The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 4 of 44

System Number: 13460
Date: 16 March 1866
Author: John Rodgers[1]
Place: Valparaiso[2], Chile
Recipient: US Naval Department
Place: Washington, DC
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Rodgers family box 12
Document Type: MsLc

Copy Letter to Navy Department March 16, 1866, Valparaiso Chile.

[p. 2] U. S. S. Vanderbilt

March 16, 1866.

Sir -

Upon my arrival here, I called upon the English Admiral.

He mentioned in the course of conversation, that he had received official notice from the Spanish Admiral[3], that there were rumours of an intention on the part of the Chilian Government to use torpedoes against the Spanish vessels blockading the harbour of Valparaiso.

This event, the Spanish Admiral declared, he should follow by instant bombardment of the Town.

The English Admiral informed me, that he should remonstrate against such instant bombardment, that the interests of humanity and of the immense property of neutrals, required ample notice to be given, before such steps were taken.

Having reflected upon this conversation, I sought occasion to say to the English [p. 3] Admiral that I should be glad to join him in enforcing ample notice for the neutrals of Valparaiso to remove their families and effects: that from a knowledge derived through target experiments I had witnessed, upon the thickest plating of the Numancia, five & a half inches of iron, manufactured, by Gaudet & Petin, France, who also made her armor and more heavily backed than the Numancia's, I was prepared to say, the Spanish Iron-clad should not trouble us - I would engage, with the highest confidence, justified by what I had seen with my own eyes, and touched with my own hands, that only the trucks of the Spanish vessels' masts should remain above water, thirty minutes after the firing had commenced: and that his wooden vessels and ours, as I thought, could take care of the wooden vessels of the Spaniards

It was agreed between us that in any event, ample notice was to be required, before the bombardment of Valparaiso could be permitted, and that this notice if necessary should be enforced.

[p. 4] The property of the English in Valparaiso is estimated at something between $40,000,000 and $200,000,000. American property is probably about $3,000,000 in value. But there are many neutral women and children in the town including Americans whom I thought it my duty to secure from sudden destruction, following upon acts in which they could have no part.

I have judged that the presence of the Monadnock, in these waters, in company with the Spanish fleet, is a silent admonition against European interference with American affairs, and that it would be more useful here than elsewhere, in advancing the national reputation, and doctrines. And therefore, in the absence of instructions, and somewhat against personal inclinations, I have decided to remain where we now are.

Meanwhile I anxiously await [p. 5] the arrival of Admiral Pearson[4]: and as soon as he can dispense with our presence, I shall proceed to San Francisco.

I have felt myself the more at liberty to consult my judgement in this matter, as the voyage is already [secured?]. Having come so far, through the more troubled waters of the Atlantic, the Pacific can hardly be expected to offer serious difficulties.

I have the honour to remain, Sir, with much respect,
Your ob't Serv't


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1.  John Rodgers
Commodore John Rodgers (1812-1882), USS Vanderbilt, commander of the US Naval Squadron at Valparaiso [more].

2.  Valparaiso
On 2 February 1866, JW sailed for Valparaiso, Chile where he would spend the next eight months as a bystander to the Chilean-Peruvian conflict with the Spanish government; see his journal, #04335.

3.  Spanish Admiral
Admiral Pareja committed suicide when he heard that the Chilean Captain Juan Williams had captured the 412 ton Spanish schooner Virgen de Covadonga in November 1865; he was succeeded by Commodore Casto Mendez Nuñez.

4.  Admiral Pearson
Admiral George F. Pearson, USS Suwanee, naval commander.