to Mr. Evarts.
Santiago, Chili, June 5, 1879. (Received July 8.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy of the President’s message, delivered to Congress at its opening on the 1st instant.
The message treats almost exclusively of the international difficulties in which the country is involved, but I discover little in it worthy of note which has not been already adverted to in my dispatches. Its review of the origin of the war with Bolivia and with Peru, is but a repetition of the arguments presented by the foreign office in documents with which you have been furnished.
The President speaks with a pardonable pride of the valor displayed by the Chilians in the combat of the 21st ultimo at Iquique between the Chilian wooden ships Esmeralda and Covodonga and the powerful Peruvian ironclads Huascar and Independencia. In this battle the Esmeralda, with no possible hope of escape from destruction except through a surrender, continued for four long hours the desperate encounter, and then went down with her colors still at the mast. The Covodonga, more fortunate than her companion, managed to get out of the bay closely pursued by the Independencia, and being a ship of light draught, by running close to the shore she led the large iron-clad upon the rocks and witnessed its total destruction.
The enthusiasm of the people in consequence of this battle is beyond my power of description. Chili has had other heroes, but I doubt if any were ever so honored as is now the memory of Arturo Prat, the late commander of the Esmeralda.
At the time of this battle the Chilian fleet, except the two ships mentioned, was in the neighborhood of Callao, where it still remained at last advices received here. The Huascar in the mean time has continued in the vicinity of Iquique. The loss of the Independencia must prove to be a severe blow to the Peruvian cause, and I doubt if it can be repaired in the present condition of the Peruvian credit.
The two Chilian iron clads are powerful vessels, and ought to be able to destroy the Huascar if they can succeed in bringing her under their guns.
The government is exceedingly reticent as to the future movements of the fleet, but I infer that the blockade of Iquique will be soon re-established, if it has not already been done.
I see by the newspapers that the Queen’s ministers have assured the British Parliament in response to questions propounded to them, that their government would take the proper steps to protect the interests of British citizens on this coast pending the war. This declaration caused’ considerable uneasiness here.
The large Peruvian debt is principally held in England, and it was feared by the friends of Chili that the contemplated action meant an interference in behalf of the holders to the extent of insisting that the niter and guano in the Tarapaca district should be applied to the liquidation of this debt regardless of the result of the war in that section.
I have, &c.,
P. S., June 6.—A dispatch received this morning announces that the Chilian fleet had returned to Iquique. On the 31st ultimo the Huascar was at anchor in a small inlet a short distance this side of Antofagasta.