The Reaction of Brazil 




Brazil sent an expedition to fight the invaders in Mato Grosso. A column of 2,780 men led by Colonel Manuel Pedro Drago left Uberaba in Minas Gerais in April 1865, and arrived at Coxim in December after a difficult march of more than two thousand kilometers through four provinces. But Paraguay had abandoned Coxim by December. Drago arrived at Miranda in September 1866 - and Paraguay had left once again. In January 1867, Colonel Carlos de Morais Camisão assumed command of the column, now only 1,680 men, and decided to invade Paraguayan territory, where he penetrated as far as Laguna. The expedition was forced to retreat by the Paraguayan cavalry.


Despite the efforts of Colonel Camisão's troops and the resistance in the region, which succeeded in liberating Corumbá in June 1867, Mato Grosso remained under the control of the Paraguayans. They finally withdrew in April 1868, moving their troops to the main theatre of operations, in the south of Paraguay.

Communications in the River Plate basin was solely by river; few roads existed. Whoever controlled the rivers would win the war, so the Paraguayan fortifications had been built on the edges of the lower end of Río Paraguay.


The Naval battle of Riachuelo

 June 11, 1865




 Painting of the battle of Riachuelo

Batalha de Riachuelo 1882

By Vitor Meirelles ( 1831-1903)  

Click painting for larger image

Painting depicts the victory of Brazil over Paraguay .


 The naval battle of Riachuelo occurred on June 11, 1865 which proved to be the turning point of the war. The Brazilian fleet commanded by Francisco Manoel Barroso da Silva won, destroying the powerful Paraguayan navy and preventing the Paraguayans from permanently occupying Argentine territory. The Paraguayan fleet was a fraction of the size of Brazil's, even before the battle. It arrived in Humaitá on the morning of June 9. Paraguayan president Francisco Solano López prepared to attack at Riachuelo the ships supporting allied land troops.


The Paraguayan steamer Pirabebe on display at the

Paraguayan Naval Museum at Vapor Cue .


Nine ships and seven cannon-carrying barges, totaling 45 guns, plus 22 guns and two congreve batteries from shore troops, attacked the Brazilian squadron, totaling 58 guns. Paraguay planned to attack in the early morning so that the element of surprise would make up for the differential in firepower. An engine problem caused a delay, however, and the fleet reached Riachuelo in daylight.




The Paraguayan commanders drew the Brazilian ships towards the edge of the river, where they could only poorly maneuver, leading the ships onto sandbars. But the initial Paraguayan success mirrored their early success on land; by 1 p.m. the superior Brazilian firepower had won the battle. Three of the eight Paraguayan ships were sunk before the retreat.




The Paraguayan losses are estimated to be 1,500. The Paraguayan Comodore  Pedro Meza was mortally wounded .. There were 247 Brazilian casualties (though some sources say the number may have reached 750). The Paraguayan attempt to control the Paraná River failed; the loss in Riachuelo was followed by losses on land, and by 1870 Paraguay had suffered a devastating total defeat.The battle practically decided the outcome of the war in favour of the Triple Alliance, which controlled, from that point on, the rivers of the River Plate basin up to the entrance to Paraguay.


While López ordered the retreat of the forces that occupied Corrientes, the Paraguayan troops that invaded São Borja advanced, taking Itaqui and Uruguaiana. A separate division (3,200 men) that continued towards Uruguay, under the command of the major Pedro Duarte, was defeated by Flores in the bloody battle of Jataí on the banks of the Río Uruguay.


The allied troops united under the command of Mitre in the camp of Concórdia, in the Argentine province of Entre Ríos, with the field-marshal Manuel Luís Osório at the front of the Brazilian troops. Part of the troops, commanded by the lieutenant-general Manuel Marques de Sousa, baron of Porto Alegre, left to reinforce Uruguaiana. The Paraguayans yielded on September 18, 1865.


In the subsequent months the Paraguayans were driven out of the cities of Corrientes and San Cosme, the only Argentine territory still in Paraguayan possession. By the end of 1865, the Triple Alliance was on the offensive. Their armies numbered more than 50,000 men and were prepared to invade Paraguay.






  First phase

of the War


   Invasion of