Larsen, James A. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLV (1956)
Kroeber, Clifton B.
Naval warfare in the Rio de la Plata region, 1800-1861, pp. 91-109 ff. PDF (8.0 MB)
NAVAL WARFARE IN THE RIO DE LA PLATA REGION, 1800—1861 CLIFTON B. KROEBER Department of History, University of Wisconsin* Naval war is an important but little-known phase of the early national histories of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.1 While the decisive battles of South American independence were fought by armies, in Chile, New Granada, and Peru, between 1818 and 1824, these battles occurred 10 years after the three colonies of the RIo de la Plata region were free of Spanish rule. In their part of the world, Spanish power was shattered by a naval battle in 1814. Later, naval war was important in the turbulent civil and foreign wars that punctuated the history of the Plata region until 1861. The three colonies of the Viceroyalty of the RIo de la Plata shared with Brazil and Bolivia the great Plata-Paraná-Paraguay river basin, an area larger than the United States east of the Mississippi. In 1800, most of the colonists still lived close to the rivers. There were few cart roads anywhere in the region, and the rivers were the ordinary routes of travel. The colonists were old hands at running their little sailing ships among the channels and islands of the Paraná River and its great delta. Contraband trade was a longestablished habit, and these sailors knew every tangled passage and channel that led through the delta from the Argentine to the present Uruguayan shore. Deep-water sailing was quite unfamiliar to the colonists. For 300 years Spain had prevented her colonials from building seagoing ships or learning overseas navigation. When Spain's weakness encouraged foreign invasion of the Plata region in the early * Now at Occidental College, Los Angeles. 1 Some aspects of naval history of the Plata region have been thoroughly studied. See, among others: A. J. Carranza, Campacias J~Tavales de la repliblica argentina (Buenos Aires, 1914—1918) ; Teodoro Caillet-Bois, Historia naval argentina (Buenos Aires, 1944), and Los marinos durante la dictadura. . . (Buenos Aires, 1935) ; Juan B. Otaflo, Origen, desarrollo y fin de la marina desaparecida en la guerra de 186i—1870 (AsunciOn, 1942) ; Lewis W. Bealer, Los corsarios de Buenos Aires . . . 1815—1821 . (Buenos Aires, 1937) ; Agustin Beraza, Los corsarios de Artigas (Montevideo, 1949) and Charles C. Griffin, "Privateering from Baltimore during the Spanish-American Wars of Independence," Maryland Historical Magarine, XXIII (1940), pp. 1—25. Abbreviations used in this article are: ANA—Archivo General de la NaciOn, Buenos Aires; ANU—Archivo General de la Nacidn, Montevideo, and, within that, ex-MHNU refers to papers formerly in the Museo HistOrico Nacional, Montevideo; ANP—Archivo de la Nacidn, Asunción; CDBA—Consular Despatches, Buenos Aires, in The National Archives, Washington, D. C.; MHNU—UVluseo Histórico Nacional, Montevideo. 91
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