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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)


Page 91

 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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