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8th of October - The Battle of Angamos

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Thursday, October 8, 2009




Yesterday was a national holiday here in Peru which meant no work :). In Peru the 8th of October is a celebrated holiday that pays respect to the famous Peruvian Hero and Legend, Admiral Miguel Grau Ceminario.

The 8th of October is the historical date for the Battle of Angamos which took place in 1879. The naval battle took place in Punta Angamos, which once belonged to Bolivia and is now part of Chile. El Huáscar and La Unión (peruvian ships) were traveling north along the Chilean coast after having completed several offensive operations on Chilean ports in an attempt to disrupt the countries war economy, when they noticed the smoke of several enemy(Chilean) ships in the distance. The Chilean Naval 1st division which comprised of Blanco Encalada, Covadonga y Matías Cousiño had been heading south along the Pacific coast when they spotted El Huáscar and La Unión traveling in the opposite direction and proceeded to close the pass. In response to Grau's operations in the south the Chilean Navy had put out an order of engagement and capture against the Rear Admiral.




Grau taking into account the size and superiority of the opposition decided to use evasive maneuvers to outrun the enemy. As El Huáscar and La Unión sailed north in attempt to reach Peru they ran into more opposition as they spotted the Chilean Naval 2nd Division (Cochrane & O'Higgins) about 22 miles (Not sure what this is in Nautical terms) away. Grau realizing that La Unión could outrun the other ships he gave the order for La Unión to push on ahead.

Here is a link to an interactive illustration of the battle, click on animacion to view: LINK

Left with no other option but to fight, El Huáscar opened fire on the Cochrane who didn't retaliate. Instead the Chilean ships waited until they were in range of the Peruvian ironclad before they opened fire (the Chilean Ships were of the latest in English design and technology and were armed with the latest weaponry...Armor piercing rounds that explode once they penetrate). One of the shot's from the Cochrane pierced the bridge of El Huáscar killing Rear Admiral Grau and 1st Lt. Diego Ferre. The heavy shelling of El Huáscar left the vessel's armaments destroyed and it's crewmen dead and injured. One by one the ship's officer's took command of the ship and one by one were killed. By the time Lt Pedro Garezon assumed command of El Huáscar, the ship was in an inoperable state with the wheel damaged and the ship unable to be controlled. The remaining officers decided to sink the ship before the enemy could take hold of it. The order was given and the ship's valves (cockholds) were opened to allow water to enter and flood the ship. The Chilean's noticing that the ship has slowed down in its paced decided it was a good opportunity to capture El Huáscar. The Chilean's managed to board the ship and quickly ordered the remaining crew to close the valves (the engine room had about 1.2 meters of water in it).



With El Huáscar out of commission and in the possession of the Chilean forces the seas were open for the Chileans to proceed into Peru and Bolivia where the war would be taken to land.

For his heroic actions in the face of innumerable odds, Rear Admiral Grau was promoted to Admiral and is to this day recognized and celebrated as a Hero to the Republic of Peru.

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