Battle of Callao, 1866

Painting of the Spanish squadron exchanging fire with the Peruvian shore batteries during the Battle of Callao. Original in the collection of the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History of Peru.

Location Callao, Peru

After Spain seized the Chincha Islands in 1864, it began trying to strongarm its former colonies in South America. From Peru, Spain demanded compensation for the murder of two Spanish citizens, which Peru was initially going to comply with. However, after a coup d'etat, Peru turned to resisting Spain. A Spanish squadron bombarded and destroyed the Chilean merchant fleet in Valparaíso, Chile, then turned north to attempt the same action against Peru. However, the target, Callao, was much better defended than Valparaíso, and when the Spanish engaged on 2 May, 1866, they were met by stiff resistance from the Peruvian Navy, and accompanying forts. Combat began just before noon, and lasted for over five hours. Three of the Spanish ships were heavily damaged, with two having to be towed out of the Bay. Casualties were light, with forty-three killed, and 151 wounded. The Peruvians lost most of their shore batteries knocked out, and suffered far more casualties. Sources claim anywhere from 180 to 2,000 killed and wounded. Many of the Peruvian casualties came from infantry and cavalry troops stationed to repel an expected Spanish landing, who were hit by stray shots. Both sides claimed victory, but the Spanish had accomplished their immediate objective of silencing the forts. However, the Spanish did not capitalize on the outcome, and the War petered out, with action ending in 1868, and the peace eventually signed in 1879.