« PreviousContinue »
The first battalion of the legion, the battalions Nos. 5 and 11, with three hundred and fifty granaderos à caballo, and a company of No. 4, in all about two thousand men, under the command of Miller, sailed on the 10th of October from Callao, in the transports O'Higgins, Independencia, Perla, Mackenna, Olive Branch, Dardo, and Nancy. The rest of the expedition, with the general-in-chief and staff, followed a few days afterwards, together with the frigate O'Higgins, Rear-Admiral Blanco. The first place of rendezvous was to be off Iquique, and the second thirty miles S. W. of Arica.
About four thousand troops, including twelve hundred Colombians, remained in the department of Lima, under the orders of General Arenales, who was to advance upon Xauxa, and threaten the royalists in that valley, so as to prevent them from detaching troops to the southward against Alvarado, who, it was thought, would have no difficulty in taking possession of the important provinces of Upper Peru.
The royalists had at this time about five thousand troops in the valley of Xauxa, under Canterac; about three thousand with Valdez, on or near the coast of the Puertos Intermedios; and three thousand or thereabouts with Olañeta, in the vicinity of Potosi; besides a few detachments and skeletons of battalions in Cuzco, La Paz, and other garrisons.
The plan of operations of the independents for the ensuing campaign was considered good. The royalist divisions were very distant from each other, and so separated in one of the most mountainous countries in the world, that it appeared to be an easy matter to attack them separately. The hopes of the patriots brightened, and every thing seemed to promise a speedy termination of the struggle in Peru. The royalists became alarmed by the threatening aspect of affairs. The viceroy La Serna wrote from Cuzco to the minister of war in Spain, that unless he were speedily reinforced from the Peninsula, it would be impossible to continue much longer the unequal contest; for whilst his troops were harassed by being obliged to march almost incredible distances, the patriots, possessing the dominion of the Pacific, could easily transport their armies from one point to another, either to attack his forces, necessarily scattered over a vast extent of territory, in detail, or to retire opportunely whenever they found themselves too much pressed. His excellency complained bitterly of the neglect which his repeated applications for assistance had hitherto met with at the court of Madrid, and concluded by stating that his health had suffered so severely under such trying and harassing circumstances, that he found himself unable to fulfil the arduous duties of viceroy, and therefore tendered his resignation for a second time, begging that his majesty would be pleased to name his successor *.
But notwithstanding it was evident that the royalist generals were often divided in council, and that much enmity existed amongst some of them, they all made every exertion to overcome the disadvantages of their position. Canterac and Loriga were indefatigable in the north ; Valdez, on the coast of the Intermedios, was the soul of the Spanish army: his
These communications were intercepted by Miller, on his landing at Quilca.
activity, self-denial of every comfort, and the exemplary manner in which he shared the fatigues and privations of his soldiers, combined with his uncompromising severity towards all delinquents, produced the most beneficial effects amongst his followers, and obtained for him the love of his soldiers, and the respect and admiration of even those opposed to him. Olañeta spared no means in Potosi to augment his forces. He was a general of the old school, and had been the companion of Pezuela : he was consequently unfriendly to La Serna, Canterac, Valdez, and other chiefs who had served in the peninsular war. The mass of the population, however, was decidedly against the royalists; so that, in spite of their efforts, the aspect of affairs seemed to indicate their speedy downfall.
In the mean time the junta gubernativa had issued orders to enforce levies of recruits in the department of Truxillo and the northern provinces, to augment the division of Arenales : but such was the apathy pervading every department of the government, that the casualties caused by sickness and desertion were scarcely filled up.
Eight-and-forty hours after the first division of patriots had sailed from Callao under Miller, one of the largest transports, the Independencia, having four hundred of his own battalion on board, sprang a leak, and was soon reported to have six feet water in the hold. Boats were despatched from the other transports, and in less than six hours, notwithstanding a rough sea, the men were removed from the leaky ship. One hundred of them were received by Miller
on board his own vessel, the O'Higgins, of three hundred and forty tons, which increased the number, embarked in that transport, to four hundred and ten. The rest were sent back to Callao in two small transports, accompanied by the Independencia. The convoy then proceeded on its voyage.
On the night of the 30th, when sailing on a wind at the rate of five knots, with a stiff breeze, the Mackenna, of four hundred tons, through the neglect of the mate of the watch, ran athwart the O'Higgins. The concussion was severe. The mainmast of the latter ship was carried away close by the board. The Mackenna lost her jib-boom, and both vessels were otherwise materially injured in their rigging. They got clear of each other more by good fortune than skill, as the decks were crowded with soldiers, and all was, of course, uproar and confusion. When daylight appeared, the O'Higgins looked like a floating wreck; but fortunately the weather was moderate, and in the course of two days a jury-mast was rigged. The damages of the Mackenna were also repaired, and the convoy again continued its
The crews of the transports were a medley of English, North Americans, French, Dutch, and Creoles. Many of the masters were natives, who could with difficulty make themselves understood by the majority of their crew. The vessels had been well provisioned, and watered for fifty days, and it was supposed that the voyage would hardly last half that time.
The soldiers behaved exceedingly well on the passage, and an air of contentment pervaded the performance of all their duties. They were devotedly attached to their officers; extremely subordinate; cleanly in their persons and berths; and sensibly alive to the smallest act of kindness or attention. Three-fourths of the legion were aborigines, and many of them, when they joined the corps,
, could not speak any language but their own, the Quichua; but they soon learned the words of command in Spanish, and their duty as soldiers, all of which was taught agreeably to the Spanish regulations. They are generally of rather low stature, robust, and beardless, with a bright brown complexion. The rest of the men were mulattos, some blacks, and a few white Creoles, who were generally non-commissioned officers. The band was excellent, and consisted of twenty-two musicians: twelve of them played by note. The salary of the master of the band was fifty-four dollars per month. The music beguiled many a tedious hour, and in the evenings and the moonlight nights the Indians would chant their yaravis (plaintive melodies), while the loquacious mulattos related stories, or, with the whites, sang the favourite airs of Lima, for which dissipated city the natives cherish an enthusiastic attachment. The officers on the quarter-deck sang patriotic and national songs; most of them having good voices, and great taste for music. That stern distance and reserve maintained, perhaps usefully, towards the men in some European armies, did not exist amongst the patriots. They would often converse with their officers, and speak of their native villages and the pleasures they had left behind; yet on this account