CHAPTER II. REVOLUTION.
South America, of all lands, has been most torn asunder by war. Revolutions may be numbered by hundreds, and the slaughter has been incredible. Even since the opening of the year 1900, thirty thousand Colombians have been slain and there have been dozens of revolutions. Darwin relates the fact that in 1832 Argentina underwent fifteen changes of government in nine months, owing to internal strife, and since then Argentina has had its full share.
During my residence in Buenos Ayres there occurred one of those disastrous revolutions which have from time to time shaken the whole Republic. The President, Don Juarez Celman, had long been unpopular, and, the mass of the people being against him, as well as nearly half of the standing army, and all the fleet then anchored in the river, the time was considered ripe to strike a blow.
On the morning of July 26, 1890, the sun rose upon thousands of stern-looking men bivouacking in the streets and public squares of the city. The revolution had commenced, and was led by one of the most distinguished Argentine citizens, General Joseph Mary Campos. The battle-cry of these men was "Sangre! Sangre!" [Footnote: "Blood! Blood!"] The war fiend stalked forth. Trenches were dug in the streets. Guns were placed at every point of vantage. Men mounted their steeds with a careless laugh, while the rising sun shone on their burnished arms, so soon to be stained with blood. Battalions of men marched up and down the streets to the sound of martial music, and the low, flat-roofed housetops were quickly filled with sharpshooters.
The Government House and residence of the President was guarded in all directions by the 2nd Battalion of the Line, the firemen and a detachment of police, but on the river side were four gunboats of the revolutionary party.
The average South American is a man of quick impulses and little thought. The first shot fired by the Government troops was the signal for a fusilade that literally shook the city. Rifle shots cracked, big guns roared, and shells screaming overhead descended in all directions, carrying death and destruction. Street-cars, wagons and cabs were overturned to form barricades. In the narrow, straight streets the carnage was fearful, and blood soon trickled down the watercourses and dyed the pavements. That morning the sun had risen for the last time upon six hundred strong men; it set upon their mangled remains. Six hundred souls! The Argentine soldier knows little of the science of "hide and seek" warfare. When he goes forth to battle, it is to fight - or die. Of the future life he unfortunately thinks little, and of Christ, the world's Redeemer, he seldom or never hears. The Roman Catholic chaplain mumbles a few Latin prayers to them at times, but as the knowledge of these resos does not seem to improve the priest's life, the men prefer to remain in ignorance.
The average Argentine soldier is a man of little intelligence. The regiments are composed of Patagonian Indians or semi-civilized Guaranis, mixed with all classes of criminals from the state prisons. Nature has imprinted upon them the unmistakable marks of the savage - sullen, stupid ferocity, indifference to pain, bestial instincts. As for his fighting qualities, they more resemble those of the tiger than of the cool, brave and trained soldier. When his blood is roused, fighting is with him a matter of blind and indiscriminate carnage of friend or foe. A more villainous-looking horde it would be difficult to find in any army. The splendid accoutrements of the generals and superior officers, and the glittering equipments of their chargers, offer a vivid contrast to the mean and dirty uniforms of the troops.
During the day the whole territory of the Republic was declared to be in a state of siege. Business was at a complete standstill. The stores were all closed, and many of them fortified with the first means that came to hand. Mattresses, doors, furniture, everything was requisitioned, and the greatest excitement prevailed in commercial circles generally. All the gun-makers' shops had soon been cleared of their contents, which were in the hands of the adherents of the revolution.
That evening the news of the insurrection was flashed by "Reuter's" to all parts of the civilized world. The following appeared in one of the largest British dailies:
"BUENOS AYRES, July 27, 5.40 p.m.
"The fighting in the streets between the Government troops and the insurgents has been of the most desperate character.
"The forces of the Government have been defeated.
"The losses in killed and wounded are estimated at 1,000.
"The fleet is in favor of the Revolutionists.
"Government house and the barracks occupied by the Government troops have been bombarded by the insurgent artillery."