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Riachuelo, Battle of the

Riachuelo, Battle of the

The Battle of the Riachuelo of June 11, 1865, was a decisive naval engagement of the Triple Alliance War (1864–1870). As part of his invasion of northeastern Argentina, Paraguay's marshal-president Francisco Solano López needed to clear the Paraná River of Brazilian and Argentine naval vessels. To this end, he formulated a plan that called for a surprise attack at dawn against an Allied fleet of eleven steamers anchored just south of the port of Corrientes near its confluence with the Riachuelo River. But various delays prevented the arrival of Paraguayan admiral Ignacio Meza's flotilla until 11 a.m.

Having thus lost the element of surprise, the Paraguayans proceeded to lose every chance for effective maneuver against the better-armed Brazilian steamers. For the next six hours, the two forces seesawed back and forth across the waters. During this time the Allies generally turned their superiority in firepower to good effect. Brazilian admiral Francisco Manoel Barroso managed to direct his flagship, the Amazonas, in a wide arc to attack several of Meza's warships in succession. In the end, the Paraguayans were forced to retreat upriver, having lost four of their nine steamers (with all the rest badly damaged). The Brazilians lost two steamers of their own, the Belmonte and the Jequitinhonha, the latter of which ran aground where it was destroyed by Paraguayan shore batteries. Casualties were high on both sides, with Meza dying from wounds the next day. The Allied victory at the Riachuelo denied to the Paraguayans any hope of an unchallenged advance southward into Argentina. Within weeks, López ordered his land forces to withdraw back into Paraguay, thus assuring an entirely defensive campaign from that point forward.

See alsoLópez, Francisco Solano; Paraná River; War of the Triple Alliance.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Whigham, Thomas L. The Paraguayan War, Vol. 1: Causes and Early Conduct. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2002.

                                   Thomas L. Whigham

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