Lynch, Patricio (1825-1886), was a Chilean naval and military officer of mixed Irish and Latin American ancestry who played a distinguished part in the Pacific War between his country and the Allied powers of Peru and Bolivia.
Patricio was the great-grandson of Patrick Lynch, who had emigrated from Galway first to Spain and then to Argentina in the 1740s and had become a wealthy landowner. This makes him a distant relative of Ernesto “Ché” Guevara, who also descends from this man. Patricio’s father, Estanislao Lynch y Roo, arrived in Chile as a colonel in the liberating army led by San Martín and O’Higgins and settled in Valparaíso (Chile’s main port), where he became a wealthy merchant. Patricio was born
on 18 December 1825 in Valparaíso, the son of Estanislao
Lynch and Carmen Solo de Zaldívar y Rivera.
Patricio joined the Chilean navy in 1837, at the age of twelve, and took part in the war between Chile and the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation, in which his country was victorious. Interestingly, this naval service was led by an Englishman, Robert Winthrop Simpson (1799-1877).
In 1840, at the age of 15, Patricio Lynch joined the Royal Navy, in which he served for the next 7 years. He saw action in the First Opium War against China (1839-1842), during which he served as a midshipman on the HMS Calliope (a frigate) and was mentioned in dispatches for bravery. This period in the Royal Navy probably had nothing to do with Lynch’s Irish ancestry. The Chilean Naval Squadron had been led by British (including Irish) and US officers during the War of Independence and British influence remained strong in the Chilean Navy for a century and a half, with United Kingdom Naval Missions advising it until the Second World War. As late as the 1970s, virtually all Chilean naval ships were of British origin. It became traditional for Chilean midshipmen to serve their apprenticeships on board Royal Navy vessels, but it is not known how this practice started. Scheina mentions that it began in 1839. Lynch was probably one of the first of these young men.
Patricio Lynch returned to Chile in 1847 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Chilean navy. He fought in the naval war against Spain (1864-1866) and then held a series of peace-time appointments including that of Minister of the Marine.
Lynch is remembered for his services during the War of the Pacific (1879-1884), a conflict between Chile and the Allied Powers of Peru and Bolivia which resulted in the latter losing her access to the sea. During this war, the Chileans conducted raids along the enemy coast, which caused considerable damage to the enemy’s economy. These operations were similar to those carried out by the Chilean navy and marines (led by Lord Cochrane and William Miller) during Peru’s War of Independence. As part of this economic warfare, the Chileans extracted ransom payments from civilians and this later led to accusations of pillage. Militarily, however, these actions were very successful and contributed to Chile’s victory in the war. The most important incursion of this kind was the Lynch Expedition: In September 1880, Patricio Lynch, at the head of 3,000 men, raided the Peruvian coast between El Callao and Payta (505 miles to the north of this port), creating a great deal of havoc in the local economy.
Soon afterwards, Lynch played an important part in the campaign that resulted in the capture of Lima (15 January 1881). During these operations, he led first a brigade and then a division of the Chilean Army and fought at the battles of Chorillos and Miraflores (Chilean victories). He was then appointed Military Governor of occupied Peru until the end of the War. During the last 3 years of the conflict, the Chilean conquerors (under Lynch’s command) faced determined opposition from Peruvian guerrillas, but Santiago emerged victorious from the war and was able to annex large areas of the Pacific coast, valuable because of the deposits of nitrate they contained.
Promoted to Rear-Admiral, in 1884 Lynch was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain. However, while in Madrid he fell ill and was given permission to return home. He died
on 13 May 1886 during the return journey, off the coast of Tenerife.
Several Chilean ships have been named after him.
- De Courcy Ireland, John. “Irish Soldiers and Seamen in Latin America” in the Irish Sword, 1:4 (Dublin: Military History Society of Ireland, 1952-1953).
- Patricio Lynch, article in Wikipedia, accessed 9 February 2010.
- Scheina, Robert L. Latin American Naval History: 1810-1987 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987).
- Scheina, Robert L. Latin America's Wars. Vol 1: The Age of the Caudillo, 1791-1890 (Dulles: Brassey’s Inc., 2003).