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."

That night as I went in and out of the squads of men on the revolutionary side, seeking to do some acts of mercy, I saw many strange and awful sights. There were wounded men who refused to leave the field, although the rain poured. Others were employed in cooking or ravenously eating the dead horses which strewed the streets. Some were lying down to drink the water flowing in the gutters, which water was often tinged with human blood, for the rain was by this time washing away many of the dark spots in the streets. Others lay coiled up in heaps under their soaking ponchos, trying to sleep a little, their arms stacked close at hand. There were men to all appearances fast asleep, standing with their arms in the reins of the horses which had borne them safely through the leaden hail of that day of terror. Numerous were the jokes and loud was the coarse laughter of many who next day would be lying stiff in death, but little thought seemed to be expended on that possibility.

Men looted the stores and feasted, or wantonly destroyed valuables they had no use for. None stopped this havoc, for the officers were quartered in the adjacent houses, themselves holding high revelry. Lawless hordes visited the police offices, threw their furniture into the streets, tore to shreds all the books, papers and records found, and created general havoc. They gorged and cursed, using swords for knives, and lay down in the soaking streets or leaned against the guns to smoke the inevitable cigarillo. A few looked up at the gilded keys of St. Peter adorning the front of the cathedral, perhaps wondering if they would be used to admit them to a better world.

Next day, as I sallied forth to the dismal duty of caring for the dead and dying, the guns of the Argentine fleet [Footnote: British-built vessels of the latest and most approved types.] in the river opposite the city blazed forth upon the quarter held by the Government's loyal troops. One hundred and fifty-four shots were fired, two of the largest gunboats firing three-hundred and six- hundred pounders. Soon every square was a shambles, and the mud oozed with blood. The Buenos Ayres Standard, describing that day of fierce warfare, stated:

"At dawn, the National troops, quartered in the Plaza Libertad, made another desperate attack on the Revolutionary positions in the Plaza Lavalle. The Krupp guns, mitrailleuses and gatlings went off at a terrible rate, and volleys succeeded each other, second for second, from five in the morning till half-past nine. The work of death was fearful, and hundreds of spectators were shot down as they watched from their balconies or housetops. Cannon balls riddled all the houses near the Cinco Esquinas. In the attack on the Plaza Lavalle, three hundred men must have fallen."

"At ten a.m. the white flag of truce was hoisted on both sides, and the dismal work of collecting the dead and wounded began. The ambulances of the Asistencia Publica, the cars of the tram companies and the wagons of the Red Cross were busily engaged all day in carrying away the dead. It is estimated that in the Plaza Lavalle above 600 men were wounded and 300 killed. Considering that the Revolutionists defended an entrenched position, whilst the National troops attacked, we may imagine that the losses of the latter were enormous."

"General Lavalle, commander-in-chief of the National forces, gave orders for a large number of coffins, which were not delivered, as the undertaker wished to be paid cash. It is to be supposed that these coffins were for the dead officers."

"When the white flags were run up, Dr. Del Valle, Senator of the Nation, sent, in the name of the Revolutionary Committee, an ultimatum to the National Government, demanding the immediate dismissal of the President of the Republic and dissolution of Congress. Later on it was known that both parties had agreed on an armistice, to last till mid-day on Monday."

Of the third day's sanguinary fighting, the Standard wrote:

"The Plaza Libertad was taken by General Lavalle at the head of the National troops under the most terrible fire, but the regiments held well together and carried the position in a most gallant manner, confirming the reputation of indomitable valor that the Argentine troops won at the trenches of Curupayti. Our readers may imagine the fire they suffered in the straight streets swept by Krupp guns, gatlings and mitrailleuses, while every housetop was a fortress whence a deadly fire was poured on the heads of the soldiers. Let anybody take the trouble to visit the Calles [Footnote: Streets] Cerrito, Libertad and Talcahuano, the vicinity of the Plazas Parque and Lavalle, and he will be staggered to see how all the houses have been riddled by mitrailleuses and rifle bullets. The passage of cannon balls is marked on the iron frames of windows, smashed frames and demolished balconies of the houses.

"The Miro Palace, in the Plaza Parque, is a sorry picture of wreckage: the 'mirador' is knocked to pieces by balls and shells; the walls are riddled on every side, and nearly all the beautiful Italian balconies and buttresses have been demolished. The firing around the palace must have been fearful, to judge by the utter ruin about, and all the telephone wires dangling over the street in meshes from every house. Ruin and wreckage everywhere.

"By this time the hospitals of the city, the churches and public buildings were filled with the wounded and dying, borne there on stretchers made often of splintered and shattered doors. Nearly a hundred men were taken into the San Francisco convent alone." Yet with all this the lust for blood was not quenched. It could still be written of the fourth day:

"At about half-past two, a sharp attack was made by the Government troops on the Plaza Parque, and a fearful fire was kept up. Hundreds and hundreds fell on both sides, but the Government troops were finally repulsed. People standing at the corners of the streets cheering for the Revolutionists were fired on and many were killed. Bodies of Government troops were stationed at the corners of the streets leading to the Plaza, Large bales of hay had been heaped up to protect them from the deadly fire of the Revolutionists.

"It was at times difficult to remember that heavy slaughter was going on around. In many parts of the city people were chatting, joking and laughing at their doors. The attitude of the foreign population was more serious; they seemed to foresee the heavy responsibilities of the position and to accurately forecast the result of the insurrection.

"The bulletins of the various newspapers during the revolution were purchased by the thousand and perused with the utmost avidity; fancy prices were often paid for them. The Sunday edition of The Standardwas sold by enterprising newsboys in the suburbs as high as $3.00 per copy, whilst fifty cents was the regulation price for a momentary peep at our first column."

Towards the close of that memorable 29th of July the hail of bullets ceased, but the insurgent fleet still kept up its destructive bombardment of the Government houses for four hours.

The Revolutionists were defeated, or, as was seriously affirmed, had been sold for the sum of one million Argentine dollars.

"Estamos vendidos!" "Estamos vendidos!" (We are sold! We are sold!) was heard on every hand. Because of this surrender officers broke their swords and men threw away their rifles as they wept with rage. A sergeant exclaimed: "And for this they called us out - to surrender without a struggle! Cowards! Poltroons!" And then with a stern glance around he placed his rifle to his breast and shot himself through the heart. After the cessation of hostilities both sides collected their dead, and the wounded were placed under the care of surgeons, civil as well as military.

Notwithstanding the fact that the insurgents were said to be defeated, the President, Dr. Celman, fled from the city, and the amusing spectacle was seen of men and youths patrolling the streets wearing cards in their hats which read: "Ya se fue el burro" (At last the donkey has gone). A more serious sight, however, was when the effigy of the fleeing President was crucified.

Thus ended the insurrection of 1890, a rising which sent three thousand brave men into eternity.

What changes had taken place in four short days! At the Plaza Libertad the wreckage was most complete. The beautiful partierres were trodden down by horses; the trees had been partially cut down for fuel; pools of blood, remnants of slaughtered animals, offal, refuse everywhere.

Since the glorious days of the British invasion - glorious from an Argentine point of view - Buenos Ayres had never seen its streets turned into barricades and its housetops into fortresses. In times of electoral excitement we had seen electors attack each other in bands many years, but never was organized warfare carried on as during this revolution. The Plaza Parque was occupied by four or five thousand Revolutionary troops; all access to the Plaza was defended by armed groups on the house-tops and barricades in the streets, Krupp guns and that most infernal of modern inventions, the mitrailleuse, swept all the streets, north, south, east and west. The deadly grape swept the streets down to the very river, and not twenty thousand men could have taken the Revolutionary position by storm, except by gutting the houses and piercing the blocks, as Colonel Garmendia proposed, to avoid the awful loss of life suffered in the taking of the Plaza Libertad on Saturday morning.

At the close of the revolution the great city found itself suffering from a quasi-famine. High prices were asked for everything. In some districts provisions could not be obtained even at famine prices. The writer for the first time in his life had to go here and there to beg a loaf of bread for his family's needs.

A reporter of the Argentine News, July 31st of that same year, wrote:

"There is a revolution going on in Rosario. It began on Saturday, when the Revolutionists surprised the Government party, and by one on Sunday most of the Government buildings were in their hands. It is now eight in the morning and the firing is terrible. Volunteers are coming into the town from all parts, so the rebels are bound to win the stronghold shortly. News has just come that the Government troops have surrendered. Four p.m. - I have been out to see the dead and wounded gathered up by the ambulance wagons. I should think the dead are less than a hundred, and the wounded about four times that number. The surprise was so sudden that the victory has been easy and with little loss of life. The Revolutionists are behaving well and not destroying property as they might have done. The whole town is rejoicing; flags of all nations are flying everywhere. The saddest thing about the affair is that some fifty murderers have escaped from the prison. I saw many of them running away when I got upon the spot. The order has been given to recapture them. I trust they may be caught, for we have too many of that class at liberty already. * * * * It is estimated that over 100,000 rounds of ammunition were fired in the two days. * * * The insurgents fed on horse-meat and beef, the former being obtained by killing the horses belonging to the police, the latter from the various dairies, from which the cows were seized."

In 1911 the two largest Dreadnoughts of the world, the Rivadavia and the Moreno, were launched for the Argentine Government. These two battleships are half as powerful again as the largest British Dreadnought.