The Heroes of the Pacific War 1879-1883

Heroes of the Pacific War 1879 Aguirre and Ugarte

Elías Aguirre and Alfonso Ugarte – who were they?

Elías Aguirre

Elías Aguirre Romero was born in 1843 in Chiclayo, Peru. At the age of eleven he moved to Lima and attended the high school of the brothers Manuel and Isidro Pérez and later of Jacobo López Castilla. In 1858 he entered the Naval School, graduating as an ensign at the age of two, and was commissioned on the frigate “Amazonas”. He was part of the commission that received in Valparaíso the corvette “Unión” of 1150 tons, which arrived from Europe under the command of Miguel Grau. On board this ship, he participated in the naval battle of Abtao against the Spanish squadron in 1866 and was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant in recognition of his service and awarded the title of “Benemérito de la Patria”.

He was a man of great learning and translated Captain R.G. Mayne’s “Notes for the Navigation of the Strait of Magellan.” In 1870, he already held the rank of corvette captain and took over the sub-directorate of the Naval School. Unfortunately, the gunboat he commanded, “Chanchamayo”, was shipwrecked in 1875 and he was held responsible for the loss, indicted and dismissed from the service.

He became politically active and supported the Civic Party in the parliamentary elections of 1877. When war broke out with Chile, he immediately returned to active duty and was again assigned to the corvette “Unión” under the command of Captain Aurelio García y García. However, at the request of Miguel Grau, he was transferred to the Huáscar monitor as deputy commander. For months he participated in the successive victories of the “Huáscar”, despite its obvious disadvantages against the enemy, such as its lower armor. On October 8, 1879, the heroic Monitor fought two enemy fleet formations: the battleships “Blanco Encalada” and “Lord Cochrane”, the gunboat “Covadonga”, the corvette “O’Higgins” and the transport ships “Matías Cousiño” and “Lora”. A few minutes after the confrontation, a shell fired from the “Cochrane” killed Miguel Grau and left his assistant, Lieutenant Diego Ferré, dying. Aguirre then took command of the ship and ordered the “Cochrane” to spur, with the misfortune that the spur twisted and another shell decapitated Aguirre, who was replaced by Melitón Carbajal, before the maneuver was completed. His remains were first interred in the Bolivian port city of Mejillones and have rested in the Crypt of Heroes since 1908.

Alfonso Ugarte

Alfonso Ugarte was a Peruvian civilian who became a military commander during the Pacific War between Peru and Bolivia against Chile. He was born on August 2, 1847, and died heroically at the age of 33, defending the national flag from the hands of the enemy in the Battle of Arica. He attended commercial schools in Valparaíso and Europe (1861-1867) and ventured into agriculture, trade and saltpeter extraction with great success. After the severe earthquake of 1869, he was also an efficient official, mayor of Iquique (1876) and member of the city’s welfare association. He was about to travel to Europe again for the company he founded, Ugarte, Zeballos y Compañía, when the war with Chile broke out in 1879.

Despite this difficult situation, he decided to stay and invest his personal fortune in the defense of the country; he started a collection to support the troops and paid for uniforms, provisions and mules with his own money. He commanded the battalion of Iquique, which he also personally financed, and participated with it in the battles of San Francisco and Tarapacá (November 1879). In the latter he was wounded in the head, but still went around the battlefield to bury the fallen. He did not want to withdraw from the war, even though he was sick with malaria, and swore from Arica to the flag that the women of his homeland had given to the battalion of Iquique.

Alongside Francisco Bolognesi, he heroically participated in the Battle of Arica (June 7, 1880), and when he found himself surrounded by the enemy in the lead, he threw himself into the sea to defend the honor of the national flag. The historian José A. del Busto has reconstructed this glorious moment as follows:

At that time, Alfonso Ugarte rode from one place to another on his white horse and with the speed of a hurry to maintain the link between the battalions and bring them to the top of the hill to defend it until the sea. Ugarte took this responsibility upon himself because almost all of the Peruvian chiefs were already dead or wounded. One of the few still in good health was Arias Aragüez, who, surrounded by enemies, was ordered to surrender as many as three times, but the Tacneño refused to give up his sword and was cut down by bullets as no Chilean officer dared to take it from him. In this way, the enemy got very close to the flagpole where the flag was located, in the defense of which many Peruvian soldiers died, including Major Blondell, who succumbed at the foot of the flagpole because he was said to have lowered the flag to save it from the enemy. The tradition says that after Blondell’s death the bicolor floated in several arms without reaching the enemy, and then a rider of those who had him grabbed him and jumped into the void on his white horse with the flag in his right hand. on the north side of the hill: it was Colonel Alfonso Ugarte.

Gold coins from Peru – Heroes of the Pacific War

Both: Elías Aguirre and Alfonso Ugarte are considered national heroes of the country of Peru.

In the late 70s, Peru issued a gold coin series “Heroes of the Pacific War”. The series “Heroes of the Pacific War” includes:

50 000 Soles de oro (F. Garcia Calderon), 1979

100 000 Soles de oro (Francisco Bolognese), 1979

100 000 Soles de oro (Andrés A. Câceres), 1979

100 000 Soles de oro (Miguel Grau), 1979

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Facts about both personalities – source: +