After rebelling against the government, the monitor "Huáscar" met with the steamer "Jhon Elder" of the English company of the Pacific, which he captured and boarded. The monitor "Huascar" was considered by the Government of President Prado as a pirate and gave him a reward for his capture. Admiral Algernon M. de Horsey, Commander-in-Chief of the British Naval Forces in the Pacific, became aware of this and notified the Cpt. Luis Germán Astete that he would capture the monitor under his command and hand it over to the authorities.
The English ships were the frigate "Shah" and the corvette "Amethyst", both faced the "Huáscar" against Pacocha on May 29. While the "Huascar" was heading north, Admiral De Horsey was looking for it in the coastal area between the tip of Camaná and the port of Iquique.
During the battle, developed from three in the afternoon when they were sighted. Immediately the monitor "Huascar" tried to approach the coast, but was prevented by the "Amethist" cannons. Admiral De Horsey sent an emissary for the monitor to be delivered, however he received the response that the President was on board, that he had not committed illegal acts and that they would not lower his flag either. The battle included the exchange of shots and various maneuvers for a period of three hours and twenty-five minutes. The shots of the English ships could not cause damage to the monitor. At 5:30 pm. The monitor was able to get rid of its captors sailing well attached to the land and the population of Ilo.
"I could have continued with the population bombardment, since he had been provoked, but the consideration of hurting neutral interests and that this attack was directed against the defenseless settlers, although I was not responsible for the results, decided me not to undertake it. "
(Admiral Miguel Grau, commander of the monitor "Huáscar" to the Director of the Navy, in Ilo, on May 31, 1879. Quoted in: López: 1930, 194).
Before and after the battle of Iquique fought on May 21, 1879, where the Chilean corvette "Esmeralda" was sunk, although having suffered the loss of our frigate "Independencia", the national squadron sailed along the coasts of the South Pacific, fulfilling missions that consisted of boycotting the supply of coal, food, ammunition, weapons, troop, and the communication system of the Chilean Navy, through the capture of boats and transports used for that purpose, and the interception and cutting of the submarine telegraph cables.
Thus, we have the excursion of the transport "Chalaco" that, along with the "Oroya", set sail from Callao on May 16, heading for Pisagua transporting war supplies and to President Mariano Ignacio Prado who was heading to the theater of operations.
The "Chalaco", being in Pisagua, went to Iquique at the request of Admiral Miguel Grau, who from this port, where he arrived on the 23rd, required him to transport the castaways of the "Independence", in addition to providing him with coal to monitor "Huáscar", and make the landing of an artillery brigade and supplies for the army stationed in this port.
After performing these tasks, the same day, the transport "Chalaco" sailed to Arica, to return again to the port of Iquique, where he arrived on May 24 with the objective of disembarking President Prado, who met with Grau to get to both of what happened on the day of the 21st of that month, while entrusting a new mission.
On the 26th, the "Chalaco", when he was sailing towards Cobija, captured in the cove Duendes the Chilean boat "Anita" that loaded coal for his squad.
Meanwhile, on the same day, 26, in Mejillones, the monitor "Huáscar" stopped the steamer "Amazonas", and appeared in the port of Antofagasta after having chased the transport "Rímac" without being able to capture it, due to the speed with which that ship fled after having landed troops.
Back to this port, the "Huáscar" confronted the land batteries located to the north, center and south, and the artillery of the Chilean schooner "Covadonga" commanded by Corvette Captain Carlos Condell, for a space of four hours , to later proceed to break the telegraph cables.
In April 1879, after receiving the declaration of war on the part of Chile, the Peruvian government adopted all the necessary measures to organize the ships of its squadron, train and train the crews, as well as to hasten the reparations of the warships and then equip them.
Once all these preparations were completed, the departure of the Peruvian Squadron to Arica was arranged. On May 16, the First Peruvian Naval Division headed by Captain Miguel Grau departed from Callao port, composed of the Independencia frigate and the Huáscar monitor, accompanied by the Chalaco, Limeña and Oroya transports. On board the latter, the President of the Republic and Director of the War, General Mariano Ignacio Prado, was traveling, together with his General Staff.
Coincidentally, that same day the Chilean squadron under Rear Admiral Juan Williams Rebolledo left for Iquique, heading towards Callao. His plan was to shoot the Peruvian ships by surprise in the port of Callao, while the Esmeralda and Covadonga corvettes stayed in Iquique holding the blockade of the Peruvian port.
Both squads crossed without sighting approximately at Atico's height, since Peruvian ships sailed near the coast, while Chilean ships did the same seaward.
On May 19, the Peruvian ships anchored in Mollendo at 1700 hours, to continue the journey to Arica a few hours later, reaching its destination at 0200 hours the following day. During the crossing they had received the news that the Chilean squadron had left Iquique with direction to the north and that the blockade in that port had been in charge of the Esmeralda and the Covadonga, information that was confirmed in Arica. Without a doubt, it was an important news. Immediately, President Prado summoned in a council of war the commanders of the Peruvian ships, to adopt the strategy to follow before the new events, deciding unanimously that the armored Independencia and Huáscar were going that same night to Iquique to face the Blocking ships.
According to the plan, the Peruvian ships left Arica on the night of the 20th, heading towards Iquique, where they arrived at 0800 hours on the 21st, determined to fight the first naval battle of the Pacific War. When noticing the presence of the Peruvian ships in the port, the Covadonga undertook the flight, but not the Esmeralda, since by the breakage of one of its boilers its walk had been reduced to only three miles, having to remain in the port for that reason.
May 21, 1879 was the day when the war became a reality. The captain of ship Grau, before breaking fires harangued to the crew formed in covers with these words: "Crewmen of the Huáscar, the hour has arrived to punish the enemies of the mother country and I hope that you will know them to do, reaping new and new laurels glories worthy of shining next to Junín, Ayacucho, Abtao and May 2. Long live Peru! " The war band let out the rush and soon the monitor broke fire.
A grenade made an impact on the Covadonga that tried to flee, managing to drill its hull. Grau then ordered Captain Guillermo More, commanding the Independence, to go after her, while he himself was in charge of beating the Esmeralda, who remained in the port.
Grau's initial intention was to capture the corvette, but seeing that he was determined to fight, he decided to attack her. The Chilean ship was close to the coast, and fearing the Grau that their shots could make an impact on the population, as well as the inaccuracy of their shots due to lack of practice of the artillerymen of Huáscar, made the decision to splash the Esmeralda, and he boldly launched his ship over her. The first spur was touched on the port side and then received another on the starboard bow that opened a large gap. Both attacks seriously damaged the corvette.
At the moment when the Huáscar hit the enemy ship, the commander of the Esmeralda, captain of frigate Arturo Prat, fell on the deck of the Huáscar, finding a quick death. Meanwhile, his ship received a third spur in the center that split it in two, sinking the Esmeralda immediately.
This was the first time that Grau showed his great human sensibility, since not only did he avoid harming the civilian population, but, in a magnanimous gesture that ennobles him, he did everything in his power to save the shipwrecked of the Esmeralda. . Huascar boats collected 62 survivors from a crew of 198 men, who on the deck of the ship launched a stentorian cry: Long live Peru generous! On board the Huáscar there was to be regretted the death of a courageous and competent officer, Second Lieutenant Jorge Velarde, who fell beaten by enemy bullets, demonstrating until his last moments a great sense of the fulfillment of duty.
But while the Huáscar had been in charge of the Esmeralda successfully, the hunting of the Covadonga by the Independence would not have the same results. When the Peruvian armored frigate tried to reach the Covadonga that was fleeing to the coast, it ran aground in a place called Punta Gruesa. A reef that was not marked on the nautical charts opened the keel of our best frigate at a time when it was preparing to ram the enemy ship. The ship, irreparably damaged, bent over its starboard side, beginning to sink.
The Covadonga, when noticing what happened to the frigate, stopped its flight, turned around and returned to attack the Peruvian ship, which defended itself until the water flooded the decks and it was no longer possible to fight. Then, the boats were thrown to the water to save the survivors, who were picked up three hours later, when the monitor Huáscar arrived at the scene of the accident.
It is important to highlight the professionalism and persistence of captain Miguel Grau, who did not hesitate to use all available resources of the ship of his command, to fulfill the objective of sinking the enemy, as well as his magnanimous attitude of rescuing the shipwrecked and his knightly qualities as he had sent days after the combat the personal clothing of Commander Prat to his widow, which he could have kept as a trophy of war.
For his part, Commander More did not lose Independence due to lack of seafaring capacity or to being shot down by the enemy. It was a fortuitous event. Unfortunately, at that time there were no precise navigation charts. He could not do anything for his men, who were attacked by the Chilean ship. More lost his ship, but months later, he would die in defense of the Morro de Arica accompanying Bolognesi and his brave garrison.
Iquique represented the beginning of the war, whose initial scenario would mainly be the sea. In Iquique the Peruvian sailors demonstrated the qualities that accompany their participation in both the Naval Campaign and the Overland Campaign, great united fishing capacity to the firm conviction that defend the motherland is the highest honor you can have a navy.
With the victory of Ayacucho, Peru consolidated its independence, and by the 1860s, it was one of the few Spanish-American countries that had not yet signed a peace treaty or entered into diplomatic relations with Spain.
However, this had not been an obstacle for various reciprocal acts of goodwill, including the establishment of consulates of both countries in Madrid and Lima in 1858.
In this context, the French intervention in Mexico and the Spanish one in Santo Domingo in 1862, would make one very suspicious of sending a scientific expedition to South America, aboard the frigates Resolution and Our Lady of Triumph and the schooners Vencedora and Covadonga , whose announced purpose was to carry out studies in the old Spanish possessions.
Meanwhile, in Peru, on August 4, 1863, an incident occurred at the hacienda Talambo, Lambayeque, in which a Spanish farmer settler was killed, an unfortunate circumstance that was immediately exploited by some Spanish authorities who still kept old misgivings against Peru.
In this way, a subject of Peruvian internal order soon escalated in an international crisis, being exacerbated before the Spanish government by the diplomatic official Eusebio Salazar and Mazarredo.
The investiture of this character, with the title of extraordinary special commissioner of Spain in Peru, which did not correspond to an independent republic, caused the refusal to receive it from our authorities.
Then, incited by Salazar, General Pinzón, commanding the Spanish squadron, decided to retaliate against Peru, capturing the Chincha Islands on April 14, 1864, where most of the guano that Peru exported came from, pair that was established a blockade in the port of Callao.
Produced these facts, Spain reinforced his squadron with the frigates Blanca, Berenguela and Villa de Madrid and the armored Numancia, by then considered one of the most offensive power in the world.
For its part, the Peruvian government, at that time under the presidency of General Pezet, sought at all times a diplomatic solution to the impasse, also considering that the country did not have the military and naval means to confront a naval force as the Spanish.
Seeking to achieve a peaceful settlement, Peru commissioned General Manuel Ignacio de Vivanco to negotiate with Spanish General José Manuel Pareja.
Given that the Spanish demands were excessive, and not counting our country with a dissuasive naval power to support its position, the government sought a quick solution, signing the so-called Treaty Vivanco-Pareja, signed on January 27, 1865.
While it is true that the impasse was ending, this was done at the expense of recognizing a supposed economic debt with Spain from the time of independence.
It should be noted that, while negotiating with Spain, the Peruvian government acquired weapons to strengthen the army and the army, in the event that the talks did not come to fruition.
Without sparing any effort, or any economic resource, we tried to acquire the most modern weapons and ships, under a strategic concept very similar to that used by the main powers of the time: large-caliber coastal defense artillery for the ports, armored ships to face a squadron on the high seas, and corvettes to attack the maritime communications lines and enemy rearguard.
As part of these efforts, high-ranking military and army officers were commissioned, including the future top heroes Grau and Bolognesi, who with other comrades in arms, achieved their mission by buying large-caliber artillery, and completing the acquisition in France of the Union and America corvettes, and in Britain the Huáscar armored and independence.
In addition, the construction of the Monitor Victoria and the transformation of the Loa steam were arranged in Peru, both becoming the first armored vehicles that our navy had.
Returning to the facts, in the political field, the national public opinion considered that the Vivanco-Pareja treaty was contrary to the interests of Peru and the popular uprising did not wait.
Colonel Mariano Ignacio Prado ruled against the treaty on January 28, 1865 in Arequipa, establishing a government of national restoration, managing to take power in November 1865, repudiating the aforementioned treaty.
It should be noted that the acts of belligerence motivated by the Spanish squadron were not only limited to Peru, but also involved Chile for its attitude of solidarity towards our country, so on December 5, 1865, both countries signed a defensive alliance to cope with the Spanish intimidation.
As a point of interest, in that treaty Peru offered to support with its squadron the defense of the Chilean coast, since that country did not have the adequate means to do so. To this treaty of alliance, then Bolivia and Ecuador would join, in order to act united against Spain.
Finally, Peru declared war on Spain on January 14, 1866, and since the Huáscar monitor and the Independencia frigate were still under construction in England, the only superior ships capable of successfully confronting the Spanish fleet, determined the convenience of sending the four main ships of our squadron to the south of Chile, under the concept of what is now known in strategy as "fleet in power", where they had to await the arrival of the two new armored vehicles to act later in set against the enemy force.
Three of these ships, the Apurímac frigate and the Union and America corvettes, together with the Chilean gunship Covadonga, formed the Allied squadron, which under the command of the courageous and intrepid Peruvian captain Manuel Villar, strongly rejected on February 7 of 1866, in the Combat of Abtao, the attack of the Spanish frigates Villa de Madrid y Blanca.
After this unsuccessful attempt to subdue our forces, the Spanish naval chief, Brigadier Casto Méndez Núñez, reoriented his efforts, and opted to affect the commercial maritime infrastructure of both countries, bombing the Chilean port of Valparaíso, and then the Callao port.
The punishment before the first of the mentioned ones happened on March 31, not finding resistance on the part of its defenseless population.
With this background, the callao was in imminent danger when the date of arrival of the armored Huáscar and Independencia, capable of fighting with the Spanish ships, was not known.
However, by that time the cannons acquired by Colonel Bolognesi had arrived in Peru and, when the threat to the callao was noticed, the government ordered the execution of the necessary defenses in charge of the navy and the army.
In a very successful way, the Peruvian forces, considering the military lessons of the recent American Civil War, established a defensive system consisting of fortifications and coastal artillery of a large caliber, totaling 45 pieces, distributed from the mouth of the river Rimac to the area of the tip. We must emphasize that in the absence of the bulk of the Peruvian squadron that was still in the south, it was possible to establish a naval division as a mobile defense in the bay.
In detail, in the northern sector, the defenses were made up of Fort Ayacucho, Batería Independencia, Batería Pichincha and Torre Junín.
Then, in the zone of the "brave sea", the Zepita battery was erected to avoid a possible landing in the rear.
In the southern sector of Callao, defenses were prepared from the Merced tower, the Santa Rosa fort and the Maipú, Chacabuco and Chalaca batteries, inside which was the Pueblo Canyon, whose installation was improvised in 24 hours by a crowd of patriots.
Finally, the naval division, located in the downtown sector as a mobile defense, was located near the war dock, covering the populated area of the city, where there were no batteries.
It was conformed by the steam Tumbes armed with two striped cannons, the armored Loa with two cannons; the Victoria monitor, with a single revolving tower cannon, and the Sachaca and Colón auxiliaries, with minor artillery.
The Spanish forces, proposed an offensive action, based on bombing the Peruvian land positions, using a simultaneous attack in three divisions. The first, in charge of beating the southern area of Callao; the second, beat the north of Callao, and the third, beat the center of the port.
The powerful Spanish squadron anchored in front of San Lorenzo from April 26, was formed by the frigates Numancia, Blanca, Villa de Madrid, Resolution, Berenguela and Almansa, integrating three divisions and supported by auxiliary vessels Vencedora, Marques de la Victoria , Matías Cousiño and Maule Package. All these ships totaled 245 guns of different caliber.
On the Peruvian side, the mobilization of men was total. Next to the adults, they got ready to fight children and the elderly. The foreigners also intervened, forming the famous fire brigades. It was, truly, a task in which the people and their armed forces participated jointly, the nation as a whole.
Arrived on May 2, date designated by the Spanish to bomb our first port, past noon, the Spanish armored Numancia, flying the Méndez Núñez badge, made the first shots.
Then, it was the mercy tower, where the secretary of war and navy José Gálvez, who broke the fires, set up his post to direct the combat, while the national pavilion was deployed, the combat being generalized by both parties.
In the heat of the battle, the Numancia, when changing bands, received two accurate hits: one from the loa monitor and one from the ground batteries, resulting in the own brigadier Méndez Núñez being wounded.
The Villa de Madrid would also be hit by a projectile that put 40 crew out of combat, and caused other serious damage, forcing it to leave the line, then towed by the Vencedora. Moments later the Benrenguela would receive a projectile that crossed it in the waterline reason why it also had to move away tilted towards starboard, being later beached in front of San Lorenzo to avoid its sinking.
As this happened, our brave defenders experienced a hard blow on the mercy tower in the heat of battle. There was an explosion with the death of all those who were there, including the secretary of war and navy, José Gálvez, who, directing the action, knew how to embody the spirit of heroism, courage and courage shown by Peruvians that day .
In this way, officers and personnel of the army and the navy, both on the ground and on board, fought in the defense of the national honor, together with the entire citizenry, that in front of the occasional adversary, they wrote with golden letters a page of glory in our republican history.
The ground guns and the guns of our ships continued firing until the last moment. The Numancia and the Vencedora were the last Spanish ships to retire, at approximately 5 in the afternoon and they did it slowly, still receiving the draft from our ships.
Precisely the last cannon shots were of the monitor Victoria, who signed the glorious day with his name.
It was May 2, a moment in history that showed the moral forge of the nation, united in the struggle for freedom and its ideals. A tangible sample of what a nascent republic, firm in its convictions, faced, as a test of fire, to become then an imperishable seal until today of what it means to watch over the sacred interests that motivate the national identity.
As the historian Jorge Basadre has pointed out, "the Peruvian national spirit was strengthened" and that is why, after the Ayacucho, "May 2, 1866, is a peak day in the republican history of Peru, and more than a day military, it's a civic day "
On the night of May 25, he went out to hang around the bay of Callao, the "Independencia" boat. Abordo went Ltn.Jr. José Gálvez, hero's son of the Battle on May 2, 1866. He was accompanied by midshipman Emilio San Martín and medical practitioner Manuel Ugarte, in addition to 12 sailors with rifles. The launch was armed with a small cannon, a machine gun and a torpedo.
The Chilean boats "Guacolda" and "Janequeo" approached to capture it. Destroyed his armament, the Peruvian boat had no choice but to surrender. However, Galvez took the torpedo, lit his wick and held it up until the moment he was approached by the "Janequeo". Already on enemy deck, Galvez fired his revolver twice to accelerate the explosion, which finally sank the two boats.
8 Peruvians died, among them the medical practitioner Manuel Ugarte and the San Martín Guardiamarina. The castaways were saved by the "Guacolda" and taken aboard the "Blanco Encalada". On the afternoon of May 25, Gálvez was released by the Chileans in merit to their demonstrated value.