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The Battle of Riachuelo or simply Battle of Riachuelo, Fought to June 11 of 1865 on the banks of Riachuelo stream, A stream of Paraguay River, province of Corrientes in Argentina.

This is regarded by military historians as the most important battles of Paraguayan War (1864-1870).

The forcesEdit

Brazilian EmpireEdit

The Brazilian forces in the battle of Riachuelo were comprised of a corvette, a steamer and seven gunboats

Unit Tonnage Horsepower Firepower Notes
Amazonas 1050 300 1 70 lb and 5 68 lb Corvette-Flagship
Belmonte 602 120 1 70 lb, 3 68 lb and 4 32 lb Gunboat
Jequitinhonha 647 130 2 68 lb and 5 32 lb Steamer
Beberibe 637 130 1 68 lb and 6 32 lb

Gunboat

Parnaíba 602 120 1 70 Lb, 2 68 lb and 4 32 lb Gunboat
Ipiranga 325 70 7 30 lb Gunboat
Araguari 415 80 2 68 lb and 2 32 lb Gunboat
Iguatemi 406 80 3 68 lb and 2 32 lb Gunboat
Mearim 415 100 3 68 lb and 4 32 lb

Republic of ParaguayEdit

Unit Tonnage Horsepower Firepower Notes
Tacuarí 620 120 2 68 lb and 6 32 lb
Ygureí 650 130 3 68 lb and 4 32 lb
Marquez de Olinda 300 80 4 18 lb Captured from Brazil earlier in the war
Salto Guairá 300 70 4 18 lb
Paraguarí 730 130 2 68 lb and 6 32 lb
Yporá 300 80 4 guns Gun rates unavailable
Yberá Out of battle due a problem of engine
Pirabebé 150 60 1 18 lb
Rio Apa
2 Chatas 40 1 80 lb gun each Barges - Towed
5 Chatas 35 1 68 lb each Barges - Towed
Shore troops 22 32 lb and two congreve batteries Shore troops

The backgroundEdit

The basin Rio de la Plata was strategic for communications between the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern forts in Andes foothills. The transport of people, animals and goods was done by the rivers, since almost no roads until the second half of twentieth century. The country that controls the navigation of its rivers, but above its mouth, would control the interior of the territory and its economy.

Paraguay had no direct outlet to the sea, since the bowl was in the hands of Argentina and Uruguay, the latter in constant dispute between the interests of the Republic of Argentina and Empire of Brazil. For this reason, the most important fortifications of Paraguay had been erected on the banks of the lower course of the river Paraguay.

At the beginning of the conflict, the Paraguayan troops had occupied areas of then-province of Mato Grosso ( current state of Mato Grosso do Sul) in the Empire of Brazil and the Republic of Argentina. If he won the battle of Riachuelo, could navigate freely through the Paraguay River, down the Parana River, conquer Montevideo at Uruguay and, from there, then occupy the province of Rio Grande do Sul. This would be so great Paraguay, because would open the Atlantic for trade with other nations.

The Battle of RiachueloEdit

The Paraguayan fleet left humaita on the night of June 10, 1865, headed to the port of Corrientes. López had given specific orders
Batalla Riachuelo

Painture that represents Battle of Riachuelo (Victor Meirelles, 1872) In National History Museum, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

that they should approach stealthly the docked Brazilian steamers before sunrise and board them, thus leaving the ground Brazilian forces bereft of their navy early on during the war. For this, López sent nine steamers, Tacuarí, Ygureí, Marqués de Olinda, Paraguarí, Salto Guairá, Rio Apa, Yporá, Pirabebé and Yberá; under the command of Captain Meza who was aboard the Tacuarí. However, some two leagues after leaving Humaitá, upon reaching a point known as Nuatá-pytá, the engine of the Yberá broke down. After losing some hours in an attempt to fix it, it was decided to continue with only the remaining 8 steamers.

The fleet arrived at Corrientes afer sunrise, however, due to a dense fog, the plan was still executable since most, if not all, Brazilian forces where still on land. However, Captain Meza, not following López'es orders, ordered that instead of approaching and boarding the docked steamer, the fleet was to continue down the river and fire at the camp and docked vessels as they passed by. This new course of action proved catastrophic.

The Paraguayans passed in a line parallel to the Brazilian fleet and continued down the stream. Upon Captain Meza's order, the entire fleet opened fire on the docked Brazilian steamers. The land troops hastily, upon realization that they were under attacked, boarded their own ships and began returning fire. One of the Paraguayan steamers was hit in the boiler and one of the "chatas" was damaged as well. Once out of range, they turned upstream and anchored the chatas, forming a line in a very narrow part of the river. This was intended to trap the Brazilian fleet.

Admiral Barroso noticed the Paraguayan tactic and turned down the stream to go after the Paraguayans. However, the Paraguayans started to fire from the shore into the lead ship, Belmonte. The second ship in the line, Jequitinhonha, inadvertently turned upstream and was followed by the whole fleet, thus leaving Belmonte alone to receive the full firepower of the Paraguayan fleet—it was soon put out of action. Jequitinhonha ran aground after the turn, becoming an easy prey for the Paraguayans.

Admiral Barroso, on board of the steamer Amazonas, trying to avoid chaos and reorganize the Brazilian fleet, decided to lead the fleet down the stream again and fight the Paraguayans in order to prevent their escape, rather than save Amazonas.

Four steamers (Beberibe, Iguatemi, Mearim and Araguari) followed Amazonas. The Paraguayan admiral (Meza) left his position and attacked the Brazilian line, sending three ships after Araguari. Parnaíba remained near Jequitinhonha and was also attacked by three ships that were trying to board it. The Brazilian line was effectively cut in two. Inside Parnaíba a ferocious battle was taking place when the Marquez de Olinda joined the attackers.

Barroso, at this time heading upstream, decided to turn the tide of the battle with a desperate measure. The first ship that faced Amazonas was the Paraguarí which was rammed and put out of action. Then he rammed Marquez de Olinda and Salto, and sank a "chata". At this point Paraguari was already out of action. Therefore, the Paraguayans tried to disengage. Beberibe and Araguari pursued the Paraguayans, heavily damaging Tacuary and the Pirabebé, but the nightfall prevented the sinking of these ships.

Jequitinhonha had to be put afire by Paraguari and Marquez de Olinda. In the end, the Paraguayans lost four steamers and all of the "chatas", while the Brazilians only lost the Jequitinhonha, coincidentally the ship responsible for the confusion

The consequencesEdit

Fragata Amazonas

Amazonas, the flagship of the brazilian fleet that fighted in Riachuelo

The Brazilian fleet left the vicinity of the coast and landed in Corrientes Coast Chaco, To heal the wounded, bury the dead and reorganize. The next morning, the Brazilians weighed anchor and set off downstream toward the south. They were attacked on 12 and 13 June by the batteries of Captain Bruguez.

The Paraguarí, Who had been hit by the Amazon But resisted because it was armored, some months later, Lopez ordered to spend the metal defense Yporá And lead to Paraguarí Yeyuí River, sinking it here. In order of Lopez, a month after the battle, Yporá return to the site of the battle, and protected by the darkness of the night for a possible attack by a Brazilian ship located in the vicinity, came to the remains of Jequitinhonha, Stealing one of their guns.

Meza was shot in the chest during the battle, and died eight days later in hospital Humaita. Lee, hearing of his death, said: " If he had not died with a bullet, was to die with four, " that is, that should have been shot by the defeat, and ordered that no officer was present at his funeral .

Manuel Trujillo, one of the Paraguayan soldiers at the battle, remembered " When we long for the Brazilian fleet at full steam on the morning of November , we were all surprised because we knew that everything had to do was approach the vapors ' to approach '". He also recalled that during the battle, the ground troops carried the fleet to approach the Brazilian fleet shouted " Let us go to the vapors ! " We came to steal them , not to be killed by them ! ".

The defeat prevented the Paraguayan column in Paraná River government support to the Uruguay River: the advance of the troops of General Robles stopped at Santa Lucia River, and then ordered him back to Lopez Corrientes. On the other hand, the short-lived conquest of the city and the victory of the Riachuelo up the morale of the Argentine troops, as well as depressed of the Paraguayans and their allies in Corrientes .

Besides the overhelming victory for the Brazilians, the battle of Riachuelo got one more victory: they prevented the Paraguayan expansion to the Atlantic Ocean.

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