Lord Cochrane and the Chilean Navy, 1818-1823, with an inventory of the Dundonald papers relating to his service with the Chilean Navy
Cubitt, David John
In the late 18th century and the first two decades of the 19th, Spanish seapower in the Pacific was in a state of decline, though it remained strong enough to contribute to the overthrow of the first attempt of the Chileans to liberate their colony from Spain, in 1814. By the time of the second, successful, emancipation of Chile in 1817, the patriots had realised the need for seapower. In that year they took into their service Lord Cochrane, a noted British naval officer then unemployed. Lord Cochrane arrived in Chile at the end of 1818. The squadron at that time is described. With this squadron Lord Cochrane made his first cruise, a reconnaissance in force of the royalist-held Peruvian coast during which Callao was attacked without success. Arising from this reconnaissance, the physical environment of the Mar del Sur is reviewed, together with the state of navigational knowledge. The intention of Lord Cochrane's second cruise, which began in September 1819, was to stage a major attack on Callao. This object was not achieved because of the' squadron's inadequate means and the viceroy's defensive measures, so in December 1819 Lord Cochrane sailed to Valdivia, a fortified city in the south of Chile still in Spanish hands, and captured it by assault in February 1820. There has been same debate about his intentions when he sailed for Valdivia. By early 1820 some of the basic social characteristics of the Chilean navy had emerged and these are examined, firstly from the point of view of the manning of the ships and secondly from the point of view of the problems of discipline and morale that arose. At the same time, the system of naval administration should be examined as its defects and malfunctioning had serious effects on the operating of the squadron, and its efficiency. This data forms the background to the squadron's participation in the liberation of Peru. Initially it played a significant role, firstly by shipping the expedition to Peru and secondly by boarding and taking out of Callao harbour the principal Spanish warship there. These successes were in 1820; in 1821 the squadron's role became less important as the relations between Lord Cochrane and San Martin, the commander-in-chief, deteriorated as a result of the refusal or inability of the latter to pay the squadron. In September 1821 Lord Cochrane seized the Peruvian public funds, allegedly to indemnify the expenses of the squadron, and left Peru. His last cruise, from October 1821 to May 1822, had the object of hunting down the remaining Spanish warships in the Pacific. This cruise here receives its first full account. The cruise completed, though not as successfully as he had hoped, Lord Cochrane returned to Chile. His brief remaining stay in that country was disturbed by difficulties in paying off the ships, disputes with San Martin, and the deteriorating political position of the government. When he received an invitation in November 1822 to take command of the Brazilian navy he accepted, resigned from the Chilean service, and left the country at the beginning of 1823. The dissertation is supplemented by the inventory of the papers in the Dundonald collection which relate to the period of Lord Cochrane's service with Chile. These amount to 2286 items.