Battle of Tuyutí
The invasion of Paraguay followed the course of the Río Paraguay, from the Paso de la Patria. From April 1866 to July 1868, military operations concentrated in the confluence of the rivers Paraguay and Paraná, where the Paraguayans located their main fortifications. For more than two years, the advance of the invaders was blocked, despite initial Triple Alliance victories.
The first stronghold taken was Itapiru. After the battles of the Paso de la Patria and of the Estero Bellaco, the allied forces camped on swamps of Tuyutí, where they were attacked. The first battle of Tuyutí, won by the allies on May 24, 1866, was the biggest pitched battle in the history of South America.
The battle of Tuyutí
Due to health reasons, in July 1866, Osório passed the command of the First Corps of the Brazilian army to General Polidoro da Fonseca Quintanilha Jordão. At the same time, the Second Corps—10,000 men—arrived at the theater of operations, brought from Rio Grande Do Sul by the baron of Porto Alegre.
The Battle of Curupayty was a key battle in the Paraguayan War. On the
morning of September 22, 1866, the joint force of Brazilian, Argentine,
and Uruguayan armies attacked Paraguayan fortified trenches on
Map of the attack on Humaita click map tp enlarge
To open the way to Humaitá, the biggest Paraguayan stronghold, Mitre attacked the batteries of Curuzu and Curupaity. Curuzu was taken by surprise by the baron of Porto Alegre, but Curupaity resisted the 20,000 Argentines and Brazilians, led by Mitre and Porto Alegre, with support of the squadron of admiral Tamandaré. This failure (5,000 men were lost in a few hours) created a command crisis and stopped the advance of the allies.
3D view of the fortress of Humaita
During this phase of the war, many Brazilian servicemen distinguished themselves, amongst them, the heroes of Tuyutí: General José Luís Mena Barreto; Brigadier General Antônio de Sampaio, protector of the infantry weapons of the Brazilian Army; Lieutenant Colonel Emílio Luís Mallet, head of the artillery; and even Osório, head of the cavalry. In addition, Lieutenant Colonel João Carlos of Vilagrã Cabrita, head of weapons of engineering, died in Itapiru.
Duke of Caxias
Assigned on October 10, 1866 to command the Brazilian forces, Marshal Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, Marquis and, later, Duke of Caxias, arrived in Paraguay in November, finding the Brazilian army practically paralyzed. The contingent of Argentines and Uruguayans, devastated by disease, were cut off from the rest of the allied army. Mitre and Flores returned to their respective countries due to questions of internal politics. Tamandaré was replaced in command by the Admiral Joaquim José Inácio, future Viscount of Inhaúma. Osório organized a 5,000-strong third Corps of the Brazilian army in Rio Grande do Sul. In Mitre's absence, Caxias assumed the general command and restructured the army.
Between November 1866 and July 1867, Caxias organized a health corps (to give aid to the endless number of injured soldiers and to fight the epidemic of cholera) and a system of supplying of the troops. In that period military operations were limited to skirmishes with the Paraguayans and to bombarding Curupaity. López took advantage of the disorganization of the enemy to reinforce his stronghold in Humaitá.
The march to flank the left wing of the Paraguayan fortifications constituted the basis of Caxias's tactics. Caxias wanted to bypass the Paraguayan strongholds, cut the connections between Asunción and Humaitá, and finally circle the Paraguayans. To this end, Caxias marched to Tuiu-Cuê.
But Mitre, who had returned to the command in August 1867, insisted on attacking by the right wing, a strategy that had previously been disastrous in Curupaity. By his order, the Brazilian squadron forced its way past Curupaity but was forced to stop at Humaitá. New splits in the high command arose: Mitre wanted to continue, but the Brazilians instead captured São Solano, Pike and Tayi, isolating Humaitá from Asunción. In reaction, López attacked the rearguard of the allies in Tuiuti, but suffered new defeats.
With the removal of Mitre in January 1868, Caxias reassumed the supreme command and decided to bypass Curupaity and Humaitá, carried out with success by the squadron commanded by Captain Delfim Carlos de Carvalho, later Baron of Passagem. Humaitá fell on 25 July after a long siege.
En route to Asunción, Caxias's army went 200 kilometers to Palmas, stopping at the Piquissiri river. There López had concentrated 18,000 Paraguayans in a fortified line that exploited the terrain and supported the forts of Angostura and Itá-Ibaté. Resigned to frontal combat, Caxias ordered the so-called Piquissiri maneuver. While a squadron attacked Angostura, Caxias made the army cross on the right side of the river. He ordered the construction of a road in the swamps of the Chaco, upon which the troops advanced to the northeast. At Villeta, the army crossed the river again, between Asunción and Piquissiri, behind the fortified Paraguayan line. Instead of it advancing to the capital, already evacuated and bombarded, Caxias went south and attacked the Paraguayans from behind.
Caxias had obtained a series of victories in December 1868, when he went back south to take Piquissiri from the rear, capturing Itororó, Avaí, Lomas Valentinas and Angostura. On December 24 the three new commanders of the Triple Alliance (Caxias, the Argentine Juan Andrés Gelly y Obes, and the Uruguayan Enrique Castro) sent a note to Solano López asking for surrender. But López turned it down and fled for Cerro Leon.
Asunción was occupied on January 1, 1869 by commands of Colonel Hermes Ernesto da Fonseca, father of the future Marshal Hermes da Fonseca. On the fifth day, Caxias entered in the city with the rest of the army and 13 days later left his command.