War of the Pacific – 1879 to 1883

Combate_navalI’m a wargames tart. Really. There I was this morning, contemplating which part of the painting pile to attack when I got back to Singapore Friday night and something bright and shiny flashed part my eyes. For some reason the iPad had a Safari tab open at Pendraken Miniatures and for some other reason unknown to me, I had been looking in there a while back at 10mm 19th century figures. I suspect I was looking for an alternative to 6mm figures for the Wars of 1859, 1866 and 1871 in Europe. My eyes passed across a range of figures for the 1st Schleswig-Holstein War Danish, an area I have an interest in. I was starting to think about starting my 19th century Europe project with that conflict. Then it happened. I saw it … 1879-1884 South American Pacific War.

I was, of course, superfluously familiar with this conflict, after all, we all know about the Huáscar and the battle between the Esmeralda  and Huáscar don’t we? Well, that was about the sum total of my knowledge of that conflict. I put the iPad down and went to some meetings and then over lunch back here at the hotel I read some more. A little conflict and one of the many that seemed to plague South America since independence, it involved Chile, Peru and Bolivia essentially fighting for four years over bird poo. The British were involved as well, after all, there was the odd dollar to be made then with bird poo. At the end, Chile won and a few years later artificial bird poo was created negating the whole point of the conflict.

However, it seems that the memory of defeat runs deep and every year Bolivia has a festival of the sea celebration, in remembrance of when Bolivia had a sea-coast, know held by Chile.

It was bright, it was shiny, I was starting to get hooked. The war started with Chilean armed forces at about 2,700 effectives and Peru and Bolivia between them able to field around 10,000 troops. Size was good. I also have not figures for this war either and my initial thought was that they were probably all in Napoleonic style uniforms still. Wrong. The Chileans were in French style uniforms with Pickelhauben and the Bolivians and Peruvians in a mix of dress with kepi. Colours were bright. Someone get me my sunglasses.

peruvian soldiersThe thought has been germinating in my head for the day so far. I did a quick look for some source books and discovered what seemed a good history on Amazon,  The Ten Cents War: Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884 by Bruce Farcau (until I saw the Kindle version was a ridiculous $88.76). There were some other history books and uniform books around but all were expensive. I thought to myself, “self, why not do this as an online project?” So there is was – I had a nice little war and a way of researching it. What else was needed? Figures! Rules!

As I have not really got any 10mm figures and as the Pendraken Miniatures range has always tempted me, I thought I’d give it a go in 10mm. There was also, of course, the naval component to the war. Tumbling Dice Miniatures make some 1/2400th scale models of these vessels. Houston’s Ships (from Great Endeavours makes some 1/1000th(ish) scale vessels from this war as does North Head Miniatures on Shapeways so there is the naval side covered.

The next step is Rules – but more on those later.

So there is is, 10mm South American Wars of the late 19th century – another project on the go!

11 thoughts on “War of the Pacific – 1879 to 1883

  1. Doug 18 July 2012 / 5:44 pm

    I believe Dave Turner was pivotal in getting this range made, he intends to use the Principles of War 19th Century for rules I believe…


  2. thomo the lost 18 July 2012 / 11:40 pm

    I must thank Dave when next I see him – the range looks super, the war looks interesting and there is a manageable naval element to it as well.


  3. David Turner 19 July 2012 / 8:16 am

    Can’t go wrong with this project.

    If you are looking for an account with lots of naval detail try

    Which is a near contemporary account by Theodorus Bailey “The war on the Pacific coast of South America between Chile and the allied republics of Peru and Bolivia”

    From a wargamers point of view “To the Last Cartridge” by Alan Curtis probably represents the best value for money account of the conflict.


    • thomo the lost 19 July 2012 / 10:51 am

      Thanks Dave – I’ll look those two up. I suspect there is more on the naval war in English than there is on the land conflict.


  4. Mark 19 July 2012 / 4:12 pm

    Hi Thomo

    Pendraken have a significant price increase comming up on 1st August. You may want to get your order in.

    £3.50 –> £4.00 (Regular packs)
    £2.05 –> £2.35 (Vehicles)
    £1.20 –> £1.35 (WWII foot packs)
    £1.60 –> £1.80 (Fantasy packs)


    Mark (Tring wargames)


    • thomo the lost 19 July 2012 / 9:15 pm

      Yes, I’ve been watching that. Whilst I am not sure what I want yet, I reckon a few packets of each will be useful then top up later when I have a vague idea of what I am doing 🙂


  5. Grizzlymc 22 July 2012 / 12:47 am

    I would second “To the last cartridge”, you can get it from Nafziger.

    http://www.batallas.org have some uniforms, there are others to be got from the web.

    The Chileans wore the Kepi, not the pickelhaube.

    This is one of my gunners, gunner do it one day, in 6mm. My plan is to grow my army by starting with the early war armies (about 4000 men a side) and moving forward in time to the taking of lima.(about 50,000 men IIRC).

    Have you got a link to the shapeways ships and could they be scaled to 1:3000?


  6. Grizzlymc 22 July 2012 / 1:40 am

    Ooooops! batallas.org is not with us – shame thare was some good stuff there, 😳


  7. Alejandro Tabilo 16 January 2015 / 7:06 am

    I would like to know what happened to this project.
    I would like to start a similar activity but with 28mm figures. I also thinking in using Black Powder rules.


    • Thomo the Lost 16 January 2015 / 10:43 am

      Like all good wargame projects, I have the figures parked just over there on the shelves, waiting for me to motivate myself enough to move them into the painting queue

      Wargamer’s inertia I suspect 🙂


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