Spain 1849-1898 Chile 1826-1870 Peru 1821-1870

The Guano War of 1865-1866

also referred to as the Peruvian-Spanish War or Chincha Islands War

A.) The Diplomatic Situation Preceding the War

The Latin American countries had achieved their independence from Spain in the war of 1814 to 1826. Yet Spain had not yet recognized Peruvian independence (and was not to do so until 1879). When GUANO, bird excrements which were found on uninhabited islands off the Peruvian coast, became a lucrative export product, a Spanish fleet, reacting on an incident in which Spanish citizens had been killed by Peruvians on Chilean soil, occupied the Guano-rich CHINCHA ISLANDS and blockaded Peru's main port of CALLAO (1864).
A war hat not been declared; in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, public sentiment sided with the Peruvians; Chilean volunteers sailed off to Peru, and the authorities at the port of Valparaiso denied coal to the Spaniards, arguing that they could not supply a belligerent side. In September 1865, Spain declared war with Chile. In November 1865 Peru saw two coups d'etat; General Prado, who rose to power in the latter, declared a state of war with the Spanish government (Nov. 26th).Peru and Chile signed a defensive alliance against Spain on Dec. 5th 1865; Peru officially declared war on Spain on Jan. 12th 1866.

B.) The Military Cource of Events

The Spanish expedition fleet blocked the port of Callao since 1864, Valparaiso since September 1865. On Nov. 25th the Chilean Navy had captured the Spanish gunboat Virgen de Covadonga, a fight in which the Spanish suffered 4 dead. The next day the Spanish commander, Admiral Pareja, committed suicide.
The papers in Spain called for restoration of Spanish honour. The Spanish fleet in the Pacific consisted of one ironclad frigate, 4 steam frigates, 1 schooner (the Virgen de Covadonga lost to the Chileans) and several gunboats.

C.) Diplomatic Solution and Legacy

Peru and Chile maintained their independence. At the begin of the war, Peru had a navy considerably stronger than that of Chile; yet it was Chile which was to become the strongest sea power on the Latin American Pacific Coast.
The guano boom was of short duration and did not have a lasting impact on the Peruvian economy.
Spain's military adventures of the 1860es were unproductive.
Spain recognized Peru in 1879 and signed a peace with Chile in 1883.

Guerra con Espana 1865-1866, from Historia del Ejercito (of Chile), in Spanish
The War with Spain of 1865-1866 from The Peruvian Navy, the XIX Century Maritime Campaigns, by Juan del Campo
The Peruvian Army during the first years of the republic, by Juan del Campo, subfiles mostly concerning the Pacific War
The War of the Pacific, from Chile : a brief naval history, from Don Mabry's Historical Text Archive, scroll down
Chincha Islands War, from Armed Conflict Events Data by
DOCUMENTS President U.S. Grant, first message to Congress, Dec. 6th 1869, from Bob's History Page, mentions the Spanish-Peruvian war of 1865-1866 and the construction of gunboats for Spain in New York
Image : Spanish bombardment of Valparaiso, March 31st 1866, Spanish bombardment of Callao, May 5th 1866 from Mappe di Citta ed Altre Mappe Antiche

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz