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William Seward to Judson Kilpatrick, Washington, DC, June 2, 1866

William Henry Seward, circa 1860, detail

In late 1865, Chile had joined Peru in resisting Spanish naval forces in the so-called Chincha Islands War. After several clashes at sea, in March 1866, the Spanish fleet inflicted a heavy bombardment on the Chilean port of Valparaiso, watched by several U.S. naval units and the American envoy, the well-known Union Army cavalry general Judson Kilpatrick.  Kilpatrick wrote to Secretary of State William Seward laying out what he had seen and requesting a clarification of United States policy in the possible support for Chile under the Monroe Doctrine.  Seward replied in a lengthy note that laid out his interpretation of current government policy.  While expressing support for Chile, Seward states clearly that the United States cannot enter every war, saying "We have no armies for the purpose of aggressive war, no ambition for the character of a regulator." Spanish efforts had begun in the region as a way to collect debts Peru owed to Spain and as the execution of this goal with naval units alone seemed impossible, the war petered out and the Spanish fleet returned to its home waters.  (By John Osborne) 


How to Cite This Page: "William Seward to Judson Kilpatrick, Washington, DC, June 2, 1866," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,