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Chilean Crisis

Chilean Crisis (1891).The Chilean Crisis (or Baltimore Affair) was one in a string of late nineteenth‐century naval crises. Despite U.S. efforts to support the old regime, a Chilean revolution succeeded in the summer of 1891. U.S. antipathy to the new regime notwithstanding, the new, light (protected) cruiser USS Baltimore remained in the Chilean port of Valparaiso, near Santiago. On 16 October, Cdr. Winfield S. Schley permitted some of his crew long‐overdue leave, and several became involved in a saloon brawl. An ensuing riot left two U.S. sailors dead and seventeen injured.

The Navy Department ordered the Baltimore replaced by the Yorktown under Robley D. “Fighting Bob” Evans, who waited impatiently for negotiations on restitution—or war. Secretary of State James Blaine and Timothy Egan, U.S. minister in Santiago, evinced little interest in peaceful reconciliation. President Benjamin Harrison increased pressure on the Chilean government, issuing a virtual ultimatum on 25 January 1892.

Some North Americans were concerned, noting that the Chilean Navy was technically larger than that of the United States and might threaten West Coast cities. Nonetheless, the Chilean government quickly offered a complete apology and $75,000 in restitution. At the last minute, war had been averted.

Other naval crises continued apace: Honolulu in 1893, Guiana in 1895, and Havana in 1898. After a decade of naval buildup, the United States was quickly and frequently involved in the type of disputes other great powers knew well. North Americans soon forgot an event that Chileans would long remember.


Joyce Goldberg , The Baltimore Affair, 1986.
Mark R. Shulman , Navalism and the Emergence of American Sea Power, 1995.

Mark R. Shulman

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