Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Blaine.
Lima, Peru, April 17, 1881. (Received May 17.)
Sir: Up to the time of the capture of Lima, I endeavored to keep the Department informed of the progress of the war, and I intended after Lima was taken to give you an account of the maneuvers of the respective armies prior to the battle of San Juan (13th January), and that of Miraflores on the 15th January. But as Lieutenant Mullin, from the United States steamer Adams, accompanied the general staff of the Chilian army, and Lieutenant Houston, from the Lackawanna, was with the general staff of the Peruvian army from some weeks before these battles until they were closed, I wished, for the purpose of getting information in an authentic form, to obtain copies of their respective reports, which were promised me, and for which I waited. But I have never received either, and therefore have only to refer to their reports in the office of the Secretary of the Navy.
Since those battles there has been no actual fighting; some 6,000 of them having gone north along the coast and into the rich valleys near the coast to levy war contributions, where they find no hostile force to oppose them; some 5,000, more or less, returned to Chili, and from 5,000 to 7,000 have remained in and about Lima and Callao until 3 days ago, as I shall presently state.[Page 896]
Piérola, at last accounts, remained at Janja with a small force of about 200 men, but he still claims to be the Government of Peru, and issues his decrees as such, being as yet apparently sustained by the large majority of the people of Peru. (He has, a few days ago, issued a decree, declaring all persons traitors who aid or support the provisional government, and subjecting them to summary trial by court-martial, and his sub-chief, Solar, has issued a like decree at Arequipa.)
He sent General Montero some time since to the north to act in his interest, who is now supposed to be in the interior somewhere back of Trujillo, attempting to get up a military force in the interior. But we have no reliable intelligence whether he has succeeded in raising any such force. But Solar, at Arequipa (in the south), is reported to have under his command there somewhere from 5,000 to 7,000 men well armed, and the friends of Piérola expect the Bolivians to send to Solar’s aid some 2,000 to 3,000 men. It is generally supposed that Piérola keeps up communication with Solar by couriers by way of Ayachuco, Cuzco, and Puno, and that he is endeavoring to stir up the people there and everywhere in the interior to maintain a kind of guerrilla warfare against the Chilian forces wherever the latter may attempt to penetrate into the interior.
The Chilian forces have full possession of the Oroya Railroad, which follows the valley of the Rimec and is finished to Chicla, 86 miles from Callao (where it reaches the height of 12,220 feet above the sea.)
In going up this road from Lima the valley grows narrower, and about 25 miles above Lima it becomes a mere narrow gorge, and so continues to Chicla, with here and there a small expansion of comparatively level ground, where some lateral gulch joins the main valley; but with the exception of these the mountains rise abruptly from the Rimec to heights and knobs varying from 2,000 to 5,000 feet, and so very steep (in some places perpendicular, and all entirely naked) that they cannot be climbed in front by man, and in very few places even by the goat, except at long distances where the side valleys come in, though they may almost all be climbed by a circuitous course from the rear. This is the character of the valley or gorge, at least from Chosica (29 miles above Lima) to Chicla, the present terminus of the railroad; and thence about 18 miles to the summit of the pass (over 15,000 feet above the sea) and for at least that distance on the other side the road is but a mule path, among even worse precipices, where horses, mules, and even men, have for much of the way to go single file; and, whereas, for much of the distance along the railroad, a few hundred men judiciously placed along the mountain tops, mostly out of the reach of fire, could without firing a shot, and by simply rolling rocks down the mountain, destroy an army below of ten times their own number.
Some weeks ago the Chilians established at Chosica a hospital for their sick (and perhaps some of the wounded) soldiers, which was left under the protection of a small force. Some ten days ago, these soldiers, whose camp was just at the foot of the mountain, were suddenly surprised by the rush down the mountains of large quantities of stones, set in motion by mountaineers most of whom were out of sight, and several Chilian soldiers were killed and more wounded.
This movement is believed to have been got up by two leading men known to be friendly to Piérola, and is supposed to have been with his consent.
About a week ago, a force of several hundred Chilians was sent up to chastise these mountaineers and to take vengeance upon them. In the execution of this object, they penetrated some side valleys, where [Page 897] there were three small villages embowered in fruit trees, the inhabitants escaping to the mountains; they destroyed the villages and as near as can be ascertained killed some forty of the men, who could be reached from below, with their shot, and lost of their own force some 5 or 6 killed and 15 to 20 wounded.
On the evening of the 14th instant, in the most secret and quiet manner, four trains of cars loaded with Chilian soldiery of all arms of the service were dispatched from here to Chicla, with the design, as is generally understood, of marching from Chicla to Jauja, to surprise and capture Piérola, or drive him away. Reports were in circulation here, yesterday, that there had been fighting up the road or beyond Chicla, and that the Chilians had met with some loss. Those reports, however, are wholly unreliable. Still, last evening and this morning, as I am informed, some three trains more loaded with Chilian soldiers have been dispatched up the road, which must with those sent before make some 3,000 men in all.
It is also a common report here, which I am inclined to believe (though none but the Chilian officers know, and they are reticent), that another Chilian expedition left Pisco (a little over 100 miles south of Lima) for the interior, intended to cross the mountains and to strike somewhere near Ayachuco, or to the south of it, to cut off the flight of Piérola to the south. It is also rumored, but I think with less probability, that another Chilian force has been sent into the interior through some valley to the north to intercept Piérola, should he attempt to go north.
But I look upon these movements (the last of which I think is not probable) as only auxiliary to the great expedition which all the Chilian press declare (and the Chilian officers here confirm) is now rapidly preparing for the capture of Arequipa, and the Mollendo, Arequipa and Puno Railroad.
This expedition will, I think, be immediately set on foot, and, judging from the past, I am inclined to believe it will be successful; though many who know the country and the people there better than I do think otherwise.
Upon the whole, present appearances seem to warrant, at least, the suspicion of a design on the part of Chili to attempt a full and final conquest of the whole of Peru, and its final annexation to Chili.
It is quite clear that this attempt could not succeed if the people in the interior had arms; but as they have not, they would seem to be situated with respect to the Chilian forces much as the Indian race was with respect to Pizarro and his forces, at the time of the first conquest, and may fall in the same manner; though such a result would not, in my opinion, result in a permanent peace, but a chronic state of war for centuries to come. But, as to the suspicion of such a design on the part of Chili, it may be proper to mention that some wealthy Peruvians who support the provisional government of Calderon have been heard to express their wish that Chili might take and govern the whole of Peru; and there are not wanting strong suspicions among the Peruvians that this is the ultimate purpose for which the provisional government is working.
I express no opinion of my own upon this point; it is too difficult to get authentic information, as nothing like free newspaper discussion is permitted here, any paper indulging in anything like free discussion being at once suppressed and its editors thrown into prison.
I have, &c.,