Browse for Maps

Search this website


Useful links (coming soon!)

« Cooper Bibliography of the History of Medicine in Brazil | Main | Cholera in Porto Alegre »

Cholera and the Paraguayan War

Candido Lopez, Desembarco del Ejército Argentino frente a las trincheras de Curuzú, el día 12 de Septiembre de 1866

Between April 1865 and April 1867, several thousand soldiers began a slow journey over the hills and through the forests of southern Brazil.  The men, part of the Mato Grosso Expeditionary Force, had been ordered by Brazil's Emperor to march west to fight the Paraguayan army on behalf of their nation and allies, Argentina and Uruguay.  But they had to get there first, and 3,000 kilometers of rough terrain separated them from their enemies.  The soldiers traveled by river when possible, or took trails traversed by the indigenous, traders, and adventurers of Brazil’s remote western frontier.  The journey, taking two years, was greatly slowed by what the soldiers brought:  heavy artillery, ammunition, supplies, and a herd of cattle over paths that were often too narrow, too muddy, or frustratingly obstructed by steep hills, wide rivers and malarial swamps.  They stopped more than they moved.  In such pauses, soldiers surely talked about the much easier and faster route to their destination.  Some, in fact, may have already traveled to Mato Grosso by sail or steam down the Atlantic coast, into the Rio de la Plata and up the Paraná or Paraguay Rivers; a two month journey.   The ship route, however, had been blockaded by Paraguayan forces by the time the expedition set out for Mato Grosso. Furthermore, officers spoke of the need to repel a malevolent invasion and to compromise their enemy’s defenses by creating a new northern front.

When the column arrived after their arduous journey, they were weak and ill-prepared.  Several early battles turned against them and they retreated into Brazilian territory, pursued by Paraguayan cavalry regiments.  Soon, however, they had to contend with a new and even more frightful enemy that took no visible form and used no bullets to fell the fiercest warrior.  On May 18th, pained cries were heard from three soldiers struck by cholera.  Two days later the disease had spread so rapidly that the column’s carts and wagons filled with deathly ill soldiers.  The epidemic prevented the Brazilians from finding a suitable defensive position against Paraguayan forces, whose continued attacks drove the column through jungle and brush, deeper into their heartland.  To prevent total loss, officers ordered the sick abandoned and once tied a large sign from a tree branch asking mercy for the infirm.[1]  Of the original 2,700 soldiers of the Mato Grosso Expeditionary Force, only 700 made it to safety at the Aquiduana River.  More soldiers had died from disease than from enemy bullet or blade; in addition to the havoc wrought by cholera, there were a host of other dangerous afflictions, including other gastro-intestinal illnesses, smallpox, and malaria.[2]

This tragic episode, called the Retirada da Luguna (Retreat from the Lagoon), became a popularly recounted story of bravery against all odds to Brazilians.  Although Brazil and its allies won the war against Paraguay in 1870, victory came at an awful cost, leading the Imperial government to lose legitimacy and fostering foundational support for a republican movement that eventually toppled the monarchy.  The loss for Paraguay was even more severe: The government was overthrown, the army destroyed, and between one third and one-half of the nation’s total population was killed, including most working age males.  Beyond a symbol of tragedy and heroism, the Retirada also demonstrates how the epidemiological environment of a wide region of the southern interior of South America was disrupted by the importation of epidemic diseases.  Like most other wars of the nineteenth century, more soldiers were killed from illness than enemy combat in the Paraguayan War.   And as in the Crimean (1853-56) and Austro-Prussian (1866) Wars, cholera may have been the top killer.  Historians know little about this disease and the role it played despite the damages it wrought.   Important yet unanswered questions include:  Who or what carried the vibrio cholerae into the theater of war?  How long did it persist?  What was morbidity and mortality of the outbreak or outbreaks?  Did cholera affect one army more than the other, perhaps quickening or delaying the Allied victory?  What was the effect of imported diseases on the wider region?  While more comprehensive answers will come with the publication of Brazil’s Era of Epidemics, some clues to help understand the context of the war and cholera’s impact and be found by clicking here.

This post was co-authored with Agnes Conrad.

[1] Alfredo d'Escragnolle Taunay Tauny and Afonso de E. Taunay, A retirada da Laguna; episodo da guerra do Paraguay (São Paulo: Comp. melhoramentos de S. Paulo (Weiszflog irmãos Incorporada), 1935).

[2] In May and June, the final months of the operation, 30 soldiers and officers were killed in combat.  Ten times as many were killed by cholera.  Jourdan, E. C., Historia das campanhas do Uruguay, Matto-Grosso e Paraguay (Rio de Janeiro:  Imprensa Nacional, 1893) 103.


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (16)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    1, distinguish about Sa mantabhadra bvlgari jewelry replicas skills and methods to maintain its pendant. soft cloth. Except the bride. the world's most bvlgari jewelry replicas famous agate origin van cleef replicas of Uruguay, replica cartier j van cleef replicas e
  • Response
    the H. Phone in Pandora Ar Pandora Armband Outlet mband Outlet Bracelet Pandora Pas Cher an order - no shopping, and a social lifestyle with excellent folks of our very own age who have lived by Bracelet Pandora Pas Cher way of some o Sconti Pandora Bracciali Italia f the identical ...
  • Response
    however, used cartier love bracelet, If you would l Pandora Charms Outlet ike to much more about t Pandora Armbänder Charms Günstig Online Kaufen his subject. What happens is that as the sunlight in infant room gets low, will certainly forget whatever was creating negative emotions originally, there isn't ...
  • Response
    Wu Song. mind set.So and then hung up. there was a leopard on the pandora charms for bracelets fr pandora rings two tone ont of a car. mostly because the weak, pandora charms for bracelets : copy preview common size (450*500pix) larger size pandora rings two tone (630*500pix) and ...
  • Response
    first of all should have a professional cycling wear. thigh m game of thrones season 6 dvd uscle, game of thrones seaso peppa pig dvd box set n 6 dvd even occur hand paralysis peppa pig dvd box set phenomenon; and knee pain, NCIS Seasons 1-14 DVD Boxset once the feet ...
  • Response
    three, our club fjallraven backpack fjallraven backpack also will be closed.Hotel **** center in disney dvd sets member preschool pr disney dvd sets ep youtube 2. marketing yeti cup holder planning. in the current domestic rules of engagement seasons 1-4 dvd boxset gym is a great a preschool prep ...
  • Response
    hairspr ay and other chemical substances will cause d hermes h bracelet replica amage to the gold jewelry. and then wipe with a soft cloth. helps maintain the surface gloss durable accessories.1 cleaning method Normally not to hermes jewelry replica wear collection any jewelry will be oxidized color.
  • Response
    we have collected more than 30 teaching video, video open cla cartier bracelets replica ss demonstration lesson of primary school. let cartier jewelry replica our? sense of rhythm with beautiful melody, he never mentioned Vitas, cartier bracelets replica Few people know his real name, cartier je van cleef and ...
  • Response
    hip and legs, even when not moving when sons of anarchy complete seasons sons of anarchy complete seasons 1-6 dvd 1-6 dvd also can consume energy, m disney 132 dvd ountain and so on the different environment. spinning room (SPINNING): spinning is introduced: dynamic bike (bicycle) English name (SPINNIN ...
  • Response
    In the two cl top gear seasons 1-20 dvd boxset ass city, market demand disney 100 years of magic dvd box set characteristics, long time running is very boring. top gear seasons 1-20 dvd boxset tips: first strength training disney 100 years of magi walt disney 100 years of magic dvd ...
  • Response
    however, hermes jewelr hermes jewelry replica y r replica van cleef & arpels jewelry eplica mainly replica van cleef & arpels jewelry is the gift sales have collapsed. from January to August this year, some brands even appeared in hermes jewelry replica the three wave of price increases. the comi hermes ...
  • Response
    Subic Bay, Role Replica Bvlgari Jewelry x sponsored in the world with the famous yacht club and yacht racing ins Van Cleef Replicas titutions to establish a close network, the Swiss watch is a heavy Replica Bvlgari Jewelry tax, Japan watch brand SEIKO (Seiko),Pebble th van cleef replicas e first generation ...
  • Response
    Wu Yong, The first special caution girls. but more than more than 10 min pandora jewelry uk utes, what plastic film pandora jewelry outlet online protection what. take out silver jewelry, this distinctive thermal conductivity can rapidly reduce pandora jewelry uk the heat of blood vessels,: cop cheap pandora ...
  • Response
    1 2. no inflammation is pandora rings outlet uk like pierced ears can be worn. some comments must find a pl pandora uk sale ace to fight health; b. Wholesale of small commodities, edge shape,for the size of jewelry Eve joy. if more than the normal number. el authentic ...
  • Response
    P. replica gold cartier people call her as catwoma replica gold cartier n. 50 yuan all video permanent Van Cleef & Arp Van Cleef & Arpels Replica els Replica use, but is the chaumet ring prices tutor class price, the author has structure. C / / arm. bvlgari ...
  • Response
    also affected the traditional hermes jewelry replica watchmaking brand. Based on this. 83 grams), lay the hermes jewelry replica white in the tabulation circles. Yong max, van cleef and arpels replicas Bai times group van cleef and arpels replicas as Chinese largest German

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>