Learn four important facts about the conflict that marked the course of the Paraguayan War
Capitão-Tenente (RM2-T) Luciano Franklin de Carvalho – Brasília, DF
June 11, 1865 was decisive for the course of the greatest armed conflict in South America, the Paraguayan War. The Brazilian victory over the Paraguayans in the naval battle in front of the mouth of the Riachuelo, a tributary of the Paraná River, guaranteed power over the region and, consecutively, blocked Paraguay’s access to the sea, which was prevented from receiving armaments from abroad, including the battleships that had been ordered in Europe.
The Brazilian success enabled a new phase of the war, which lasted for more than five years. At the time, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay were allied against Paraguayan invasions and interventions in the La Plata Region.
The fighting that followed until the end of the war consolidated the Naval Battle of Riachuelo as crucial, since it allowed the allies to use the rivers freely for the logistics of the confrontation.
The conflict gathered peculiar characteristics of a naval battle in the river environment, being fought in the reduced spaces of the rivers, where the existence of sandbanks made maneuvers difficult, demanding from those unfamiliar with the region greater agility and decision-making capacity.
Since then, the Brazilian Navy celebrates, every year, on June 11th, the heroic deeds of those men who fought in the battle, recognizing them as examples and remembering their deeds to the generations that will follow them.
Learn four historical facts about the battle
- Brazilian fleet
The Brazilian ships at the time were adequate to operate at sea and not in the restricted and shallow waters that the Paraná and Paraguay rivers required. The possibility of running aground was great. Moreover, these ships had wooden hulls, which made them very vulnerable to artillery from land, positioned on the banks.
The Brazilian victory was only achieved thanks to the Paraguayan ships’ ramming maneuver. The Naval Battle of Riachuelo is considered the greatest feat of arms of the Brazilian Naval Force, as it ensured freedom of navigation in the Paraguay Basin, which led to the definitive triumph of the allied countries.
- Triple Alliance
The Naval Battle of Riachuelo was one of the confrontations that took place in the Paraguayan War, which is also known as the War of the Triple Alliance. On May 1, 1865, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay signed the Treaty of the Triple Alliance against the Paraguayan government of Solano López.
The origin of the conflict was in 1864, when there was a Brazilian military intervention in the Uruguayan civil war and this interference went against the political plans and alliances of Paraguay, which considered the Brazilian actions in Uruguay as an act of war.
Thereafter, the Paraguayan government began hostilities against Brazil with the imprisonment of the Brazilian steamer Marquês de Olinda on the Paraguay River and later with the invasion of the Mato Grosso Province. The invasion attempts continued, and the next target would be the Province of Rio Grande do Sul.
However, for the plans to succeed, the Paraguayan army would need to cross Argentine territory in order to attack the Brazilian region. As it was denied permission, Paraguay invaded the Province of Corrientes, involving Argentina in the conflict. The Paraguayan occupation provoked a successful attack by Brazil on the Argentine city. The act motivated Solano López to plan the action that led to the Naval Battle of Riachuelo.
- Signs from Barroso
During the Naval Battle of Riachuelo, the Brazilian Navy’s Chief of Division Francisco Manoel Barroso da Silva gave two orders by means of flag signals from the flagship to the other Brazilian vessels that became famous: “Brazil expects each one to do his duty!” and “Hold your fire, because victory is ours!”.
Every June 11, the Navy’s Military Organizations hoist the “Signals of Barroso” on their masts to keep alive the memory of this glorious achievement.
- War Heroes
The Brazilians who fought in the Naval Battle of Riachuelo were recognized as heroes for their bravery and success in the battle. Names such as Admiral Barroso, Marine Ranger Greenhalgh, and Imperial Mariner Marcílio Dias were immortalized in the country’s history.
The advertising campaign for this year’s Navy Charter Day pays tribute to Marcílio Dias’ trajectory. With the slogan “Heroes of the past, transforming the present, inspiring the future”, the campaign tells stories of military personnel who have the dedication and love of the Imperial Mariner’s Brazil as a reference.
Imperial Sailor First Class Marcílio Dias
In 1838, Marcílio Dias was born, the youngest son of Pulcena Dias and Manuel Fagundes, a Portuguese seaman. The story tells that his mother, black and a washerwoman, in 1855, was unjustly imprisoned and, worried about her son’s bad behavior during his time in prison, decided to ask her godfather to deliver Marcílio Dias to the “minors,” as the School for Grumetes in Rio de Janeiro was known.
At age 17, in July 1855, he joined the Imperial Navy as a Grumete (Recruit), and was commissioned into the Corps of Imperial Sailors on August 5 of the same year.
He was assigned to the frigate Constituição in 1856, and soon after was transferred to the steamer Recife. In 1858, he was assigned to the Steamboat “Paraense” and was promoted to Sailor 3rd Class in 1861 and to Sailor 2nd Class the following year.
In 1863, he enrolled in the Escola Prática de Artilharia, which operated aboard the Fragata “Constituição”. On December 19 of that year he was approved and classified as a Distinguished Private with the right to wear the badge of Sailor-Artilleryman and, after that, he deployed on the steamer “Parnaíba”.
In 1864, he was promoted to Sailor 1st Class and, at the end of the same year, he landed in Paysandú. He was a crew member of the Corveta “Parnaíba” when the Brazilian Squadron, under Admiral Tamandaré’s command, attacked the Paysandú Square. In 1865, on January 2nd, he had the glory of nailing the Brazilian flag to the church tower of the square, already logically dominated.
On June 11, 1865, there was the Naval Battle of Riachuelo, which immortalized the bravery of the young sailor Marcílio Dias. The “Parnaíba” Corvette, of which he was a crew member, was approached by four Paraguayan steamers: “Paraguari”, “Tacuari”, “Salto”, and the “Marquês de Olinda” (the latter, a Brazilian ship previously taken prisoner by the Paraguayans), resulting in one of the most remarkable combats of the whole war. During this episode, the Imperial Sailor was mortally wounded, and died the next day at 2 pm. He was buried in the waters of the Paraná River on June 13.
For his bravery and all the Brazilian Imperial Sailors, the Naval Battle of Riachuelo was, in that occasion, preponderant for the consolidation of the Warrior Spirit of the Imperial Navy.
In the period when the Naval Battle of Riachuelo took place, the form of government in Brazil was monarchy.
The politics of the Empire of Brazil took place in a quasi-representative federal parliamentary monarchy, whereby the Emperor of Brazil was head of state and head of government, nominally, although the president of the Council of Ministers was effectively the de facto head, and a multi-party system.
The monarchy was adopted in the country soon after independence, which took place in 1822. The economic elite acclaimed and crowned Pedro I as emperor of Brazil. Until 1889, when this system was replaced, the country had two monarchs, who ruled during the First Reign (1822-1831) and the Second Reign (1840-1889).
Thus, even today, the Brazilian Navy maintains many of the traditions of the imperial period.
*** Translated DEFCONPress Team ***