The Valparaiso Incident

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On October 16, 1891, outside the True Blue Saloon in Valparaiso, Chile, a brawl between a former Chilean sailor and American servicemen on shore leave set off a riot that killed two American sailors wounded seventeen and had forty eight arrested.  The sailors involved in the trouble were from the U.S.S. Baltimore. The U.S.S. Baltimore was sent to Valparaiso under the command of Captain Winfield Scott Schley to protect American interest in the port during the Chilean Civil war. The incident created a diplomatic crisis that lasted for months and nearly caused war between the two countries, until an agreement was reached in early 1892. Tension between the United States and Chili dated back to the mid century but was intensified during…show more content…
The Harrison administration through Blaine and Egan counseled American citizens in Chili to conduct themselves accordingly. The U.S. navy in turn sought to observe strict neutrality in Chilean waters. Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy ordered Rear Admiral W.P. McCann to Valparaiso to take command of the South Pacific Squadron to protect American interests. In April 1891 as part of an attachment to the South Pacific Squadron the U.S.S. Baltimore arrived in port at Valparaiso. Although, the U.S. position was neutral, Ambassador Egan favored the Balmaceda regime and believed Balmaceda would ultimately be victorious. In May 1891, the U.S. government responded to a request from the Balmaceda government to apprehend a rebel Chilean ship, the Itata, which had loaded a shipment of arms in San Diego, California.  The Congressionalists won the civil war, and the Harrison government released the ship in July and recognized the new Chilean government in August. This incident was only one out of many that the Chilean rebels pointed too as U.S. support for the Balmaceda regime. In fact the Itata incident was an attempt by the U.S. to adhere to its interpretation of its own neutrality laws not to let foreign belligerents outfit and arm its ships in American…show more content…
Baltimore stayed in port even after the Chilean civil war ended. In September Rear Admiral George Brown of the U.S.S. San Francisco communicated with Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy that Valparaiso was absolutely “quiet” and he saw little need for the presence of the Baltimore. Later that September, Captain Schley agreed with Brown in a note to Tracy. Despite Brown’s and Schley’s correspondence, the Baltimore was not ordered to move. In the mean time the crew of the Baltimore had not had shore leave for nearly three months. Captain Schley met with the Captain of the Port Authority and the police commissioner in Valparaiso. During the meeting, the police commissioner told Schley he saw no reason why the American sailors should be deprived of shore leave. Despite warnings from some locals and Chilean sailors stationed on naval vessels in port that the sailors may be attacked, Captain Schley gave shore leave to 117 American sailors. Later that day a fight between two American sailors and a former Chilean sailor quickly evolved into a riot involving numerous American sailors, former Chilean military personnel, civilians and policemen. The Americans blamed the Chileans and vice versa for initiating the violence, but nearly from the beginning the Americans suspected a planned assault on American

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