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Valparaiso bombardment
Part of Chincha Islands War
Date January 31, 1866
Location Valparaiso, Chile
Result Destruction of port facilities of Valparaiso and part of the Chilean merchant fleet
File:Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Spain  Chile
File:Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg Casto Méndez Núñez
1 ironclad
5 frigates
1 corvette
(approx 250 guns)

The Valparaiso bombardment (January 31, 1866) was an episode during the Chincha Islands War, in which the Spanish fleet shelled, burned and destroyed the undefended port of Valparaiso, Chile.


After the indecisive Battle of Abtao on February 7, 1866, Rear Admiral Casto Méndez Núñez decided to take punitive action against South American ports. When the Chilean government ordered that vessels communicating with the Spanish fleet should not be allowed to enter Chilean ports, Méndez Núñez first target became the most important and undefended Chilean port of Valparaiso.

The American minister to Chile, General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, and US Naval Commander John Rodgers made, on March 23, an attempt at arbitration, which failed, as the chief condition of Admiral Méndez Núñez was the return of the captured Covadonga. Consequently the Spanish Admiral, notwithstanding the protest of the diplomatic corps, gave notice on March 27 to all neutrals to evacuate the city.

The neutral British and American naval commanders in Chilean waters, Admiral Lord Thomas Denman and Commander John Rodgers, were unable and ultimately unwilling to prevent the bombardment due to the presence of an ironclad, the Numancia, in the Spanish squadron. The Spanish bombarded the town unhindered and destroyed the Chilean merchant fleet on January 31, 1866. The bombardment of the port lasted for three hours without fire being returned, as Valparaiso was totally defenseless. The loss in public and private property was estimated at $1,000,000, and in merchandise at $9,000,000, huge sums at the time.


When Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, the American Minister to Chile, asked the American naval commander Commander Rodgers to defend the port and attack the Spanish fleet, Admiral Méndez Núñez responded with, "I will be forced to sink [the US ships], because even if I have one ship left I will proceed with the bombardment. Spain, the Queen and I prefer honor without ships than ships without honor."

James McNeill Whistler, who was on board the American ships, painted his famous "Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay" the night before the bombardment. It shows the Chilean merchant fleet at their moorings waiting to be destroyed.

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