Mr. Egan to Mr. Blaine .
Santiago , March 17, 1891. (Received April 25.)
Sir: On Thursday, the 12th instant, information reached here that a very severe battle had been fought on the 7th instant near Iquique between the Government forces and the revolutionists, in which the forces of the Government, numbering about 1,500 men, were completely annihilated, and the commander, Col. Robles, killed in the ambulance after the battle, as were also most of the wounded officers. The revolutionists numbered about 2,500 men, of whom they lost close on 1,000 in killed and wounded. This gives the revolutionists the control of the province of Tarapacá as a base of operations and will enable them to enter upon a long and desperate struggle.
The Government of President Balmaceda is well organized, vigilant, and determined, and after all the losses in Tarapacá it has now some 30,000 available troops, well equipped and loyal, which number it is daily increasing. It has also two new fast cruisers, the Almirante Lynch and Almirante Condel, which are hourly expected from Montevideo; as also the war sloop Pilcomayo, and, in addition to a new ironclad which is just completed for it in France, it has, I believe, purchased in Europe two ironclads, so that some fighting on sea may be expected very soon. The revolutionists have, on the other hand, the fleet consisting of seven war ships, the Blanco Encalada, Cochrane, Esmeralda, Huascar, O’Higgins, Magellanes, and Abtao, together with several of the vessels of the Chilean corporation La Compañia Sud Americana de Vapores which they seized and converted into transports. They have also a force of some 2,000 soldiers, which can be augmented by recruits from Tarapacá.
From the peculiar geographical form of the country, stretching as it does some 3,000 miles from south to north, and from the fact that there is no railroad communication with Tarapacá, and that that province, on account of the inhospitable nature of its soil as also of the approaches [Page 107] from the south, is entirely isolated, the Government can not carry the war into that region; while at present it does not seem possible that the revolutionists can command sufficient force to enable them to make a successful demonstration anywhere south of Coquimbo. For these reasons I look for a long, a bitter, and a sanguinary struggle, with the chances of ultimate victory very largely on the side of the Government.
The west coast telegraph cable being cut between here and Iquique and the Central and South American Company’s cable not being permitted to commence operation, you will of course receive no cable news through the press except that sent out from revolutionary sources at Iquique.
I may mention as a feature of much interest the fact that the revolution has the undivided sympathy, and in many cases the active support, of the English residents in Chile. Col. Robles, the ill-fated commander of the Government forces at Iquique, officially reported to the Government that the managers and superintendents of the English oficinas in Tarapacá urged their workmen to join the revolutionists, promising them $2 per day during their term of service and at the same time holding out the threat that unless they did join they would never again get employment in Tarapacá. It is known that many English houses have subscribed liberally to the revolutionary fund. Among others, it is openly stated by the leaders of the revolution, Mr. John Thomas North contributed the sum of £100,000.
I have, etc.,