The War of Paraguay: Chapter XXII, The Minister of War. — The May 12th Cabinet’s Part in the Paraguayan War.

The Olinda Cabinet’s Minister of War, tireless, always at his post, consuming himself in it, fighting against the prejudices of party, military pretensions, and the general inertia that irritated him and increased his fatigue, keeping himself in perpetual excitement, is a figure of grand proportions. Just as before in 1860 he had, according to Nabuco, been entirely dominated by the fiscal spirit, now he was absorbed completely by the war.

The opposition holds it against him that he forgot past offenses in order to figure in the same ministry as Saraiva. Whenever he speaks one takes note of the mysterious intuition of a near end, the shadow of another life. The emperor, now quite practiced in the treatment of ministers, appreciates Ferraz’s qualities so much that he keeps him at his side, as will be seen later on, having him pass from one ministry to another.

Ferraz’s error, if there was error in him, was not having thought of Caxias, or not having withdrawn, as he later did, if it was Caxias that did not enjoy his company. But would Caxias, who after Curupayty (1)  became indispensable, and acquired the status in the campaign that he deserved, would he have had the same authority at Paso la Patria and Curuzú if he had found himself at the orders of Mitre like Osório, Porto-Alegre, and Polidoro (2)? What’s certain is that whenever Mitre was in Paraguay, or, as it occurred at the time we refer to, in Corrientes, the May 1st Treaty would withdraw that highest title from Caxias, the only man who could grant it the full extent of its merit, leaving him without freedom of action and without responsibility. As well, until Curupayty the operations of war did not give cause for discontent or division.

The military action of the Cabinet of 12 May can be summarized in this way: it annihilated the Paraguayan Army in Rio Grande; it made the army in Corrientes cross back over the Paraná; it brought the war to enemy territory and in so doing destroyed the army of Paso la Patria. If the honor of Riachuelo and even of Yatay can and must still be attributed to the Furtado Cabinet, the glory of Uruguaiana and Paso la Patria, and even the 2nd and 24th of May, must be accorded to the Olinda Cabinet. At the time of its resignation, our military is left dressed in glory, the alliance has had nothing but victories, and with better luck, the campaign could be practically decided in that same year of 1866. It cannot be made responsible for the discord that arose between the generals of the alliance, which resulted in the profound disaster of Curupayty. When this occurred on September 22nd, the Olinda Cabinet was no longer in power.

What the cabinet did was unite the elements that, with different direction, could have broken López’s lines in that same month and cut off the retreat of his army, giving the Paraguayan dictator’s military power the coup de grâce that he came to fear after Curuzú. Its policies concerning the war could be nothing other than leaving to the generals the responsibility of operations.

Translator’s Notes

1. The battle of Curupayty was a major military defeat for the allies, costing heavy casualties and halting the steady progress they had been making for months afterward.
2. Polidoro da Fonseca Quintanilha Jordão, Viscount of Santa Teresa, general in the Brazilian army during the Paraguayan War.

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