Battle of Arica | History, Cause & Effects (Peru – Chile)

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Battle of Arica | Assault and Capture of Cape Arica History

Battle of Arica: Land combat between the troops of Chile and Peru, on June 7, 1880.

Data
Date June 7, 1880
Place Arica
Belligerents Peruvian Forces vs. Chilean Army
Outcome Chilean Army Victory

What was the Battle of Arica?

The Battle of Arica, also called the assault and taking of the Morro de Arica, was a land combat between the troops of Chile and Peru that took place on June 7, 1880. It consists of one of the most important weapons events of the Pacific War.

In this battle, the following sides faced:

  • Peruvian Forces: Under the command of Colonel Francisco Bolognesi, who defended the hill and the city of Arica. They were 1850 men and they were isolated by land and blocked by sea.
  • Two Assault Columns of the Chilean Army: Commanded by Colonel Pedro Lagos Marchant. They were 5500 men, supported by 5 warships stationed in the bay of Arica.

Faced with the evident disproportion of forces, on June 5 Manuel Baquedano, commander-in-chief of the Chilean army in the field, sent an emissary to Bolognesi demanding his unconditional surrender.

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The Peruvian chief convened a court martial in which 15 officers participated, including Argentine Lieutenant Colonel Roque Sáenz Peña, who had enlisted as a volunteer in the Peruvian army. Unanimously, the council decided to reject the summons to surrender and to resist to the last man.

Given the order to attack, the Chilean infantry advanced on the enemy positions, managing to cross minefields and overcome the stiff resistance of the Peruvian artillery and riflemen. In this way he managed to occupy the hill and the city of Arica, causing many casualties among the defenders and capturing a large number of prisoners.

The loss of the city of Arica was a severe blow to Peru and heralded its defeat in the War of the Pacific.

Background of the Battle of Arica

On May 26, 1880, the Chilean expeditionary army won a decisive victory against the combined forces of Bolivia and Peru, in the Battle of Alto de la Alianza, outside the city of Tacna. The outcome of the battle led the Bolivian government to request an armistice and abandon the war. The Peruvian government, on the other hand, decided to continue the fight.

The Chilean army commander-in-chief considered that before continuing to advance north, it needed to have a good supply point for weapons, food and fuel.

The port of Arica, with deep waters and connected to the city of Tacna by a railway line, was the ideal place to fulfill this function; However, it was occupied by the Peruvian forces under the command of Colonel Francisco Bolognesi, which had entrenched themselves on the hill that dominates the city and the entrance to the port.

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As the Peruvian army command considered it impossible to send reinforcements to Arica, they tried to send Bolognesi the order to destroy the fortifications and flee north, but that directive never came.

Consequences of the Battle of Arica

The main consequences of the Battle of Arica were the following:

  • The Peruvian army had about 900 casualties, including Colonel Bolognesi and several high-ranking officers. Around 1000 men were taken prisoner, among whom was Lieutenant Colonel Roque Sáenz Peña. After spending a few months in prison, he was released, returned to Argentina and resumed his political career, which ended with his election as President of the Nation in 1910.
  • The Chilean army lost only 200 men.
  • The capture of Arica put an end to the Campaign of Tacna and Arica, one of the phases in which historians divide the development of the Pacific War.
  • Peru lost one of its naval bases and its southernmost ground operations headquarters.
  • Bolivia was left without the port it used to go out to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Chile strengthened its position in the war and launched the Lynch expedition, which consisted of naval attacks on the main coastal cities of northern Peru.
  • The battle of Arica and the Lynch expedition were followed by the convocation of the Arica Conference, sponsored by the United States government, to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Its failure implied the continuity of the Pacific War, which Chile would end up winning.
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The Battle of Arica and the Day of the Flag

Currently, Peru‘s flag day is celebrated on June 7, the anniversary of the Battle of Arica. This is a day in which the men who gave their lives for the country are remembered.

The origin of this celebration dates back to 1905, when a decree of President José Pardo y Barreda established that every June 7 the conscript soldiers had to swear allegiance to the flag. In November of that same year, a monument to Bolognesi was inaugurated in a ceremony in which Roque Sáenz Peña participated, in his capacity as a survivor of the Battle of Arica.

In 1924, a decree of President Augusto Leguía y Salcedo proclaimed June 7 as the day of the flag. Although it is not considered a holiday, that day the organizations and schools organize tributes to the flag. In the city of Lima, the main ceremony takes place in Plaza Francisco Bolognesi, in front of the monument to the colonel who led the defense of Arica in 1880.

Battle of Arica | History, Cause & Effects (Peru – Chile)

The last cartridge, a painting by Juan Lepiani that represents the hand-to-hand combat at the end of the Battle of Arica.


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