The Life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, Tenth Earl of Dundonald, G.C.B., Admiral of the Red, Rear-Admiral of the Fleet, Etc., Etc.
by Thomas Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"And here," he continued, in sentences broken by his emotions, "as it is probably the last time I shall ever have the honour of addressing the House on any subject, I am anxious to tell its members what I think of their conduct. It is now nearly eleven years since I have had the honour of a seat in this House, and since then there have been very few measures in which I could agree with the opinions of the majority. To say that these measures were contrary to justice would not be parliamentary. I will not even go into the inquiry whether they tend to the national good or not; but I will merely appeal to the feelings of the landholders present, I will appeal to the knowledge of those members who are engaged in commerce, and ask them whether the acts of the legislative body have not been of a description, during the late war, that would, if not for the timely intervention of the use of machinery, have sent this nation to total ruin? The country is burthened to a degree which, but for this intervention, it would have been impossible for the people to bear. The cause of these measures having such an effect upon the country has been examined and gone into by my honourable colleague (Sir Francis Burdett); they are to be traced to that patronage and influence which, a number of powerful individuals possess over the nomination of a great proportion of the members of this House; a power which, devolving on a few, becomes thereby the more liable to be affected by the influence of the Crown; and which has in fact been rendered almost entirely subservient to that influence. To reform the abuses which arise out of this system is the object of my honourable friend's motion. I will not, cannot, anticipate the success of the motion; but I will say, as has been said before by the great Chatham, the father of Mr. Pitt, that, if the House does not reform itself from within, it will be reformed with a vengeance from without. The people will take up the subject, and a reform will take place which will make many members regret their apathy in now refusing that reform which might be rendered efficient and permanent. But, unfortunately, in the present formation of the House, it appears to me that from within no reform can be expected, and for the truth of this I appeal to the experience of the few members, less than a hundred, who are now present, nearly six hundred being absent; I appeal to their experience to say whether they have ever known of any one instance in which a petition of the people for reform has been taken into consideration, or any redress afforded in consequence of such a petition? This I regret, because I foresee the consequence which must necessarily result from it. I do trust and hope that before it is too late some measures shall be adopted for redressing the grievances of the people; for certain I am that unless some measures are taken to stop the feelings which the people entertain towards this House and to restore their confidence in it, you will one day have ample cause to repent the line of conduct you have pursued. The gentlemen who now sit on the benches opposite with such triumphant feelings will one day repent their conduct. The commotions to which that conduct will inevitably give rise will shake, not only this House, but the whole framework of Government and society to its foundations. I have been actuated by the wish to prevent this, and I have had no other intention.

"I shall not trespass longer on your time," he continued, in a few broken sentences, uttered painfully and with agitation that aroused much sympathy in the House. "The situation I have held for eleven years in this House I owe to the favour of the electors of Westminster. The feelings of my heart are gratified by the manner in which they have acted towards me. They have rescued me from a desperate and wicked conspiracy which has nearly involved me in total ruin. I forgive those who have so done; and I hope when they depart to their graves they will be equally able to forgive themselves. All this is foreign to the subject before the House, but I trust you will forgive me. I shall not trespass on your time longer now—perhaps never again on any subject. I hope his Majesty's ministers will take into their serious consideration what I now say. I do not utter it with any feelings of hostility—such feelings have now left me—but I trust they will take my warning, and save the country by abandoning the present system before it is too late."




To an understanding of Lord Cochrane's share in the South American wars of independence a brief recapitulation of their antecedents, and of the state of affairs at the time of his first connection with them, is necessary.

The Spanish possessions in both North and South America, which had reached nearly their full dimensions before the close of the sixteenth century, had been retained, with little opposition from without, and with still less from within, down to the close of the eighteenth century. These possessions, including Mexico and Central America, New Granada, Venezuela, Peru, La Plata, and Chili, covered an area larger than that of Europe, more than twice as large as that of the present United States. Through half a dozen generations they had been governed with all the short-sighted tyranny for which the Spanish Government is famous; the resources of the countries had been crippled in order that each day's greed might be satisfied; and the inhabitants, who, for the most part, were the mixed offspring of Spanish and native parents, had been kept in abject dependence and in ignorant ferocity. There was plenty of internal hatred and strife; but no serious thought of winning their liberty and working out their own regeneration seems to have existed among the people of the several provinces, until it was suggested by the triumphant success of the United States in throwing off the stronger but much less oppressive thraldom of Great Britain. That success having been achieved, however, it was soon emulated by the colonial subjects of Spain.

The first leader of agitation was Francisco Miranda, a Venezuelan Creole. He visited England in 1790, and received some encouragement in his revolutionary projects from Pitt. He went to France in 1792, and there, while waiting some years for fit occasion of prosecuting the work on which his heart was set, he helped to fight the battle of the revolution against the Bourbons and the worn-out feudalism of which they were representatives. During his absence, in 1794, conspiracies against Spain arose in Mexico and New Granada, and, these continuing, he went in 1794, armed by secret promises of assistance from Pitt, to help in fomenting them. They prospered for several years; and in 1806 Miranda obtained substantial aid from Sir Alexander Cochrane, Lord Cochrane's uncle, then the admiral in command of the West India station. But in 1806 Pitt died. The Whigs came into power, and with their coming occurred a change in the English policy. In 1807, General Crawfurd was ordered to throw obstacles in the way of Miranda, then heading a formidable insurrection. The result was a temporary check to the work of revolution. In 1810 Miranda renewed his enterprise in Venezuela, still with poor success; and in the same year a fresh revolt was stirred up in Mexico by Miguel Hidalgo, of Costilla, a priest of Dolores. Hidalgo's insurrection was foolish in design and bloodthirsty in execution. It was continued, in better spirit, but with poor success, by Morelos and Rayon, who, sustaining a serious defeat in 1815, left the strife to degenerate into a coarse bandit struggle, very disastrous to Spain, but hardly beneficial to the cause of Mexican independence.

In the meanwhile a more prosperous and worthier contest was being waged in South America. Besides the efforts of Miranda in Venezuela, which were renewed between 1810 and 1812, when he was taken prisoner and sent to Spain, there to die in a dungeon, a separate standard of revolt was raised in Quito by Narinno and his friends in 1809. After fighting desperately, in guerilla fashion, for five years, Narinno was captured and forced to share Miranda's lot. A greater man, the greatest hero of South American independence, Simon Bolivar, succeeded them.

Bolivar, a native of Caraccas, had passed many years in Europe, when in 1810, at the age of twenty-seven, he went to serve under Miranda in Venezuela. Miranda's defeat in 1812 compelled him to retire to New Granada, but there he did good service. He improved the fighting ways and extended the fighting area, and in December, 1814, was appointed captain-general of Venezuela and New Granada, soon, however, to be driven back and forced to take shelter in Jamaica by the superior strength of Morillo, the Spanish general, who arrived with a formidable army in 1815. In 1816 Bolivar again showed himself in the field at the head of his famous liberating army, which, crossing over from Trinidad, and gaining reinforcements at every step, planted freedom, such as it was, all along the northern parts of South America, in which the new republic of Colombia was founded under his presidency, in the neighbouring district of New Granada, and down to the La Plata province, where he established the republic of Bolivia, so named in his honour. With these patriotic labours he was busied upon land, while Lord Cochrane was securing the independence of the Spanish colonies by his brave warfare on the sea.

As the cause of liberty progressed in South America, it became apparent that it had poor chance of permanence, while the revolutionists were unable to cope with the Spaniards in naval strife or to wrest from Spain her strongholds on the coast. This was especially the case with the maritime provinces of Chili and Peru. Peru, held firmly by the army garrisoned in Lima, to which Callao served as an almost impregnable port, had been unable to share in the contest waged on the other side of the Andes; and Chili, though strong enough to declare its independence, was too weak to maintain it without foreign aid.

The Chilian struggle began in 1810, when the Spanish captain-general, Carrasco, was deposed, and a native government set up under Count de la Conquista. By this government the sovereignty of Spain was still recognised, although various reforms were adopted which Spain could not be expected to endorse. Accordingly, in April, 1811, an attempt was made by the Spanish soldiers to overturn the new order of things. The result was that, after brief fighting, the revolutionists triumphed, and the yoke of Spain was thrown off.

But the independence of Chili, thus easily begun, was not easily continued. Three brothers, Jose Miguel, Juan Jose, and Luis Carreras, and their sister, styled the Anne Boleyn of Chili, determined to pervert the public weal to their own aggrandisement. Winning their way into popularity, they overturned the national congress that had been established in June, and in December set up a new junta, with Jose Miguel Carrera at its head. A dismal period of misrule ensued, which encouraged the Spanish generals, Pareja and Sanchez, to attempt the reconquest of Chili in 1813. Pareja and Sanchez were successfully resisted, and a better man, General Bernardo O'Higgins, the republican son of an Irishman who had been Viceroy of Peru, was put at the head of affairs. He succeeded to the command of the Chilian army in November, 1813, when a fresh attack from the Spaniards was expected. At first his good soldiership was successful. The enemy, having come almost to the gates of Santiago, was forced to retire in May, 1814; and the Chilian cause might have continued to prosper under O'Higgins, had not the Carreras contrived, in hopes of reinstating themselves in power, to divide the republican interests, and so, while encouraging renewed invasion by the Spaniards from Lima, make their resistance more difficult. Wisely deeming it right to set aside every other consideration than the necessity of saving Chili from the danger pressing upon it from without, O'Higgins effected a junction with the Carreras, hoping thus to bring the whole force of the republic against the royalist army, larger than its predecessors, which was marching towards Santiago and Valparaiso. Had his magnanimous proposals been properly acted upon, the issue might have been very different. But the Carreras, even in the most urgent hour of danger, could not forget their private ambitions. Holding aloof with their part of the army, they allowed O'Higgins and his force of nine hundred to be defeated by four thousand royalists under General Osorio, in the preliminary fight which took place at the end of September. They were guilty of like treachery during the great battle of the 1st of October. On that day the royalists entered Rancagua, the town in which O'Higgins and his little band had taken shelter. They were fiercely resisted, and the fighting lasted through thirty-six hours. So brave was the conduct of the patriots that the Spanish general was, after some hours' contest, on the point of retreating. He saw that he would have no chance of success, had the Carreras brought up their troops, as was expected by both sides of the combatants. But the Carreras, short-sighted in their selfishness, and nothing loth that O'Higgins should be defeated, still held aloof. Thereupon the Spaniards took heart, and made one more desperate effort. With hatchets and swords they forced their way, inch by inch and hour by hour, into the centre of the town. There, in an open square, O'Higgins, with two hundred men—all the remnant of his little army—made a last resistance. When only a few dozen of his soldiers were left alive, and when he himself was seriously wounded, he determined, not to surrender, but to end the battle. The residue of the patriots dashed through the town, cutting a road through the astonished crowd of their opponents, and effected a retreat in which those opponents, though more than twenty times as numerous, durst not pursue them.

That memorable battle of Rancagua caused throughout the American continent, and, across the Atlantic, through Europe, a thrill of sympathy for the Chilian war of independence. But its immediate effects were most disastrous. The Carreras, too selfish to fight before, were now too cowardly. They and their followers fled. O'Higgins had barely soldiers enough left to serve as a weak escort to the fourteen hundred old men, women, and children who crossed the Andes with him on foot, to pass two years and a half in voluntary exile at Mendoza.

During those two years and a half the Spaniards were masters in Santiago, and Chili was once more a Spanish province, in which the inhabitants were punished terribly in confiscations, imprisonments, and executions for their recent defection. Deliverance, however, was at hand. General San Martin, through whom chiefly La Plata had achieved its freedom, gave assistance to O'Higgins and the Chilian patriots. The main body of the Spanish army, numbering about five thousand, had been stationed on the heights of Chacabuco, whence Santiago, Valparaiso, and the other leading towns of Chili were overawed. On the 12th of February, 1817, San Martin and O'Higgins, with a force nearly as large, surprised this garrison, and, with excellent strategy and very little loss of life, to the patriots at any rate, it was entirely subdued. Santiago was entered in triumph on the 14th of February, and a few weeks served for the entire dispersion of the royalist forces. The supreme directorship of the renovated republic was offered to San Martin. On his declining the honour, it was assigned, to the satisfaction of all parties, to O'Higgins.

The new dictator and the wisest of his counsellors, however, were not satisfied with the temporary advantage that they had achieved. They knew that armies would continue to come down from Peru, the defeat of which, even if that could be relied upon, would waste all the resources of the republic. They knew, too, that the Spanish war-ships which supplied Peru with troops and ammunition from home, passing the Chilian coast on their way, would seriously hinder the commerce on which the young state had to depend for its development, even if they did not destroy that commerce at its starting-point by seizing Valparaiso and the other ports. Therefore they resolved to seek for efficient help from Europe. With that end Don Jose Alvarez, a high-minded patriot, who had done much good service to Chili in previous years, was immediately sent to Europe, commissioned to borrow money, to build or buy warships, and in all the ways in his power to enlist the sympathies of the English people in the republican cause. In the last of these projects, at any rate, he succeeded beyond all reasonable expectation.

Beaching London in April, 1817, Alvarez was welcomed by many friends of South American freedom—Sir Francis Burdett, Sir James Mackintosh, Mr. Henry Brougham, and Mr. Edward Ellice among the number. Lord Cochrane was just then out of London, fighting his amusing battle with the sheriffs and bailiffs of Hampshire; but as soon as that business was over he took foremost place among the friends of Don Alvarez and the Chilian cause which he represented. With a message to him, indeed, Alvarez was specially commissioned. He was invited by the Chilian Government to undertake the organization and command of an improved naval force, and so, by exercise of the prowess which he had displayed in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, to render invaluable service to the young republic.

He promptly accepted the invitation, being induced thereto by many sufficient reasons. Sick at heart, as we have seen, under the cruel treatment to which for so many years he had been subjected by his enemies in power, he saw here an opportunity of, at the same time, escaping from his persecutors, returning to active work in a profession very dear to him, and giving efficient aid to a noble enterprise.




Having accepted, in May, 1817, the offer conveyed to him by the Chilian Government through Don Jose Alvarez, Lord Cochrane's departure from England was delayed for more than a year. This was chiefly on account of the war-steamer, the Rising Star, which it was arranged to build and equip in London under his superintendence. But the work proceeded so slowly, in consequence of the difficulty experienced by Alvarez in raising the requisite funds, that, at last, Lord Cochrane, being urgently needed in South America, where the Spaniards were steadily gaining ground, was requested to leave the superintendence of the Rising Star in other hands, and to cross the Atlantic without her.

Accompanied by Lady Cochrane and his two children, he went first from Rye to Boulogne, and there, on the 15th of August, 1818, embarked in the Rose, a merchantman which had formerly been a warsloop. The long voyage was uninteresting until Cape Horn was reached. There, and in passing along the rugged coast-line of Tierra del Fuego, Lord Cochrane was struck by its wild scenery. He watched the lazy penguins that crowded on the rocks, among evergreens that showed brightly amid the imposing mass of snow, and caught with hooks the lazier sea-pigeons that skimmed the heavy waves and hovered round the bulwarks and got entangled among the rigging of the Rose. He shot several of the huge albatrosses that floated fearlessly over the deck, but was not successful in his efforts to catch the fish that were seen coming to the surface of the troubled sea. The sea was made so boisterous by rain and snow, and such a stiff wind blew from the west, that for two or three days the Rose could not double the Cape. She was forced to tack towards the south until a favourable gale set in, which carried her safely to Valparaiso.

Valparaiso was reached on the 28th of November, after ten weeks passed on shipboard. There and at Santiago, the seat of government, to which he proceeded as soon as the congratulations of his new friends would allow him, Lord Cochrane was heartily welcomed. So profuse and prolonged were the entertainments in his favour—splendid dinners, at which zealous patriots tendered their hearty compliments, being followed by yet more splendid balls, at which handsome women showed their gratitude in smiles, and eagerly sought the honour of being led by him through the dances which were their chief delight—that he had to remind his guests that he had come to Chili not to feast but to fight.

There was prompt need of fighting. The Spaniards had a strong land force pressing up from the south and threatening to invest Santiago. Their formidable fleet swept the seas, and was being organized for an attack on Valparaiso. Admiral Blanco Encalada had just returned from a cruise in which he had succeeded in capturing, in Talcuanho Bay, a fine Spanish fifty-gun frigate, the Maria Isabel; but his fleet was ill-ordered and poorly equipped, quite unable, without thorough re-organization, to withstand the superior force of the enemy. An instance of the bad state of affairs was induced by Lord Cochrane's arrival, and seemed likely to cause serious trouble to him and worse misfortune to his Chilian employers. One of the republican vessels was the Hecate, a sloop of eighteen guns which had been sold out of the British navy and bought as a speculation by Captains Guise and Spry. Having first offered her in vain to the Buenos Ayrean Government, they had brought her on to Chili, and there contrived to sell her with advantage and to be themselves taken into the Chilian service. They and another volunteer, Captain Worcester, a North American, liking the ascendancy over Admiral Bianco which their experience had won for them, formed a cabal with the object of securing Admiral Blanco's continuance in the chief command, or its equal division between him and Lord Cochrane. Nothing but the Chilian admiral's disinterested patriotism prevented a serious rupture. He steadily withstood all temptations to his vanity, and avowed his determination to accept no greater honour—if there could be a greater—than that of serving as second in command under the brave Englishman who had come to fight for the independence of Chili. Thus, though some troubles afterwards sprang from the disaffections of Guise, Spry, and Worcester, the mischief schemed by them was prevented at starting.

A few days after his arrival Lord Cochrane received his commission as "Vice-Admiral of Chili, Admiral, and Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Forces of the Republic." His flag was hoisted, on the 22nd of December, on board the Maria Isabel, now rechristened the O'Higgins, and fitted out as the principal ship in the small Chilian fleet. The other vessels of the fleet were the San Martin, formerly an Indiaman in the English service, of fifty-six guns; the Lautaro, also an old Indiaman, of forty-four guns; the Galvarino, as the Hecate of Captains Cruise and Spry was now styled, of eighteen guns; the Chacabuco, of twenty guns; the Aracauno, of sixteen guns; and a sloop of fourteen guns named the Puyrredon.

The Spanish fleet, which these seven ships had to withstand, comprised fourteen vessels and twenty-seven gunboats. Of the former three were frigates, the Esmeralda, of forty-four guns, the Venganza, of forty-two guns, and the Sebastiana, of twenty-eight guns; four were brigs, the Maypeu, of eighteen guns, the Pezuela, of twenty-two guns, the Potrilla, of eighteen guns, and another, whose name is not recorded, also of eighteen guns. There was a schooner, name unknown, which carried one large gun and twenty culverins. The rest were armed merchantmen, the Resolution, of thirty-six guns; the Cleopatra, of twenty-eight guns; the La Focha, of twenty guns; the Guarmey, of eighteen guns; the Fernando, of twenty-six guns, and the San Antonio, of eighteen guns. Only ten out of the fourteen, however, were ready for sea; and before the whole naval force could be got ready for service, it had been partly broken up by Lord Cochrane.

There was delay, also, in getting the Chilian fleet under sail. After waiting at Valparaiso as long as he deemed prudent, Lord Cochrane left the three smaller vessels to complete their equipment under Admiral Blanco's direction, and passed out of port on the 16th of January, with the O'Higgins, the San Martin, the Lautaro, and the Chacabuco. He had hardly started before a mutiny broke out on board the last-named vessel, which compelled him to halt at Coquimbo long enough to try and punish the mutineers. Resuming the voyage, he proceeded along the Chilian and Peruvian coast as far northward as Callao Bay, where he cruised about for some days, awaiting an opportunity of attacking the Spanish shipping there collected in considerable force.

While thus waiting he employed his leisure in observations, great and small, of the sort and in the way characteristic of him all through life. One of his rough notes runs thus:—"Cormorants resort in enormous nights, coming in the morning from the northward to Callao Bay, and proceeding along shore to the southward, diving in regular succession one after another on the fish which, driven at the same time from below by shoals of porpoises, seem to have no chance but to be devoured under water or scooped up in the large bags pendent from the enormous bills of the cormorants." "Prodigious seals," we read in another note, "inhabit the rocks, whose grave faces and grey beards look more like the human countenance than the faces of most other animals. They are very unwieldy in their movements when on shore, but most expert in the water. There is a small kind of duck in the bay, which, from the clearness of the water, can be seen flying with its wings under water in chase of small fry, which it speedily overtakes from its prodigious speed."

From note-making of that sort, Lord Cochrane turned to more serious business. The batteries of Callao and of San Lorenzo, a little island in the bay which helped to form the port, mounted one hundred and sixty guns, and more than twice as many were at the command of vessels there lying-to. Direct attack of a force so very much superior to that of the Chilian fleet seemed out of the question. Therefore Lord Cochrane bethought him of a subterfuge. Learning that two North American war-ships were expected at Callao, he determined to personate them with the O'Higgins and Lautaro, and so enter the port under alien colours. It was then carnival-time, and on the 21st of February, deeming that the Spaniards were more likely to be off their guard, he proposed "to make a feint of sending a boat ashore with despatches, and in the mean time suddenly to dash at the frigates and cut them out." Unfortunately a dense fog set in, which lasted till the 28th, and made it impossible for him to effect his purpose before the carnival was over. Let the sequel be told in his own words.

"On the 28th, hearing heavy firing and imagining that one of the ships was engaged with the enemy, I stood with the flag-ship into the bay. The other ships, imagining the same thing, also steered in the direction of the firing, when, the fog clearing for a moment, we discovered each other, as well as a strange sail near us. This proved to be a Spanish gunboat, with a lieutenant and twenty men, who, on being made prisoners, informed us that the firing was a salute in honour of the Viceroy, who had that morning been on a visit of inspection to the batteries and shipping, and was then on board the brig-of-war Pezuela, which we saw crowding sail in the direction of the batteries. The fog, again coming on, suggested to me the possibility of a direct attack. Accordingly, still maintaining our disguise under American colours, the O'Higgins and Lautaro stood towards the batteries, narrowly escaping going ashore in the fog. The Viceroy, having no doubt witnessed the capture of the gunboat, had, however, provided for our reception, the garrison being at their guns, and the crews of the ships-of-war at their quarters. Notwithstanding the great odds, I determined to persist in an attack, as our withdrawing, without firing a shot, would produce an effect upon the minds of the Spaniards the reverse of that intended. I had sufficient experience in war to know that moral effect, even if the result of a degree of temerity, will not unfrequently supply the place of superior force.

"The wind falling light, I did not venture on laying the flag-ship and the Lautaro alongside the Spanish frigates, as I at first intended, but anchored with springs on our cables, abreast of the shipping, which was arranged in a half-moon of two lines, the rear-rank being judiciously disposed so as to cover the intervals of the ships in the front line. A dead calm succeeded, and we were for two hours exposed to a heavy fire from the batteries, in addition to that from the two frigates, the brigs Pezuela and Maypeu, and seven or eight gunboats. Nevertheless the northern angle of one of the principal forts was silenced by our fire. As soon as a breeze sprang up, we weighed anchor, standing to and fro in front of the batteries, and returning their fire, until Captain Guise, who commanded the Lautaro, being severely wounded, that ship sheered off and never again came within range. As, from want of wind, or doubt of the result, neither the San Martin nor the Chacabuco had ever got within fire, the flag-ship was thus left alone, and I was reluctantly compelled to relinquish the attack. I withdrew to the island of San Lorenzo, about three miles distant from the forts; the Spaniards, though nearly quadruple our numbers, exclusive of their gunboats, not venturing to follow us.

"The action having been commenced in a fog, the Spaniards imagined that all the Chilian vessels were engaged. They were not a little surprised, as it again cleared, to find that their own frigate, the quondam Maria Isabella, was almost their only opponent. So much were they dispirited by this discovery that, as soon as possible after the close of the contest, their ships-of-war were dismantled, the topmasts and spars being formed into a double boom across the anchorage, so as to prevent approach. The Spaniards were also previously unaware of my being in command of the Chilian squadron. On becoming acquainted with this fact, they bestowed upon me the not very complimentary title of 'El Diablo,' by which I was afterwards known amongst them."

Two hundred and forty years before, almost to a day, Sir Francis Drake—whom, of all English seamen, Lord Cochrane most resembled in chivalrous daring and in chivalrous hatred of oppression—had secretly led his little Golden Hind into the harbour of Callao, and there despoiled a Spanish fleet of seventeen vessels; for which and for his other brave achievements he won the nickname of El Dracone. Drake the Dragon and Cochrane the Devil were kinsmen in noble hatred, and noble punishment, of Spanish wrong-doing.

Retiring to San Lorenzo, after the fight in Callao Bay on the 28th of February, Lord Cochrane occupied the island, and from it blockaded Callao for five weeks. On the island he found thirty-seven Chilian soldiers, whom the Spaniards had made prisoners eight years before. "The unhappy men," he said, "had ever since been forced to work in chains under the supervision of a military guard—now prisoners in turn; their sleeping-place during the whole of this period being a filthy shed, in which they were every night chained by one leg to an iron bar." Yet worse, as he was informed by the poor fellows whom he freed from their misery, was the condition of some Chilian officers and seamen imprisoned in Lima, and so cruelly chained that the fetters had worn bare their ankles to the bone. He accordingly, under a flag of truce, sent to the Spanish Viceroy, Don Joaquim de la Pezuela, offering to exchange for these Chilian prisoners a larger number of Spaniards captured by himself and others. This proposal was bluntly refused by the Viceroy, who took occasion, in his letter, to avow his surprise that a British nobleman should come to fight for a rebel community "unacknowledged by all the powers of the globe." Lord Cochrane replied that "a British nobleman was a free man, and therefore had a right to assist any country which was endeavouring to re-establish the rights of aggrieved humanity." "I have," he added, "adopted the cause of Chili with the same freedom of judgment that I previously exercised when refusing the offer of an admiral's rank in Spain, made to me not long ago by the Spanish ambassador in London."

Except in blockading Callao and repairing his ships little was done by Lord Cochrane during his stay at San Lorenzo. On the 1st of March he went into the harbour again and opened a destructive fire upon the Spanish gunboats, but as these soon sought shelter under the batteries, which the O'Higgins and the Lautaro were not strong enough to oppose, the demonstration did not last long. Unsuccessful also was an attempt made upon the batteries, with the aid of an explosion-vessel, on the 22nd of March. The explosion-vessel, when just within musket-range, was struck by a round shot, and foundered, thus spoiling the intended enterprise. But other plans fared better.

At the beginning of April, Lord Cochrane left San Lorenzo and proceeded to Huacho, a few leagues north of Callao. Its inhabitants were for the most part in sympathy with the republican cause, and the Spanish garrison fled at almost the first gunshot, leaving a large quantity of government property and specie in the hands of the assailants. Much other treasure, which proved very serviceable to the impoverished Chilian exchequer, was captured by the little fleet during a two months' cruise about the coast of Peru, both north and south of Callao. Everywhere, too, the Spanish cause was weakened, and the natives were encouraged to share in the great work of South American rebellion against a tyranny of three centuries' duration. "It was my object," said Lord Cochrane, "to make friends of the Peruvian people, by adopting towards them a conciliatory course, and by strict care that none but Spanish property should be taken. Confidence was thus inspired, and the universal dissatisfaction with Spanish rule speedily became changed into an earnest desire to be freed from it."

Having cruised about the Peruvian coast during April and May, Lord Cochrane returned to Valparaiso on the 16th of June. "The objects of the first expedition," he said, "had been fully accomplished, namely, to reconnoitre, with a view to future operations, when the squadron should be rendered efficient; but more especially to ascertain the inclinations of the Peruvians—a point of the first importance to Chili, as being obliged to be constantly on the alert for her own newly-acquired liberties so long as the Spaniards were in undisturbed possession of Peru. To the accomplishment of these objects had been superadded the restriction of the Spanish naval force to the shelter of the forts, the defeat of their military forces wherever encountered, and the capture of no inconsiderable amount of treasure." That was work enough to be done by four small ships, ill-manned and ill-provisioned, during a five months' absence from Valparaiso; and the Chilians were not ungrateful.

Their gratitude, however, was not strong enough to make them zealous co-operators in his schemes for their benefit. Lord Cochrane was eager to start upon another expedition, in which he hoped for yet greater success. But for this were needed preparations which the poverty and mismanagement of the Chilian Government made almost impossible. He asked for a thousand troops with which to facilitate a second attack on Callao. This force, certainly not a large one, was promised, but, when he was about to embark, only ninety soldiers were ready, and even then a private subscription had to be raised for giving them decent clothing instead of the rags in which they appeared. For the assault on Callao, also, an ample supply of rockets was required. An engineer named Goldsack had gone from England to construct them, and, that there might be no stinting in the work, Lord Cochrane offered to surrender all his share of prize-money. The offer was refused; but, to save money, their manufacture was assigned to some Spanish prisoners, who showed their patriotism in making them so badly that, when tried, they were found utterly worthless. There were other instances of false economy, whereby Lord Cochrane's intended services to his Chilian employers were seriously hindered. The vessels were refitted, however, and a new one, an American-built corvette, named the Independencia, of twenty-eight guns, was added to the number.

After nearly three months' stay at Valparaiso, he again set sail on the 12th of September, 1819. Admiral Blanco was his second in command, and his squadron consisted of the O'Higgins, the San Martin, the Lautaro, the Independencia, the Galvarino, the Araucano, and the Puyrredon, mounting two hundred and twenty guns in all. There were also two old vessels, to be used as fireships.

The fleet entered Callao Roads on the 29th of September. On this occasion there was no subterfuge. On the 30th Lord Cochrane despatched a boat to Callao with a flag of truce, and a challenge to the Viceroy to send out his ships—nearly twice as strong as those of Chili in guns and men—for a fair fight in the open sea. The challenge was bluntly rejected, and an attack on the batteries and the ships in harbour was then planned. On the 1st of October, the smaller vessels reconnoitred the bay, and there was some fighting, in which the Araucano was damaged. Throughout the night of the 2nd, a formidable attack was attempted, in which the main reliance was placed in the Goldsack rockets; but, in consequence of the treacherous handling of the Spanish soldiers who had filled them, they proved worse than useless, doing nearly as much injury to the men who fired them as to the enemy. Only one gunboat was sunk by the shells from a raft commanded by Major Miller, who also did some damage to the forts and shipping. On the night of the 4th, Lord Cochrane amused himself, while a fireship was being prepared, by causing a burning tar-barrel to be drifted with the tide towards the enemy's shipping. It was, in the darkness, supposed to be a much more formidable antagonist, and volleys of Spanish shot were spent upon it. On the following evening a fireship was despatched; but this also was a failure. A sudden calm prevented her progress. She was riddled through and through by the enemy's guns, and, rapidly gaining water in consequence, had to be fired so much too soon that she exploded before getting near enough to work any serious mischief among the Spanish shipping.

By these misfortunes Lord Cochrane was altogether disheartened. The rockets, on which he had chiefly relied, had proved worthless, and, one fireship having been wasted, he did not care to risk the loss of the other. He found too that the Spaniards, profiting by the warning which he had previously given, had so strengthened their booms that it was quite impossible, with the small force at his command, to get at them or to reach the port. His store of provisions, also, was nearly exhausted, and the fresh supply promised from Chili had not arrived. He therefore reluctantly, for the time, abandoned his project for taking Callao.

He continued to watch the port for a few weeks, however, hoping for some chance opportunity of injuring it; and, in the interval, sent three hundred and fifty soldiers and marines, under Lieutenant-Colonel Charles and Major Miller, in the Lautaro, the Galvarino, and the remaining fireship, commanded by Captain Guise, to attack Pisco and procure from it and the neighbourhood the requisite provisions. This was satisfactorily done; but the sickness of many of his men caused his further detention at Santa, whither he had gone from Callao. On the 21st of November the sick were sent to Valparaiso, in the charge of the San Martin, the Independencia, and the Araucano. With the remaining ships, the O'Higgins, the Lautaro, the Galvarino, and the Puyrredon, Lord Cochrane proceeded to the mouth of the River Guayaquil. There, on the 28th of the month, he captured two large Spanish vessels, one of twenty and the other of sixteen guns, laden with timber, and took possession of the village of Puna. At Guayaquil there was another delay of a fortnight, owing to a mutiny attempted by Captains Guise and Spry, whose treacherous disposition has already been mentioned.

Not till the middle of December was he able to escape from the troubles brought upon him by others, and to return to work worthy of his great name and character. Then, however, sending one of his ships, with the prizes, to Valparaiso, and leaving two others to watch the Peruvian coast, he started, with only his flag-ship, upon an enterprise as brilliant in conception and execution as any in his whole eventful history. "The Chilian people," he said, "expected impossibilities; and I. had for some time been revolving in my mind a plan to achieve one which should gratify them, and allay my own wounded feelings. I had now only one ship, so that there were no other inclinations to consult; and I felt quite sure of Major Miller's concurrence where there was any fighting to be done. My design was, with the flag-ship alone, to capture by a coup de main the numerous forts and garrison of Valdivia, a fortress previously deemed impregnable, and thus to counteract the disappointment which would ensue in Chili from our want of success at Callao. The enterprise was a desperate one; nevertheless, I was not about to do anything desperate, having resolved that, unless I was fully satisfied as to its practicability, I would not attempt it. Rashness, though often imputed to me, forms no part of my composition. There is a rashness without calculation of consequences; but with that calculation well-founded, it is no longer rashness. And thus, now that I was unfettered by people who did not second my operations as they ought to have done, I made up my mind to take Valdivia, if the attempt came within the scope of my calculations."

Valdivia was the stronghold and centre of Spanish attack upon Chili from the south, just as were Lima and Callao on the north. To reach it Lord Cochrane had to sail northwards along the coast of Peru and Chili to some distance below Valparaiso. This he did without loss of time, to work out an excellent strategy which will be best understood from his own report of it.

"The first step," he said, "clearly was to reconnoitre Valdivia. The flag-ship arrived on the 18th of January, 1820, under Spanish colours, and made a signal for a pilot, who—as the Spaniards mistook the O'Higgins for a ship of their own—promptly came off, together with a complimentary retinue of an officer and four soldiers, all of whom were made prisoners as soon as they came on board. The pilot was ordered to take us into the channels leading to the forts, whilst the officer and his men, knowing there was little chance of their finding their way on shore again, thought it most conducive to their interests to supply all the information demanded, the result being increased confidence on my part as to the possibility of a successful attack. Amongst other information obtained was the expected arrival of the Spanish brig Potrillo, with money on board for the payment of the garrison.

"As we were busily employing ourselves in inspecting the channels, the officer commanding the garrison began to suspect that our object might not altogether be pacific, a suspicion which was confirmed by the detention of his officer. Suddenly a heavy fire was opened upon us from the various forts, to which we did not reply, but, our reconnoissance being now complete, withdrew beyond its reach. Two days were occupied in reconnoitring. On the third day the Potrillo hove in sight, and she, being also deceived by our Spanish colours, was captured without a shot, twenty thousand dollars and some important despatches being found on board."

That first business having been satisfactorily achieved, Lord Cochrane proceeded to Concepcion, there to ask and obtain from its Chilian governor, General Freire, a force of two hundred and fifty soldiers, under Major Beauchef, a French volunteer. In Talcahuano Bay, moreover, he found a Chilian schooner, the Montezuma, and a Brazilian brig, the Intrepido. He attached the former to his service, and accepted the volunteered aid of the latter. With this augmented but still insignificant force, very defective in some important respects, he returned to Valdivia. "The flag-ship," he said, "had only two naval officers on board, one of these being under arrest for disobedience of orders, whilst the other was incapable of performing the duty of lieutenant; so that I had to act as admiral, captain and lieutenant, taking my turn in the watch—or rather being constantly on the watch—as the only available officer was so incompetent."

"We sailed from Talcahuano on the 25th of January," the narrative proceeds, "when I communicated my intentions to the military officers, who displayed great eagerness in the cause—alone questioning their success from motives of prudence. On my explaining to them that, if unexpected projects are energetically put in execution, they almost invariably succeed in spite of odds, they willingly entered into my plans.

"On the night of the 29th, we were off the island of Quiriquina, in a dead calm. From excessive fatigue in the execution of subordinate duties, I had lain down to rest, leaving the ship in charge of the lieutenant, who took advantage of my absence to retire also, surrendering the watch to the care of a midshipman, who fell asleep. Knowing our dangerous position, I had left strict orders that I was to be called the moment a breeze sprang up; but these orders were neglected. A sudden wind took the ship unawares, and the midshipman, in attempting to bring her round, ran her upon the sharp edge of a rock, where she lay beating, suspended, as it were, upon her keel; and, had the swell increased, she must inevitably have gone to pieces.

"We were forty miles from the mainland, the brig and schooner being both out of sight. The first impulse, both of officers and crew, was to abandon the ship, but, as we had six hundred men on board, whilst not more than a hundred and fifty could have entered the boats, this would have been but a scramble for life. Pointing out to the men that those who escaped could only reach the coast of Arauco, where they would meet nothing but torture and inevitable death at the hands of the Indians, I with some difficulty got them to adopt the alternative of attempting to save the ship. The first sounding gave five feet of water in the hold, and the pumps were entirely out of order. Our carpenter, who was only one by name, was incompetent to repair them; but, having myself some skill in carpentry, I took off my coat, and by midnight, got them into working order, the water in the meanwhile gaining on us, though the whole crew were engaged in baling it out with buckets.

"To our great delight, the leak did not increase, upon which I got out the stream anchor and commenced heaving off the ship; the officers clamoured first to ascertain the extent of the leak; but this I expressly forbade, as calculated to damp the energy of the men, whilst, as we now gained on the leak, there was no doubt the ship would swim as far as Valdivia, which was the chief point to be regarded, the capture of the fortress being my object, after which the ship might be repaired at leisure. As there was no lack of physical force on board, she was at length floated; but the powder magazine having been under water, the ammunition of every kind, except a little upon deck and in the cartouche-boxes of the troops, was rendered unserviceable; though about this I cared little, as it involved the necessity of using the bayonet in our anticipated attack; and to facing this weapon the Spaniards had, in every case, evinced a rooted aversion."

The O'Higgins, thus bravely saved from wreck, was soon joined by the Intrepido and the Montezuma, and these vessels being now most fit for action, as many men as possible were transferred to them, and the O'Higgins was ordered to stand out to sea, only to be made use of in case of need. The Montezuma now became the flag-ship, and with her and her consort Lord Cochrane sailed into Valdivia Harbour on the 2nd of February.

"The fortifications of Valdivia," he said, "are placed on both sides of a channel three quarters of a mile in width, and command the entrance, anchorage, and river leading to the town, crossing their fire in all directions so effectually that, with proper caution on the part of the garrison, no ship could enter without suffering severely, while she would be equally exposed at anchor. The principal forts on the western shore are placed in the following order:—El Ingles, San Carlos, Amargos, Chorocomayo, Alto, and Corral Castle. Those on the eastern side are Niebla, directly opposite Amargos, and Piojo; whilst on the island of Manzanera is a strong fort mounted with guns of large calibre, commanding the whole range of the entrance channel. These forts and a few others, fifteen in all, would render the place in the hands of a skilful garrison almost impregnable, the shores on which they stand being inaccessible by reason of the surf, with the exception of a small landing-place at Fort Ingles.

"It was to this landing-place that we first directed our attention, anchoring the brig and schooner off the guns of Fort Ingles on the afternoon of February the 3rd, amidst a swell which rendered immediate disembarkation impracticable. The troops were carefully kept below; and, to avert the suspicion of the Spaniards, we had trumped up a story of our having just arrived from Cadiz and being in want of a pilot. They told us to send a boat for one. To this we replied that our boats had been washed away in the passage round Cape Horn. Not being quite satisfied, they began to assemble troops at the landing-place, firing alarm-guns, and rapidly bringing up the garrisons of the western forts to Fort Ingles, but not molesting us.

"Unfortunately for the credit of the story about the loss of the boats, which were at the time carefully concealed under the lee of the vessels, one drifted astern, so that our object became apparent, and the guns of Fort Ingles, under which we lay, forthwith opened upon us, the first shots passing through the sides of the Intrepido and killing two men, so that it became necessary to land in spite of the swell. We had only two launches and a gig. I directed the operation in the gig, whilst Major Miller, with forty-four marines, pushed off in the first launch, under the fire of the party at the landing-place, on to which they soon leaped, driving the Spaniards before them at the point of the bayonet. The second launch then pushed off from the Intrepido, while the other was returning; and in this way, in less than an hour, three hundred men had made good their footing on shore.

"The most difficult task, the capture of the forts, was to come. The only way in which the first, Fort Ingles, could be approached, was by a precipitous path, along which the men could only pass in single file, the fort itself being inaccessible except by a ladder, which the enemy, after being routed by Major Miller, had drawn up.

"As soon as it was dark, a picked party, under the guidance of one of the Spanish prisoners, silently advanced to the attack. This party having taken up its position, the main body moved forward, cheering and firing in the air, to intimate to the Spaniards that their chief reliance was on the bayonet. The enemy, meanwhile, kept up an incessant fire of artillery and musketry in the direction of the shouts, but without effect, as no aim could be taken in the dark.

"Whilst the patriots were thus noisily advancing, a gallant young officer, Ensign Vidal, got under the inland flank of the fort, and, with a few men, contrived to tear up some pallisades, by which a bridge was made across the ditch. In that way he and his small party entered and formed noiselessly under cover of some branches of trees, while the garrison, numbering about eight hundred soldiers, were directing their whole attention in an opposite direction.

"A volley from Vidal's party convinced the Spaniards that they had been taken in flank. Without waiting to ascertain the number of those who had outflanked them, they instantly took to flight, filling with a like panic a column of three hundred men drawn up behind the fort. The Chilians, who were now well up, bayoneted them by dozens as they attempted to gain the forts; and when the forts were opened to receive them the patriots entered at the same time, and thus drove them from fort to fort into the Castle of Corral, together with two hundred more who had abandoned some guns advantageously placed on a height at Fort Chorocomayo. The Corral was stormed with equal rapidity, a number of the enemy escaping in boats to Valdivia, others plunging into the forest. Upwards of a hundred fell into our hands, and on the following morning the like number were found to have been bayoneted. Our loss was seven men killed and nineteen wounded.

"On the 5th, the Intrepido and Montezuma, which had been left near Fort Ingles, entered the harbour, being fired at in their passage by Fort Niebla, on the eastern shore. On their coming to an anchor at the Corral, two hundred men were again embarked to attack Forts Niebla, Carbonero, and Piojo. The O'Higgins also appeared in sight off the mouth of the harbour. The Spaniards thereupon summarily abandoned the forts on the eastern side; no doubt judging that, as the western forts had been captured without the aid of the frigate, they had, now that she had arrived, no chance of successfully defending them.

"On the 6th, the troops were again embarked to pursue the flying garrison up the river, when we received a flag of truce, informing us that the enemy had abandoned the town, after plundering the private houses and magazines, and with the governor, Colonel Montoya, had fled in the direction of Chiloe. The booty which fell into our hands, exclusive of the value of the forts and public buildings, was considerable, Valdivia being the chief military depot in the southern side of the continent. Amongst the military stores were upwards of 50 tons of gunpowder, 10,000 cannon-shot, 170,000 musket-cartridges, a large quantity of small arms, 128 guns, of which 53 were brass and the remainder iron, the ship Dolores—afterwards sold at Valparaiso for twenty thousand dollars—with public stores sold for the like value, and plate, of which General Sanchez had previously stripped the churches of Concepcion, valued at sixteen thousand dollars." Those prizes compensated over and over again for the loss of the Intrepido, which grounded in the channel, and the injuries done to the O'Higgins on her way to Valdivia.

But the value of Lord Cochrane's capture of this stronghold was not to be counted in money. By its daring conception and easy completion the Spaniards, besides losing their great southern starting-point for attacks on Chili and the other states that were fighting for their freedom, lost heart, to a great extent, in their whole South American warfare. They saw that their insurgent colonists had now found a champion too bold, too cautious, too honest, and too prosperous for them any longer to hope that they could succeed in their efforts to win back the dependencies which were shaking off the thraldom of three centuries.




Lord Cochrane returned to Valparaiso on the 27th of February, 1820. By General O'Higgins, the Supreme Director, and by the populace he was enthusiastically received. But Zenteno, the Minister of Marine, and other members of the Government, jealous of the fresh renown which he had won by his conquest of Valdivia, showed their jealousy in various offensive ways.

In anticipation of his failure they had prepared an elaborate charge of insubordination, in that he had not come back direct from Callao. Now that he had triumphed, they sought at first to have him reprimanded for attempting so hazardous an exploit, and afterwards to rob him of his due on the ground that his achievement was insignificant and valueless. When they were compelled by the voice of the people to declare publicly that "the capture of Valdivia was the happy result of an admirably-arranged plan and of the most daring execution," they refused to award either to him or to his comrades any other recompense than was contained in the verbal compliment; and, on his refusing to give up his prizes until the seamen had been paid their arrears of wages, he was threatened with prosecution for detention of the national property.

The threat was impotent, as the people of Chili would not for a moment have permitted such an indignity to their champion. But so irritating were this and other attempted persecutions to Lord Cochrane that, on the 14th of May, he tendered to the Supreme Director his resignation of service under the Chilian Government. That proposal was, of course, rejected; but with the rejection came a promise of better treatment. The seamen were paid in July, and the Valdivian prize-money was nominally awarded. Lord Cochrane's share amounted to 67,000 dollars, and to this was added a grant of land at Rio Clara. But the money was never paid, and the estate was forcibly seized a few years afterwards.

Other annoyances, which need not here be detailed, were offered to Lord Cochrane, and thus six months were wasted by Zenteno and his associates in the Chilian senate. "The senate," said Lord Cochrane, "was an anomaly in state government. It consisted of five members, whose functions were to remain only during the first struggles of the country for independence; but this body had now assumed a permanent right to dictatorial control, whilst there was no appeal from their arbitrary conduct, except to themselves. They arrogated the title of 'Most Excellent,' whilst the Supreme Director was simply 'His Excellency;' his position, though nominally head of the executive, being really that of mouthpiece to the senate, which, assuming all power, deprived the Executive Government of its legitimate influence, so that no armament could be equipped, no public work undertaken, no troops raised, and no taxes levied, except by the consent of this irresponsible body. For such a clique the plain, simple good sense of the Supreme Director was no match. He was led to believe that a crooked policy was a necessary evil of government, and, as such a policy was adverse to his own nature, he was the more easily induced to surrender its administration to others who were free from his conscientious principles." Those sentences explain the treatment to which, now and afterwards, Lord Cochrane was subjected.

He was allowed, however, to do further excellent service to the nation which had already begun to reward him with nothing but ingratitude. As soon as the Chilian Government could turn from its spiteful exercise to its proper duty of consolidating the independence of the insurgents from Spanish dominion, it was resolved to despatch as strong a force as could be raised for another and more formidable expedition to Peru, whereby at the same time the Peruvians should be freed from the tyranny by which they were still oppressed, and the Chilians should be rid of the constant danger that they incurred from the presence of a Spanish army in Lima, Callao, and other garrisons, ready to bear down upon them again and again, as it had often done before. In 1819 Lord Cochrane had vainly asked for a suitable land force with which to aid his attack upon Callao. It was now resolved to organize a Liberating Army, after the fashion of that with which Bolivar had nobly scoured the northern districts of South America, and to place it under the direction of General San Martin, in co-operation with whom Lord Cochrane was to pursue his work as chief admiral of the fleet. San Martin had fought worthily in La Plata, and he had earned the gratitude of the Chilians by winning back their freedom in conjunction with O'Higgins in 1817. Vanity and ambition, however, had since unhinged him, and he now proved himself a champion of liberty very inferior, both in prowess and in honesty, to Bolivar.

His army, numbering four thousand two hundred men, was collected by the 21st of August, and on that day it was embarked at Valparaiso in the whole Chilian squadron. Lord Cochrane proposed to go at once to Chilca, the nearest point both to Lima and to Callao. San Martin, however, decided upon Pisco as a safer landing-place, and there the troops were deposited on the 8th of September. For fifty days they were detained there, and the fleet was forced to share their idleness, capturing only a few passing merchantmen. On the 28th of October they were re-embarked, and Lord Cochrane again urged a vigorous attack on the capital and its port. Again he was thwarted by San Martin, who requested to be landed at Ancon, considerably to the north of Callao, and as unsuitable a halting-place as was the southerly town of Pisco. Lord Cochrane had to comply; but he bethought him of a plan for achieving a great work, in spite of San Martin. Sending the main body of his fleet to Ancon with the troops, no the 20th, he retained the O'Higgins, the Independencia, and the Lautaro, with the professed object of merely blockading Callao at a safe distance. "The fact was," he said, "that, annoyed, in common with the whole expedition, at this irresolution on the part of General San Martin, I determined that the means of Chili, furnished with great difficulty, should not be wholly wasted, without some attempt at accomplishing the object of the expedition. I accordingly formed a plan of attack with the three ships which I had kept back, though, being apprehensive that my design would be opposed by General San Martin, I had not even mentioned to him my intentions. This design was, to cut out the Esmeralda frigate from under the fortifications, and also to get possession of another ship, on board of which we had learned that a million of dollars was embarked."

The plan was certainly a bold one. The Esmeralda, of forty-four guns, was the finest Spanish ship in the Pacific Ocean. Now especially well armed and manned, in readiness for any work that had to be done, she was lying in Callao Harbour, protected by three hundred pieces of artillery on shore and by a strong boom with chain moorings, by twenty-seven gunboats and several armed block-ships. These considerations, however, only induced Lord Cochrane to proceed cautiously upon his enterprise. Three days were spent in preparations, the purpose of which was known only to himself and to his chief officers. On the afternoon of the 5th of November he issued this proclamation:—"Marines and seamen,—This night we shall give the enemy a mortal blow. To-morrow you will present yourself proudly before Callao, and all your comrades will envy your good fortune. One hour of courage and resolution is all that is required for you to triumph. Remember that you have conquered in Valdivia, and have no fear of those who have hitherto fled from you. The value of all the vessels captured in Callao will be yours, and the same reward will be distributed amongst you as has been offered by the Spaniards in Lima to those who should capture any of the Chilian squadron. The moment of glory is approaching. I hope that the Chilians will fight as they have been accustomed to do, and that the English will act as they have ever done at home and abroad."

A request was made for volunteers, and the whole body of seamen and marines on board the three ships offered to follow Lord Cochrane wherever he might lead. This was more than he wanted. "A hundred and sixty seamen and eighty marines," said Lord Cochrane, whose own narrative of the sequel will best describe it, "were placed, after dark, in fourteen boats alongside the flag-ship, each man, armed with cutlass and pistol, being, for distinction's sake, dressed in white, with a blue band on the left arm. The Spaniards, I expected, would be off their guard, and consider themselves safe from attack for that night, since, by way of ruse, the other ships had been sent out of the bay under the charge of Captain Foster, as though in pursuit of some vessels in the offing.

"At ten o'clock all was in readiness, the boats being formed in two divisions, the first commanded by Flag-Captain Crosbie and the second by Captain Gruise,—my boat leading. The strictest silence and the exclusive use of cutlasses were enjoined; so that, as the oars were muffled and the night was dark, the enemy had not the least suspicion of the impending attack.

"It was just upon midnight when we neared the small opening left in the boom, our plan being well-nigh frustrated by the vigilance of a guard-boat upon which my launch had unluckily stumbled. The challenge was given, upon which, in an undertone, I threatened the occupants of the boat with instant death if they made the least alarm. No reply was made to the threat, and in a few minutes our gallant fellows were alongside the frigate in line, boarding at several points simultaneously. The Spaniards were completely taken by surprise, the whole, with the exception of the sentries, being asleep at their quarters; and great was the havoc made amongst them by the Chilian cutlasses whilst they were recovering themselves. Retreating to the forecastle, they there made a gallant stand, and it was not until the third charge that the position was carried. The fight was for a short time renewed on the quarterdeck, where the Spanish marines fell to a man, the rest of the enemy leaping overboard and into the hold to escape slaughter.

"On boarding the ship by the main-chains, I was knocked back by the sentry's musket, and falling on the tholl-pin of the boat, it entered my back near the spine, inflicting a severe injury, which caused me many years of subsequent suffering. Immediately regaining my footing, I reascended the side, and, when on deck, was shot through the thigh. But, binding a handkerchief tightly round the wound, I managed, though with great difficulty, to direct the contest to its close.

"The whole affair, from beginning to end, occupied only a quarter of an hour, our loss being eleven killed and thirty wounded, whilst that of the Spaniards was a hundred and sixty, many of whom fell under the cutlasses of the Chilians before they could stand to their arms. Greater bravery I never saw displayed than by our gallant fellows. Before boarding, the duties of all had been appointed, and a party was told off to take possession of the tops. We had not been on deck a minute, when I hailed the foretop, and was instantly answered by our own men, an equally prompt answer being returned from the frigate's main-top. No British man-of-war's crew could have excelled this minute attention to orders.

"The uproar speedily alarmed the garrison, who, hastening to their guns, opened fire on their own frigate, thus paying us the compliment of having taken it; though, even in this case, their own men must still have been on board, so that firing on them was a wanton proceeding. Several Spaniards were killed or wounded by the shot of the fortress. Amongst the wounded was Captain Coig, the commander of the Esmeralda, who, after he was made prisoner, received a severe contusion by a shot from his own party.

"The fire from the fortress was, however, neutralized by a successful expedient. There were two foreign ships of war present during the contest, the United States frigate Macedonian and the British frigate Hyperion; and these, as had been previously agreed upon with the Spanish authorities in case of a night attack, hoisted peculiar lights as signals, to prevent being fired upon. This contingency being provided for by us, as soon as the fortress commenced its fire on the Esmeralda, we also ran up similar lights, so that the garrison did not know which vessel to fire at. The Hyperion and Macedonian were several times struck, while the Esmeralda was comparatively untouched. Upon this the neutral vessels cut their cables and moved away. Contrary to my orders, Captain Gruise then cut the Esmeralda's cables also, so that there was nothing to be done but to loose her topsails and follow. The fortress thereupon ceased its fire.

"I had distinctly ordered that the cables of the Esmeralda were not to be cut, but that after taking her, the force was to capture the Maypeu, a brig of war previously taken from Chili, and then to attack and cut adrift every ship near, there being plenty of time before us. I had no doubt that, when the Esmeralda was taken, the Spaniards would desert the other ships as fast as their boats would permit them, so that the whole might have been either captured or burnt. To this end all my previous plans had been arranged; but, on my being placed hors de combat by my wounds, Captain Gruise, on whom the command of the prize devolved, chose to interpose his own judgment and content himself with the Esmeralda alone; the reason assigned being that the English had broken into her spirit-room and were getting drunk, whilst the Chilians were disorganized by plundering. It was a great mistake. If we could capture the Esmeralda with her picked and well-appointed crew, there would have been little or no difficulty in cutting the other ships adrift in succession. It would only have been the rout of Valdivia over again, chasing the enemy, without loss, from ship to ship instead of from fort to fort."

Lord Cochrane's exploit, however, though less complete than he had intended, was as successful in its issue as it was brilliant in its achievement. "This loss of the Esmeralda," wrote Captain Basil Hall, then commanding a British war-ship in South American waters, "was a death-blow to the Spanish naval force in that quarter of the world; for, although there were still two Spanish frigates and some smaller vessels in the Pacific, they never afterwards ventured to show themselves, but left Lord Cochrane undisputed master of the coast." The speedy liberation of Peru was its direct consequence, although that good work was seriously impaired by the continued and increasing misconduct of General San Martin, inducing troubles, of which Lord Cochrane received his full share.

In the first burst of his enthusiasm at the intelligence of Lord Cochrane's action, San Martin was generous for once. "The importance of the service you have rendered to the country, my lord," he wrote on the 10th of November, "by the capture of the frigate Esmeralda, and the brilliant manner in which you conducted the gallant officers and seamen under your orders to accomplish that noble enterprise, have augmented the gratitude due to your former services by the Government, as well as that of all interested in the public welfare and in your fame. All those who participated in the risks and glory of the deed also deserve well of their countrymen; and I have the satisfaction to be the medium of transmitting the sentiments of admiration which such transcendent success has excited in the chiefs of the army under my command." "It is impossible for me to eulogize in proper language," he also wrote to the Chilian administration, "the daring enterprise of the 5th of November, by which Lord Cochrane has decided the superiority of our naval forces, augmented the splendour and power of Chili, and secured the success of this campaign."

A few days later, however, San Martin wrote in very different terms. "Before the General-in-Chief left the Vice-Admiral of the squadron," he said, in a bulletin to the army, "they agreed on the execution of a memorable project, sufficient to astonish intrepidity itself, and to make the history of the liberating expedition of Peru eternal." "This glory," he added, "was reserved for the Liberating Army, whose efforts have snatched the victims of tyranny from its hands." Thus impudently did he arrogate to himself a share, at any rate, in the initiation of a project which Lord Cochrane, knowing that he would oppose it, had purposely kept secret from him, and assign the whole merit of its completion to the army which his vacillation and incompetence were holding in unwelcome inactivity.

Lord Cochrane was too much accustomed to personal injustice, however, to be very greatly troubled by that fresh indignity. It was a far heavier trouble to him that his first triumph was not allowed to be supplemented by prompt completion of the work on which, and not on any individual aggrandisement, his heart was set—the establishment of Peruvian as well as Chilian freedom.

San Martin, having done nothing hitherto but allow his army to waste its strength and squander its resources, first at Pisco and afterwards at Ancon, now fixed upon Huacha as another loitering-place. Thither Lord Cochrane had to convey it, before he was permitted to resume the blockade of Callao. This blockade lasted, though not all the while under his personal direction, for eight months.

"Several attempts were now made," said Lord Cochrane, with reference to the first few weeks of the blockade, "to entice the remaining Spanish naval force from their shelter under the batteries by placing the Esmeralda apparently within reach, and the flagship herself in situations of some danger. One day I carried her through an intricate strait called the Boqueron, in which nothing beyond a fifty-ton schooner was ever seen. The Spaniards, expecting every moment to see the ship strike, manned their gunboats, ready to attack as soon as she was aground; of which there was little danger, for we had found, and buoyed off with small bits of wood invisible to the enemy, a channel through which a vessel could pass without much difficulty. At another time, the Esmeralda being in a more than usually tempting position, the Spanish gunboats ventured out in the hope of recapturing her, and for an hour maintained a smart fire; but on seeing the O'Higgins manoeuvring to cut them off, they precipitately retreated."

In ways like those the Spaniards were locked in, and harassed, in Callao Bay. Good result came in the steady weakening of the Spanish cause. On the 3rd of December, six hundred and fifty soldiers deserted to the Chilian army. On the 8th they were followed by forty officers; and after that hardly a day passed without some important defections to the patriot force.'

Unfortunately, however, there was weakness also among the patriots. San Martin, idle himself, determined to profit by the advantages, direct and indirect, which Lord Cochrane's prowess had secured and was securing. It began to be no secret that, as soon as Peru was freed from the Spanish yoke, he proposed to subject it to a military despotism of his own. This being resented by Lord Cochrane, who on other grounds could have little sympathy or respect for his associate, coolness arose between the leaders. Lord Cochrane, anxious to do some more important work, if only a few troops might be allowed to co-operate with his sailors, was forced to share some of San Martin's inactivity. In March, 1821, he offered, if two thousand soldiers were assigned to him, to capture Lima; and when this offer was rejected, he declared himself willing to undertake the work with half the number of men. With difficulty he at last obtained a force of six hundred; and by them and the fleet nearly all the subsequent fighting in Peru was done. Lord Cochrane did not venture upon a direct assault on the capital with so small an army; but he used it vigorously from point to point on the coast, between Callao and Arica, and thus compelled the capitulation of Lima on the 6th of July.

Again, as heretofore, he was thanked in the first moment of triumph, to be slighted at leisure. Lord Cochrane, on entering the city, was welcomed as the great deliverer of Peru: the medals distributed on the 28th of July—the day on which Peru's independence was proclaimed—testified that the honour was due to General San Martin and his Liberating Army. That, however, was only part of a policy long before devised. "It is now became evident to me," said Lord Cochrane, "that the army had been kept inert for the purpose of preserving it entire to further the ambitious views of the General, and that, with the whole force now at Lima, the inhabitants were completely at the mercy of their pretended liberator, but in reality their conqueror."

With that policy, however much he reprobated it, Lord Cochrane wisely judged that it was not for him to quarrel. "As the existence of this self-constituted authority," he said, "was no less at variance with the institutions of the Chilian Republic than with its solemn promises to the Peruvians, I hoisted my flag on board the O'Higgins, determined to adhere solely to the interests of Chili; but not interfering in any way with General San Martin's proceedings till they interfered with me in my capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Chilian navy." He was not, therefore, in Lima on the 3rd of August, when San Martin issued a proclamation declaring himself Protector of Peru, and appointing three of his creatures as his Ministers of State. Of the way in which he became acquainted of this violent and lawless measure, a precise description has been given by an eye-witness, Mr. W.B. Stevenson.

"On the following morning, the 4th of August," he says, "Lord Cochrane, uninformed of the change which had taken place in the title of San Martin, visited the palace, and began to beg the General-in-Chief to propose some means for the payment of the seamen who had served their time and fulfilled their contract. To this San Martin answered that 'he would never pay the Chilian squadron unless it was sold to Peru, and then the payment should be considered part of the purchase-money.' Lord Cochrane replied that 'by such a transaction the squadron of Chili would be transferred to Peru by merely paying what was due to the officers and crews for services done to that State.' San Martin knit his brows and, turning to his ministers, Garcia and Monteagudo, ordered them to retire; to which his lordship objected, stating that, 'as he was not master of the Spanish language, he wished them to remain as interpreters, being fearful that some expression, not rightly understood, might be considered offensive.' San Martin now turned round to the Admiral and said, 'Are you aware, my lord, that I am Protector of Peru?' 'No,' said his lordship. 'I ordered my secretaries to inform you of it,' returned San Martin. 'That is now unnecessary, for you have personally informed me,' said his lordship: 'I hope that the friendship which has existed between General San Martin and myself will continue to exist between the Protector of Peru and myself.' San Martin then, rubbing his hands, said, 'I have only to say that I am Protector of Peru.' The manner in which this last sentence was expressed roused the Admiral, who, advancing, said, 'Then it becomes me, as senior officer of Chili, and consequently the representative of the nation, to request the fulfilment of all the promises made to Chili and the squadron; but first, and principally, the squadron.' San Martin returned, 'Chili! Chili! I will never pay a single real to Chili! As to the squadron, you may take it where you please, and go where you choose. A couple of schooners are quite enough for me.' On hearing this Garcia left the room, and Monteagudo walked to the balcony. San Martin paced the room for a short time, and, turning to his lordship, said, 'Forget, my lord, what is past.' The Admiral replied, 'I will when I can,' and immediately left the palace.[A] "One thing has been omitted in the preceding narrative," said Lord Cochrane. "General San Martin, following me to the staircase, had the temerity to propose to me to follow his example—namely, to break faith with the Chilian Government, to which we had both sworn, to abandon the squadron to his interests, and to accept the higher grade of First Admiral of Peru. I need scarcely say that a proposition so dishonourable was declined; when, in a tone of irritation, he declared that 'he would neither give the seamen their arrears of pay nor the gratuity he had promised.'"

[Footnote A: W.B. Stevenson, "Twenty Years' Residence in South America." 1825.]

Lord Cochrane lost no time in returning to his flagship in Callao Roads. Thence, however, on the 7th of August, he wrote a letter to San Martin, couched in terms as temperate and persuasive as he could bring himself to use. "My dear General," he there said, "I address you for the last time under your late designation, being aware that the liberty I may take as a friend might not be deemed decorous to you under the title of Protector, for I shall not, with a gentleman of your understanding, take into account, as a motive for abstaining to speak truth, any chance of your resentment. Nay, were I certain that such would be the effect of this letter, I would nevertheless perform such an act of friendship, in repayment of the support you gave me at a time when the basest plots were laid for my dismissal from the Chilian service. Permit me to give you the experience of eleven years, during which I sat in the first senate in the world, and to say what I anticipate on the one hand, and what I fear on the other—nay, what I foresee. You have it in your power to be the Napoleon of South America; but you have also the power to choose your course, and if the first steps are false, the eminence on which you stand will, as though from the brink of a precipice, make your fall the more heavy and the more certain. The real strength of government is public opinion. What would the world say, were the Protector of Peru, as his first act, to cancel the bonds of San Martin, even though gratitude may be a private and not a public virtue? What would they say, were the Protector to refuse to pay the expense of that expedition which placed him in his present elevated situation? What would they say, were it promulgated to the world that he intended not even to remunerate those employed in the navy which contributed to his success?" Much more to the same effect Lord Cochrane wrote, urging honesty upon San Martin as the only path by which he could win for himself a permanent success, and making a special claim upon his honesty in the interests of the seamen and naval officers, to whom neither pay nor prize-money had been given since their departure from Chili nearly a year before.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse