Review of ‘Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance’

Paul Le Long reviews an Osprey on a lesser-known war, “Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance 1864-70: Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay & Argentina.”

It’s on the Ospreys at a Glance page.

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1 Response to Review of ‘Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance’

  1. George Arnold says:

    ((Rob Morgan submits the following comment.))

    Fleets in the Matto Grosso

    The War of the Triple Alliance fought as a standard land wargame campaign has little to offer, I feel. The Paraguayans under the insane and inane dictator Lopez rapidly became reduced to a level of poverty and lack of offensive capability which makes serious campaigning, especially solo campaigning, rather valueless.

    However, there is the naval war!

    It all began in 1864 when the small Paraguayan warship Tacuari seized a Brazilian packet, and grew rapidly to involve one of the New World’s most effective navies in a remarkable river war which, carefully examined, compares remarkably to the great American Civil War river campaigns! The war was extremely bloody, and though Argentina effectively led the coalition, Brazil provided the fleet. The action centered on the rivers Parana and Paraguay, and took place over 1,800 miles of waterway, and indeed involved over 30 Brazilian warships, including no fewer than 11 ironclads and monitors, as well as many supporting smaller vessels. The Brazilian naval force operated ‘like an armoured column’ (as one writer described it) and the Paraguayan flotillas of small paddle and screw gunboats were outclassed from the start.

    Though Lopez ordered a number of armoured and turret ships from European builders, these were all sold to Brazil in 1865 … and used against him!

    Brazil was dreadfully cautious, and the advance upriver slow, opposed by forts and earthworks and by raids. On one occasion, a fleet of 24 canoes was used to attack two Brazilian ironclads, and chains, mines and torpedoes, as well as pilings and wrecks, used to block the rivers. The bitter end to the war was slow and involved a bare handful of small Paraguayan vessels against a restrained but quite undefeatable Brazilian force.

    As a solo naval campaign, it has two alternative scenarios, play the Brazilians, and unless you really are cautious, then for the loss of a handful of admittedly expensive warships (bill the rich Argentinian allies for these) the river can be forced quickly … go on, be a Porter!

    If you play the Paraguayans, then it’s a different matter, the Brazilian caution can be sustained in the game, and the slow withdrawal and river fighting can be effective from time to time. Ultimately, the massive power of your opponents will come through. Paraguay had only 20,000+ adult males fit to bear arms at one stage, but as an imaginative campaign along a long river route, it has a lot of value.

    The best source of warships for this is undoubtedly the British company
    Tumbling Dice in 1/2400th. Use their ACW and Colonial ranges and even a few from the Napoleonic range to provide both fleets. A small amount of conversion work is needed with the bigger Brazilian ironclads, but, in this scale, not too much effort. An American company may well be making models of the necessary Brazilian ironclads but I’m not aware of it. Others may be too.

    The best source of information including maps and some plates of the warships is an article in the August 1968 issue of The Mariner’s Mirror entitled ‘Naval Operations in the War of the Triple Alliance 1864-1870’ By E.A.M. Lang, and a glance into the pages of ‘Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1904’ will show just how outclassed Paraguay was on the water. I do know of a book originally published in 1869, called ‘The War in Paraguay’ by a correspondent named Thompson, but that must be long gone from the shelves.

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