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Court of Blood: Treason and Terror under Paraguay's Francisco Solano López

  • Thomas Whigham (a1)
Extract

Treason during wartime inspires some of the worst features in the human character. Not only does the traitor besmirch his own reputation in the eyes of his countrymen, but those near him are frequently polluted by association. Worst of all, the desire for vengeance that is unleashed through treasonous acts frequently brings excesses that dwarf the original crime. It is for this reason that magistrates and systems of law in Western democracies have traditionally tried to leech the passion out of individual cases of treason as they attempt to render equitable and just decisions.

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References
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1. Fragoso, Augusto Tasso, História da guerra entre a Tríplice Aliança e o Paraguay, 5 vols. (Rio de Janeiro: Biblioteca do Exército Editóra, 1957); Doratioto, Francisco, Maldita guerra. Nova história da Guerra do Paraguai (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2002); Whigham, Thomas, La guerra de la Triple Alianza, 3 vols. (Asunción: Taurus, 2011-13).

2. See Delvalle, Alcibiades González, San Fernando: drama histórico sobre la guerra de la Triple Alianza (Asunción: Servilibro, 2004); and Bastos, Augusto Roa, El fiscal (Asunción: Servilibro, 2009).

3. See Washburn, Charles Ames, History of Paraguay with Notes of Personal Observations and Reminiscences of Diplomacy under Difficulties, 2 vols. (Boston and New York: Lee and Shepard, 1871), Vol. 2.

4. Aveiro, Silvestre, Memorias militares, 1864–1870 (Asunción: Ediciones Comuneros, 1989), 63; Testimony of Frederick Skinner, Asunción, January 25, 1871, in Scottish Record Office, CS 244/543/19 (138) 320.

5. Resquín, Francisco I., La guerra del Paraguay contra la Triple Alianza (Asunción: El Lector, 1996), 9495.

6. Washburn detested the senior Alliance leaders, once referring to the Brazilian admiral Tamandaré as a “genius of imbecility.” See Washburn, History of Paraguay, I:553.

7. Richard Burton, who at that time was Her Majesty's consul at the Brazilian port of Santos, used disdainful language in commenting on Washburn's refusal to move the US legation: “I hardly think that such a proceeding would have been adopted by Europeans . . . Asunción might have been attacked at any moment by a squadron of ironclads, and the marshal-president of the republic was to a certain extent answerable for the lives of foreign agents accredited to him.” See Burton, Letters from the Battle-Fields of Paraguay (London: Tinsley Brothers, 1870), 409.

8. Masterman, George Frederick, Seven Eventful Years in Paraguay (London: S. Low, Son, and Marston, 1869), 245.

9. Wenceslao Robles, commander of the Paraguayan land forces in Corrientes, made the mistake of criticizing López's generalship. This show of insubordination, which came as a whispered utterance when he was drunk, brought an accusation of treason and he was executed in early 1866. See Robles Court-Martial, Humaitá, January 1866, Archivo Nacional de Asunción [Sección Historia] [hereafter ANA-SH], 347, no. 8.

10. Thompson, George, The War in Paraguay with a Historical Sketch of the Country and Its People and Notes upon the Military Engineering of the War (London: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1869), 263264.

11. Though the medieval law code lacked a definition of treason as understood in modern law, its general character was set forth in regulations prohibiting nocturnal assemblies, the incitement to sedition, plotting war against the country, the perfidious betrayal of a citizen to the enemy, or the act of aiding or abetting such a betrayal, all of which were capital crimes. See Burns, Robert I., ed., Las siete partidas, Volume 2: Medieval Government. The World of Kings and Warriors (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 365366 (Title XV, Laws 1 and 2).

12. Título décimo de las Ordenanzas de su Magestad para el régimen. Disciplina, subordinación, y servicios de sus Exércitos con licencia en Barcelona. (1769), artículo uno, https://www.scribd.com/doc/16392026/Reales-Ordenanzas-de-Carlos-III, accessed January 5, 2018.

13. Judicial torture had no place in Paraguayan legal procedures, but flogging definitely did, both as an instrument to extract information and as a punishment for soldiers absent without leave. The practice was not entirely abolished until the early 1900s. See Báez, Cecilio, “El uso del azote en el Paraguay durante la dictadura,” Revista del Instituto Paraguayo 9:58 (1907): 245256.

14. Inocencia López de Barrios remained in custody and under constant threat of torture in her brother's camp until December 1868. Her sentence of death was commuted on the same day that the authorities executed her husband, General Vicente Barrios. See Testimony of Inocencia López de Barrios, Asunción, January 17, 1871, Scottish Record Office, CS 244/543/19, 83–84, 90. Regarding the French chancellor, see Maíz, Fidel, Etapas de mi vida (Asunción: El Lector, 1986), 6466; and Cuverville Correspondence (1868) in Kansas University Library, Natalício González Collection, ms E222. As for the Portuguese consul, he stood accused of having secretly aided Brazilian prisoners of war; this brought the revocation of his exequatur in July and his subsequent arrest. See López decree, San Fernando, July 20, 1868, in ANA, Colección Rio Branco [hereafter ANA-CRB], I-30, 28, 26, no. 9.

15. José del R. Medina statement, Luque, July 30, 1868, ANA-CRB, I-30, 25, 26, no. 15; and Cardozo, Efraím, Hace cien años: crónicas de la guerra de 1864–1870, 13 vols. (Asunción: La Tribuna, 1968–82), 9:130.

16. Amerlan, Albert, Nights on the Rio Paraguay. Scenes of War and Character Sketches (Buenos Aires: H. Tjarks, 1902), 124.

17. Washburn, History of Paraguay, II:269–270.

18. See Schupp, Carlos Heyn, ed., Escritos del Padre Fidel Maíz, I. Autobiografía y cartas (Asunción: Union Académique Internationale y Academia Paraguaya de la Historia, 2010).

19. On one occasion in the early 1860s, Eliza Lynch requested that Maíz officiate at the baptism of one of López's children. When he insisted that the ceremony take place in the church rather than in a private home, she took great umbrage. So did López, who arranged for a minor parish priest, Manuel Antonio Palacios, to officiate in the manner demanded. Palacios became bishop afterwards, and neither he nor Maíz ever set aside their mutual animosity. See Maíz letters, Museo Histórico Militar (Asunción), Colección Zeballos [hereafter MHM (A)-CZ], carpeta 122, nos. 4-5; and Maiz, Etapas de mi vida, 24. The marshal regarded Palacios as a useful fool but later had him shot anyway. See Meliá, Bartomeu, “El fusilamiento del Obispo Palacios. Documentos Vaticanos,” Estudios Paraguayos 11:1 (1983), 3639.

20. In addition to facing civil charges, Maíz endured an ecclesiastical trial in which he was charged with Protestant leanings and reading forbidden books, both standard accusations against the world's Freemasons. See Falcón, José, Escritos históricos (Asunción: Servilibro, 2006), 9193, and, on a related theme, Una declaración contra el Presbitero Fidel Maíz, [1862?], in ANA-SH, 331, no. 26. See also Declaración del Presbitero Aniceto Benítez en el proceso del Presbitero Fidel Maíz, ANA-SH 331, no. 23; and Segundo cuerpo del proceso formado a los reos Presbs. Fidel Maíz, José del Carmen Moreno, Aniceto Benítez y demás complices, ANA-Nueva Encuadernación, [hereafter ANA-NE] 1636. That Maíz read Rousseau and Victor Hugo he freely admitted. He later admitted his support of an 1862 plan to limit the President's powers through a system of constitutional checks and balances. See Maíz to Juan E. O'Leary, Arroyos y Esteros, June 10, 1906, Biblioteca Nacional de Asunción, Colección Juan O'Leary. Maiz's latter admission proves that political conspiracies were possible in López's Paraguay. Washburn, who ridiculed the charges of heresy and debauchery leveled against Maíz, nonetheless thought it likely that the priest had coveted the presidency for himself. See Washburn, History of Paraguay, II:59. Juansilvano Godoi argued more convincingly that Maíz wanted the episcopal office instead. See Godoi, Documentos históricos. El fusilamiento del Obispo Palacios y los tribunales de sangre de San Fernando (Asunción: El Liberal, 1916), 255.

21. The analogy to Galileo was ethically indefensible, for in giving in to duress the astronomer risked only his own life, whereas Maíz's actions ultimately sent many other men to be tortured and shot. See Maíz to Estanislao Zeballos, Arroyos y Esteros, July 7, 1889, MHM (A)-CZ, carpeta 122, no. 5.

22. El Semanario de Avisos y Conocimientos Útiles (Asunción), December 1, 1866.

23. See Maíz Papers, University of California-Riverside, Juansilvano Godoi Collection, box 1, no. 26. Maíz's personal archive was supposedly given to historian Juan E. O'Leary, but it is not clear that the various uncatalogued papers pertaining to him in the British Newspaper Archive [Colección Juan O'Leary] [hereafter BNA-CJO] include those materials. See Maiz, Etapas de mi vida, 289, no. 179.

24. Maíz himself cited the case of Judas Maccabeus, although in his version it was López who filled the sandals of the Israelite general, not himself. See Etapas de mi vida, 34–35.

25. Questions of race and class were historically intertwined in Paraguay, and one could just as easily paint the wartime estrangement that the Guaraní-speaking peasantry felt for the urban elite in ethnic as in class terms. The Prussian officer Maximilian von Versen put it best when he remarked that the “Guaraníes assisted [in this persecution of the elite] with a disguised but natural glee, hoping [thereby] to witness the complete elimination of those Spaniards who had enslaved them.” See Versen, Von, Reisen in Amerika und der Südamerikanische Krieg (Breslau: Malzer, 1872), 173.

26. In a speech offered when in his dotage, Maíz praised civil society, noting that it was perfectly reasonable to disagree when “under the breezes of a beautiful democratic freedom,” but adding that “sometimes a tempest brings about a [broader] agitation from which surge forth new and impassioned disunions, driving the ancient and hateful rivalries [like a dagger] into the breast of the Paraguayan family.” See Maíz, Fidel, Desagravio (Asunción: La Mundial, 1916), 7677.

27. Silvestre Aveiro spoke up for Centurión and saved him from execution. See Aveiro, Memorias militares, 61; and Centurión, Juan Crisóstomo, Memorias o reminiscencias históricas sobre la guerra del Paraguay, 4 vols. (Asunción: El Lector, 1987), 3:154155.

28. Although he never showed remorse, Centurión was vexed about his role at San Fernando, where he had been involved in some of the interrogations. Frederick Skinner, one of the British doctors employed by the Paraguayan state, claimed that the colonel had been a sadistic participant in the worst abuses:

I cannot find language strong enough to express my opinion of him, which is that which all the people in the country have of him. He was one of López's fiscales, and his executioner-in-chief. I have repeatedly seen him gloating over tortures and cruelties. They say that he has buried women alive in anthills, but I cannot vouch for this. He is a great liar, and neither his word nor his oath deserves credit. He is a greater scoundrel than López himself.

See Declaration of Frederick Skinner, Asunción, January 28, 1871, Scottish Record Office, CS 244/543/19 (141). In 1890, when an aspirant for a Paraguayan consular appointment at Montevideo publicly claimed that the colonel had attended the torture of Uruguayan suspects at San Fernando, Centurión responded quickly, soliciting letters of support from a long list of veterans who swore to his innocence. See Centurión, Memorias o reminiscencias, III:258–262.

29. Aveiro was a complex figure, well-educated and loyal, but also spiteful and cruel. He left an account of his wartime experiences in which he admits to flogging the marshal's mother, for “such had been the orders.” See Memorias militares, 108. In his memoirs, Falcón took a far more circumspect—if hypocritical—view of events at San Fernando, casting every ounce of blame on López:

Hundreds of distinguished men, priests, and women were taken from the capital to that spot and there sacrificed to the whim or dream that [López had] conceived of a conspiracy against his life; there occurred the most horrendous torments against innocent persons who did not even know the cause of their torture. They died as martyrs crying out their innocence and they heard nothing but the noise of fetters, chains, lashings, screams, and cries for mercy.

See Falcón, Escritos históricos, 95. One might presume that Falcón was an unwilling spectator at these events, and that, in accusing López, he was partly absolving himself for having failed to intervene. In fact, he conducted the interrogation and torture of Masterman. See Masterman, Seven Eventful Years, 256–258; and “The Atrocities of López,” The Standard (Buenos Aires), May 15, 1869.

30. In late December, with the tribunals of San Fernando now a thing of the past, the British architect Alonzo Taylor chanced to meet the marshal as the latter rode past his place of confinement at Lomas Valentinas. Taylor had been held since July and underwent frequent torture, as did many other foreigners who had worked for the Paraguayan government:

We were ordered to stand in a row, and he came up to us and asked, “Are you all prisoners?” We replied, “Yes,” and then Mr. Treuenfeld [the telegraphist] appealed to His Excellency, who asked him why he was there. Mr. Treuenfeld said he did not know, and the President told him he was at liberty, and might retire. I then approached, and said I should be grateful for the same mercy. López asked me who I was, and affected great surprise when he heard my name, and said, ‘What are you doing here? You are at liberty.’ Then the other prisoners, ten in number, came up and received the same answer.

See “Taylor Narrative,” in Masterman, Seven Eventful Years, 330. While in captivity, Taylor's weight dropped from 178 to 98 pounds. His account was confirmed in a January 12, 1869, letter to Washburn from Robert von Fischer-Treuenfeld in Asunción, and included in the Report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Memorial of Porter C. Bliss and George F. Masterman. House of Representatives, May 5, 1870 (Washington: GPO, 1870) [hereafter Paraguayan Investigation], 24–27.

31. The transcripts of the San Fernando proceedings did not survive, save for a few truncated excerpts. Scholars, however, can consult the earlier reports to get an idea of the evidence to which the fiscales had access. See Miscellaneous Testimonies, Luque, May 8June 2, 1868, in ANA-CRB I-30, 24, 46; Plano y organización de la conspiración tramada en el Paraguay, 1866 [sic], in BNA-CJO; and Avila, Manuel, “Apuntes sobre la conspiración de 1868. Pequeña contribución a la historia de la guerra con la Triple Alianza y de la tiranía de López,” Revista del Instituto Paraguayo 2:17 (1899): 215231, and 3:23 (1900): 3–30. Dr. William Stewart maintained that Marshal López was well informed about the proceedings, including the tortures: “At table he told us that Mr. So-and-So begged to be shot, but that Father Maíz would reply, ‘Have no fear for that, when we have done with you, we will shoot you.’” See the Stewart testimony, Washburn-Norlands Library [hereinafter WNL].

32. Thompson, The War in Paraguay, 328.

33. Maíz represents a case in point. He returned to Arroyos y Esteros from Rome in the 1870s and quietly administered the parish thereafter. He felt some intermittent guilt for his past actions, but always preferred to focus on the unquestionable sacrifices made by other Paraguayan chaplains. Maíz outlived them all, dying in 1920 at age 92. See Maíz to O'Leary, February 24, 1915, BNA-CO, Arroyos y Esteros.

34. Even repentant men find refuge in casuistry. Maíz spent the first years of the twentieth century trying to clear his name from accusations of criminal brutality at San Fernando, the accusations coming not from men of his own generation, but from Juansilvano Godoi, a younger man who had written a novelistic account of the tribunals. See Godoi, Documentos históricos. Maíz had grown weary of this topic, but engaged in a sad polemic notwithstanding. He appealed to posterity, using the standard justification asserted by the war-criminals at Nuremburg:

In truth, during those supreme hours for the country, I obeyed the undeniable orders of the first magistrate of the Republic. I worked as I should have worked, keeping strictly to . . . all legal precedents. If the law was rigid, cruel, and perhaps barbarous, I could not depart from its letter and spirit. . . . I have nothing to repent [and it is easy for] those today to [hold me accountable] from a great distance, [not understanding] the desperate national agony.

See Maíz, Desagravio, 23–24.

35. Amerlan, Nights on the Rio Paraguay, 127.

36. Washburn, History of Paraguay, I:510.

37. The irrationality of torture has frequently been recognized, not only by scholars far from the scene of such actions, but also by those who have used such methods in practice. General Paul Aussaresses, whose troops defeated the urban terrorists in Algiers in 1956-57 by systematically applying electroshock torture to detainees, admitted late in life that while the technique won the battle for France, it ensured that the war would be lost. See Aussaresses, Paul, Service Spéciaux. Algérie, 1955–1957 (Paris: Perrin, 2001).

38. Washburn, History of Paraguay, II:269–271.

39. Correspondencia, Buenos Aires, May 28, 1868, in Jornal do Commercio (Rio de Janeiro), June 5, 1868.

40. Matías Goiburú, another of López's fiscales, left a short account of Juliana Ynsfrán, blaming López for all her misfortune. See Cardozo, Hace cien años, IX:241. Doña Juliana's mother-in-law was executed at the same time to show the marshal's remaining officers what “was in store for their wives, mothers, and sisters in case they should ever fall into the hands of the enemy.” See Washburn, History of Paraguay, II:270–271.

41. Braschi, Dardo Ramírez, La guerra del Paraguay en la provincia de Corrientes (Corrientes: Moglia, 2014).

42. de Kostianovsky, Olinda Massare, José Berges. Malogrado estadista y diplomático (Asunción: Penitenciaria Nacional, nd), 1217. The former foreign minister's “defense” at San Fernando can be consulted in ANA-CRB, I-30, 27, 96 [August (?) 1868].

43. In one of his many contradictory letters on the subject, Maíz claimed that López generally penciled an “x” against the names of those who were to be found guilty and executed. See Maíz to Zeballos, July 7, 1889, MHM (A)-CZ, Arroyos y Esteros, carpeta 122. Though this does not seem out of keeping with the marshal's temper, it nonetheless appears overstated, since he usually kept his distance from the inquisitions. The fiscales, of course, could not rely on his absenting himself if they wished to remain safe. Amerlan tells the story of one judge who earned himself four bullets to the brain when the marshal learned that he had given Benigno a glass of water. See Amerlan, Nights on the Rio Paraguay, 128–129.

44. A few details on the minor victims of the San Fernando tribunals can be gleaned in Papeles del tirano del Paraguay tomados por los aliados en el asalto de 27 de diciembre de 1868 (Buenos Aires, 1869), 30–62, US Library of Congress, https://archive.org/details/papelesdeltirano00unse, accessed January 6, 2018.

45. Barrios had acted as his future brother-in-law's procurer during the 1850s and had commanded the initial invasion forces during the Mato Grosso campaign of 1864. None of this saved him four years later. See Sumario instruido contra el Ministro de Guerra y Marina, General de división ciudadano Vicente Barrios, sobre el suicidio que ha intentado de perpetrar degollándose con una navaja de barba el día 12 de agosto [de 1868], ANA-SH 355, no. 9.

46. See Plá, Josefina, The British in Paraguay, 1850–1870, (Richmond and Surrey: Richmond Publishing, 1976).

47. Though still detained as a suspected spy, Von Versen enjoyed the freedom of the Paraguayan camp in San Fernando until mid July when Resquín's men formally arraigned him on conspiracy charges. He was bound day and night, together with various Alliance prisoners of war, only to be released later, then arrested once again. See Cardozo, Hace cien años, IX:151–152, 246, 352–353; X:25–26; and Von Versen, Reisen in Amerika, 187–196.

48. Plá, The British in Paraguay, 164–182.

49. Mörner, Magnus, Algunas cartas del naturalista sueco Eberhard Munck af Rosenchöld escritas durante su estadía en el Paraguay, 1843–1868 (Stockholm, 1956), 5. This odd case has the same elements as Manly Wade Wellman's 1939 short story, “The Valley Was Still” (later reworked by Rod Serling as an episode for his TV series Twilight Zone), in which Confederate soldiers spurn the entreaties of a bearded warlock who promises them victory at Gettysburg in exchange for their agreeing to serve the devil.

50. Centurión called the proceedings a “hellish vortex” that brought horror to everyone involved. See Centurión, Memorias o reminiscencias, III:155–156.

51. Burton, Letters from the Battle-Fields, xi, 128.

52. The general, who had done such fine work as a gunner while fighting the Brazilians, managed to run afoul of the marshal in some manner not entirely clear. See Thompson, The War in Paraguay, 266.

53. A good many observers who had fought for López subsequently found words to approve the aims of the supposed plotters, though their support came too late to make any difference. See Centurión, Memorias o reminiscencias, III:161.

54. The Washburn diary is replete with references to such visits, to the French and Italian consuls, to Dr. Stewart, to an Italian ship-captain, to Juana Pabla Carrillo, and many others (see his testimony in WNL). And in his memoirs, Washburn displayed no regret for the open contempt he had showed López, seemingly thinking that, as representative of a democratic country, he should feel free to act any way he wished: “It may not have been diplomatic, and certainly was not courtier-like, but I took a sort of malicious pleasure, when everyone else in the room was standing, to sit in a conspicuous place, indifferent to whether the President were standing or not. These offenses were laid up against me, to be brought up years afterwards.” See Washburn, History of Paraguay, II:104.

55. Many well-to-do foreigners had taken advantage of Washburn's generous offer to turn their cash and goods over to him in 1868. There are many divergent tales of what finally happened to their property. See “Los misterios del Paraguay,” La Nación Argentina (Buenos Aires), December 23-24, 1868.

56. The diplomatic personnel who made Sallie Washburn's acquaintance in Paraguay tolerated rather than liked her, and the American naval officers she met seem to have held the same view. While we can share their general distaste, the words she uttered should not be simply discounted as disturbed ravings. See Testimony of Commander W. A. Kirkland, New York, October 28, 1869, in the Paraguayan Investigation, 215.

57. Washburn's wife may have let slip a dangerous secret, or, more likely, she was deluding herself into thinking that she knew more than she did. Months later, she denied that she had said any such thing, testifying before Congress that “I could not have said that there was a plan or a conspiracy because I did not then believe it; but I may have said that at one time we may have supposed there was, because of the arrest of people. . . . I do not remember definitely what occurred on the voyage, as I was very nervous and suffered a great deal.” See Testimony of Mrs. Washburn, New York, October 29, 1869,” in the Paraguayan Investigation, 217. Given the rancor that developed between her husband and the US naval officers at he South American station, it is possible that that her naval interlocutor, Captain William A. Kirkland, heard her comment the way he wanted to and interpreted it in such a way as to embarrass her husband. For his part, the former minister denied that his wife could have disclosed a conspiracy, for no one who “had escaped from the hands of López believes there had been one.” See Washburn letter, New York, November 16, 1869, in New York Daily Tribune, November 17, 1869.

58. The French consul had never warmed to the New Englander and had little problem believing the worst of him. See Paul Cuverville to French Foreign Minister, Luque, October 23, 1868, in Capdevila, Luc, Une guerre totale, Paraguay 1864–1870. Essai d'histoire du temps présent (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2007), 456457. The Frenchman's suspicions were widely credited in a France still resentful over the US role in the Maximilian fiasco in Mexico. One result, perhaps, was the positive reception accorded the subsidized publication of a pamphlet titled M. Washburn et la Conspiration Paraguayenne. Une question du droit des gens (Paris: Dubuisson et Cie, 1868). This work contrived to implicate many Paraguayans and resident foreigners in the 1868 conspiracy. See Gregorio Benítes to Benjamín Poucel, Paris, December 18, 1868, in BNA-CO, Benítes Papers.

59. Originally published in El Semanario, this report later appeared as Historia secreta de la misión del ciudadano norte-americano Charles A. Washburn cerca del gobierno de la República del Paraguay (Luque: Imprenta del Estado, 1868). Even those who believe in a conspiracy can recognize the unmistakable hand of coercion in this work. Bliss spent three months composing it, calculating that the longer he stayed at the task, the greater the chance of his rescue by the Alliance forces. Throughout this time he was bullied by Maíz, who made it clear that things might go badly for him if he failed to write the report in the prescribed way. In a tone of angry sarcasm, Bliss later explained to members of the US Congress that Maíz “had himself been imprisoned three years on the charge of having headed a former conspiracy, and . . . he was thought to be a most fitting person to persecute persons engaged in new conspiracies.” See Testimony of Porter C. Bliss, Washington, DC, April 24, 1869,” in Paraguayan Investigation, 146 [emphasis in the original]. In the end, the “pamphlet” reached 323 pages, and included a fictitious biography of Washburn and as many poems and “ridiculous old jokes” as Bliss could recall (“believing that this publication would inevitably fall into the hands of the Allies and be interpreted by them correctly, I resolved to make it the medium of informing them and all the world in regard to the atrocities committed by President López”).

60. Testimony of Rear-Admiral Davis, October 27, 1869 (New York) and Testimony of Commander Kirkland, October 28, 1869 (New York), both in the Paraguayan Investigation, 186–209. Thomas Q. Leckron, a captain's clerk aboard the Wasp at the time of Bliss's release, managed to speak with the reluctant author of the Historia secreta and offered testimony regarding him that certainly seems damning:

I remarked that . . . after three months of torture and confinement which he had undergone it must indeed be a relief to find himself once more with those who had the power and the will to protect him. He then said that as far as torture was concerned he had never been subject to it, or even threatened with anything of the kind; that he had not been in irons; that he and Mr. Masterman had a hut as comfortable as any of those occupied by the Paraguayans; that they were given every day a sufficient allowance of beef and mandioca, as well as yerba; and that the only thing he complained of was that he could not go any distance from his quarters without being accompanied by a Paraguayan soldier.

See Leckron to Kirkland, Montevideo, May 18, 1869, in Paraguayan Investigation, 200–201. The ship's doctor aboard the same vessel testified that neither Masterman nor Bliss showed any signs of torture. See Testimony of Marius Duvall, October 25, 1869 (New York), in the Paraguayan Investigation, 166–173. With this kind of testimony and counter-testimony, we can only reiterate the observation of Harris G. Warren that someone “certainly was lying.” But who? See Warren, Harris Gaylord, Paraguay. An Informal History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1948), 257.

61. Burton, Letters from the Battle-fields, 407.

62. There still exists considerable debate as to how many people were executed as a result of these proceedings. General Resquín's diary, recovered by the Alliance at the end of 1868, included summary dispositions on the various cases. These aptly titled Tablas de Sangre reported 432 individuals shot, five bayoneted, and one lanced. In addition, 167 died in captivity; 216 were taken out to work in the trenches; two (Bliss and Masterman) were expelled from Paraguayan territory; one was sent to the capital; and ten were released. Of those shot, 289 were Paraguayans, 117 were foreigners, and 26 were listed without designation of national identity. The tablas covered a period from late May to mid December 1868 but were not complete, as they omit Benigno, Barrios, and others who were shot afterward. See La Tribuna (Buenos Aires), February 20, 1869; Anglo-Brazilian Times (Rio de Janeiro), February 23, 1869; and Rebaudi, A., Guerra del Paraguay. Un episodio. “¡Vencer o morir!” (Tucumán: Imp. Constancia, 1920), 97104.

63. The Paraguayan economic infrastructure was nearly destroyed during the war. Asunción was sacked by Alliance troops, the railroad was wrecked, and agricultural production fell so dramatically that famine was ubiquitous. The overall demographic effect of the war was similarly staggering. La Regeneración (Asunción), December 31, 1869, alluded to dramatic population losses; these were confirmed by Paraguayan military doctor Cirilo Solalinde, who saw the disaster at first hand during the final months of the conflict. He held that the Paraguayan population, which had been just under 500,000 in 1864, had fallen to less than 100,000 individuals. See Testimony of Solalinde (Asunción), January 14, 1871, Scottish Record Office, CS 244/543/19; and Whigham, La guerra de la Triple Alianza, 3:473–482.

The author expresses his thanks to Natalie Hull, Peter Hoffer, and the late Jerry W. Cooney for their thorough reading of earlier drafts of this essay.

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The Americas
  • ISSN: 0003-1615
  • EISSN: 1533-6247
  • URL: /core/journals/americas
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