Mr. Asboth to Mr. Seward.
Sir: In connection with my report No. 47, dated 14th October last, I have the honor to inform you that the French war steamer Decidée returned on the 4th instant from Paraguay, with Mr. Laurent Cochelet, late French consul at Asuncion. Mr. Cochelet brought me two dispatches from our minister at Paraguay, addressed to your department, which I beg to forward herewith.
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At the seat of war there prevailed, during the last fortnight, unusual activity. The several battles fought were of the most sanguinary nature, indicating, evidently, an increased hatred and revenge, leading to mutual extermination, which, if persisted in, must necessarily soon result, on the part of Paraguay, in those unmistakable signs of final exhaustion which become, in the natural course of events, the fate of the weaker part.
The Standard of to-day, in its review for Europe, gives, as far as I am able to judge, an impartially correct statement of these military events in Paraguay, as well as of the advices received from the disturbed interior Argentine provinces, which I beg to submit here in the following extracts, viz:
REVIEW FOR EUROPE.
The military events of the fortnight are of a most stirring nature. Several sanguinary battles have been fought; the allies have advanced and are still advancing. The lines around Humaita are being slowly but steadily tightened, and the cause of Lopez each day becomes more desperate. The full details of all these engagements will be found in another column. The losses on both sides have been severe, but the allies have not only invariably held their ground, but have, after each encounter, advanced still further into the enemy’s country. “We await advices per next steamer of a powerful division at present traversing the enemy’s country. Possibly ere this the important town of Villa Rica, and even the capital itself, Asuncion, have been occupied by the allies. As it is known that all the male population of the unfortunate country is centred in Humaita and in the interior, the allies will have nothing to contend with save the natural character of the country. The occupation of Asuncion will, doubtless, have a great moral effect on the Paraguayan people, and, unless Lopez is much stronger than is generally supposed, will lead to a prompt conclusion of this prolonged campaign. The last fight at Tuyuti was probably the most sanguinary since the war began. The Paraguayans fell upon Porto Alegre’s encampment without the slightest warning. The surprise could hardly be more complete, and had the Paraguayan commander been able to restrain his men, the Brazilian position must have been inevitably lost; but the Paraguayans getting into the rear obtained possession of all the sutler’s stores, army contractor’s deposits, and the pillage was fearful. Porto Alegre, the Brazilian commander, who had been beaten back in the morning, with the eye of an experienced officer saw that the moment had arrived when he might strike the decisive blow and regain the day, and General Paranhos having come up with some reinforcements, they charged the enemy, who, completely disorganized by the pillage and plunder going on in the [Page 232]tents, could offer but a faint resistance. Paraguayans were cut down in the very tents which they had captured, and the day gained by the heroic Porto Alegre. Since this terrible fight we have received no new advices from Paraguay. Marshall Caxias has at last outflanked Humaita, and by holding Tayi, a commanding position on the river Tayi, cut off Lopez from Asuncion and the interior of Paraguay. On the same day that the terrible battle at Tuyuti took place, another sanguinary engagement occurred. The Paraguayans, landing from three steamers, attempted to take the place by storm, but they were repulsed with great loss and the steamers sunk.
Such constant fighting indicates that at last the campaign is drawing to a close, and from the position of the belligerents we feel justified in assuring our foreign readers that there is every probability peace will be restored in the Plate about the commencement of the new year.
Our advices from the Argentine provinces are a little more favorable; the rebels in Salt a have been again defeated, and their leader is said to be prisoner. The mooted invasion from Chili has proved destitute of the slightest authenticity, and there can be little doubt on the conclusion of the Paraguayan war the provinces will acquire a more favorable aspect. Santa Fé is probably the only one of the provinces which shows signs of progress and vitality. Rosario is fast becoming the great centre of Argentine trade. The streets are being well paved, and will shortly be lighted with gas, the agent of the new company being at present in England purchasing the pipes and other material. A new line of railway is projected and being surveyed from Rosario to the Esperanza colony. This road will be private property, built by Sr. Cabal. Several important sales of real estate have been made during the month, but mostly city property. The speculation in building sites has considerably fallen off of late since the general impression is that Rosario will not be the future capital of the republic, and should Dr. Adolfo Alsina, the governor of Buenos Ayres, be elected president, which is every way probable, Buenos Ayres will, doubtless, remain the capital of the republic. The provisional chambers were formally closed last week, the legal period of the session having elapsed, but the governor has reassembled the legislators to dispatch some railway and other schemes of much importance.
THE WAR IN THE NORTH—SLNBAD’S ACCOUNT OF THE LATE BATTLE.
Corrientes, November 5.
Gentlemen: I left Itapiru on the 1st instant, in order to be in time for the mail. On the 29th a formal fight took place at Potrero Obello, situated on the coast of the river Paraguay, between Pilar and Humaita. Mena Barreto, at the head of five thousand men of all arms, attacked and put to rout a superior force of Paraguayans. The published Brazilian account of the enemy’s loss is seventy killed and thirty prisoners; the Brazilians own a loss of three hundred and two hors de combat. On the 2d instant a strong Brazilian force, under the same command, took possession of Tayi, routing ten battalions of the enemy protected by three steamers, which were sunk, their crews taken prisoners or drowned; one hundred and sixty are the reported numbers of the captives, and as many more killed or drowned. The allied statement of their loss is muy pocas. On the 3d a deplorable calamity befel the allies at Tuyuti. Early in the morning of that day a convoy was to have left the encampment for Tuyu-Cue, escorted by four battalions of Brazilian troops. The draught cattle were at hand, ready to be yoked; the escort was also prepared to move, waiting the order to march with the carts, when a great noise was heard in the encampment from numberless voices, such as gauchos are wont to make when driving a herd of cattle. Those who shouted were supposed to be conductors of a drove meant for the supply of the army, (this was in the gray of the morning;) the true character of the imagined drovers was not discovered until they had passed the lines and got within the intrenchments, when they were found to be many battalions of Paraguayan infantry and cavalry, who at once commenced a furious assault. The four battalions that were to have been the escort were the only troops ready at the moment to make resistance, which they stoutly but ineffectually did, with great slaughter. The enemy soon became master of the Tuyuti camp, (supposed to have a garrison of ten thousand men,) and doing a murderous work, killing without mercy, pillaging and firing everything that could burn. The sutlers’ shanties after being sacked, the Argentine parque, hospital, and commissariat, the large depot of Mr. Lanuz, (who has suffered severely,) the convoy of loaded carts—in fine, I have said, all that would burn were committed to the flames. The Paraguayans for a time did pretty much as they liked, owing to a general panic throughout the encampment. The fire and fight continued until 9 a. m., when the approach of a column, under the command of Osorio. made it advisable for the Paraguayans to retreat, which they did, carrying away, some accounts state, from two to twelve pieces of artillery; other reports make the number of guns carried off to be twenty-eight, as well as a number of prisoners. Mr. Vigari, the purser of the Pingo, was at the camp in three hours after the enemy retreated; he estimated the number, (made at a cursory view,) he said, to be one thousand five hundred. [Page 233]The road going from Tuyuti to Itapiru was filled with Brazilian soldiers, fugitives, who threw away their guns and knapsacks to facilitate their flight; they never halted in their race till they reached the shipping. Hundreds of these were subsequently collected and sent back to Tuyuti. What else might be expected from new recruits, slaves fresh from plantations, many of whom would as soon be shot at as to fire a musket themselves? The number of Paraguayans killed are much more than those of the allies, owing to their conduct while sacking, by getting helplessly drunk, thus made incapable in the retreat to keep pace with their comrades. When the panic was over, little mercy was shown to the inebriated assailants. Among the wounded officers brought here is Major Tobson, who had his arm badly shattered, which has since been amputated.
The routed sutlers from Tuyuti complain of the Brazilian soldiers making a final finish of such goods as the Paraguayans or the flames had spared. Bad stories are told of the Paraguayan legion in the allied service. At the time of the surprise they were posted at an advanced point; it is reported that, instead of giving notice of the enemy’s coming, most of them joined their countrymen. Some Correntino troops are also reported to have behaved in a like manner. Nothing more is said for the present of the cholera—a proof that it has passed away. There have been two arrivals of hay. A Brazilian transport with a contingent passed upward yesterday. The river is rapidly rising.
We refer our readers to our friend Sinbad’s version of the Tuyuti victory. With all the different accounts before us it is difficult to arrive at the truth in regard either to the object or result of the late vigorous attack of Paraguayans. But the prominent facts are that there are grave suspicions of treachery in the allied outposts; that Lopez’s attack meant more perhaps than a raid on the stores of the allies; but to the fact of the Paraguayans stumbling on the liquors they owe their own defeat. The Brazilian officers, particularly Paranhos, Mattos, and Andrade, appear to have behaved like heroes.
The Argentine and Correntino cavalry, under General Hornos, contributed nobly to the final retreat of the enemy, and Hornos was made brigadier on the spot by General Mitre. The loss in men to Lopez, if not amounting to two thousand five hundred as reported, must have been sufficiently severe in his present circumstances, and probably the main object of the attack was frustrated; which was to prepare a more serious attempt on Tuyu-Cue.
For further particulars, I beg respectfully to refer to my inclosed daily memoranda of political events on the river Plate, marked D.
The fate threatening at the present crisis the unfortunate country and people of Paraguay is certainly of the most melancholy nature. Paraguay would seem to be morally, politically, and materially on the verge of ruin and bereft of all hope of any friendly powers being able to save it from the horrors of the wildest anarchy.
In case Lopez should lose Asuncion, this capital would no doubt be destroyed by himself or by his orders, it being his determined policy to leave nothing but ruins in the hands of the allies. In such an emergency not only would all property in the capital be lost, but the lives of the inhabitants, especially of foreigners, would be seriously endangered— exposed as they would be either to the fury of the retreating Paraguayan bands of the interior, who consider all foreigners the enemies and invaders of their country, or to the bayonets of the Brazilian soldiers, who for the most part just emerging from slavery, if once in power, could hardly be restrained from robbery and butchery.
The interior of Paraguay would not, and, desolated as it must be, could not afford any support to Lopez after his prestige had gone with his defeat, neither would it be any safe shelter to the hated fugitive foreigners.
Under these circumstances the foreigners in Paraguay can look only to their respective governments for protection, and it would be very desirable that the war steamers of all the foreign powers represented here, in Buenos Ayres, should afford such protection to their distressed countrymen in that country.[Page 234]
I had the honor respectfully to request in my report No. 29, under date June 17th, 1867, that a war steamer be temporarily placed at my disposal with reference to the present complications in Paraguay, and should this request be granted I should at the present emergency feel bound in duty to station it near the blockading squadron, with the view to join the first Brazilian ship of war up to Asuncion, and to give full protection to our minister and fellow-citizens there, as well as, in the interests of humanity, to any other foreigner whose life and property were jeopardized in the only too probable sway of anarchy.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.