This page is about historical military campaigns held during the 19th century by the Army and the Navy of the Republic of Peru.
Here you will find detailed information about those campaigns, from the Battle of Junin in 1824 to the War of the Pacific between 1879 to 1883.
Among the Latin American nations, Peru has been the country that has faced more wars in its history: From the emancipation period to conflicts of different magnitude against the Great Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Spain and Chile.
American and European readers may not know for example that Peru's Navy had the first war steamer in the continent after the United States , that another Peruvian steam frigate was the first Latin American warship to sail around the world, that a Peruvian ironclad fought against South America's British squadron, and that a Peruvian ironclad was the first ship in naval history to face an avoid an attack by locomotive torpedoes.
Also, few readers may be aware that following the steps of American Commodore Perry, Peruvian Naval officers sailed to the Far East to sign treaties between Perú and the Emperors of Japan and China, making Peru the second country in the American continent to establish diplomatic relations with those Empires.
It is also not well known that the War of the Pacific gave a boost to the advocates of a strengthened U.S. Navy. At that time, Peru and Chile had powerful fleets, purchasing their warships among the latest designs being produced in European shipyards. When war broke out between Chile and Bolivia, Peru, which had a much better equipped navy than Bolivia -who in fact had none- was forced into the conflict as an ally of that country. To have an idea about the situation on those days, on December 1880, the US State Department tried to intervene in the conflict in favor of Peru and an ultimatum, in effect a threat of war, was issued. The Navy Department ordered Rear Admiral George B. Balch to transport a State Department special mission. The U.S. squadron was to threaten Chile with Civil War era; wooden slops armed with obsolete guns. The Chileans told Admiral Balch that if he did not mind his own business, they would send him and his fleet to the bottom of the ocean. They probably could have with their big battleships armed with breech-loading guns and 14-inch armor plate. The new U.S. Secretary of State cancelled the mission.
The crucial naval encounters of that war occurred during a period of six months between several Chilean warships, two of them the heavy battleships, and the Huascar, a single-turret Peruvian ironclad. The Huascar damaged many of the Chilean vessels, either by gunfire or ramming. Yet Chilean attacks caused no critical damage to the ironclad, which was protected by high speed and a low profile. The final battle between Huascar and the battleships Cochrane and Blanco Encalada, was the most spectacular in American waters after those of the U.S Civil War. Such a battle, it must be said, had lessons for navies worldwide. It gave evidence of the continued value of strong armor, the importance of ramming and the power of armor piercing shells like the Palliser´s.
There are other several episodes, such as the dramatic Battle of Arica, the Peruvian version of "The Alamo", or the highly acclaimed Breña Campaign, in which guerilla tactics were used for a first time at great scale. During such a campaign the Peruvian army surpassed Hannibal at the Alps by crossing several times the Andes at altitudes above 5,000 meters.
The April 1997 Chavín de Huantar rescue operation held by Peruvian commandos against terrorists at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, witnessed live by he world on TV, demonstrated the capacity and effectiveness of the Peruvian soldiers. It becomes an example of the courage and the skills shown during the 19th century wars.
PLEASE FOLLOW THE LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE TO READ ABOUT THESE CAMPAIGNS. ENJOY