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Battle of Tuyuti, 1866

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Francisco Selano López versus Luís Manuel Osório and Bartolomé Mitre: A Paraguayan army under López fails to achieve surprise before attacking an Allied army under Osório and Mitre. Can Osório and Mitre repel López’ frenzied frontal assault and deep double envelopment? Also known as the Battle of Tuiuti and Paso de Patria. Click on images below to view PowerPoint presentation. | Legend |
 
 
This battle possesses two characters, one of myth and one of reality. The myth of the battle should not be read as falsehood but as events of remarkable nature. The battle has been described as “a series of charges and countercharges, a Latin American version of Waterloo” (Williams, 2000: 61), an incredible compliment. The Paraguayans had fought so bravely despite all their disadvantages “to the extent that the story ran around the allied armies that they had been fed brandy laced with gunpowder” (Leuchars, 2002: 134). Even Osório admitted the Paraguayan attack was in fact “magnificent” (Williams, 2000: 61). Numerous stories of heroism on both sides are well-documented and engrained within accounts of the battle.
 
The harsher reality is that the battle was still a battle, a violent collision of two deadly forces. For all the stories of heroism, many are quite gruesome, such as the image of Paraguayan soldiers “casually munching biscuits while their legs were being amputated” (Leuchars, 2002: 127). Williams relays eyewitness accounts of a “swamp of blood” and that months later, “the stench of death was still almost suffocating” (2000: 64).
 
There is considerable debate regarding the consequences of the war from the Paraguayan point of view. The more well-known argument is that there was no purpose for Paraguay to instigate a war and that López was a megalomaniac dictator. The other argument is that the war actually did benefit Paraguay, eventually at least, and that López was a hero. Leuchars makes an argument for this lesser-known claim:
       
Paraguay ended the war with the loss of some 55,000 square miles, or a quarter of its national territory. Yet, however bad this might seem, it was still less than Argentina and Brazil had been trying to extract from it in peaceful negotiations in the first half of the century, and if the Treaty of the Triple Alliance did represent the long-term aims of those countries, then López’s resistance might be said to have counted for something. Nor did it eventually cost them anything in reparations, for each of the Allies subsequently canceled its war debt.
 
These are not idle considerations. Judging by the turmoil in the Plate region in the early 1860s, it seems unlikely that Paraguay could have resisted for long the ambitions of its neighbors; sooner or later, it would have had to part with territory – and probably lots of it. It could be argued that the mutual rivalry between Argentina and Brazil would have limited this, but these two did seem to be cooperating alarmingly well at the start, and they seemed determined enough during the war to pursue their stated ends. It may not be too far-fetched to suggest that despite the huge losses of land and of people, López had in fact defended relatively successfully the independence of his country. (2002: 235-236)
 
López’ decision to instigate the battle by attacking was the first of many mistakes he made that day. He attacked the Allies to spoil their apparent plans for an attack of their own but how it was preferable to be the attacker rather than the defender in this context is not known. It can be argued that time was not on López’ side and that a decisive victory was needed (Leuchars, 2002: 126) but the plan and execution of the attack are unpardonable. López planned to stealthily advance his assault columns through the dense brush and assault at dawn. The plan depended on surprise and timing (Williams, 2000: 58), neither of which were achieved.
 
Throughout May, nearly every night featured some sort of exchange of fire including an attack on May 2 and the Allies had not fully nestled into the positions they occupied days before the Paraguayan attack: “For his moment of attack, López had probably chosen one when the Allies were best prepared for it” (Leuchars, 2002: 119). López also failed to properly reconnoiter the terrain his columns would pass through; the varying difficulty they would face negotiating the thorny brush not only meant the assault was not launched until noon, instead dawn, but the assault columns did not attack simultaneously. While López could not even see the battle from the rear, Osório, Mitre and their subordinates tirelessly encouraged and directed their troops.
 
López did not bring his entire force to the battle and senselessly left 6,000 soldiers in reserve to the north, seemingly in case of the need to retreat, completely contradictory to his decision that a decisive battle must be fought and won. López would have been better served by focusing his attack on the Allied right. The terrain on the Allied right was better suited for a breakthrough attack while demonstrations against other sections of the Allied line would have been effective given the concealment they would enjoy.
 
 
After the disappointingly vague animation for Ayacucho, I was determined to impress my South American viewers who, despite poor representation in battles thus far, show a keen interest in the site. I used as many sources as I could get a hold of researching this battle and owe many thanks to a kind Brazilian historian who helped me overcome a few vague aspects of my own research with his own non-English sources. The majority of detail for this battle is derived from Hoyt’s “Swamp of Blood,” which was readily accessible. I hope this animation is satisfactory and gives this magnificent battle the attention it deserves.
 
- Jonathan Webb
 
Works Consulted
 
Doratioto, Francisco. Maldita Guerra: Nova história da Guerra do Paraguai. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2002.
 
Dupuy, Trevor N. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present, Fourth Edition. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
 
Kolinski, Charles J. Independence or Death: The Story of the Paraguayan War. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1965.
 
Leuchars, Chris. To the Bitter End: Paraguay and the War of the Triple Alliance. London: Greenwood, 2002.
 
Murad, Abid. A Batalha de Tuiuti e Uma Licao de Civismo. Rio de Janeiro, Biblioteca do Exercito, 1957
 
Thompson, George. The War in Paraguay. London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1869.
 
Scheina, Robert L. Latin America’s Wars Vol. 1: The Age of the Caudillo, 1791-1899. New York: Potomac, 2003.
 
Williams, John Hoyt. “A Swamp of Blood: The Battle of Tuyuti.” Military History 17.1 (2000): 58-64.

Images

Allied soldiers: http://img80.imageshack.us/img80/2761/brvol6570.jpg
 
Bartolomé Mitre: http://www.portalplanetasedna.com.ar/mitre.htm
 
Francisco Selano López: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Solano_L%C3%B3pez
 
Luís Manuel Osório: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Lu%C3%ADs_Os%C3%B3rio,_Marquis_of_Erval
 
Paraguyan soldiers: http://www.erroluys.com/Kindle/KindleIllustratedGuide2.htm#Brazilians
 

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  1. 9 Comments to “Battle of Tuyuti, 1866”

  2. You’re being too biased to both sides

    By Someone on Jul 31, 2011 at 5:48 am

  3. Great! Congratulations!

    By Yuri on Aug 4, 2011 at 4:45 pm

  4. Mr Webb,

    Very good representation.
    Just a few comments: 1 - The name of Paraguay ditctator was Manuel SOlano Lopez, not Selano.
    2- This was the first war that an army fought agains a COUNTRY. I mean that Brazilians (well, the alliance) poisoned rivers, killing entire villages to clear the path on the final pursuit agains Solano Lopez. Some records say that 60 to 70%% of Paraguay TOTAL population perished in the war period. The final toll of the war gives no doubt that It was a disaster for Paraguay, and they NEVER recovered fully of that blow, even today
    (Source: http://www.abc.com.py/0/vnc/nota.vnc?id=28486)
    That is it. I hope It helps.

    By Jose Carlos on Sep 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm

  5. congratulations , very interesting!

    the triple alliance treaty was sign secretly previous to an invasion of paraguayan forces on any foreign territory. it was a trap….
    also the allied forces at the beginning of the war where only a fraction of the paraguayan army.
    argentine and brazilians historian have a version of that treaty and the paraguayan historian another so , i would suggest not to stick too much on one side.
    cheer

    By Diego on Dec 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

  6. Thank you, I’ve just been searching for info approximately this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve found out so far. However, what about the bottom line? Are you sure about the supply?|What i do not realize is in truth how you are no longer really a lot more neatly-liked than you might be right now. You are very intelligent.

    By Aussiebum at AllBuffed on Apr 5, 2012 at 10:55 pm

  7. You could certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

    By 4g bredband on May 2, 2012 at 8:18 am

  8. Thanks man.

    so nice to see this famous battle.

    Brazil kicked ass.

    By Brazil on Apr 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm

  9. Good posting! BTW, your side of the story goes way too much on the Allied side. But several other historians worldwide give another expanation for the things.

    Luis G. Benitez, one of the most reputed historians of Paraguayan Military History, in his book: “Historia del Paraguay” -first edition released by Imprenta Comuneros, 1960- claims that the War was started because of the territorial ambitions by Argentina and Brasil, fueled by a British economic plan of destroying the fluorishing paraguayan economy (that’s why the british representative, Edward Thornton, was present and actually was a principal actor during the Treaty of the Triple Alliance).

    This point of view is shared, with some objections, by the american historian Thomas Whigham in his book “The War of the Triple Alliance”, released by Editorial Taurus -in South America in october, 2010-.

    Maybe you can add that info to your post, to have all the sides’ versions of the causes of the war.

    Keep on doin’ your nice job!!

    By Emile on Jun 12, 2013 at 5:02 am

  10. It´s kind of stupid for paraguayans to believe in such fairy tales of ‘it´s an attack against paraguayan freedom…’ the trhuth is that solano lopez tried to mess with all the already messy politics of north argentina and uruguay. Launched an invasion against brazil and tried to catch to his side the north argentinian governor, in a time in which argentina was not a country, but a dictatorship and many parts of it were rebellious. Lopez tried to expand his lands and brazil, allied with uruguay, for some disarray in uruguayan politics put brazil facing paraguay. The argentinians joined the war when they saw Lopez´s trying to mess with then. About the killing, it´s not truth, many of the paraguayans and brazilians historians tend to analyze this with marxist ideas, so it´s bullshit. Che iruete paraguaygua, pende pekuaa la verdad, por favor, ndejukai ha´e!

    By Abáeté on Feb 9, 2014 at 7:05 pm

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