Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Evarts.
Lima, Peru, January 22, 1881. (Received February 15.)
Sir: Lima was quietly surrendered to the Chilian forces on the 17th instant. I wished and intended to have given you a detailed account of the events and causes which have led to this result. But on the 15th instant, at 2 o’clock p.m., I went with the whole diplomatic corps to Miraflores, some 5 miles (in a direct line) from Lima, to receive from President Piérola his answer to the terms offered by the Chilian general, Baquedano, through the committee of our diplomatic corps, on the morning of that day (said committee consisting of Mr. Pinto, our dean, and the French and English ministers, who had that morning arranged an armistice to last until 12 o’clock that night for the purpose of getting the answer of Piérola). We found Piérola and his staff at breakfast in a large house at Miraflores, and were waiting for him to come out, and some of his officers were just coming out from the table, when a single heavy gun was heard, and in less than a minute the battle opened along the whole lines, and at a distance of but about 80 rods south of us, the shot, even from the small-arms, pattering thick and fast upon the buildings around us, and the air being filled with flying shells exploding all around us. It is not yet fully known who fired the first gun, but it is, I think, quite evident that both the Chilian commander and Piérola were equally taken by surprise, and the probability is that it was the unauthorized act of some subaltern officer.
The diplomatic corps fled to the rear towards Lima for their lives, and got somewhat scattered, some of them reaching the railroad train (which had taken us out), some distance to the north of the train, and some, like myself, endeavoring to strike the railroad ahead of the train, but being cut off by walls and ditches, were compelled to walk a devious course back to Lima. I was one of the latter unfortunate class, was under the shells of the Chilian fleet and army, falling thick around me, for two hours before I could get out of range, climbing smooth perpendicular walls between fields and around chacras and old buildings, wading water-courses, and traveling some 8 miles to get 4 miles ahead, until my muscular powers were thoroughly exhausted; finding on my return some 600 to 700 refugees, women and children, in the legation, who had sought asylum there, and before 9 o’clock at night over 1,200, which increased next day and night to over 1,500 of all nationalities, and all this while more than half the time I was unable to stand upon my feet from the fatigue.
I have just got rid of the refugees, but the strain upon my muscular powers has been such that even yet I cannot walk or stand for half the time, and yet I am constantly besieged with complaints from Americans, Swiss, and Colombians against depredations upon their persons or property from the Chilian soldiery, which I endeavor to get redressed as well as I can. I am therefore in no condition to give you a detailed statement of events at present, but shall do so as soon as I can.
I will only say here that, from all the reports I hear from every quarter, the Chilians killed all the Peruvian wounded they found upon the field. They deliberately burned Chorillos, after all necessity for such outrages had ended. They did the same with Barranca and Miraflores; and since all the fighting has been over they have burned sugar plantations [Page 857] with standing cane upon them. They have robbed, as I am informed, some haciendas belonging to Colombian citizens, under the protection of this legation, and I fear, also, some belonging to Americans, most of which is doubtless due to the special pains taken by Mr. Montjoy to cause the Chilian officers to believe that I was acting in bad faith towards them, and some of it from the inordinate desire of my colleague in Chili to make himself popular with the government there by assenting and giving currency to the false and vindictive attacks of the Chilian press against me, as I know the basest and most vindictive attacks of their press come from an intimate and familiar friend of my colleague.
The Chilians have, as yet, behaved remarkably well in Lima, and thus far respected their promise to protect life and property; and I must do their officers the justice to say, I think they intend to enforce order in the city and to treat the inhabitants kindly.
Piérola, who constitutes the only recognized government of Peru, was last heard of at Canta, some fifty miles northeast of Lima. He is at present supposed to intend to arouse the interior to arms. But he has no money or arms, and, I think, would have acted more wisely if he had remained here. The Chilians, I feel quite sure, would have treated him kindly, and recognized him as the only government with which they could treat for peace. I think they would be glad to have him return for that purpose. I am quite unable to write you further to-day, as I am scarcely able to be out of bed.
I have, &c.,