Letters from the Battlefields of Paraguay/Letters 13-18

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LETTEE XIII.

FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITl.

Humaita, August 22, 1868.


My dear Z ,

We now enter upon the proper scenes of the Paraguayan war. I will tantalize your impatience for a while by recounting our life on board the good ship Yi.

The Yi, I have told you_, is a bran new " floating hotel/^ with her plated silver dazzling, her napkins stiff-starched, and her gilt mouldings upon the untarnished white panels clean as a new sovereign. A common English passenger steamer would have been far plainer, but proportionally much more comfortable. The splendid saloon all along the second deck will presently wax dingy, and there is no pos- sible walking in the open air. The tables draw out and collapse cleverly, but with trouble. The three stewards are expected to do the work of one man ; they are exceedingly civil, and they do nothing. Of course, this is the fault of the comisario, or purser, a small Spanish bantam, or rather "hen-harrier,"'^ who spends all his time in trifling with the feminine heart. The captain, Don Pedro Lorenzo riores — do not forget the Don, and if you want anything say Sefior Don — was an ex-item of that infinitesimal body, the national navy of the Banda Oriental. He brought out Yi for its Company from the United States, and he avenges himself upon Northern and Anglo-American coarse- ness by calling all Yankees " rascals." His chief duty is to bale out the soup, to pass cigars, and to send round sherry after dinner. This must be done to everybody at table.


FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMATTA. 293

or the excluded will take offence and sulk like small boys.

Pleasantly enougli passes the sc'nnight — perhaps I should call it a fortnight. Every twenty-four hours contains two distinct days and two several nights. First day begins at dawn with coffee and biscuits, by way of breakfast, and a bath, patronized chiefly by the yaller Brazilian pas- sengers. A mighty rush follows the dinner-bell, which sounds with peculiar unpunctuality, between 9 and 10 a.m. (mind). Upon the table are scattered hors d'oeuvres, olives, ham and sausage, together with the gratis wines, sour French " piquette^' called claret, and the rough, ready Cata- lonian Carlo, here corrupted to Carlon. Port, and similar superior articles, are ridiculously dear; for instance, $8 (325.) per bottle, and of course for a bad bottle. Like the Chilian, the Argentine often calls not for the best, but for the most expensive drink, and makes the call last out the week. We have no soup, but, en revanche, we have that eternal puchero, bouilli, ragmeat, which, combined with vegetables — potatoes, cabbages, and courges (zavallos) — composes the antiquated oUa podrida. It is the national dish, the feijoada of the Brazils, here held to be heavy and indigestible. The rest is hotel fare. The coffee must be made " coffee royal if you would drink it ; and the tea is the pot-house ( pulperia ") style, facetiously termed by foreigners cowslip '^ and " orange Pekoe :" those who want the real Chinese must bring it for themselves.

Tobacco and a small bout of gambling bring in the first night, which lasts from noon to 3 p.m. During this period all the world of men dressed in faded black is dead and gone. Here the siesta is the universal custom, to the severe injury of picnics. At the mystic hour you see every eye waxing smaller and smaller, till closed by a doze with a suspicion of nasal music. At home, people regularly


294 FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA.

" turn in ;'^ and if you have a visit to pay or a favour to ask, do not interrupt the day-night. Strangers soon fall into the habit, and it is evidently required by those climates in which men sit up late and rise early. I have found it an excellent plan in hot countries when hard mental labour was required, and, as every policeman knows, it is a mere matter of habit. In the Brazil the siesta is not the rule, but the Brazilians rarely begin the day at Bengal hours. On this parallel, the further we go westward, and the more backward becomes the land, the longer will last the siesta; the cause being simply that the population, having nothing to do, very wisely allows its arteries to contract.

The second day opens with a breakfast of mate. It is drunk en cachette ; if not, it must be handed all round. Lunch is absolutely unknown ; the unsophisticated English stomach therefore clamours for an insult to breakfast and an injury to dinner, in the shape of sherry and biscuits. The second full feed is at 4 p.m., and exactly resembles the first: it lasts an hour and a half. Candles and cigars are then lighted, and preparations are made for the soiree according to tastes. Some watch the night upon the poop ; others converse or mope alone; others play and sing, or listen to music. By far the favourite amusement, however, is hearty, thorough, whole-souled gambling, which makes the fore saloon a standing hell. One passenger is said to have lost during the excursion $8000. The Brazilians are the hottest players, pushing on far into the small hours. Politely admitting the fact that we, thereabouts lodged, may be asleep, or may wish to sleep, they open conversation in a half whisper. This loudens under excitement to an average tone, and the latter speedily gamuts up to a shout and a howl, stintless and remorseless. My only resource was letting a cold draught through the skylight at their


FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA. 295

feet and ankles, and thus only the roaring, bawling gamblers, who sat lengthening out the night, were cleared away.

We are now about to leave the main branch of the riverine system, and to eviter the Paraguay proper, con- cerning which you may wish to have a few geographical details. The same authority that announces the topo- graphical homology of the Parana and the Ohio compares the Paraguay with the Missouri, and its great western influents, the Salado, the Bermejo, and the Pilcomayo, with the Red River, the Arkansas, and the Platte. It rises — according to a late explorer, the Cavagliere Bossi, who kindly sent me a copy of his work — two leagues from the Arinos of the Amazonian valley, and the source may be reached without passing through the wild and plundering Gnarani tribes. It floods properly in March to June, w^hen the supersaturated lands along the upper course dis- charge their surplus. The inundation of December- January, 1868-9, which precipitated the operations of the Brazilians against La Villeta, was caused by the Parana, which, forcing back and heaping up the waters of the Paraguay, poured them over both banks, whereas that to the east generally suff'ers. As a rule, the discharge of the upper bed is clear and that of the lower is muddy. At the junction, ships prefer to fill with the Parana, and higher up the crews drink of the springs and fountains. The free navigation of the Paraguay is a political necessity for the Brazilian Empire, which has had a line of steamers upon it since 1857. In six weeks they make Matto Grosso, some 2000 to 2200 miles from Buenos Aires; and in case of necessity they can easily efi'ect the passage in twelve days and nights, at the rate of eight miles an hour. For sailing craft at least six months must be allowed, and some have occupied seven in reaching Humaita; whereas the round trip from Buenos Aires to


296 FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA.

Asuncion and back has lately been done in ten days. I had once formed the project of riding from Sao Panlo to Cuyaba^ and I found that^ with fast mules^ the journey would have occupied me two and a half months.

Even during peaceful days the Paraguayans prepared for an attack along the line of their river, and the general idea is that the Allies fell into the trap prepared for them, thrust their heads into the lion^s jaws, and entered the den at a point where the approach had long been prepared to receive them. The public has persistently asserted that the attack should have been via Candelaria and Itapua, at the south- eastern angle of the Lower Parana, some 250 miles above the confluence, and within a few marches of the Brazilian frontier. From this point the invader could easily have made Villa Kica, and, having struck at the heart of the country, he would have been master of Asuncion. We may quote the high authority of Lieut. -Col. Thompson (Chap. XIV.) for believing that had General Porto Alegre or Osorio entered Paraguay via Encarnacion, ^^ the war must have been ended. On the other hand, I heard a very diflPerent account from President Mitre, the biographer of D. Manuel Belgrano, who was possibly somewhat biassed by the defeat which his hero sustained on the Itapua line (January 18, 1811). He observed that the direct route to Villa Rica lay through a swamp and desert, where even provisions must have been transported by land j and that to give up the advantage of a double attack by land and water, especially with ironclads, which had not been dreamed of when Humaita and other works were thrown up, would have been the merest folly. My present belief is that the Allies knew far too well the strength of the Para- guayan army and the valour of its soldiers to have attacked the small Republic without the aid of a fleet ; and moreover, that had they done so their raw levies would have been annihilated.


FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA. 297

At 9.30 A.M. yesterday, leaving Corrientes, where some twenty ships lay, we steamed past the arched causeway under which sleep the dead. The river banks were faced with dwarf clifts, detached blocks, and fallen masses of friable sandstone, showing lines of stratification and deposit. The colours were those of Sao Paulo — yellow, red, brick-red, and blood-red (Sangre de boi). Some parts were crumbling as " horse-bone limestone, others were hard as granite, and all were more or less porous. Bits of mica appeared in it, but we vainly sought for fossils, the great want of these lands. The rock makes good building material, which cuts well and hardens readily.

Presently we were shown the site of that failure of failures, the French colony of S. Juan, and the spot where the Siete Corrientes gave a name to the city. Though the day was before fine, rain and lightning put in an appearance — it is said that here they are rarely absent. Six leagues, traversed in two hours, placed us at the glorious confluence of the Parana and Paraguay, which here equal, says Azara, a hun- dred of the biggest rivers of Europe, and yet are 250 leagues from the mouth. Compared with these majestic proportions, and this mighty sweep of waters, the meeting of the Rios de Sao Francisco and das Veluas seemed to my memory insignifi- cant. The doab or water-peninsula, which has been com- pared with Illinois, is a vast plain of wet and dry mud, such as a drained harbour bottom would represent. It is mostly below the mean level of both streams, which are here con- tained between those natural dykes their elevated banks, and these, being of friable earth, allow full freedom of per- colation. In fact, the whole country, from the Parana south to the Tebicuary north is a " no man^s land,"*^ or an " any man^s land,'^ where the " Carrisales '^ of earth and water are " pretty much mixed." In 1620 this confluence formed the limit between the old Governments of Paraguay and of the


298 FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA.

E-io de la Plata ; this, however, claimed the whole country up to the Tebicuary.

The curves approaching the place where the two rivers meet in their might are divided by a long narrow spit of land frequently flooded. The surface of the country is com- posed of swamps — not " salt-swamps/-' as some have written — rejoicing in a variety of names, whose use, however, differs in the several places. The "laguna^^ is a real pool or lakelet, replenished by floods, and retained by a hard clay floor. The " banado is a field of deep adhesive mud and stagnant water, somewhat wetter than the pantano/^ or morass. The " es^ tero,^-' erroneously said to be a Quichua^ word, but derived from the piri or South American papyrus, and the esteros (rushes), which line it, is a stream sluggishlj^ flowing through a big swamp. Thus our maps show the northern and the southern Estero bellaco — not " Terovellaco, as Mr. Mans- field has it (p. 310) — to be the meridional strip of the great Neembucu bog, which extends from east to west parallel with the right bank of the Paraguay river. These waters are di- vided by " lomas,^^ or " lomadas,^"* waves of ground rising a few feet above the flood level of the quagmires. They sup- port an almost impassable jungle, composed of monte, or thorn thicket ; " isletas,^ or bosques of trees ; " macegales," small shrubberies ; " pajonales and " canaverales,^^ beds of reedy grass six feet tall, and " palmares, or " palmazales," where rise ^' alamedas, or avenues of lofty whispering palms. And a mixture of all these pleasant features is termed a " carrisal, as opposed to tierra firma.

The only settlements in the carrisal are '^'^ capillas, or wretched huts surrounding churches of noble elevation, and decorated with carved pulpits, fancy roofs, frescos, ornamental


  • " It is called estero, which in the Quichua tongue signifies a lake." —

Guidebook.


FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA. 299

doors, and marble altars, which are now all destroyed. The " fighting men " are upon the war-path, and the campe- sinos^' or country folks have been driven northwards by the retreating Paraguayans. Everywhere the land is wild of man ; you will presently see that such has been the system from the confluence to the capital. The same tactic was adopted in 1811 by Colonel D. Bernardo Velasco when op- posing the advance of Belgrano. All the " chapels,^^ rem- nants of Jesuit rule now reduced to mud-walled hamlets, were connected by threads of path, and he who stepped off these sunk waist-deep in unhealthy morass and boggy pool. A glance at any map upon a large scale will explain to you how it was that two years were spent in battling over nine square miles of ground. This swamp fighting was an essen- tial part of Indian '^ warfare. The Spaniards, under Men- doza, their Adelantado, suffered severely on February 2, 1535, from being entangled, by the wild Querandis, in a marsh near Buenos Aires.

This reach of the Parana is called in old maps Quatro Bocas. Looking up the sea-like mouth we see about the centre of the stream, where it narrows, a dark dot, the Isleta dez de Abril, alias do Coronel Carvalho. Here the Brazilians had erected an 8-gun battery, the better to destroy Guardia Carracha, also known as ^^ Fort Itapiru.^' It was attacked on April 10, 1866, by the Paraguayans under Lieut. -Colonel, afterwards General, Diaz, a noted lance, who was at last killed by the shell fired by an ironclad whilst he was recon- noitering for a canoe attack. The fight was fierce; fifteen out of twenty-six canoes were sunk, and of 1200 Paraguayans only 400 wounded men returned. It was the first of the many reckless actions in which Marshal- President Lopez frittered away his devoted forces. Opposite it, and hidden by a long point of yellow sand, on the northern river-bank, were the ruins of Fort Itapiru — the weak or rotten


300 FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA.

stone* — which in 1855 fired upon the U.S. steamship Water- witch, Captain Page. Before the war it was a neat little semi- circular brick fort mounting two to three guns en barbette, and built at the root of a promontory backed by a sandy beach. The Paraguayans armed it with two 8-inch guns, and for some forty days kept at bay the Allied army and the Brazilian fleet — eighteen steam gunboats and four ironclads. It was the key of the position^ yet it was carelessly abandoned by Marshal-President Lopez_, who had here cornered his enemy. A photograph of the place now shows a broken tower, in whose shade placidly reposes a cow.

Opposite Itapiru the Parana narrows to 1^ mile; and then flaring out into a bay, it is divided into two channels by sundry banks and islets. Of these the most important are the Banco de Toledo, the Isla Caraya, or Howling Monkeys' Island, and the Isla de Santa Ana. Almost due south of it on the Correntine shore is the village Corrales, alias the Campamiento del Paso, built in 1849. It is also called the Correntine Paso la Patria, that is to say Public Pass, where homeward travellers were ferried over in canoes. At this place the Brazilians raised heavy batteries to bombard Fort Itapiru. Under the tall barranca, or falaise, we descry a few ranchos, and a little flotilla embarking cattle. The pueblo, or village, is hidden from sight. On the northern bank, about two miles higher up, was the Paraguayan chapel- village — Paso la Patria — some five hours' steam from Cor- rientes, and seventy leagues, or eight days' journey from Asuncion. Here Marshal-President Lopez had thrown up a fine work, with redans and curtains, resting on two lagoons and impassable carrisal, and mounting thirty field guns.


  • ^ The Brazilians translate the name "pedra fraca;" and similarly Cun-

hapira, a shan-van-vogh, or " weak old woman." Lt.-Col. Thompson says

  • ' Itapiru : ita, stone ; pirii, dry ; dry stone." According to that officer the

rock is volcanic.


FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA. 301

Yet he abandoned it precipitately the moment his enemy- landed upon Paraguayan ground. The invaders established in this place their hospitals and bazars^ of which no traces now remain, and it became the base of operations for two years.

The landing was effected on the 16th of April (1866), by Generals Osorio and Flores. They chose the mouth of the Paraguay river, a few hundred yards above the confluence, and they immediately entrenched some 10,000 men. Learning this, and finding himself outflanked, Marshal-President Lopez hastened to abandon Itapirii and Paso la Patria, whose trenches he might have held for months, if not for years. Upon this subject both Paraguayans and Argentines agree.

We now dash amongst floating trees and rippling isles of grass and reed up the Paraguay river, which suddenly nar- rows from a mile and a half to 400 yards, and appears to be a small influent. The cause is the Isla del Atajo, the '^stopper^^ (of the current), a long thin island to our left, disposed, as usual, with its length down stream. It is a flat steep covered with lush verdure, light green and dark green, and the trees of good hard wood are colligated by bush-ropes. A gentle grassy slope, some sixty to seventy feet high in the centre of its eastern side, leads to a cottage with posts and verandah, the old Guardia Cerrito, and its watch-tower.

A little beyond the mound, and situated upon a barren muddy bank, which was flooded in November, 1868, is the Cerrito Station, where the Brazilians built hospitals, store- houses, coalsheds, and workshops for repairing engines. Of old it was claimed by the Argentine Confederation, but the Paraguayans seized it and made it a guardia. The clearing shows a scattered village of huts and long lines of thatched wattle and dab ; the best are of boarding, roofed with zinc or straw. There is a whitewashed chapel^ and the Hotel


302 FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA.

Brazil^ whose dwarf frontage is pierced for a door and two windows. Cranes and piers break the bank, which is here four feet high, and in the deep water alongside appear flotillas of bazar boats, and an ironclad acting sentinel.

Leaving Cerrito we sweep round to the north-west, and pass the Tres Bocas. The name has been erroneously trans- ferred by some to the confluence, by others to a place below it, where the Parana and the Parana Mi (the northern channel) meet the Paraguay. Properly speaking, Tres Bocas is in the latter river, where it is split into two by the Atajo islet, and receives in its left bank the Laguna Piris, which drains the western part of the Northern Estero bellaco. In old days the name sounded joyful to those flying from the "reign of terror.' Lieutenant Day's chart (1858) shows five armed ships watching the Tres Bocas ; and opposite the Boca del Atajo was the Primera Guardia, or first guard- house. Captain Page here found the Admiral of the Navy of the Republic of Paraguay, and a squadron of five small vessels.

We run rapidly past ground whose every mile cost a month of fighting. To our right is the Laguna Piris, flow- ing from the north-east. The river-like lagoon is not re- markable, and there are many similar on the eastern bank, treacherously lurking under papyrus and water-lilies. It proved, however, most useful to the Allies by admitting their gunboats and stores.

Further east are the sites of the great actions fought on the 2nd and the 24th of May, 1866. A graceful line of rising surface, clothed in the napindii grass, which is used as 'Hie-tie,*' and scattered with fan-palms, shows the loma of Tuyu-ti — barro duro, or dry mud.^ A single


  • " White mud," says Lt.-Col. Thompson. The word Tuyu, pronounced

Tuju, is found in Tijuca, or Tyjuca, near Kio de Janeiro, and is usually translated " dry mud."


FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA. 303

tree denotes the spot where the Brazilian batteries stood. This site, the first solid ground seen after the Confluence, smells of death ; here lie some 10,000 men, victims of cholera and small-pox, fever, and Crimean diarrhoea. Here- abouts were fought the battles of Yataity-Cora and Potreiro- Sauce, with the great actions, or rather surprises, of July 10-18, 1866, and of November 3, 1867.

Nearly opposite, but a little above the Piris opening, is the Atajo River — in fact, the eastern arm of the Paraguay. The bank is low, and the vegetation, after thinning out, becomes more luxuriant, large trees looming in the distance. The palm-groves of the Gran Chaco are now bare of mon- keys, its oldest inhabitants.

Three hours' steaming from Corrientes placed us off the historical site of Ciu'uzii — the Cross. It is a new outpost of Humaita, a short trench, whose right rested upon the Paraguay, and its left upon a water which communicates with the great Laguna Chichi. The river-bank is here broken, and four to five feet high. The current varies from two to three miles, and a little below it is a small nameless island : the right shore, as usual in such places, is low and clear, except of willow scrub. We saw the wreck of La Poriena, an American ship taken up as an hospital : she was here burnt with some eighty sick on board. Yellow mounds show where the now dismantled batteries once were, and cattle feed amongst the debris of earthworks. A wooden cross near the water marks the Brazilian Campo Santo ; and to the north of it are tree-clumps and an en- closure where General Argolo, Commanding 2nd Corps d'Armee, built his star-shaped redoubt.

Here, again, the fighting was fierce. The allied fleet began September 1, 1866, to bombard Curuzu, the southern- most outwork proper of Humaita. The defenders replied with spirit. The ironclad Rio de Janeiro was blown up by


304 FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA.

a torpedo^ and lost her captain and crew. The Tvahy and other Brazilian ships were sorely injured. On the 3rd of September General Porto Alegre^ having landed 8300 men amongst the corn-fields about three-fourths of a mile below, gallantly stormed it by rounding, through four feet of water exposed to enfilade fire, the flank that rested upon the lagoon. The losses were about equal on both sides. Un- happily the victor did not follow up his advantage ; after a short pursuit he returned to his lines ; whereas all are agreed in believing that a single rush would have carried Curupaity and even Humaita.

Another quarter of an hour showed us the lines of Curu- paity. Lieutenant Day gives the Isla da Palma near the right bank, and on the left the Guardia " Cuvu Paip,^"* or " Curipeiti.^^ The word means the place of the curupai tree (acacia adstringens, the sebil of Tucuman). Its site is like that of Curuzu, a hollow curve on the eastern bank, bounded south by a projecting angle ; the right of the works resting upon the river, the left upon the Laguna Lopez, which com- municates with the Laguna Chichi. The bank slopes to- wards the inner estero, and from the river we see only the profile of half- levelled earthworks extending ten or twelve squares down stream. Along the bank were moored cutters and schooners, tugs, steam-launches, and a variety of more dignified craft, which had been freighted down stream. We shall afterwards visit the comercio, or bazar. At present I will only remark that those winged fiends, the mosquitoes, despite of oil, raise wounds upon our foreheads, and that the jejens, or sand-flies, bite like furies. Even in the keen north-east wind Curupaity was a hard nut for the Allies to crack, and it broke certain of their teeth.

After the capture of Curuzu, the Paraguayans had retreated to the second outwork of Humaita, and on September 8 they began to dig the trench, which was about two thousand


FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA. 305

yards long. But^, despite the energy of the troops, matters looked desperate till Marshal-President Lopez, two days afterwards, hit upon the notable expedient of proposing on interview with the Allied Generals. The Commander-ic. Chief, President Mitre, fell into the trap — not so General Polidoro, the Brazilian, who had succeeded General Osorio. Letters passed under flags of truce ; the two Presidents and General Flores had a long palaver, drank some brandy- pawnee, exchanged riding-whips, and parted without agreeing upon the conditions of a peace. The "Conference of Yataity- Cora ^' has, however, the merit of gaining two days for the works at Curupaity ; and by 20th September the strongest position of the whole campaign was ready to be fought.

The assault was given at noon on September 22, and Curupaity proved itself, under General Diaz, and afterwards Colonel Alen, a Pei-ho. Instead of attacking by nighty en chemise, the Allies pushed recklessly across an open plain under a terrible fire of grape and canister, delivered by eight-inch guns at point-blank range. The Brazilians suf- fered the least, as they attacked and carried a small out- work on the right which was partially concealed by bush. The Argentines gallantly struggled up to the trenches despite mud knee-deep, and then found that they had for- gotten their scaling-ladders. Nothing remained to the assaulter but a disastrous retreat, leaving behind him 5000 killed and wounded, whilst the Paraguayans had but fifty- four hors de combat. The mishap filled the Argentine Confederation with rage and grief, and the Allies de- clined further operations during the ten months between September 22, 1866, and July, 1867. Finally, Cu- rupaity was, like many other posts, evacuated by the de- fenders, who left quaker guns to deceive the assailants.

We have now seen two of the four river positions — Curuzii, Curupaity, Humaita, and Angostura — which did the Para-

20


306 FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA.

guayans good service. From Cueva to Asuncion^ from 1865 to 1868, we shall find that they had but one plan for defence. They chose for their stand-point some place where the stream was narrowest and flowed the swiftest, also where the deepest water was from 45 to 150 yards off" their guns, and where a passing ship must expose her prow, broadside, and hull. They placed their guns at the toe of a horse- shoe-shaped clifi", a re-entering angle generally in the left, or eastern bank, whose high and regular wall shows the flood-mark. The cliff", a natural earthwork, varied from twenty to fifty feet ; the upper half was usually per- pendicular, and composed of stiff" clay and sand, assuming the natural angle below, and off"ering no facility for scaling. It was generally bounded north and south by carrisal and impassable jungle. The ojoen-gorged batteries extended all along the bank so as to sweep the stream up and down . they often aff"ected a crossing or converging fire, and some- times, as at Asuncion, where the current hugs the side, the guns could not be depressed, and the defenders had to depend upon musketry. On the Gran Chaco, or western side, they chose, if possible, a low marshy spit subject to inundation, and they felled the trees, so that the enemy was compelled to act upon open ground. Thus they obviated the danger of rifle-pits and artillery duels.

None of the works could be called permanent fortifica- tions. The Paraguayans ignored the bastion, or Italian system (of Turin, 1461) afterwards perfected by Vauban, and only in one place did they attempt the casemates of Albert Diirer (sixteenth century) ; hence the polygonal, or German system^ which afterwards became popular through- out Europe, was unknown. A redan, or a ravelin, to sweep the face of the curtain, was the height of their art in field fortification, and the heaviest gun was generally placed upon the apex.


FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA. 307

" I want/' said Napoleon, " men behind walls, but soldiers in the field/' The Paraguayans could hardly be called soldiers, but they stood manfully to their guns, and proved themselves behind cover better artillerists than their invaders. They avoided the " necessary evil '^ of embrasures by the rough and ready expedient of placing all their guns €11 barbette. Thus they secured freedom of lateral range ; but the gunners had no cover ; every third shell ought to have swept them away. The casemates of the protected system would have been to them, as has been proved in modern warfare, mere slaughterhouses.

The great strategical error committed by the Paraguayans was that of the Confederate States — an attempt to fight long extended lines. Instead of holding along the stream a succession of outposts, which were all lost by direct attack or by evacuation, they should have concentrated themselves at fewer places, and should have rendered them doubly and trebly strong. To defend only a few points, and to defend them well, is the recognised general principle in these days of short sharp wars.

The Brazilian attack was necessarily as monotonous as the Paraguayan defence. The assailants, after occupying the enemy's front in force, also ensconced themselves behind lines of earthwork. The next step was to run the ironclad squadron past the position, and to land a corps d'armee in the Gran Chaco. A " picada,"" or rough path, was cut with immense trouble and loss of life, through the tangled vege- tation of the low marshy soil, and thus the flank was turned both by land and water. Seeing this, the Paraguayans, fearing to be surrounded, retreated leisurely northwards, and, after a few miles, they readily found another line of defence, fronted perhaps by a bog or a stream, and resting upon the river and a swamp.

This is a brief history of the second part of the campaign. 20—2


308 FROM CORRIENTES TO HUMAITA.

At Curupaity we took on board the Commander-in-Chief of the Argentine army, who came to meet his daughter. General Don Juan A. Gelly i Obes, said to be of Para- guayan descent^ began life as an auctioneer. He fought in the Montevidean affairs^ and after a long banishment to the Brazil in the days of Rosas, he became Minister of War and Marine at Buenos Aires; and since he replaced the Coraandante Amadeo, he has been the life and soul of his motley force, ever in the saddle, and ever au grand galop. But this active and energetic soldier has not been fortunate, and his enemies have soundly abused him for failing to do some great deed. In appearance he is an Aymerican Sir Charles Napier (of Sind), the eagle type, with hooked nose, black eyes, long white beard and waveless grey hair. A spare and lithe veteran in magenta-coloured kepi with gold braiding, blue frock, and long riding-boots, he was an effec- tive, soldier-like figure. I feel grateful to him for the cour- tesy with which he answered all my questions, and for his readiness in assisting me to inspect the environs of Humaita.

In my next you will hear about the " Sebastopol of the South. Adieu.


My dear Z-


LETTEE XIV.

TO HUMAITA.

Humaita, August 23, 1868.


From Curupaity we have still two leagues, which others lengthen to nine miles, between us and the now historical Humaita. The dark sandstone which sup- ports the crumbling bank, and which we first remarked one day below Corrientes, explains the name black stone."*^"^ On the proper right bank is Port Elizario, once a camp of 10,000 men. This was the terminus of the railway, which ran some three and a half miles, through swamp and lagoon, to the northern side of the Albardon fronting Humaita. Thus it became easy to provision the ironclads, instead of exposing the squadron to severe damage by passing and repassing the batteries. The contractor was Sr Sabino Reyes, and the Opposition was severe upon the so-called " job /^ yet it was even more useful than the Balaklava Railway.

At the Riacho {alias Boca) de Oro, the Paraguay begins its great sweep to the south-east, forming the approach to Humaita. Ofi" the mouth are islets, which vary in number according to the flood. At present we find one large and two small. The former, unnamed in our chart, is known as the Isla de Humaita. It forms a tolerably regular triangle, with the apex pointing southward ; and.


  • Huma (with the aspirated h), black ; in the Tupi dialect una, e.g.

Kio Una (Blackwater River) ; and ita, a stone. Lt. Col. Thompson gives " Hu (nasal), black ; ma, now j ita, stone. The stone is now black."


310 TO humaitA.

curious to say, it was not occupied by either combatant. The Paraguayan telegraph-posts, of fine hard wood, still linger on the bank, each having its lightning-conductor protruding from the top — a " wrinkle offered to the Brazilian lines. Both combatants adopted in this point the practice of Napoleon III., as we did during the Indian Mutiny, when telegraphic lines accompanied the Com- mander-in-Chief. Marshal-President Lopez passed the greater part of his days, like Lord Panmure, sending and receiving messages about the most trivial matters. On the western side remain a pleasure-house and a garden, built for the Brazilian officers in June, 1868, as a relief to the grimness of their occupations. Here also was the usual watch-tower — a signalling system well known to Paraguay, as in China and Japan. It is the guerite of the Cossacks, the Portuguese mangrulho, and the Spanish mangruUo, locally pronounced " mangrujo." The rough contrivance, varying from forty to sixty feet in height, is composed of four or more thin tree- trunks, planted perpendicularly, and supplied with platforms or stages of cross-pieces, mostly palms, the whole being bound together with the inevitable raw hide. The look-outs are ascended by notched palm- trunks, or ladders, which, after a little neglect, become dangerous. A few are solidly made of squared timbers, roofed over. In so flat a country the mangruUo acts well. Before the war it formed a part of the national espionage, and, like the dauk of Hindostan, long before telegrams were invented, it could transmit, in a few hours, a message from the frontier to the capital. The President being alone entitled to buy and sell without permission, it was necessary to keep a sharp watch upon exports and imports. The mangruUo — like the andrumara, or elevated four-poster, sometimes horizontal at other times sloping, as in Unya- muezi — was also used to sleep above the mean level of


TO humaitA. 311

mosquitoes, and for that purpose one was attached to every guardia.

The guardias, or guard-houses, were regularly established in 1849, and in 1853 eight of them lay along the eastern bank of the Paraguay, besides those on the southern side of the Apa River, or northern frontier. They formed a com- plete cordon militairey equally useful as resguardo, or coast- guard, and as obstacles to Indian raids from the Gran Chaco. In 1853 the western frontier numbered eight, but since the war they have multiplied exceedingly. The Guardia was a strong stockade surrounding a patch of maize, manioc, oranges, and other useful vegetation ; there was also a rancho for an officer and his guard, some thirty ^'quarteleros.-'-' Between every two were "piquetes/^ or smaller establishments of a sergeant and fifteen men. Both were expected to patrol by water and land, and to communicate daily with one another in canoes, so as to watch Paraguayans and strangers. Most of the strong points fought during the war were, of old, guardias and piquetes.

On the right bank lay remnants of the canoes which had the audacity to assault the Lima Barros and the Cabral ironclads on the night of March 2, 1868. These desperate attempts, showing a heroic and barbarous devotion, were often repeated, but never successfully. After the canoe attack upon the ironclad Bar7'oso and the Monitor Rio Grande, off Tayi (July 9, 1868), the Brazilians thought it safer to throw a boom across the stream. The peculiar shape is derived from the old Payaguas, and even foreign ships of war seemed to take to them kindly. Two planks, twenty or thirty feet long, form the gunwales, and are fitted with a flooring, which is strengthened by lines and cross-pieces. The stem and stern, blunt-muzzled as a punt, describe the arc of a circle, and thus only a small central section touches the water, gliding and skimming the surface, and easily


812 TO humaitA.

propelled by the puny paddle — a shallow^ round wooden spoon. Some of these flat-bottomed and wall-sided craft, fitted with a troja, or hide hoiise^ could carry 200 tons.

An expedition of about 1200 men, armed with swords and hand-grenades_, was told off' under Captain Xenes, and after much fun and merriment they were dismissed with presents of cigars by Madame Lynch, who told them to " go and bring me back my ironclads.'^ They paddled off* on a very dark night in some forty-eight canoes, lashed in pairs by ropes about eighteen to twenty yards long, and each carrying twenty-five men.* By this contrivance they hoped to make sure of boarding, but the swiftness of the current carried many of them past the objects of attack into the very middle of the fleet. About half the number hit the mark and sprang on board almost unperceivedc The crews rushed below hatches and into their turrets — not, however, before some fifty of them were killed. The Paraguayans attempted to throw hand-grenades into the port-holes, and ran about seeking ingress, like a cat attacking a trapped mouse. The Lima Barros and the Cabral were thus virtually taken. Presently two other ironclads steamed up alongside their consorts, and cleared the decks with volleys of grape and canister. Nothing remained for the Paraguayan sur- vivors but to swim for life.

It is surprising that no attempts were made to blow up the ironclads. A heavy shell swung between two beams projecting like antennae from the bow of a canoe would have had every chance of success. But the object of the Paraguayans was not so much to destroy as to appropriate; and it was the general opinion that with a single captured ironclad at their disposal they would have cleared the river.


  • Lt.-Col. Thompson says " there were twenty-four canoes, each carrying

twelve men." But in the next page (254) he informs us that " the Para- guayans lost more than two hundred men."


TO HUMAITA. 313

The war, indeed, was altogether premature : had the cuirassed ships and the Whitworths ordered by the Marshal-President begun the campaign_, he might now have supplied the place of Mexico with a third great Latin empire.

We pass to the west of the islet below Humaita. Lieut. Day (1858) shows eleven feet the minimum depth near the left bank. Then sweeping eastward we sight the noble curve called the "Vuelta de Humaita/^ some 1500 metres long, with a stream 200 metres broad; the current is 2'8 and in places 3 knots an hour, diflScult to stem and dan- gerous to torpedoes. From afar appears the white church- tower which suggests the earliest stage of the Malakoff. We lumbered through a fleet of merchant steamers and sailing craft ; here and there lay an ironclad, and every- where the steam-launches, lately introduced amongst us, flew buzzing about like flies. In the heart of South America all is modern and civilized. Who shall say that war is not one of the great improvers of mankind ? Farewell.


LETTEE XV.

HUMAITA.


My dear Z-


Hamaita, August 24, 1868.


After a stare of blank amazement, my first question was — where is Huraaita ? Where are the regular polygons of the Humaita citadel? Where is " the great stronghold which was looked upon as the key- stone of Paraguay ?'* I had seen it compared with Silistria and Kars, where even Turks fought ; with Sebastopol in her strength, not in the weakness attributed to her by General Todleben and Mr. Kinglake ; with the Quadrilateral which awed Italy ; with Luxembourg, dear to France ; with Rich- mond, that so long held the Northerners at bay ; and with the armour-plated batteries of Vicksburg and the shielded defences of Gibraltar. Can these poor barbettes, this en- trenched camp sans citadel — which the Brazilian papers had reported to have been blown up — be the same that resisted 40,000 men, not to speak of ironclads and gunboats, and that endured a siege of two years and a half? I came to the conclusion that Humaita was a monstrous hum, and that, with the rest of the public, I had been led into be- lieving the weakest point of the Paraguayan campaign to be the strongest.

As so much that is erroneous has been written about Humaita, you will not object to a somewhat prolix true description.

The site of the " Blackstone" batteries is the normal re- entering angle of the eastern bank, but the sweep is more


humaitA. 315

than usually concave, to the benefit of gunnery and the detriment of shipping. Nothing more dangerous than this great bend, where vessels were almost sure to get confused under fire, as happened at Port Hudson to the fleet com- manded by Admiral D. G. Farragut. The level bank, twenty to thirty feet above the river, and dipping in places, is bounded by swamps up-stream and down-stream. Earthworks, consisting of trenches, curtains, and redans, disposed at intervals where wanted, and suggesting the lines of Torres Vedras, rest both their extremities upon the river, whose shape here is that of the letter U, and extend in gibbous shape inland to the south. The outline measures nearly eight miles and a half, and it encloses meadow land to the extent of 8,000,000 square yards — a glorious battle-field. This exaggerated enceinte, which required a garrison of at least 10,000 men, was laid out by a certain Hungarian Colonel of Engineers, Wisner de Morgenstern, whom we shall see at Asuncion. He was not so skilful as Mr. Boyle with the billiard-room of Arrah.

Humaita, in 1854, was a mere Guardia in the Department de los Desmochados (hornless cattle), a river plain, wooded over like the heights of Hampstead and Highgate in the olden time. When Asuncion was threatened in 1855 by the Brazilian fleet, and troubles were expected from the United States, the elder Lopez felled the virgin forest, leaving only a few scattered trees, grubbed up the roots, and laid out the first batteries, to whose completion some two years were devoted. The place does not appear in Mr. Charles Mansfield's map of 1852-53. In 1863, Mr. M. Mulhall describes a succession of formidable batteries which frowned on us as we passed under their range ; they are placed on a slight eminence, and seem guns of large calibre. First, four batteries a la harhette, covered with straw shed, which can be removed at a moment's notice ;


316 humaitA.

then a long casemate (the Londres)^ mounting sixteen guns, with bomb-proof roof; and finally, two more barbette bat- teries, making up a total of seventy-eight batteries. As the canal runs close to the bank, any vessel, unless iron-plated, attempting to force a passage must be sunk by the raking and concentrated fire of this fortification, which is the key to Paraguay and the upper rivers." (p. 84). At the beginning of the war it had only ninety guns in seven batteries. An exaggerated importance was always attached to it by the Paraguayan Government ; it became a great mystery, and strangers were not allowed to visit a settlement which was considered purely military. Mr. William Thompson, of Buenos Aires, narrowly escaped some trouble by strolling about to admire the pretty park-like scenery and the soft beauty of Humaita, a site then so amene and tranquil.

We will now land and inspect the river-side works, be- ginning up stream or at the easterly end.

We passed through the merchant fleet, then numbering some 270 hulls, supplying the 3000 booth-tents on shore ; this number includes the pontoons of the proveduria or commissariat. There is a line of shop-boats, whose masts support green waterproof awnings ; each carries a woman and an anchor, and they sell all small wants and notions — thread, mirrors, and so forth. Two chatas, or barge gun- boats, lie alongside the land, one carries a iO-inch mortar, the other an 8-inch iron gun.^ It was a hard scramble up the stiff bank, which ignored steps or even a ramp.

At the eastern end we found the corral of commissariat cattle occupying the place where stood the coal sheds and the iron-foundry. Here had been cast the gun '^^ Cristiano," lately sent as a trophy to the Brazil, weighing twelve tons.


  • The calibres of the 8-inch gun and the English CS-pounder are the

same, but the former weighs 65 cwt., the latter 95.


humaitA. 317

and made of bell-metal taken from the churches ; it fired a round shot of 150 lbs. One trunnion was inscribed '^ Arsenal Asuncion^^ (where it was rifled), 1867 ; on the other appeared the patriotic legend " La Religion k el Estado" — Church giving to State, somewhat a reversal of the usual rule. Next to the Fundicion de Nierro, a ragged orange-grove showed where the Paraguayan barracks had been ; those of the infantry lay further to the south-west. The sheds called barracks which lodged the escort of the Marshal- President were a little north of the church of San Carlos (Borromeo), a namesake of the elder Lopez ; on January 1, 1861, it had been consecrated, amidst general rejoicings, by the Bishop. Originally it resembled the Cathedral of Asuncion, as represented by Captain Page (p. 224) ; the colours are blue and white, whilst the cornices and pilasters evidence some taste. We read in 1863 — " The church is a splendid edifice with three towers, the middle one being 120 or 150 feet high ; the interior is neat, and a colonnade runs round the exterior; there are four large bells, hung from a wooden scaffolding, one bearing the inscription, Sancte Carole, ora pro nobis.^^ It is now a mere heap of picturesque ruins, with hardwood timber barely supported by cracked walls of brick ; the latter is unusually well baked, and the proportions are those of the old Romans — twelve or fourteen inches long, eight broad, and two thick. One belfry, with the roof and fa9ade, has been reduced to heaps ; the south-eastern tower still rises above the ruins, but in a sadly shaky condition. The Bra- zilians banged at the fane persistently as an Anglo-Indian gunner at a flagstaff; and the Paraguayans at times amused themselves with repairing it. The church of S. Carlos lies in Lat. S. 27" 2', Long. W. (G.), 61° 30^ and here the variation is 7° 50' E.

Near it is the Presidential " palace,'^ a ground-floor shed


318 HUMAITA.

of brick, witL. tiled roof, three doors, four windows, and a tall whitewashed entrance in token of dignity, leading to a pretty quinta, above whose brick walls peep oranges and a stunted " curii^^ (Araucaria Brasiliensis). The ^'^ three enormous tigers,^^ which each ate a calf for breakfast, are gone ; the front is bespattered and pierced with shot, and I see no signs of the bomb-proof " taniere^^ in which, they say, the Marshal- President used to lurk. The quarters occupied by Madame Lynch are far to the rear, in the ^^ women's encampment/^ The main sala, whence he drove away with kicks and cuffs the officers who announced to him the destruction of his hopes by the fall of Uru- guayana, was shown to us : here the Argentines found un- packed boxes containing furniture from Paris. This was their only civilized ^^loot; the rest was represented by rusty guns, by lean mules, by 100 cases of bottles containing palm oil, and by some fifty tercios or sacks of mate, each holding eight arrobas, and here worth $4.

Westward of the " palace'^ lie the quarters of the staff, the arsenal, the Almoxarifado (Custom-house, &c.), and the soap manufacture. These are the " magnificent barracks for 12,000 men of which we read in the newspapers, long, low, ground- floor ranchos, with mud walls, and roofed with a mixture of thatch, tile, and corrugated iron. Never even loopholed, they had been much knocked about and torn by shot. The arsenal has now been turned into commissariat and ammunition stores. It is fronted by a guerite or raised sentry-box, and by a huge flagstaff bearing the Brazilian flag.

The batteries are eight in number, and again we will begin with them up-stream. After a scatter of detached guns, some in the open, others slightly parapeted, we find the Bateria Cadenas, or chain-battery of thirteen guns, backed by the Artillery Barracks. The chain, which con-


humaitA. 319

sisted of seven twisted together, passed diagonally through a kind of brick tunnel. On this side it was made fast to a windlass supported by a house about 100 yards from the bank. Nearer the battery stood a still larger capstan : the latter, however, wanted force to haul taut the chain.

Crossing by one of three dwarf bridges the little nullah Arroyo Humaita somewhat below the Presidential " palace,^' we come upon the Bateria Londres, that Prince of Humbugs. M. Elisee Reclus, whose papers in the Deux Mondes (October 15, 1866, and August 15, 1868) are somewhat imaginative, makes the London battery deliver fire, even as he carries in his pen the railroad to Villa Rica. It was built for the elder Lopez by a European engineer. The walls were twenty-seven feet thick, of brick (not stone and lime). It was supposed to be rendered bomb-proof by layers of earth heaped upon brick arches, and there were embrasures for sixteen (not twenty-five) guns. Of these ports eight were walled up and converted into workshops, because the artil- lerymen were in hourly dread of their caving in and crumbling down.

The third battery is the Tacuary of three guns. Then comes the Coimbra mounting eight bouches a feUj and directed by the Commandante Hermosa. The three next are the Octava or Madame Lynch, with three guns en barbette ; the P esada, five guns, and the Itapirii, seven guns — all partly revetted with brick. Being the western- most and the least exposed to fire they have sufifered but little. Lastly, at the Punt a de las Piedars stands the Humaita redoubt, armed with a single eight-inch gun.

Beyond this point begins the entrenched line running south- south-west along the Laguna Concha, alias Amberi- caia, and then sweeping round to the east with a gap where the water rendered an attack impossible. The profile is good simply because defended by impenetrable bush. The guns


320 humaitA.

stand in pairs, witli a Paiol or magazine to every two, and they had been provided with 200 round of grape, shell, and case. The wet ditch is still black with English gunpowder ; some fine, mostly coarse.

The batteries were being rapidly dismantled ; the cade- nas and its two neighbours had been to a certain extent spared. The guns were all en barbette^ an obsolete system, showing the usual wilful recklessness of human life. Re- doubts and redans, glacis and covered ways, caponnieres and traverses, gorge works and epaulements, citadel and en- trenchment, were equally unknown, whilst embrasures were rare, although sods for the cheeks might have been cut within a few yards. Where the ramosia or abatis was used, the branches were thrown loosely upon the ground, and no one dreamed of wooden pickets. Though the stockade was employed, the palisade at the bottom of the cunette or ditch was ignored. Thus the works were utterly unfit to resist the developed powers of rifled artillery, the concentrated dis- charge from shipping, and even the accurate and searching fire of the Spencer carbine. The Londres work, besides being in a state of decay, was an exposed mass of masonry which ought to have shared the fate of the forts from Sumpter to Pulaski, and when granite fails bricks cannot hope to succeed. Had the guns been mounted in Monitor towers, or even protected by sand- bags, the ironclads would have suffered much more than they did in running past them.

Lieutenant Day (1858) gave to the eight batteries on his chart 45 guns ; to the casemate (Londres) 15 ; and to the east battery 50 ; making a total of 110. In 1868 the river and batteries had 58 cannons, 11 magazines, and 17 brick tanks (depositos de agua). The whole lines of Humaita mounted 36 brass and 144 iron guns : these 180 were increased to 195 by including the one eight-inch gun and


HUMAITA. 321

the fourteen 32-pounders found in the Gran Chaco. The serviceable weapons did not however exceed sixty. Many of them had been thrown into deep water^ and will be recovered when the level shall fall. Five lay half buried at the foot of the bank^ and ten remained in position : of these, three were eight-inch, four were short 32 or 36 pounders, and two were long 32-pounder carronades.

The guns barely deserve the name ; some of them were so honeycombed that they must have been used as street posts. They varied generally from 4-pounders to 32- pounders, with intermediate calibres of 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24. Not the worst of them were made at Asuncion and Ybicuy, whose furnaces and air chimneys could melt four tons per diem. Some had been converted, but it was a mere patchwork. A few rifled 12-pounders had been cast at Asuncion. There were sundry quaint old tubes bearing the arms of Spain ; two hailed from Seville, the San Gabriel (a.d. 1671) and the San Juan de Dios (1684). The much talked-of " breech-loading Armstrong " was an English 95 cwt. gun, carrying a 68-lb. ball, and rifled and fitted at Asuncion with a strengthening ring of wrought-iron. The breeching lay like a large mass of pie-crust behind it : the bursting had probably been designed, as the shot remained jammed inside.* The captured guns are now being divided into three several parts, each one of the Allies taking about forty, which may be useful for melting up into trophies and memorials. I was told that the Oriental share was twenty- eight guns, of which seven were brass.

I landed with my Blanco friends, who, charmed by my disappointment, despite the natural joy of once more seeing


  • This is possibly the " Aca vera," the 56-pounder, bored and rifled to

throw 150-pound shots, described by Lt.-Col. Thompson (chap, xiv.) It was called " shining head," from the soft expanding rings of brass, which were fitted with square-headed bolts.

21


322 humaitA.

camp life, chaffed me bitterly about this " chef d^oeuvre of an encampment/' this Sebastopol. They were hardly civil to a courteous Brazilian officer of rank — it proved to be General Argolo — who, riding past with his staff, invited us, though perfect strangers, to drink beer at his quarters. They would not even inspect the lines of the Macacos, as they called their Imperial Allies. Again and again they boasted the prowess of their own party, stating how 500 of them had defended Paysandii against a host.

In front of the Marshal- President's " palace^' we found a dozen Whitworth muzzle-loaders, whose shapely lines and highly-finished sights made them look, by the side of other weapons, like racers among cab-horses. Without engaging in the ^' battle of the guns, I may merely state that a few Armstrongs had been tried by the Brazilians, but were not found to succeed ; the Krupp, like the Lahitte, was ap- proved of, and the Woolwich gun was unknown to the Allies. The motley armature of the Paraguayans was a curious spectacle. By the side of some Blakely's self-rifling shells and balls, hand-grenades, which were found useful in the triumphant Abyssinian campaign, and the HalPs rotating rockets, without the sticks which merely steer them into the eye of the wind, lay huge Guarani wads, circles of twisted palm, like those which Egyptian peasant-women place between the head and the water-pot ; case-shot in leather buckets so quaintly made that it could hardly be efficient at the usual 300 to 400 yards ; canister composed of screws and bar-iron chopped up, and grape of old locks and bits of broken muskets, rudely bound in hide with llianas or bush ropes. To be killed by such barbaric appliances would add another sting to that of death. Here were large piles of live shells, some of them lightly loaded with ten to eleven ounces of powder, for the purpose of firing tents and levelling defences. The conquerors had not taken the


humaitA. 323

trouble to wet them, and an old gentleman of the party distinguished himself by scraping the spilt gunpowder with his boot-toes. I ran from him as I never ran before. During the last three days several explosions took place ; these extemporized soldiers were careless as Zanzibar blacks.

During the day I saw a review of a Brazilian cavalry corps numbering six full troops; and shortly afterwards all the Argentine army, or rather contingent, marched past. The first at once took my eye ; they were mostly Brazilians, Rio Grandenses, not liberated negroes. These Provincials, riders from their babyhood, are reputed as the best cavaliers throughout the Empire, where the " man on horseback^' is universal. Some were lancers ; their heavy wooden weapons, not nearly so handy as the bamboo of Hindostan, were deco- rated with white stars on red pennons; they carried regulation sabres and coarse horse-pistols, and the European trappings made them look much more soldier-like than the infantry. The lance, so worthless in the hands of raw levies, may be used to great effect by practised troopers : the Poles at Albuera proved it upon Colborne^s brigade of British infantry. The dragoons had swords, Spencer (8-round) carbines, and in some cases pistols. As Confederate General Lee, how- ever, truly remarked, " The sabre is timid before a good revolver,*^ and the carbine is not to be recommended on horseback. General Beatson foresaw, when commanding the much-abused Bashi Buzeuks in the Crimean campaign, that the revolver is the real arm for cavalry, and it should be accompanied by the yataghan, to be used when ranks lock. In due course of time it will be supplanted by the single or double-barrelled breechloader. I have lately tried the Albini or Belgian rifle, cut short, and provided with a short and heavy saw-handle, and I have had every reason to be pleased with it.

21—2


324 HUMAITA^

The cattle was in excellent condition; you could play- cards or count money, as the Spaniards say, upon their backs. The animals, however, like the men, were light ; they would be efficient opposed to Cossacks, but used against heavy cavalry they would dash up, recoil and shatter, as a wave is shivered by a rock.

As a rule the Brazilian cavalry has not seen much ser- vice in this war of earthworks. Their principal use has been in raids, reconnaissances, and attacks of outposts. "With few exceptions they have behaved remarkably well, and have been ably and gallantly handled by their officers, who acted upon the well-known axiom, that cavalry should never surrender. They are now somewhat in the position of the Crimean cavalry after the Charge of Balaklava. The Argentines, as a rule, were poorly mounted, and being mostly foreigners, were inferior riders. The Paraguayans at the beginning of the war had good cattle, but they were soon annihilated; horses here are rare, and the country supplies for the most part only a diminutive Yaboo. They charged furiously, not with the fine old Spanish war-cry " Santiago y a Elles! but with the Zagharit of Egypt and the Kil of Persia, a kind of trille here directly derived from the Bed Indians. They exposed themselves with upraised blades, like Mamelukes, careless of what they took, and determined only to give. Their lances are stout weapons of hard heavy wood, eight feet long, with iron heels measuring two and a half spans, and the heads are those of Anglo-Indian boar-spears, not exceeding two inches, and ending in bars that defend it against the sabre.

The Argentine army was variously reported — by its friends as an able and efficient arm ; by its enemies as a montonera, or horde of thieves and brigands, who have never had a siege gun in position. They began with 15,000 men, which speedily fell to 9000, of whom some 6000 were Argentines,


humaitA. 325

and as there is no recruiting in election times, they now probably do not exceed 5000. This is a small proportion to be supplied out of nearly 2,000,000 souls — in 1867 it was 1,500,000 — whom the Brazil expected to produce the personnel whilst she contributed the materiel. Yet all are agreed that in case of a war with the Empire, the Con- federation could turn out 50,000 men at arms. The Argentine losses in killed, wounded, and missing, are up to this time 2227 — their own calculation.

After hearing much '^ bunkum" at Buenos Aires, and reading many diatribes against the Marshal of the Army" Caxias, who preserved upon this subject a discreet silence, I was disappointed by the appearance of the force. The Argentine " Contingent" gave the impression of being fine men, large and strong ; the rank and file, however, showed a jumble of nationalities : the tall, raw-boned, yeUow-haired German, the Italian Cozinhero, and the Frenchman, who under arms always affects the Zouave, marched side by side with the ignoble negro. Sizing and classing were equally unknown ; uniforms were of every description, including even the poncho and chiripa, and the style of progress much resembled that of a flock of sheep. The corps of the four- teen Provinces, or rather their remnants, were separated by drums and bands foully murdering " Tu che k Dio." The best were evidently the Santa Fecinos, known by their double tricolor flag; this province has fighting colonies of Frenchmen, Swiss, and Germans, who have been accus- tomed to hold " Indians" in check. The officers, some mounted, others on foot, were mostly Argentines, and they rivalled their men in variety of dress : of nether garments, for instance, there were underdrawers, pink trousers, dark overalls, knickerbockers and gaiters, riding boots, and sandals. Par parenthese, the Argentines have only to adopt their national colours, silver and light blue, for an


326 humaitA.

army uniform, which would be neat and handsome as that worn by the cavalry of the defunct East-Indian Company.

The Argentines move easily : they have little commis- sariat, and foul hides take the place of the neat Brazilian pal-tents. A change of camp is periodically necessary, the ground soon becoming impure in the extreme. The men carried, besides ammunition, arms, and accoutrements, poles to support their mats and skins, raw beef, chairs, tables, and round shot to make hearths. They were followed by women on horse and foot, the hideous lees of civilization, and by carts whose wheel-spokes were bound with hide, and which bore huge heaps of household " loot.'^ Being badly paid, and often not paid at all, the men must plunder to live. As might be expected from a force of the kind, there is no ardour for the cause, and esprit de corps is utterly unknown. As will be seen, they do not even take the trouble to bury their dead. They are kept in order only by the drum- head court-martial, and by the platoon ready at a minute's notice.

As for the Oriental " army, I failed to find it. The force commenced under General Flores with 5600 men, and he handled it so recklessly that 600 were sent home, and 4600 were killed or became unfit to serve. The rem- nant of 300 to 400 is further reduced by some authorities to forty to fifty, of whom most are officers under a certain General B. Enrique Castro, who is characterized as a '^ gaucho ordinario.

The alliance of the Allies is evidently that of dog and cat. The high authorities have agreed not to differ, but the bond of union is political, not sympathetic. An exces- sive nationality amonst the Brazilians is kept up by their great numerical superiority ; whilst the Argentines, like our- selves in the Crimea, are sore about playing a part so palpably


humaitA. 327

" second fiddle/' Hence the war is nowhere popular on the Plata,, and troubles may be expected to accompany its termination. During my first visit to Humaita, I found that a long entrenched line^ with berm, parapet, and other requisites, had been dug to separate Brazilians from Argen- tines. The reason of the proceeding assigned to me, and probably to the Home Governments, was that the general commanding was fond of keeping his men at work. Are you tired of Humaita ? Then, a rivederci!


LETTEE XVI.

A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO.

Humaita, August 26, 1868.

My dear Z ,

Mr. Gould had given me an introductory- note to Lieutenant — now I am glad to say Commander C. Percy Bushe,, commanding H.M.^s steamer Linnet. A man-of- war in miniature^ and the only neutral ship here present, she is remarkable for trimness and neatness^ discomfort and in- utility. The commander could hardly stand upright in his state cabin, and several of the crew, amongst whom I recognised an old West African, suffered from fever. The " homey element " strongly asserted itself, and all were tired of the service — no wonder, after a monotonous diet of salt-junk, tired-beef, half-baked bread, and now and then wild duck and '^ partridge.^^ The Linnet's guns could have done little against a single 8-inch, and a few 68-pounders could easily have sunk her.

Lieutenant-Commander Bushe had been ordered up in February, 1868, with the view of protecting the so-called British '^ detenus/' Interested motives had spread evil report against ]\^rshal- President Lopez, and with few exceptions the press of Europe was so well packed that even Our Own Cor- respondent, the Consul of Rosario, was not permitted to print a line in favour of Paraguay. The war-loan of Sor Riestra, made against all neutrality laws, was to be supported per fas et nefas. After the Abranteso-Christie-nigger affair, the Brazil was to be treated with soft sawder. There was talk of another loan, but war — a game at which in these days subjects, not


A VISIT TO THE GRAN CIIACO. 329

sovereigns, will play — was costing the Empire about $200,000 per diem— a trifle of 14,400,000/. per annum.

The imagination of the anti-Lopists made notable dis- coveries. The Marshal-President of Paraguay had refused to treat direct with a junior naval officer when the British Minister Plenipotentiary at Buenos Aires was also ac- credited to him. Presently appeared in the papers a long order, purporting to have been issued by the Chief Magistrate of Paraguay, and directing the Linnetj in case of her making warlike demonstrations, to be sunk.

In September, 1867, Mr. Gould took the affair in hand. It was a hopeless errand. His mission in H.M.^s ship Doterelj Lieutenant Mitchell, was looked upon as a direct slight, especially after the personal visit of the French Minister M. de Vernouille — I need hardly say that in Paraguay everything of the kind coming from Buenos Aires is deeply resented. He came to take away with him certain English employes whose contracts had expired. But many had voluntarily renewed their engagements, and all were in an exceptional position. It was hardly reasonable to expect that the Marshal-President should dismiss a score of men — of whom sundry were in his confidence and knew every detail which it was most important to conceal from the enemy. Ensued another complication. Deceived by a noted intriguer, whose sole object was evidently to ascertain the animus of the political visitor, Mr. Gould drew up certain conditions of peace between the Allies and Paraguay. Amongst less important items was the voluntary exile of Marshal-President Lopez — he might as well have been asked to take up Paraguay and walk. The Chief Magis- trate was thus, according to the Paraguayan view of the matter, requested to withdraw from his home, his native land, the country that had elected him as ruler ; to abdicate


330 A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO.

the dignity conferred upon him by the nation ; to fail in his duty^ to act the coward.

Mr. Gould left Paraguay in no pleasant way, and, by a regrettable accident, the British widows and children given up to him were allowed to land at Montevideo and to tell all they knew. Returned to Buenos Aires (September 10, 1867)^ he expressed a very unfavourable opinion of Para- guayan resources and of the Bepublic^s prospects in the present war : this was a most delicate subject^ upon which a word in Paraguay cost a man his life. The document doubtless soon reached Asuncion, by means of the Para- guayan refugees, fugitives, and malcontents, who muster strong in the Argentine Confederation. Moreover, to the utter perplexity of European readers, it differs in all essen- tial points from the despatch (Sept. 30, 1867)^ forwarded to the Admiralty by Lieut. -Commander Mitchell.

Mr. Gould — directed by another Minister Plenipotentiary who also had not presented his credentials to the Govern- ment of Paraguay — proceeded a second time up the river on Sept. 4, 1868 ; but for some months before this period frightful reports concerning the " atrocities of Lopez appeared in every print, and it was not judged advisable to disembark from the Linnet. M. de Kerjegu, the French Secretary, landed, and visited the Marshal-President at head-quarters. Mr. Gould suffered from Chuchu, and again returned re infectd. His belief that the Paraguayan cause had completely broken down proved utterly erroneous, and he left for England on October 26, 1868.

Presently, in August, and again in October and Novem- ber, Captain Parsons, H.M.S. Beacon, steamed up the river, and was courteously received by the Marshal-President, of whom his impressions were highly favourable. He left on


  • Correspondence respecting Hostilities in the River Plate (! ) presented

to both Houses of Parliament. 1868.


A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO. 331

November 18, 1868, with fifteen of the so-called detenus ^ who were given to him under parole that he would not suffer them to communicate with those on shore. Amongst them was a Dr. Fox, who, having abjectly begged a passage down stream, afterwards insisted upon being landed. Cap- tain Parsons, however, shipped off all his live freight at Montevideo. A Mr. Nesbitt, mechanical engineer, having seen his wife and family on board, declared, in his own name and for a dozen fellow-workmen, that, having ever been well paid, fed, and treated, they would not abandon Marshal- President Lopez in his difficulties. This was unanswerable ; but those who wished to embroil us in an ignoble war de- clared that Mr. Nesbitt was forced to say what he did by the fear that his mates would be shot, and others shrewdly opined that the fate of poor King Theodore had changed the aspect of affairs. Again they were stultified by General Macmahon, the United States Minister who had replaced Mr. Charles A. Washburn. The anti-Lopists all declared him to be in durance vile amongst the mountains, and possibly compelled to superintend the preparations for a guerilla warfare. Despite these predictions, however, he returned, about the middle of 1869, to Buenos Aires, bring- ing good news of the British " captives,^^ who remitted, with his assistance, money to their families.

For the honour of the British name, I rejoice that we were not drawn into a disreputable broil with the gallant but overmatched little Republic. Even as it is, Marshal- President Lopez was justified in complaining that we should be more strict in enforcing the laws of neutrality. The Brazil was allowed to buy ironclads in England as well as in France ; though the case of the Alabama should long ago have taught us better. British and other foreign craft crowded the river, affording every possible assistance to the Allies. Marshal-President Lopez had surely a right to re-


332 A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO.

ceive his letters from Europe ; they were detained in the Consular Post-office at Buenos Aires.

Mr. Maxwell and I landed with Lieutenant-Commander Bushe in the Gran Chaco to inspect the site of the much talked-of chain. Thrown over the stream where it narrowed to 800 metres,, it was a twist composed of one large (1*75 inch) and six smaller diameters (1'25 inch)^ and it rested upon three chatas (barges), which were soon sunk by the Brazilian guns. The heavy obstacle then sank below the surface with a deep sag, and as there was no donkey-engine to tighten it, the Monitors might have passed safely over the bend. But it lay at the point where all the battery-fires converged, and no attempt was made either to blow up the chain-house, to remove it with gunpowder, or to cut the obstacle with cold chisels, as an active enemy would have done. More- over, the Paraguayans — who knew that no fort can hinder the transit of wooden vessels, even at the slowest speed, unless the channel be perfectly obstructed by scuttled craft or sunken cribs of stones, or unless the ships be detained under a heavy fire by chains or cables, booms, barriers, or similar obstructions — had provided it with those " mischievous things/^ torpedoes. They were coarse frictional affairs ; the employment of electricity as an igniting agent being un- known. One ironclad, however, had already been suc- cessfully torpedoed, and in the Brazil, as elsewhere, even disciplined men feel a natural horror of, and are easily de- moralized by, hidden mysterious dangers so swiftly and com- pletely destructive. At last, on February 18, 1868, when an unusual flood of nine feet quite submerged the chain, the ironclad squadron took heart of grace, ran, without suffering material damage, the gauntlet of the Humaita and Timbo guns, and anchored off Tayi up stream. Thus the chain proved useless.

The narrow spit of ground which the Gran Chaco here


A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO. 333

projects from the north-west to the south-east, and which forms the salient angle opposite the concave of Humaita, is called the " Albardon" — neck or peninsula. Lieutenant Day- makes it far too broad and massive. As usual in this swampy- region, accidents of ground are very complicated, and can hardly be explained without detailed plans. At the first sight it is evident that the Brazilians should have cut a deep channel across the Albardon, which is nowhere six feet above the water level : this would probably have changed the (bourse of the stream, when Humaita would have become an inland defence. The plan was suggested by Dr. McDonald, Surgeon - Major in the Argentine service, and naturally enough he was much derided by ignorant men.

In April, 1868, the Allied armies, having driven the Para- guayans into Humaita, determined to complete the invest- ment of their stronghold by surrounding it on the Gran Chaco side, and by cutting off all its supplies of provisions. General Rivas, with 1200-1500 Argentine troops, landed on April 30 at the Riacho de Oro to the south, marched north- wards, and after repulsing a Paraguayan sortie from Humaita, met on the third day 2500 Brazilian troops under Colonel Falcao. The latter had landed to the north below Timbo, whose defenders had attacked him to no purpose. The two corps amalgamated on May 3, and tlirew up the redoubt " Andai.^ The Paraguayans, also pushing on from Timbo, opposed this with a new work, the '^ Cora.^^ General D. Ignacio Rivas, determining to dislodge them, sent an attack headed by Colonel Campos and Martinez de la Hoz, a man of family and reputation. His '^ gallant rashness,* however, served him an ugly turn : the men fled, and both commanders were taken prisoners. An Argentine flag- bearer ran into the water, and his colours were picked up by the Monitor Para : she refused to restore them without taking a receipt, and the proceeding bred abundant iU-wiU


334 A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO.

in the Platine bosom. This affair was called the Battle of Acaynasa^^ — the '^ tangled bonghs ; " and Marshal-Presi- dent Lopez made of it a great victory.

Terrified by the determined reconnaissance pushed into the Hnmaita enceinte by General Osorio (July 16^ 1868), the Paraguayans resolved as usual to evacuate it, but this time they were somewhat too late. Of the Commanding Triumvirate, Colonels Alen, (not Allen, as the home papers wrote him), formerly Chief of Staff to General Robles, Francisco Martinez, and Captain Procopio Cabral, the former had blown away part of his face in attempted suicide, and the command had thus devolved upon the second ; D. Pedro Gill being then made third in command. A small ration of maize was issued to each man before embarkation, and the half-famished garrison began on July 23 the evacua- tion, which ended July 25. Their numbers had been 4600, families included : they were now reduced to 4000, of whom only about 2500 were fighting men. The women and children were first ferried over, running the gauntlet of the ironclads ; and sundry field-pieces were rafted up a trench which they had cut from the Albardon Point to an inner lagoon.

The stout-hearted fugitives at once threw up hasty earth- works on dry land between the waters. But their position was hopeless. North-east lay the Allied redoubt, Andai, backed by two ironclads ; to the south-west were also two ironclads, whose shot crushed through the thin wood, and crossing with the fire of the Andai, cut off their retreat to the west ; and finally, on the south-east stood the Chaco fort held by the Brazilians. The Allied force numbered some 12,000 men, of whom 2000 were Argentines. Yet the wretches fought for eleven days, losing 800 of their number ; amongst them Colonel Hermosa,who was killed by Lieutenant Saldanha, the nephew of the Portuguese grandee. Some 200 to 300 cut a path through the enemy^s lines and escaped


A VISIT TO THE GRAN CIIACO. 335

to Timbo ; they bore with tbem Colonel Alen, who was reported to have been wounded in the forehead by the splmter of a shell, and two English army-surgeons, Drs. Stevens and Skinner. Colonel Martinez and Captains Cabral and Pedro Gill surrendered to the enemy ; and it is reported that the wife of the first-named officer was cruelly murdered by Marshal-President Lopez, because her husband had suc- cumbed after so glorious a resistance.

We will now inspect the scene of action. At the tongue or tip of the Albardon, a little north of where the chain had been made fast to posts and tree-trunks, we found the little Chaco redoubt which defended the chain. It was held by the Allies to check the Paraguayan " dispersos,^^ or fugi- tives, who were at bay in the wood to the north-west. Three guns were inside and two outside ; the fosse was unflanked and of no importance. To the north-west we saw the gleam of the Laguna Ybera, or Vera, the shining water, with its Isla Poi, or narrow islet. The large pond is connected by a long ypoeira (Canoe channel) with the Riacho de Oro ; and when the floods withdraw, it divides into three or more sections. Nothing can be better adapted for ambuscades than this mass of tangled shrubby and reedy vegetation.

Advancing parallel with the right bank of the Paraguay River we entered a patch of jungle, abounding with snakes, pigeons, and woodpeckers. The large vegetation was com- posed of acacias and mimosas ; the smaller growth of the candelabrum-tree, the umbahuba of the Brazil {Cecropia peltata), now becoming common, and the tall cane, known as the " paja brava.'^ The boughs, adorned with orchids and small pink-flowered parasitic bromelias, were con- nected by the guembe, or tie- tie, which the learned Azara confounded with the guembetaya, that fine trumpet-flower followed by a maize-like fruit. A scatter of wooden crosses showed where luckless skirmishers had been buried, and


336 A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO.

mangruUos, or look-outs^ were attached to the taller trees. Presently we readied a clearing where the forest had been felled to admit the fire of the Brazilian ironclads. Our next step was to the Andai_, or Chaco Camp^ the redoubt thrown up by General Rivas. I met this gallant Argen- tine at Humaita. In appearance he was rather Italian than South American; a stout man of medium stature^, with straight features^ and rather bushy goatee and mustachios. Over his uniform he wore a weathered poncho of vicuna or guanaco wool, here costing some three gold ounces, not the usual cheap, tawdry imitations made in England; and the long riding-boots gave him the aspect of a man of action. He was then doomed to temporary idleness, his left wrist having been pierced by a ball during the disastrous attack of Curupaity.

The right flank of the Andai rested upon the river, and the left upon the Laguna Vera; whilst its front and rear were sufficiently protected from a coup de main either of cavalry or of infantry. At the approaches were three, and in places four, ranges of trous de loup {bocas de lobo), each armed with a sharpened stake. The abatis was picketed down according to rule, not loose-strewn after the Paraguayan fashion, which wants only a horse and a lasso to open a gap. A deep ditch and a parapet, with fascines and sandbags, com- pleted the defences. Inside were tall and effective earthen traverses, and strong bomb-proof magazines made of mould heaped upon layers of tree-trunks. The direct distance from Humaita was not more than two miles, and the Paraguayans had done their best to gall the garrison with shot and shell.

I here for the first time saw Brazilian soldiers in camp. About 600 men were throwing up inner works to contract the arc ; this was probably done to give them some em- ployment, for after the evacuation of Timbo the use of the place was gone, and the redoubt was presently dismantled. The camp appeared clean in the extreme, owing to the


A VISIT TO THE GRAN ClIACO. 337

stringent orders of Marshal Caxias_, who well knows that cholera is to be prevented by drainage, and that water impregnated with sewage and decay breeds fever. This purification takes the Brazilians some time, whereas the Argentines never attempt it. The men were under canvas, comfortably lodged in the gipsy " pals/^ which are here everywhere used ; they are better than our bell-tents, but inferior to the French tente d^abris. As each holds only one officer or two soldiers, they occupy much ground, and they are slow to pitch and to strike. On the other hand, they serve in this dangerous climate to prevent infectious disease.

The men were in excellent condition, well clothed, well fed, and only too well armed. Meat lay all about, and the half-wild dogs were plump as the horses. Poorly azotised, uncastrated, and killed after two or two and a half years, the flesh is here spongy, but still far more nutritious than in the Brazil. All must be of the best quality procurable, and the contracts are published yearly in an annex to the Relatorio or Report of the Minister of War. The cost of feeding each soldier is now about $1 200 (milreis).* Besides meat the men receive per six head a daily bottle of cacha9a (Brazilian rum) ; and they think with the Irishman, that if bread be the stafi" of life, whisky is the life itself.

The cavalry was armed as I have before described ; the artillery with sabre and carbine, often the Spencer ; and the

  • Cavah'y and infantry in camp receive per diem one bullock to seventy

or eighty men, averagino^ 3| to 4| lbs. per head ; farinha (mandioc flour), one-eightieth of the alqueire; mate, three ounces; salt, one ounce ; and tobacco, half an ounce. Cavalry on the inarch have an increased ratio of meat, one bullock to sixty men. Infantry on the march have one bullock to seventy head ; farinha, one-sixtieth of the alqueire ; mate, two ounces ; and salt and tobacco as in camp. Charqui (jerked meat) is served out on Wednesdays; and bacalhao, or stock-fish, on Fridays. The diet is varied with Brazilian lard (toucinho), black beans (feijao), rice and vege- tables. In the morning bread and coffee, and before night coffee, is served out. Of course the army has not always thus been living in clover, and at times it has suffered from severe privations.

22


338 A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO.

infantry with Belgian Enfields and sword-bayonets. Most of the latter, being liberated slaves, wonld have dune better work with the smooth-bore Brown Bess and with the old tri - angular bayonet. This weapon has played an important part in the war; the yataghan-shaped modern tool is too heavy for such unhandy soldiers, and our lately invented saw-sword-bayonet would have been worse still. The arms were piled, and the sentries objected, despite the uniform, to our passing inside — a precaution not useless in a country where the enemy has proved himself so desperate.

After a pleasant visit and a short chat with the officers, we retraced our steps to the clearing, and then plunged into the densely tangled thicket to the west-north-west. Here we found the redoubt thrown up by the fugitives from Humaita ; its right flank resting upon an arm of the Laguna, and the remainder surrounded by wood and scrub. There were platforms for their five brass guns, two-pounders and four-pounders ; they had dug pits for shelter in the uneven floor, and when a man was killed he at once found a ready- made grave. The fightiog had been fierce ; the trees around were cut and torn by cannon, and in one moderate-sized trunk I counted six scars.

Here the wretches defended themselves from the assailant between July 24 and August 4. Though half mad with hunger and delirious with night- watching, they fired upon two flags of truce. The Allies could have easily destroyed them, but, to their honour be it recorded, the nobler part was chosen. A Spanish chaplain in the Brazilian navy — Padre Ignacio Esmerata — devoted himself to the cause of humanity, and approached them, cross and white flag in hand. Still the desperadoes refused to surrender, till their officers proved to them that nothing could be gained by self-destruction. This bulldog tenacity of the Paraguayan, which is bred in his Guarani (" warrior ) blood, may be found in the his-


A VISIT TO THE GRAN CllACO. 339

tories of Mexico and Peru. Thus^ when an " Indian Ca- cique prisoner was sent by Cortes to Guatiraocin, "as the captive began to speak of peace, his lord ordered him in- stantly to be killed and sacrificed/^ (Third letter of Cortes, Collecion Lorenzana.) At length 1450* men, 95 officers, and two Franciscan friars included, yielded themselves up to General Rivas, who swore on the hilt of his sword that they should be safe ; they came forth from their forest den, and piled arms in the clearing which we have just visited, the officers retaining their swords, and the men being saluted by the Brazilian troops. The victors gained only four flags and a few worthless arms, with canoes, hides, and sheepskins — a richer plunder might be found in Dahome.

Fresh traces of the death-struggle still lay around, and everything spoke of the powerful and vehement nationality of Paraguay ; the miserable remains of personal property told eloquently of the heart which the little Republic had thrown into the struggle. The poor rags, ponchos of door- rug, were rotting like those that wore them ; and amongst fragments of letters we picked up written instructions for loading heavy guns. All were in the same round hand, legible and little practised ; it is said that in Paraguay the writing drill is regular as any other. There was a stand of broken sabres and bayonets ; stirrups of wood and metal, mere buttons, like those of Abyssinia, to be held between the toes ; and brass military stirrups, made wide to admit the boot. The short cloth kepis had been worn by infantry, and the tall leather cavalry caps, off which a sabre might glance, bore the national tricolor, the inverse of the Dutch, blue being the uppermost.

I felt a something of the hysterica passio at the thought of so much wasted heroism. And this personal inspection of the


  • The Argentine papers reduced the number to 1200 ; amongst them they

placed a few women and children. Some do not mention the two friars,

22— ii


340 A VISIT TO THE GRAN CHACO.

site where the last struggle had lately ended impressed me highly with Paraguayan strength of purpose^ and with the pro- bability of such men fighting to the last. Lieut. -Commander Bushe, following Mr. Gould^ believed that Marshal-President Lopez was utterly exhausted_, or that he would not have suflPered Humaita to fall ; that the weight of the Allies must soon bring about the " unconditional surrender ; that the success of the Brazil upon the river^ like the campaign of the Mississippi^ had cut the Republic in two ; and that Para- guay^ like Africa and the Confederate States^ however hard- shelled outside, w^ould be found soft within. In vain the Paraguayan prisoners declared that the war had only begun, and that none but traitors would ever yield. One of them asked the medical officer of the Linnet why the ship was there. " To see the end of the struggle/^ was the reply. Then/ rejoined the man, with a quiet smile, " ustedes han de demorar muchos anos.'^

The Brazilians affected likewise to look upon the fall of Humaita as the coup de grace, the turning-point of the cam- paign. This Jock once broken, the river door must soon open. About the same time reports of certain barbarities committed in Paraguay had assumed consistency, but often in a truly ridiculous form. H.M. steamship Linnet was supplied with many a telegram announcing that " Lopez continues his atrocities : he has shot his sister, his brothers, and the Bishop.^ These shaves," so familiar to me during three years' residence in the Brazil, were officially reported to headquarters. Whatever may have happened since, the assertions were then decidedly false. The next mail brought the report that Bishop Palacios, instead of being shot as he deserved, had received a war-medal or a Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit, a kind of Legion d^Honneur, bor- rowed from France, and established when the campaign began.

And now, " till the next/' as men here say.


LETTER XVII.

VISITS TO timb6 and to estabelecimento novo (alias

THE CIERVA REDOUBi). GENERAL ARGOLO.

Humaita, August 26, 1868. My dear Z ,

I bore from Corrientes an introductory letter to Commodore Francisco Cordeiro de Torres Alvim, Chef de Es- tado Mayor da Esquadra Imperial. This Captain of the Fleet — who is its arm as well as its brain — has the bluff, hearty manner of an old sailor, and speaks excellent English^ which he learned in the United States. He had hoisted his flag on board the Cannonheira Mearim, but he appears to be ubiquitous. During the three years' campaign he had been wounded in three places by the Chata-shell, which did such havoc in the casemate of the Tamandare ironclad. On Sunday, August 24, he came in the little steam-launch on board of which he seems to live, and offered Lieutenant- Commander Bushe and myself a passage up stream as far as Timbo — three to three and a half leagues.

A two-knot current was against us, and La Mouche ran gingerly on account of floating torpedoes and fixed infernal machines. Many had been fished up by the Linnet as well as by other craft, but not a few still remained. They did, on the whole, very little damage. A torpedo-brigade was of course unknown, and after the original maker, Mr. Bell, of the United States, died at Asuncion, no one was found capable of turning out an efiicient article. Cases contain- ing charges of 900 lbs. of gunpowder were tried : they always proved wet. The system was, I have told you, frictional and


342 TIMBO ESTABELECIMENTO NOVO.

of the simplest. A charge of 40 to 50 lbs. of gunpowder^ in a cast-iron cylinder^ was ignited by bolts at each end striking a small flask of sulphuric acid imbedded in chlorate of potash. The case was placed in a copper-sheathed cask which acted floatj and was protected by a framework of four iron bars or rods_, which^ of course^ lay up and down stream. This apparatus was apparently borrowed from the Confederate States, who thus improved upon the older system of dis- charging common gun-tubes, with long trigger-lines pulled by an operator on shore, or by the passing ship. But the Paraguayans neglected to apply to torpedo-canoes the out- rigger apparatus* which has rendered the once ridiculed in- vention of the Anglo-American Fulton an established offensive armament at sea, and a cheap, convenient, and formidable de- fence for rivers and harbours. It would certainly have done damage, for the ironclads had no picket-Monitors, and in an attack they never penned themselves round when at anchor with 30-feet logs. An English engineer in the Brazil proposed a projecting fender, two scantlings provided with iron teeth like a large garden rake, to precede the ex- ploring vessel ; his suggestion was not, I believe, adopted.

Up stream the scenery was charmingly soft and homely; well wooded on the Gran Chaco side, and clear to the east, showing the presence of banados and esteros, which, filled by high rains, remain stagnant. Upon the west bank lay the curious contrivances of the Timbo garrison when attempt- ing to throw provisions into Humaita. They killed half a dozen bullocks, and lashed them cross-wise to a jangada (raft) of bamboos or palm-trunks, thatched over with grass and pistia, so as to resemble a camalote.^"* This


  • Rear- Admiral T. A. Dahlgren recommended " long, slender pine poles

thirty to fifty feet long, lashed by pairs in the middle to form an X, into which enters the bow at one end, heels secured, and from the stern depends a net ; the whole to float" — the torpedoes.


TIMb6 ESTABELECTMENTO NOVO. 343

word properly signifies a species of waterlily, with fleshy leaves of metallic green^ aud with a blue flower-spike ; it is popularly applied to the floating islets that stud after floods the surface of the Platine streams^ and which are nowhere larger than on the rivers of West Africa, especially the Benin. Unfortunately, the current here sets to the west, and most of the rafts were lost upon the Gran Chaco shore.

The left bank was riddled by Parrots ; and lying under the trees as they fell were the corpses of the Paraguayans who had been killed by the Monitors, and of the Argentine Voluntary Legion who, in early May, had been led into a fatal ambush by General Caballero. The former were dis- tinguished by their fighting gear, regimental caps, cross- belts that carried their ammunition pouches, and a piece of half-tanned leather wrapped round the loins. The latter lay in uniform, except where it had been removed by the vultures. This want of decency did little credit to the service : the Augustines remained masters of the ground, and a small fatigue-party would have buried the unhappy mercenaries in a few hours.

We steamed up to the east of the long barren Isla de Guaycuru. In the smaller branch that divided it from the Gran Chaco were the remnants of two Paraguayan steamers, sunk by the Brazilian monitors. Admiral Carvalho, created Barao da Passagem for running past the batteries of Hu- maita, had neglected, like the Barao de Amazonas at Riachuelo, to pursue the flying enemy, and had allowed four or five of their craft to take lefuge in the streamlets above Asuncion.

Presently we reached the timber slope, down which the Paraguayans had shunted the guns of Timbo into the river. The thirty-two pounders had been fished out by a pair of Monitors, the Alagoas, (Captain Maurity), and the


344 TIMb6 — ESTABELECIMENTO NOVO.

Piauhy (Captain Wandenkolk) . Botli, second lieutenants when the war began^ are distinguished officers, especially the former, who, standing upon his quarter-deck, twice fronted the hot fire of the Humaita batteries. We inspected the Alagoas, a most efficient river-craft, drawing four feet ten inches, with high-pressure engines, which pant and puff like those of a railway, and armed like the Rio Grande and the Para, with 70-pounder muzzle-loading Whitworths, whilst the others had 120-pounders. The crews numbered thirty-six to thirty-nine men, of whom four work the turret and four the guns. The turret, whose in- vention belongs to Captain Cowper Coles, was made oval, an improvement, according to the Brazilians, upon the cir- cular tower. The thickness of the iron plates varied from a minimum of four and a half inches to a maximum of six inches about the gun, whose muzzle fitted tight to its port. This skin was backed by eighteen inches of Brazilian sucu- pira and peroba, more rigid and durable than our heart of oak. The bolts were often started, and the plates were deeply pitted by the 68-pounders, like plum-pudding from which the plums had been picked out. In some cases they were dented and even pierced by the Blakely steel- tipped shot, of which Marshal-President Lopez had but a small supply. Our naval officers have reported that the cast-iron projectiles impinging upon the armour, shivered into irregu- lar fragments, which formed a hail of red-hot iron, and left the gun without a gunner to work it. The battery men always knew when a ball struck the plates at night, by the bright Hash which followed the shock.

At this time the Brazilian squadron in the Paraguay River consists of a total of 39 keel, and 186 guns. Ten are ironclads, with plated batteries, some carrying wooden bulwarks, others stanchions and chains. There are six monitors, and three more building : in fact, every pro-


TIMb6 ESTABELECIMENTO NOVO.


345


vince will be represented by one. The rest consists of eleven gunboats, seven steamers, one corvette, two bombketcbes, one patacbo (schooner), and one brig.^ The fleet is to be increased by four new gunboats from Europe, which will be stationed in the Upper Uruguay.

The Monitors and some of the ironclads were built at Rio de Janeiro ; the rest were supplied by France and the Thames ironworks. A curious form of showing neutrality!

We landed at the redoubt Timbo, lately evacuated when the fall of Humaita took away its occupation. It is called after the old Piquete Timbo, whose deserted ranchos and orange-grove may still be seen someway up stream. The name, as is often the case in these rude regions, is taken from a tree which supplies wood for tables and indoor objects, and


  • The following is the official list :





Ironclads (10) :-


-





Salvado, 8


gun


5,130 men.


Brazil,


8


juns


, 145 men.


Monitors (6) : —




Tainandar^,


6


>5


120


jj


Alagoas, 1


J)


60 „


Barroso,


7


}>


149


>>



(now


36 to 39)


Bahia,


2


>>


147


j>


Rio Grande, 1


})


60 „


Herval,


2


»


134


>»


Para, 1


)}


60 „


Lima Barros


4


»


171


5»


Piauhy, 1


jj


60 „


Colombo,


8


}>


132


„


Ceara, 1


»


60 „


MarizeBarros,2


»


124


»


Sta. Catherina,!


)>


60 „


Cabral,


8


i)


130


»


Gunboats (11) :—




Belmonte,


8


„


129


>>


OnzedeJunho,2


»


83 „


Paranahyba,


8


jj


141


)f


Lindoya, 1


3»


22 „


Maracana,


8


J>


89


i»


E. Martins, 6


J>


108 „


Mearim,


8


J>


187


)f


Greenhalgh 2


>>


100 „


Mage,


8


J5


140


»


Bomb-ketches (2) :-


-



Itajahy,


6


»>


79


>t


Pedro Affonso, 3


J>


43 „


Beberibe,


8


>J


164


}>


F.deCoimbra,3


»»


52 „


Iguatemy,


5


»


120


)}


Corvette,Biihiana,22


»


166 „


Aragaary,


8


>»


82


SJ


Schooner, Iguassii




Ivahy,


6


»


101


•>


(carries the




Ypiranga,


8


))


79


»


Commodore), 4


}>


37 „


Steamers (7) : —






Brig, Peperi-assii, 1


)>


33 „


Taquary,


2


if


96


J>





Chuy,


2


»


73


>>


Total, 186


^uns


3719 men.


Tramandahy,


2


)f


44


»





346 TIMb6— ESTABELECIMENTO NOVO.

which is supposed to grow only from Corrientes to Paraguay. Here in early February^ 1868, the Marshal-President sent from Curupaity eight 32 -pounders and six 8-inch guns under Captain Ortiz. During the fall of Humaita it was gallantly commanded by General Caballero, the preux che- valier of the Paraguayan army. A young and handsome man^ distinguished by dash and reckless bravery, he and his aide- de-camp were captured by the enemy at the Battle of the Lomas, but both escaped. The Marshal-President knew his value ; he was the only Paraguayan who could safely under- take upon his own responsibility such a movement as the evacuation of Timbo.

Timbo, on the Chaco side, is the usual simple redoubt, in a shallow bend with the left, resting upon the river, and the right, as is shown by the smooth treeless grass, upon a dwarf banado. The bank being here barely four feet high, the gun -platforms required to be raised. Of these there were forty-one facing the east, west, and south ; eight old iron pieces remained, but all the field-guns had been car- ried oflF. Few cartridges and shells were lying about ; in fact, the leisurely evacuation was a perfect contrast to that of Humaita. The only extensive work was a triple line of zanjas, or wet ditches, parapets, and abatis facing to the south, and this the Brazilians were levelling. Hides were scat- tered about, and apparently had been i^sed for many dif- ferent purposes, for coracles, strengthened by wooden frame- works, and for sponging-tanks ; the latter were in " bangue " form, like saltpetre strainers mounted upon four dwarf uprights. The mat-huts and sheds had been burnt down. The Marshal-President is apparently determined to make every abandoned place a small Moscow. The normal electric wire had not been forgotten. We avoided entering the hot, damp powder-magazines ; they are full of the common flea, and of its penetrating kin [pulex penetrans), the bicho


TIMBO ESTABELECIMENTO NOVO. 347

do pe of the Brazil, the nigua or chigua {" a meat-bag ")

of the Spanish Antilles, and the jigger of the West Indies,

here called pique or chique. The pest extends everwhere

from Corrientes, where it is worst, to Asuncion ; and I heard

of a person suffering severely from a jigger that had fixed

itself in his eyeball whilst a roll of tobacco was being

opened. There were plenty of curios for the curious : brass

spurs, cavalry blades, and broken flint-muskets, remnants of

saddles rude as those used by the Pampas "Indians/^ and

drums with tricolor bands, and inscribed —

" Republico del Paraguay Veneer o morir."

A Paraguayan bitch, thin as a shadow, still haunted the deserted scene ; as we whistled to her she slunk away like a cimaron or wild dog.

On the next day Lieutenant-Commander Bushe took me in his gig to the Arroyo Hondo, " the deep channeV^ which bounds the Humaita bank immediately to the north. Up this stream the Brazilians had sent their light craft to cut off the Paraguayan garrison from the capital. On the right the land was swampy^ extending a few yards to the Laguna Cierva, the southern fork of the Arroyo ; rice might here be produced in abundance. Pistia grew near the water ; behind it stood the red-leaved Mangui hibiscus, whilst within were tall trees, acacias and mimosas, festooned with the parasitic HervadosPassarinhos (a polygonum), and dead trunks converted into pyramids of verdure by a convolvulus bearing flowers of dark pink. After rowing some two hours we came to a widening of the bed where the Arroyo headed in a lagoon. To our right was an earthwork called by the Brazilians '^ Estabelecimento Novo,^^ and by the Paraguayans the Cierva redoubt. The Marshal-President had armed it with nine field-pieces served by some 1600 men, under command of Major Olabarrieta. On the morning when the ironclads


348 TIMBO ESTABELECIMENTO NOVO.

ran past Humaita_, Marshal Caxias attacked it with about 6000 troops. The Brazilians charged gallantly, facing a storm of grape and canister at close quarters, up to the trench, and were four times beaten back with the loss of some 476 hors de combat. After exhausting his ammu- nition, Major Olabarrieta retreated on board the Tacuari and Ygurei steamers, and landed his men at Humaita. He lost his guns and about 150 soldiers : but he will be remem- bered by this beau fait d'armes. There is nothing to be described in the earthworks; they were «3ven more broken than those of Timbo. The land around was a desert ; not a living Paraguayan remained in this part of Paraguay ; it was odorous of carnage, like the Crimea, and the enceinte showed only two long lines of graves.

Evening came on in the deepest silence, and

  • ' calm was all nature as a resting wheel."

Towards sunset, however, the air became alive with mosqui- toes, which replaced the swarming sandflies, and which piped a treble to the hoarse bass whoop of the frog. The sanguinary culex punctured us with her bundle of stilet- toes, till we were obliged to defend ourselves with twig wisps. The plagues are said to bite through the closest cloth, and the soldiers must have suffered tortures from them in this campaign of swamps.

My companion was a keen sportsman, and he had lately had an adventure which recals the Spanish proverb, '^ Escaping from the bull one falls into the brook.^"* The land now begins to be rich in game. As a rule, the Para- guayan guardias and piquetes were not allowed to waste ammunition. The sky, which contains too much vapour ever to be dark blue, became vocal with the whistling duck {Fato Silbador or Anas Penelope) and its congeners, now emigrating southwards. Blue-rocks clove the air high


GENERAL ARGOLO. 349

overhead, and the parroqucts whirled past us with loud screams aud shivering flight. As usual, we were annoyed by the Pampas peewit, a sworn enemy to sportsmen. It seems to delight in warning its feathered friends that danger a])proaches, and its persistent clamour makes impatient the most patient. Fine snipe and dark grey snippet ran along the ground, in company with water-hens, and jacanas or lily-trotters { parr as) ^ of brilliant plume. Carrion birds abounded, with fish-hawks, and other accipitres; caracaras, the forefathers of the Guaycuru tribe; and the common Bra- zilian urubii, or turkey-buzzard — I heard of the celebrated urubii-rey, but I never saw it here. The most splendid spectacle, however, was the colthereira or spoonbill (ibis rubra), the guara of the Guaranis. Flights, varying in number from seven to twenty, formed long triangles, and their wings of the finest rose, merging into a dark pink, caught the reflection of the sun, who sank " like a cloven king in his own blood.^^ The pure light of heaven, absorbed by transparent vapour and by the impurities of the lower atmospheric strata, glowed with

•* Flaming gold, till all below Grew the colour of the crow."

Then the weird grey shadow, simulating a cloud-bank, rose in the west, and the moon saw us safely home.

Our next visit was to that distinguished soldier, General Alexandre Gomez de Argolo (not Argollo)Ferrao, commanding Humaita. Born at San Salvador da Bahia of a distinguished family that refused to recognise him, he at first served in the police under a civilian with whom he could not agree. He began in early life to study tactics, by no means a favourite pursuit in the Brazil ; and when he went to the war his friends predicted that he would do great things. They were right. He set out a major of infantry : he returned


350 GENERAL ARGOLO.

a Field Marshal and Visconde de Itaparica. After this change of life, his father was pleased to recognise him.

General Argolo is a Liberal in politics; and Liberals are apt to look after their own. In appearance he is of the bird of rapine type : short, thin, and small, with high nose and hawk^s eyes ; a tall, broad forehead, straight hair and beard waxing grey ; he may already have turned the half- century. Cool in the extreme under fire, he is deliberate in act and slow in speech : his drawling tones give you des crispations. He is loved as a father by his men, but he is by no means a favourite with the Argentines. General Osorio, whose salt humour and quaint sayings made me involuntarily think of Coeur de Lion, called him, in wicked pleasantry, Macio, miudo e massante " — a bony bit of a bore.

We visited the quarters of this " model marshal of the generalissimo Caxias.^^ The lodging was in the roughest state, and the tenant, ever ready for action, sat in long boots and chain-spurs. He pressed us to accept a cam- paigning dinner, and we soon saw the means by which he wins the hearts of men. He seated by his side a Brazilian private who had lost both his arms in the Curupaity affair, and he fed the cripple with his own hands. Not the least pleasing part of the spectacle was to see the perfect self- possession of the young Mineiro. After dinner entered a neatly-dressed Paraguayan boy whom Marshal Argolo had adopted. When taken by the Brazilians as they entered Humaita, the youngster asked who was the commanding officer, and walked up to him, saying, " General! you must be my father.^^

General Argolo accepted the charge, and I have no doubt that the orphan has found a home for life. Farewell!


LETTER XVIII.

RIDE ROUND THE HUMAITi. " QUADRILATERAL.'*

Humaita, August 27, 1868.

My dear Z ,

Wishing to see the contour of Humaita, we applied to General Gelly i Obes, who most courteously- lent us his own chargers, and sent with us one of his officers ; the latter had the appearance of a Bashi Buzuk Irregular, but he did not wear the sword of a private.

Our first visit was to the comercio, or camp bazar, situated immediately behind the tattered church. The flags of all nations waved over board huts, mat hovels, and canvas tents, which, foul in the extreme, formed a hollow square round a pool of filthy water. Some of them bore the ambitious names of Hotel rran9ais, de Bordeaux, and de Garibaldi. In these places you may get a bed and perhaps a bit of breakfast for the normal 1/. I may say that I saw for the first time the coinage of the Brazil in the valley of La Plata : during my three years" experience of the great Empire a gold piece was never in my possession ; silver never, except when wanted for a journey ; and the heavy copper " dump"' never whilst paper could be carried. In the unclean lines which represented streets, idle ruffians were lounging about, drunken cut- throats gave ear to guitar or accordion, and everywhere, on foot and on horseback, appeared the petticoats and the riding-habits of an unmis- takable calling. The favourite dress was bright silk, and many were robed

" In chintz, the rival of the showery bow."


352 THE HUMAITA " QUADRILATERAli."

Some of this class made fortunes like the more prudent kind of " Californian widow." I heard of one that obtained from a Brazilian officer the honorarium of 35/. — it was enough to bring water into the mouths of the honest.

We then turned south-east to the hospitals^ of which two are large and one small_, the Hospital dos Colericos. After the terrible attack of the last year^ all indigestions and cholerines were set down as the true Asiatic epidemic. About a dozen graves were being dug^ of course for cholera patients. But sporadic cases may be expected^ and General Argolo told us of a man who had died of pure fright. This, however, is the hot season, and even the river is not un- wholesome, despite the generation of filth. A few suffer from bad colds, the result of the raw south suddenly re- placing the tepid north wind ; and here the currents are meridional, instead of being diagonal like the north-east, the south-east, and the south-west of the coast. As a rule, the fevers are simple intermittents ; during six months the medical officer of the Linnet saw only one purely remittent case. The percentage of sick amongst the Brazilians is SJ, whereas in large armies it averages from 10 to 12. The ^^carabins" and apothecaries were booted to the fork, as in the Crimea, but here they were civil : one great swell sported a bridle, crupper, and saddle all silver, with the Argentine stirrup, of which at least four- fifths are under- foot. Many of the horses start and buck, and few are so easily managed as in Buenos Aires, where the lightest hand is required, and where the pressure of the reins upon the neck turns the animal.

Still bending south-east, I enjoyed for the first time in the southern hemisphere a long hand-gallop over the cool, soft, springy turf. It was scattered with the Solanum called Cepa de Cavallo, and with a pink-lined mushroom which the people term " toad^s meat." In places were dwarf


THE humaitA "quadrilateral." 353

pools, which the clayey ground long retains ; here the puddles that disappear after the third day in the Brazil last a fortnight ; the result is a bad mud or an unpleasant marsh. The orange trees, planted by Presidential orders, had mostly been felled, and a pile of five fruits costs a shilling instead of a cent. The few survivors were webbed over with the nets of a sociable spider dressed in black and red coat ; it gives a strong yellow silk which will make gloves and dresses, and some of it has been exported from Corrientes to Paris : I found a far stronger and more brightly-tinted material on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea. The ground was everywhere sprinkled with Whit worths '^^ anti-w^ar bolts,^' 40, 120, and 150-pounders, and costing each from 20/. to 50/. Very few had exploded, and a pointed stick soon told the reason why : they had been charged, not with gunpowder, but with a single one of its constituents, charcoal. The Paraguayans soon made for them a gun, the Criollo, rifled for 150-pounders, and sent thousands of the shot back to w^hence they came.

Passing the military prison, an open space round which patrolled a few guards, and from which the guarded could readily have " made tracks,^^ we reached the cemetery. A. neat gate, bearing aloft the cross, is pierced in the stout brick wall ; the Brazilians and Argentines rest outside it, and to the west is a space set off by the Marshal- President for the benefit of the heretic engineers who fell at Riachuelo. The tombs were mostly new, with a mosaic of little red tiles by way of slab ; some, probably children's monuments, ap- peared very dwarfish. The inscriptions showed a people that carried warlike discipline even beyond the grave : one of them reads, " Sirvio a la Patria por veient aiios con lealdad i constancia.^' Evidently such a race wanted only the newest appliances of civilization, and such ministering angels as Whitworths and Armstrongs, Lahittes and Blakelys, to

23


354 THE humaitA "quadrilateral."

make their cause,, despite the want of gros bataillons^ please the gods. But Fate was resolved not to countenance such an anachronism.

This cemetery was evidently the site for a citadel : a strong central work surrounded by mines, and able to sweep the whole enceinte, which now utterly lacks defence. Com- manding the rear of the batteries, both those of the river- side and of the interior, it could have converted what is now a feeble partly entrenched camp, an Aldershott or a Curragh, into a place forte. There was every facility for making the work, and the waste of labour which raises entrench- ments of sods and palm-trunks round eight and a half miles of enceinte, would have been well employed upon a refuge where the soldier, driven from his outer defences, could have found shelter and could still have baffled his enemy.

We then visited the place to the north-east of the church, where, on July 16, 1868, the gallant General Osorio first entered Humaita. Further north there is a still weaker point, and as a rule the entrenchments opposite the swampy grounds were quite neglected. It had been reported that boats full of armed men were crossing from Humaita to the Gran Chaco, and orders were at once issued to bombard the stronghold, whilst Osorio, with a vanguard of 10,000 men, was directed to make a reconnaissance in force. Compelled by the " wolves^ mouths "'â– ' to dismount his ca- valry, the General crossed the ditch and climbed the parapet, despite the frantic efforts of the few besieged. He sent at once to Marshal Caxias for reinforcements, but none were forthcoming ; the only shadow of an excuse being that the forces were much scattered, and that the over-cautious vete «  ran would not risk all fortunes upon a single throw. Osorio, furious with disappointment, seized a musket from a soldier, and as usual joined personally in the affray ; but he presently found himself compelled to retire. The Para-


THE humaitA quadrilateral." 355

guayans at once returned to their guns, which had not been spiked, and poured in a shower of grape and canister. The Brazilians, who had six hundred men hors de combat^ did not " retreat with banners flying and bands in front, as though marching on parade/^ According to the Semanario the Paraguayan garrison received the gold cross of the Order of Merit.

The Commander-in-Chief had doubtless been influenced by the terrible check at Curupaity, and he with his troops naturally believed that so strong an outpost must cover a formidable bulwark. At any moment a simultaneous assault upon any three or four places would certainly have taken Humaita, with perhaps the loss of some 500 men. The eva- cuation, however, was allowed to be carried on in peace and quiet, and the camp story was, that a French baker — others say an Italian pedlar — was the first to enter the land side of the highly ridiculous Sebastopol of the South.^^ Simi- larly, we may remember how fifty Russians in Petropavlofsky drove oif a French and English admiral with a squadron of five ships ; and when a second attack was made by a com- mander of a different trempe, only three dogs, instead of a swarming garrison, were found in the place.

This part of the profile is very poor : an Irish hunter might scramble over it. The only outworks were the usual loose abatis of branches and brushwood defending a sloping trench nowhere five feet deep, with at most eleven inches of water. There were no inner defences but a shallow drain eighteen inches deep and four feet wide : the earthwork parapet barely four feet high, and not more than nine feet thick, was propped up by palm trunks and provided with a banquette. I need hardly say that to be safe against a coup de main the escarp should be about thirty feet tall, swept by the flanking tire of artillery, and defended in front by a high counterscarp. There is nothing of the kind

2^—2


356 THE HUMAITA QUADRILATERAL."

here. The guns are wretched 3.2-pounders_, and each had 300 rounds of gunpowder^ grape,, case^ and shell ; solid shot being little used. Embrasures are wanting^ and the maga- zines are round-topped like ovens, so as to hold the bomb and to admit rain water. Some are open; others have been exploded by shells ; and the trench shows the usual waste of cartridges and powder-bags.

Issuing from the enceinte^ we turned down south upon the Curupaity^ or rather the Angulo road. It was crowded with cartSj horses, and camp followers, all moving up to Humaita. The tanks, large and small, were beautiful with the waterlily, which grows even in the trenches ; and the long-legged Parra trotted over the broad fleshy leaves of the Victoria Regia. This splendid nymphsea, the abati irupe or water-maize of the Guaranis, produces an edible fecula, like those of the Sind talabs. It is astonishing that the Brazilians, as they were regularly besieging the " stronghold,^ did not lay out approaches and flying zigzags. They excused themselves by declaring the land too swampy ; but the lines of thorny trees that streaked the grass and reeds of the baiiados, proved that solid ground, if sought for, might have been found.

After a mile and a half we reached the Brazilian lines of circumvallation thrown up by General Argolo : they were on a much more extensive scale than the works of the place invested. The embrasures stood faced with fascines, and their cheeks were revetted with sods; the berm was care- fully traced, and the expense magazines (Polvorinas), though wanting the sloping roof, appeared sufficiently solid. As the lines were never made a base of operations, the labour was wantonly wasted — it beat even the Russian batteries in the Crimea.

A hand-gallop of half an hour took us to Paso Pucu, alias Brites, from a hacienda or estate that once was here. Mar-


THE HUMAITA QUy\DUILATERAL." 357

shal- President Lopez made this spot^ the key of the second line^ his headquarters, and long defended it after the first or outermost, which skirted the north bank of the Northern Estero bellaco, had fallen into the enemy^s hands. At this important central point converged ten radii of telegraph wires coming from all parts of the so-called '* Quadrilateral/' The house occupied by the President of Paraguay and his family was in a small orange grove; and the low-thatched barn with whitewashed walls had been scribbled over by visitors in uncomplimentary style. It contained two small rooms : one for reception, and a dark hole for a sleeping berth. Opposite the door were the remnants of a rancho, in which balls and dancing parties had been given by " Supreme " direction. To the south was the Bishops hovel, which had fallen down ; and that of his assistants, Franciscan friars, was following its example. The ^' esporon" or bomb-proof, called a " cavern '^ by the newspapers, had been levelled ; it was built by Lieut. -Col. Thompson, with six feet of earth above and on both sides, and here it is said the Marshal-President used to conceal himself. Being within a few hundred yards of the enemy^s batteries, the barn was defended by three traverses, and without them it would certainly not have been commonly safe. We could not but remark the tall mangruUo, with its ladders surrounded by hides and matting, an unusual precaution intended to conceal petticoated ankles : I was assured that from this point the undaunted Madame Lynch used to direct bellicose operations.

We ascended the largest traverse, which contained 422,080 cespedes or sods ; these were usually 0.25 centimetres square by 0.10 thick. A total of nearly five millions had been ap- plied to the works, not including those upon the Tebicuary, and of these about one million were around Paso Pucii. Here, in the clear night air, we enjoyed a glorious view of


358


THE HUMAITA quadrilateral/


a country which had been fought over for two years ; and the first glance proved that the Quadrilateral was a long oval whose conjugate extended from Humaita north to the south-western point of the Upper Estero bellaco^ whilst its transverse section ran from Paso Espinillo to the Para- guay river. The former had a direct length of six and a half miles, and the latter of nearly four and a half. The grand total of the lines defended by the Paraguayans be- tween the beginning of the war and March 22, 1868_, was 56 kilometres. It is evident that the extension was a grand mistake.^

Behind us_, to the north,, is the enceinte of Humaita, form- ing the third or innermost line. This is connected with the second or middle line by a zigzag running north and south ; and it skirts the difi*erent " passes ^^ or swamp- fords, known


  • The following are the figures of the broken oval, supplied to me by

Lt.-Col. Chodasiewicz : —


Eastern Line.


Distance,


Length of advanced Trenches.


Espla- nades.


Maga- zines.


1. PasoBenitez to P. Espinillo

2. To the Augulo redoubt,

third line

3. To Sauce (south-west end

of third line) ....

4. Sauce towards Curupaily .

Western Line.

1. Line along Lagunas Chichi,

Lopez, &c

2. Line facing Curuzu . . .

3. Curupaity Hiver-frunt . .

Second Line.

1. From P. Espinillo to La-

guna Chichi

2. Base of so-called Quadri-

lateral

Totals . . .


6 kilom. 475 metres

2 „ 417 „

6 „ 427 „ 2 ,, 614 „

4 „ 460 „ 1 „ 929 ,,

1 „ 988 „

6 „ 376 „

2 „ 485 „ 35 kilom. 115 metres


8 m. 895

4 „ 955

2 „ 883 2 „ 168

1 ,,"240 20 m. 901


91 71

111

38

42

52 + 14

28

126 3

576


48

32

63 + 64 32

28

36 + 6

27

23

310


The Trihuna estimated the trenches of Humaita fronting the river at 3600; to the south, 3600; east, 3000; and west, 2100: a total of 12,300 metres.


THE humaitA quadrilateral." 359

as Pasos Benitez, Yasi (of the moon), Tanimbu (of ashes), and Espinillo, so called from a thorny tree. At this latter place the second line sets off to the west with southing, along a lorn a fronted with marshes, which communicate with the Laguna Chichi. The third or outermost line runs south by Paso Mora to the Angulo Redan ; thence, sweeping after a sharp angle to the south-west, it passes almost parallel with the second line by the Estero Rojas, a branch of the northern Bellaco, by the Madame Lynch redoubt, and by the Paso Gomez to the Sauce redoubt, and the Linha Negra, upon which it abuts. Here the anti-fosse was provided with a Tajamar or dam that raised the water one metre, and thus succeeded in destroying some of the Allied ammunition.

To the north-west of Paso Pucu, and apparently six to seven miles distant, we see the monte and orange groves of Tuyu-cue — ^' mud that was.^^^ This position was long occupied by the Brazilians. Further north on the high road to Asuncion, and also buried in monte and orange grove, lies San Solano, an estancia belonging to the state. The extreme left of the Allied camp during the earlier attacks, it lies nearly due east of Humaita, five leagues from Paso Pucii, and seven leagues from El Pilar. Looking towards the south, and about two hours' ride, we descry the Loma and palm forest of Tuyu-ti — a point so long held by the second division of the Brazilians.

From our vantage-ground, which commands a fine view of swamp, grassy plain and tree-mottes, we can easily master the excellent plan of attack proposed by Col. Chodasiewicz. He would have carried with 20,000 men Paso Pucu, the key of the position. At the same time 10,000 were to have marched up from Tuyu-ti after a few hours of bombard-


  • Cue is translated " fue" or " ha sido," " was" or " has been." It enters

into several bastard names of places, as Canipamento-cue.


360 THE humaitA "quadrilateral."

ment^ and anotlier 10_,000 would have issued from Curuzu and attacked Curupaity along the line of river-bank which was previously to be mined. This could have prevented the disaster of September 22_, 1867_, and the combination would probably have carried the works. But the Allies knew nothing of mining ; the plan was allowed to lie upon the Generalissimo Mitre^s desk^ and the attack was made in the bull-headed style before described.

Major Costa_, commanding a detachment of Argentine cavaliy posted at Paso Pucu_, kindly lent us a guide to the Angulo Redan. Passing out of the second line at Paso Espinillo^ we found the approaches strongly guarded ; there were bocas de lobo even under water. At this j^oint the enemy had been more than usually active : the parapet and covered way were often built over swamps for many yards^ and plank bridges (pontilhoes) had been carefully laid down.

Presently we reached the Angulo : its site is a felled palm-grove, whose stumps still remain, and the rolling " loma'^ upon which cattle were grazing commands the whole country. Outside it reeks the mass of esteros and baiiados which communicate with the northern Bellaco. The works were composed of two bastions enfleclie to the front, and of a curtain with a smaller bastion closing the gorge. Outside is a shallow trench, and a deep ditch requiring ladders. The garrison numbered 200 men, who worked only two of their sixteen guns : there were a few magazines and traverses of little importance. The Brazilians attacked the Angulo, whilst the Argentines took up their position further north near the Paso Espinillo where the position was weakest. General Emilio Mitre commanded, they say, 7000 men ; the Brazilians reduce the force to 5000 ; and they here stood for two hours at a distance of three squares.

At the Angulo we found a brother of our guide, with


THE HUMAITA QUADRILATERAL.' 3GI

troopers hutted under hides. A profusion of raw meat was hung up to dry, and the place was not without caiia. Leaving the redan we rode along the outer line of entrenchments. Here we saw the same kind of work, trenches 18 feet wide and deep ; and platforms for guns, 14 feet 6 inches square and 3 feet 6 inches high ; magazines at every 36 to 42 feet, traverses, sod-revetted parapets 6 feet tall and equally thick, a single cavalier, and a ruined farmhouse. The main diffi- culty of the attack was the nature of the ground. To the south an arenal or sand- wave hides from us Fort Itapiru. Northwards is the bouquet de bois that marks the head- quarters of the Marshal-President. Presently we struck northwards from the outer to the middle line, crossing per- pendicularly three several esteros. The water was girth-deep, and the bottom was black mud fetid with organic matter. Hence the name Paso Pucii, the Long Ford.

We then turned to the north-west, and soon reached the far-famed lines of Curupaity. The works, running nearly north and south, were much stronger and better made than any that we had yet seen. Unfortunately for the defenders it could be shelled by the ironclads, which were only thirty feet below it. The works were composed of glacis, fosse, and parapets of adobe revetted with sods. Inside was a ditch three or four feet broad, with a wall of about the same height, which acted covered-way and drained the terre-plein. The position is the plateau of Humaita : a tree-clad bank rising some twenty feet above the ponds and swamps which front it. The attack in front offered peculiar difficulties. On the right (north) was the copse where the Brazilians ad- vanced and were delayed by coming upon a small outpost : hence their loss was small, and they were accused of having saved themselves at the expense of their Allies. The left flank rested upon a deep lagoon, and between this and the monte lay the putrid knee-deep mire which the Argentines


362 THE HUMAITA "QUADRILATERAL."

attempted to cross. Our guide pointed oat the place where the brave Colonel Charloni^ commanding the Italian Legion^ after receiving a musket-ball through the lungs^ was killed by a canister shot ; and amongst the fatal casualties was the only son of President Sarmiento^ aged twenty-one.

Behind the earthworks a little Pueblo lay in ruins. We then rode to the comercio or bazar of Curupaity. It sug- gested past scenes at Balaklava and Kadi Keui. The timber walls and canvas roofs were bigger and more substantial than usual. The sutlers did not wish or expect to take Humaita so quickly. There was nothing for them now, how- ever, but to follow the army ; and the bustle of soldiers and of camp followers who were removing piles of wood and boarding, sacks of provisions, heaps of old arms, and hillocks of hides, showed that they did not wish to be left far behind.

We then galloped up the dusty road through the Brazilian lines, shook hands with our guide, and thanked General Gelly i Obes for the loan of his chargers. We had gone round about two-thirds of the so-called " Quadri- lateral,^^ or twenty miles in five hours, and there were no traces of '^ saddle-sickness.^^ Good-bye.