Mr. Buck to Mr. Bayard .
Lima, Peru , August 22, 1885. (Received September 15.)
Sir: I informed you in my No. 23 of the occupation of Canta by the Government troops. On the 15th instant the force in the town, composed, according to Government admission, of 350 men from the “Battalion [Page 610] Cajamarca,” 50 artillerymen, and 50 cavalry, the latter under Colonel Pachas (a famous negro desperado), were attacked by the Cácerestas, and, after five or six hours’ fighting, defeated and dispersed. The Government claims the attacking force amounted to 2,000 men, more or less, and their troops dispersed only after exhausting their ammunition. No account of the affair has been published, except that permitted under Government supervision (as I have before stated the press here is under rigid censorship). The Government admits only a loss of 40 or 50 men, and claims that 200 are scattered in various surrounding places.
The truth seems to be, as generally believed here, that the Government forces at Canta numbered at least 700 men, and that these were utterly cut to pieces and dispersed, excepting a small force which cut its way out of the place under Colonel Pachas.
The Cajamarca battalion was the best in the Government service, and must have numbered upwards of 500 men; perhaps only 400 of these were in Canta. Lieutenant-Colonel Bustamente, who in a council of war the previous night had protested against a retreat, and whose advice prevailed, when he saw all was lost is said to have blown out hi& own brains.
Another account states that Pachas, in a fit of fury at the result which he charged upon Bustamente, himself shot the latter. Col. Morales Toledo commanded the Cácerestas. Canta is in a little valley, which narrows into a ravine to the east and west of the town, and is surrounded by high hills. It seems the Government forces were advised the previous evening of the proximate locality of the enemy, but, urged by Colonel Bustamente to that course, they remained in the village, instead of seeking a more defensible position on the heights. Thus, shut into a pocket by a superior force, with several pieces of artillery, which could pound and dispatch the beleaguered at its pleasure, while enjoying comparative safety in inaccessible positions, the forces of the Government were, it can hardly be doubted, demoralized and helplessly slaughtered. The next day the Government forces left Chosica in haste, returning down the Oroya Railroad 10 miles to within 20 miles of the capital.
A cablegram from the north reports an insurrection in favor of Cáceres, at Piura, which is some 25 miles inland from Payta.
Of this I got no information which I can regard as definite.
The Government transport Peru has brought back 500 of the troops lately sent to Truxillo, as stated in my No. 23, leaving, as is claimed, 800 men still there.
There is published in El Campeon accounts of a successful movement under Dr. Gamarra, in Canches, which is a province in the southeastern part of the department of Cuzco, in favor of Iglesias; also, an account of the suppression of a proposed movement in Arequipa favorable to the Government, and the imprisonment of several parties and the imposition of fines.
There has been published in the Lima papers the list of persons at Cerro de Pasco, upon whom the Cácerestas prefect, Colonel Ferrieras, imposed a forced loan of 100,000 soles. Eighty-three names are given, with amounts opposite, varying from 20 to 16,000 soles, silver. Foreigners are not exempted, but in reality bear, perhaps, nine-tenths of the imposition in amount. I think there is no American citizen in the list, but Mr. M. C. McNulty, United States consular agent at Cerro de Pasco, for refusing to recognize a verbal order to appear before the prefect, was ordered under arrest, and a troop of soldiers were sent, likewise [Page 611] with verbal orders, to seize him; meanwhile he had mounted his horse and escaped. He has for several days been in Lima, but, upon assurances since given to friends that no harm is intended him, he proposes starting back to-morrow. Besides the forced loan, there was also imposed by the prefect at Cerro de Pasco a war fine upon foreign residents upon the pretext that they had some time ago taken an active part in a disturbance opposing General Cáceres. I am informed, on one hand, that Cáceres has stopped these exactions, while on the other I am told the prefect is proceeding with the levys. I cannot tell which is the fact.
I have, &c.,