace; and therefore determined on leaving them intact, with their artillery and ammunition, intending, before my return to Valparaiso, to render the rout of the Spaniards who had escaped, yet more complete.