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Armies of the War of the Pacific 1879-83

Armies of the War of the Pacific 1879-83 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review August 2016 Title Armies of the War of the Pacific 1879-83
Author Gabriele Esposito Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2016 ISBN 9781472814067
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $17.95


Bolivia wasn’t always landlocked.

In a 19th Century alliance with Peru, the country lost its entire seacoast during a catastrophic conflict with Chile. And the effects reverberate today.

Now Osprey tells the tale in Armies of the War of the Pacific 1879-83: Chile, Peru & Bolivia – number 504 in the publisher’s “Men-at-Arms” series.

Author Gabriele Esposito starts his slim study with introductory notes, chronology and “military operations” summary. Sections on individual belligerents follow. Coverage includes, among other things, organization, tactics, performance and weapons.

Mineral resources drove events. And sea power proved pivotal in shaping them.

Superior discipline and training, weapons and warships made the Chilean Navy, “for its size”, “one of the best in the world”. It quickly established mastery of the sea. And it sustained the land campaign against Peru and Bolivia. In short, it proved pivotal in paving Chile’s path to victory.

Guerrilla warfare played key parts, too. And the conflict’s pacification efforts – from insurgent tactics to occupier actions – eerily echoed those of a century later.

Uniform enthusiasts will appreciate the eight pages of gorgeous color plates. Photos, extended captions, maps and an index also augment the account. And a selected bibliography will facilitate further study.

The Peruvian ironclad Huáscar – constructed in 1866, and captured by Chile during the war – still exists. So do other, less tangible artifacts.

Chile gained mineral-rich territory from both Peru and Bolivia – including Bolivia’s entire seacoast. And the sting and shame of that debacle reverberate today.

“For Bolivians, the loss of the Litoral (coast) remained a deep psychological and practical wound, and popular belief attributed many of the country’s problems too its landlocked status,” Esposito argues. “Over many years, numerous Bolivian presidents have pressured Chile in order to obtain sovereign access to the sea, but without success, and anti-Chilean sentiment in Peru and Bolivia is still significant today.”

Find out why the War of the Pacific remains critical to understanding today’s Latin American power politics. Make Esposito’s cool little chronicle your introduction to this pivotal conflict.

Roundly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!