Pedro Lagos
Pedro Lagos Marchant was a Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

an infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 commander. He is best remembered for commanding the assault and capture of the city of Arica
Arica is a city in northern Chile. "Arica" may also refer to:Places* Arica and Parinacota Region, Chile* Arica Airport , Chile* Arica, Amazonas, town in Colombia* Rio Aricá-açu, tributary of the Cuiabá River south of Cuiabá, BrazilOther...

 during the War of the Pacific
War of the Pacific
The War of the Pacific took place in western South America from 1879 through 1883. Chile fought against Bolivia and Peru. Despite cooperation among the three nations in the war against Spain, disputes soon arose over the mineral-rich Peruvian provinces of Tarapaca, Tacna, and Arica, and the...


Early life

He was born in Chillán
Chillán is a city in the Biobío Region of Chile located about south of the country's capital, Santiago, near the geographical center of the country. It is the capital of Ñuble Province and, with a population of approximately 170,000 people , the most populated urban center of this province...

 in 1832 to Manuel Lagos y de la Jara and Rosario Marchant. The family moved to the countryside after the 1835 earthquake destroyed the city. Pedro was the first-born of 15 brothers of very poor background, and he started his studies at the first school opened in rebuilt Chillán. Soon afterwards, he continued them at the school founded by the Spaniard, Jose Martinez. In 1846, at the age of 14, he joined the Military School, where he obtained the rank of 1st Corporal on February 1847. He married his cousin Juana Marchant Lagos, and had a single daughter, Isabel.

Military career

In March 1849, he enlisted in the Chilean Army with the rank of 2nd Sergeant. He was assigned to the Chacabuco battalion, which rebelled against the government on 29 April 1851 under the command of Colonel Pedro Urriola. He did not become involved in the rebellion as the event surprised him in Valparaíso
Valparaíso is a city and commune of Chile, center of its third largest conurbation and one of the country's most important seaports and an increasing cultural center in the Southwest Pacific hemisphere. The city is the capital of the Valparaíso Province and the Valparaíso Region...

; much to the contrary, he embraced the pro-government cause, which won him a promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. In March 1852, he was promoted to Adjutant Major and, by 1854, he was Captain, serving with the garrisons of Chillán and Concepción
Concepción, Chile
Concepción is a city in Chile, capital of Concepción Province and of the Biobío Region or Region VIII. Greater Concepción is the second-largest conurbation in the country, with 889,725 inhabitants...

 until 1857. During the Revolution of 1859, he supported the government of Manuel Bulnes
Manuel Bulnes
-Sources:* Juan B. Alberdi, Biografia de general Bulnes...

 and participated soon in the siege of Talca
Talca is a city and commune in Chile located about south of Santiago, and is the capital of both Talca Province and Maule Region . As of the 2002 census, the city had a population of 193,755....

 and, in the North, in the Battle of Los Loros. These actions won him the promotion to the rank of Sergeant Major.

Campaigns in the Araucanía

Towards 1860, he actively participated in the campaigns of occupation of Araucanía. The actions against the Pehuenche communities of Bio Bío, achieved him his promotion to lieutenant colonel in 1866. In 1867, he became commander of the forces established in Malleco
Malleco Province is one of two provinces in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía . Its estimated population is 223,184 , and it covers an area of...

, and was designated commander of Angol
Angol is a commune and capital city of the Malleco Province in the Araucanía Region of southern Chile. It is located at the foot of the Nahuelbuta Range and next to the Vergara River, that permitted communications by small boats to the Bío-Bío River and Concepción. This strategic position explains...

. At this time, he married his cousin, Juana Marchant, and like most of the officials in the Araucanía he was awarded land, in his case in the Mulchén
Mulchén is a city and commune in Biobío Province of Biobío Region, Chile. It was first settled in 1871 by soldiers during the so called Pacification of the Araucania. In 1875 Mulchén was officially founded....

 area. In 1869, he retired from the army to work his farm near Chillán.

War of the Pacific

The second stage of the military career of Pedro Lagos defined its passage into history. In 1875, President Federico Errázuriz Zañartu
Federico Errázuriz Zañartu
Federico Marcos del Rosario Errázuriz Zañartu was a Chilean political figure. He served as the president of Chile between 1871 and 1876. He was born in Santiago in 1825 and died there in 1877. Errázuriz was of Basque descent....

 appointed him Intendant of Ñuble, and, in 1878, he was commissioned as commander in Mulchén
Mulchén is a city and commune in Biobío Province of Biobío Region, Chile. It was first settled in 1871 by soldiers during the so called Pacification of the Araucania. In 1875 Mulchén was officially founded....

. In 1879, he participated in the War of the Pacific. He fought in the campaigns of Antofagasta
Antofagasta is a port city in northern Chile, about north of Santiago. It is the capital of Antofagasta Province and Antofagasta Region. According to the 2002 census, the city has a population of 296,905...

, Tocopilla
Tocopilla is a city and commune in the Antofagasta Region, in the north of Chile. It is the capital of the province that bears the same name.Tocopilla celebrates its anniversary on September 29 every year with a big show the day before, which includes a parade down the main street of the city, food...

, Pisagua
Pisagua is a Chilean port on the Pacific Ocean, located in Huara comuna , in Tarapacá Region, northern Chile. In 2007, the new province of El Tamarugal was established and the comuna of Huara, previously within the province of Iquique, was incorporated to the newly created province.-Early...

 and Jaspampa. In January 1880, he was named chief of the general staff, a position to which he resigned due to differences with general Erasmo Escala
Erasmo Escala
Erasmo Escala Arriagada , Chilean soldier, served as commander-in-chief of the Army during part of the War of the Pacific.He was born in Valparaíso, where he also completed his first studies. He joined the Military Academy in 1837...

, Army Commander-in-Chief in campaign. Again, he retired to the South. In the middle of 1880, he took up arms again, as aide to general Manuel Baquedano
Manuel Baquedano
Manuel Jesús Baquedano González was a Chilean soldier and Chief of Government, who served as Commander-in-chief of the Army during the War of the Pacific. Manuel Baquedano was of Basque descent.-Early life:...

, and ,as such, he participated in the campaign of Tacna
- Rail :Tacna is served by a cross-border standard gauge railway to Arica, Chile.It is also the location of the National Railway Museum of Peru.-Air:Tacna is served by the Crnl. FAP...

, the Battle of Campo de la Alianza (the Alliance Field) in the Intiorco hill, on May 26, 1880 which meant the end of the Peru-Bolivian Alliance. There, at the head of the Amunátegui division, he managed to disperse the allied forces, that until his arrival were defeating the Chileans.

Capture of Arica

The battle that made him into a Chilean hero was the assault and capture of the Morro de Arica
Morro de Arica
Morro de Arica is a steep hill located in the Chilean city of Arica. Its height is 139 metres above sea level. It was the last bulwark of defence for the Peruvian troops who garrisoned the city during the War of the Pacific...

(Arica Cape), that took place on June 7, 1880. General Baquedano just ordered him to capture this city, and left him to plan the attack on his own . Lagos decided on a frontal assault with only 4,000 infants, divided into three groups. The targets were the 3 main defenses of the city: the East fort, the Ciudadela (Citadel) fort and finally the Cape fort. The defeat of the Peruvian defenders at the first two forts, caught by surprise, was very quick. The Peruvians then retreated towards their main defense, bravely fighting back and trying to reorganize their lines. At that point, Lagos' idea was to wait for reinforcements before finally storming the Cape. Nevertheless an unidentified soldier shouted "¡Al morro muchachos!" ("To the Cape, boys!"), causing the mass assault. This action altogether - from the initial attack to the capture of the Cape - took only 55 minutes. The feat was heroic, but it was marred by the lack of control over the assaulting troops, that led to a widespread killing of the surviving Peruvian soldiers and the citizens of the already surrendered city, which was looted.


A military man until the end, Pedro Lagos also had a valuable participation in the Lima Campaign, where he fought at the battles of San Juan and Miraflores
Battle of Miraflores
The Battle of Miraflores occurred on January 15, 1881 in the Miraflores District of Lima, Peru. It was an important battle during the War of the Pacific that was fought between Chile and the forces of Peru. The Chilean army led by Gen. Manuel Baquedano defeated the army commanded by Nicolás de...

. In March 1881, he was named Commander in Chief of the Occupation Army, to replace General Baquedano, who returned to Chile. His short stint as head of the Chilean forces in Peru was highly controversial, due to his strict disciplinary measures against the citizens of Lima. On 18 June 1881, the Chilean Senate promoted him to Brigadier General, sent him back to Chile and appointed him chief of the Service Examination Commission. Finally, he was named Commander-at-Arms of the Santiago garrison on 23 November 1881. He died on 18 January 1884, in the city of Concepción.

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