REVOLT IN A CHILIAN PENAL SETTLEMENT
(BY A CORRESPONDENT OF THE TIMES, JAN. 18.)
SANDY POINT. Nov 19, 1877.
The settlement of Sandy Point, which has just been the scene of a fearful
tragedy, belongs to Chili. It is situated on the Peninsula of New Brunswick,
in the Straits of Magellan, towards the eastern entrance of this national
waterway. The place has risen rapidly in importance during the last 10 years.
It serves as a coaling port for steamers passing from ocean to ocean. The mines
in the neighbourhood produce a steam coal of fair quality, and the settlement
also serves as an entrepôt for the produce of the chase in Southern Patagonia,
the Indians resorting periodically to Punta Arenas, as it is called here, to
dispose of ostrich and other skins. The coast is flat, and the sides of the
low hills are well wooded, save where the settler has burnt the trees to form
a clearing. In 1875 the population numbered over 1,100, including some 180
Europeans, besides which there are 100 artillerymen stationed to guard the
convicts transported from Chili. The town consisted of about 200 houses, including
a Government house, barracks, church, hospital, schools, and penitentiary.
Scarcely a week ago this flourishing little Chilian colony was almost entirely
destroyed. Happening to be on board the steamer Valparaiso, I observed with
others, as we approached from the Atlantic, that the town was apparently reduced
to half its size. Captain Fowler failed to find the lighthouse, which formed
a conspicuous landmark, and as the steamer gained her anchorage the partial
destruction of the town became only too evident. The Government-house, the
hospital, and all the principal houses and traders' stores had disappeared.
The captain of the port was in his boat waiting to receive the steamer. The
moment our anchor went he gained the deck, and we learnt in a few words the
cause of this extraordinary scene of desolation. A mutiny had broken out among
the artillery men on the night of the 11th inst.; they rose and set free the
convicts, some 80 or 90 in number, and then together had pillaged and burnt
the town. The Governor, Señor Dublé Almeida, came on board in a boat from the
Chilian corvette Magallanes, and almost at the same time, another boat from
the United States corvette Adams brought alongside Mr Dunsmure, the English
Acting Vice-Consul. The Governor had his head bound up, and walked with difficulty,
supporting himself on a stick. From him we had an interesting narrative of
the course of the outbreak. During the account he gave all were struck with
the gallantry with which he had conducted himself, although he modestly laid
slight stress on the dangers he had confronted. He told us that he had made
his rounds as usual on the night of the 11th inst., and had retired to rest,
when he was awakened by repeated explosions. Supposing that the magazine was
on fire, he dressed hurriedly and went to the alarm-bell, the cord of which
he pulled without effect. He then opened the door, and saw in front a battery
of field-pieces served by the garrison. The troops had revolted. He returned
to his wife and children, whom he took down into a cellar under the house.
Then disguising himself, he went out single-handed to quell the mutiny. It
was remarkable that throughout the terrible scenes of violence of that night
the mutineers were mostly too drunk to recognise clearly what was passing ;
and favoured in this way, the Governor made his way across their fire towards
the barracks of the National Guard, all of whom had orders to rally there at
the sound of a cannon. He was too late ; the artillery had already taken possession
of the place, and in answer to his challenge, refused admission to another
civico, as they styled him. He learnt that the captain had been assassinated
and the other officers killed or dispersed. He tried in vain to discover who
were the ringleaders, but before he could ascertain this a glare from the square
showed that the Government-house was in flames. He rushed back and managed
to extricate his wife and seven children from the cellar, and conveyed them
to a shed near the water's edge, carrying the little ones in a blanket. Returning
again to the square, he now learnt that a Sergeant Pozo and a Corporal Riquelme
were among the leaders. The greatest confusion reigned ; the drunken mutineers
killed one another and fired indiscriminately on men, women,and children who
were trying to find safety in flight to the woods. Some were sacking the warehouses.
Near the church a field-piece was being fired into the square. Señor Dublé
went towards it, and recognised by the light of the discharge Sergeant Pozo.
Approaching the cannon, he demanded to know who was in charge, to which one
of the figures replied, "I am." Pointing his revolver to his breast,
the Governor shot the man dead, receiving immediately a blow on the head with
a ramrod, which knocked him senseless to the ground. He was brought to by the
pain caused by the cannon passing over his legs as it recoiled, and he managed
to crawl round to the back of the church. While lying there he overheard a
plan to seize the English steamer, due in a day or two from the Pacific, by
which the mutineers were to effect their escape, carrying with them the proceeds
of the pillage. The Governor immediately determined, at all hazards, to attempt
to reach the Magallanes, a Chilian steam corvette then engaged in surveying
Skyring Water, a place some 90 miles from Punta Arenas. He set out for Cabo
Negro, and managed to reach it on foot. He got horses there, and completed
his journey in 23 hours, reaching the vessel at 4 a.m. on the 13th inst. The
vessel had just got steam up to proceed with the surveying when the Governor
attracted attention and was taken on board. The vessel at once steamed towards
Punta Arenas. In a few hours they came up with a boat containing Mr Dunsmure,
the English vice-consul, and some three or four other persons. Mr. Dunsmure
informed them that he had seen the German steamer Memphis the day before and
had warned the captain, and that he was on the look-out for the English steamer
then due. As the Magallanes appeared m sight of the colony, the mutineers decamped.
The anchor was dropped at 11 a.m. on the 14th, and a few hours afterwards
the Adams arrived from the east. The captain of the American vessel immediately
placed a volunteer force at the disposal of the Governor, and seconded by them,
the crew of the Magallanes succeeded in restoring order in the town. Both vessels
became a refuge for the poor fugitives, who had escaped so hurriedly that they
had no clothes.
The Memphis arrived on the 12th, but, warned on the way, her ladder was raised
immediately the captain of the port stepped on it, leaving the armed men below
in the boat. The latter were then made to send up their arms and afterwards
made to come on board, where they were severally pinioned. Among them was Sergeant
Pozo. The artillerymen on shore fired twice on the steamer. As the Memphis
stood out eastward on her way to Montevideo she sighted the Adams near Sarmiento
Island, and the American corvette took the prisoners on board and steamed back
with them to Punta Arenas. The Memphis continued her course, bearing a telegram
to be forwarded by the consul in Montevideo to Santiago.
It is said that the chief cause of the discontent was the strict discipline
maintained by the captain, on whom the mutineers first wreaked their vengeance.
After killing him, they mutilated his body in a most horrible manner. They
intended next to kill the Governor, but, strangely, they did not recognise
him beneath his disguise. The captain of the port was taken three times into
the square to be shot, but each time they spared his life, as they required
his assistance to capture the steamers. There are now about 50 prisoners on
board the Magallanes. The dead are said to number 42, and the wounded 13. Among
the dead are several of the artillerymen. Riquelme and about 90 men, with all
the plunder they could take, set out for the Pampas as soon as the Magallanes
appeared in sight. Their intention was to reach Santa Cruz, but they are likely
to be molested by the Indians and to be in danger of starvation.
The sufferings of those who failed to effect their escape during the night
when the outbreak commenced were terrible. Round the piano of one house five
corpses were found, and it is said that the brutal soldiery shot those who
did not dance to their liking.
Some of the women were carried off by the troop under Riquelme. Every sort
of violence and brutality was practised by these savages. The wife of the Governor
remained concealed in the woods with her children for two days, without clothing.
She was found some two miles from the town.
The English steamer due here from the west has not yet arrived. This fortunate
delay was occasioned, we heard in Montevideo, through her machinery being
out of repair. I shall therefore take my letter on to Valparaiso, where I shall
learn what measures the Chilian authorities have taken to secure order and
relieve distress. All the respectable inhabitants have lost heavily, and nearly
all the Europeans are left houseless and destitute of food or clothing.
VALPARAISO, Nov. 30.
On receipt of the telegram sent viậ Montevideo, the Chilian authorities despatched
the corvette O'Higgins with a force of 150 picked men, provisions for 200 men
for four months, and a commission to try the mutineers and award capital sentences
without right of appeal. The Pacific Steam Navigation Company, whose steamers
call fortnightly on their way home, will also take down provisions, and will
give Mr Dunsmure any stores he requires to relieve English subjects who are
starving. With the presence of the two other men-of-war now at Punta Arenas
the security of life and property is sufficiently assured. The Chilian Government
have announced their intention of discontinuing the deportation of convicts
to the Settlement.
Source: "The Argus" (Melbourne, Vic.), 16 March 1878