Warfare in the Nineteenth Century - from A.D. 1845 to A.D. 1900.

Rarely has England been called on to interfere in any of the quarrels which have been so frequent among the states of South America. However, in 1842, General Oribe, president of the Banda Oriental, having been expelled from Monte Video, induced General Rosas, dictator of Buenos Ayres, to support his cause. Monte Video was therefore besieged both by sea and land by the Buenos Ayrean squadron and army; but the siege was raised chiefly by the efforts of the foreigners residing in the country, among whom was Garabaldi, who then first made himself known, at the head of a regiment of 500 Italians, whom he had raised from among the crews of the coasting vessels in the river. He and his followers appeared in the red shirts which have since become so famous. The English and French ministers residing in the Banda Oriental having vainly endeavoured to induce Rosas to keep the peace, their respective governments sent out a squadron under the commands of Admirals Inglefield and Laine. The fleet of Buenos Ayres was captured, and the invaders were driven out of Colonia, a town of which they had taken possession. Though thus defeated, Rosas still held out on the banks of the Parana, and had strongly fortified a place called Obligado, rather more than a hundred miles from its mouth, having erected batteries of great strength, and thrown a barrier consisting of a number of empty vessels secured together by iron cables across the whole width of the stream, guarded by an armed schooner and some gunboats. The admirals accordingly sent a detachment of their squadrons to attack the fortress, and then to proceed up the Parana to release a large fleet of merchant-vessels which had been detained some hundred miles from its mouth. The British squadron consisted of the steam-frigate Gorgon, Captain Charles Hotham, who had under him theFirebrand steam-frigate, Captain J. Hope, the Philomel surveying brig, Commander B.J. Sulivan, and the Comus, Dolphin, and Fanny, the latter commanded by Lieutenant A.C. Key. The French force was under Captain Terehouart, commanding the Saint Martin, of 10 guns, who had with him the Fulton steamer and three other vessels. After having been detained for some time by bad weather, the squadron arrived opposite the fortress, on which the vessels gallantly opened their fire. It was returned by a tremendous shower of shot, shell, grape, and rockets, by which a number of the English and French were killed. The Spaniards, letting loose their fire-vessels, endeavoured to destroy the ships, but they were towed clear by the boats, while Captain Hope, with a party of men trained for the purpose, under a tremendous fire from the shore, cut through the chains, and opened a way for the passage of the vessels up the stream. The marines and blue-jackets were then landed, when they attacking the batteries, the enemy took to flight, pursued by Lieutenant Key, at the head of a light company of seamen, who carried a wood into which they had thrown themselves. In a few minutes the remainder of the dictator’s vessels were pursued up the streams in which they had sought refuge, and were destroyed. Commander Sulivan, of the Philomel, who had carefully surveyed the river, now undertook to pilot the squadron up to Santa Fé, the appointed rendezvous of the merchantmen. On their passage most of the vessels were attacked by batteries thrown up on the bank, and, unhappily, several officers and men were killed. While the squadron and their convoy were remaining at Santa Fé, Rosas had thrown up a line of heavy batteries on the summit of some high cliffs, at a place called San Lorenzo. It was clear that the fleet would be exposed to considerable danger while passing these batteries. Lieutenant Mackinnon, of the Alecto, having observed that opposite the batteries was a narrow island covered with reeds, grass, and small trees, though otherwise completely commanded by the batteries, proposed landing during the night preceding the day the squadron was to descend, with a number of Congreve rockets, which he suggested should be fired into the fort so as to distract the defenders, while the ships of war and merchant-vessels passed under it. His proposal was adopted. Fortunately, a bank was found parallel with the stream, which was of sufficient height to conceal the rocket party. Having made their way across the island to it during the hours of darkness, the rocket-stands were planted, and all was ready for the passage of the fleet. As Lieutenant Mackinnon was watching the battery from his place of concealment, he observed a sentry suddenly stop, one of the men having incautiously exposed himself, and eye the spot narrowly. “Hold fast,” he whispered to the man; “don’t move, as you value your life.” The man obeyed, and the sentry moved on. At length, the wind being fair, the signal that the fleet were approaching was heard, the Gorgon, Fulton, and Alecto leading. As they approached, Lieutenant Mackinnon, jumping on the embankment and waving his cap, while the British flag was hoisted under the very nose of the enemy, sang out, “Pepper, lads! pepper, lads! pepper, pepper, pepper!” and pepper away the men did with a vengeance. In one minute forty rockets, admirably directed, were poured into the opposite battery, compelling the dismayed enemy to desert their guns. Terrific must have been the slaughter among them. The steamers meantime taking up their position under the batteries, the fleet of merchantmen passed quickly down under the showers of rockets which were fired without cessation. The sternmost ships of the squadron being out of range, the rocket party prepared to retreat, while the enemy, misled by the flagstaff, which was erected at some distance from their place of concealment, fired away at that. A better-conducted or more successful exploit was never performed. The rocket party got back to their boat without the loss of a single man, and, pulling rapidly down the stream, rejoined their ship. The British and French squadron, on their return to Monte Video, defeated an attack made on the city by some of the allies of Rosas, a party of marines and seamen being landed to assist in placing it in a better position for defence.