The U.S. War With Paraguay

                                                 Artist: John McLenan

                This Harper's Weekly cartoon (April 30, 1859) by John McLenan covers an
                episode in American military history which gained much press at the time, but is
                mainly forgotten today:  the U.S. military expedition to Paraguay in 1858-1859.

                During the 1850s, Carlos Antonio Lopez, dictator of the small, landlocked,
                South American country of Paraguay, was a thorn in the side of the United
                States government.  In 1853, Lopez refused to ratify a commercial and
                navigational treaty with the United States, and began confiscating the property
                of American citizens resident in Paraguay.  Because of a dispute with Britain,
                Lopez closed Paraguayan waters to foreign warships.  In February 1855,
                Paraguayan soldiers fired upon an American ship engaged in a scientific
                survey of the Parana River, killing one American crew member.

                Nearly three years after the incident, and with a second scientific expedition in
                preparation, President James Buchanan decided that a show of force was
                necessary to bring about a redress of the situation.  In his first annual message
                to Congress of December 1857, Buchanan requested funding for a military
                expedition to Paraguay.  With a Congressional allocation of $10,000, a naval
                squadron of 19 vessels, 200 guns, and 2500 sailors and marines under the
                command of Commodore William B. Shubrick embarked for Paraguay in the
                early winter of 1858.  It was the largest military expedition in the peacetime
                history of the United States to that date.  Harper's Weekly emphasized the
                importance of the mission's demand that American citizens in Paraguay be
                granted the same rights and protections that Paraguayan citizens in the United
                States were accorded.

                After landing at Montevideo, Uruguay, the American force began the
                1000-mile journey up the Parana River to the Paraguayan capital of
                Asuncion. This was one of the major news stories in Harper's Weekly during
                the spring of 1859.  The newspaper provided illustrations, portraits, maps,
                letters from participants, and reports from a special correspondent.  The
                situation was dramatized by the news that the 2500 Americans were
                preparing to face 15,000 of the best troops in South America.  For more
                information, the journal directed its readers to a book on the region which had
                been published recently by the newspaper's parent company, Harper &

                The April 2 issue of Harper's Weekly announced that a peaceful settlement
                was probable, and the lead editorial of April 16 confirmed that the matter had
                been resolved amicably through the good offices of the Argentine president,
                General Justo Jose de Urquiza.  Lopez, the Paraguayan dictator, formally
                apologized for the shooting incident of 1855, compensated the family and
                employer of the slain sailor, and signed a treaty of commerce and navigation
                with the United States.  Cartoonist McLenan contrasts how the expedition to
                Paraguay was expected to end--with a military victory for the United
                States--and how it actually did end--with a peaceful resolution and cordial

                Robert C. Kennedy