Water Witch Incident

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Water Witch Incident

While surveying the Paraná River in February 1855, the USS Water Witch was fired upon from the Paraguayan fort Itapirú, killing the helmsman and injuring others. The American warship had been sent to survey the Río de la Plata system, a regular undertaking by warships of the major naval powers. A year earlier, the Water Witch's commanding officer, Lieutenant Thomas Jefferson Page, had been involved in a dispute between Paraguayan president Carlos Antonio López and a U.S. business concern. As a result, Paraguay closed its waterways to foreign warships, but the United States considered the Paraná River an international waterway. In 1858 the United States dispatched a squadron of warships, which included the Water Witch, to resolve the issue. While the majority of the squadron remained downriver at Corrientes, Argentina, the Water Witch and the Fulton proceeded to Asunción, arriving in January 1859. The U.S. commissioner, James B. Rowlin, negotiated an apology, a $10,000 indemnity for the family of the slain helmsman, and a new commercial treaty between Paraguay and the United States.

See alsoParaná River .


Thomas J. Page, La Plata, the Argentine Confederation, and Paraguay (1859).

Pablo Max Ynsfrán, La expedición norteamericana contra el Paraguay, 1858–1859, 2 vols. (1954–1958).

Additional Bibliography

Mora, Frank and Jerry W Cooney. Paraguay and the United States: Distant Allies. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007.

                                        Robert Scheina