Battle of Topáter

The Battle of Topáter, or Battle of Calama, was fought on March 23, 1879 between Chile and Bolivia. It was the first battle of the War of the Pacific.

Battle of Topáter
Part of the War of the Pacific
Eduardo Abaroa and the defenders of Topáter
Date23 March 1879
Result Chilean victory
 Chile  Bolivia
Commanders and leaders
Chile Eleuterio Ramírez Bolivia Ladislao Cabrera
554 soldiers 135 militia and soldiers
Casualties and losses
7 killed
6 wounded
20 killed
3 wounded
24 captured

The Chileans were taking possession of the Antofagasta (Litoral) Province, then a part of Bolivia. The few Bolivian troops decided to make a stand in the town of Calama. On their way to occupy Calama, 554 Chilean troops, including cavalry and with two Krupp rifled guns, were opposed by 135 Bolivian soldiers and civilian residents led by Dr. Ladislao Cabrera, a civilian and a political authority in the region.

The Bolivians fought next to the Topáter ford, which runs outside the city. Cabrera dug in at two destroyed bridges; calls to surrender were rejected before and during the battle. Outnumbered and low in ammunition, most of the Bolivian force eventually withdrew except for a small group of civilians, led by Colonel Eduardo Abaroa, that fought to the end.

The Bolivian national hero, Abaroa, died in the battle. Further ground battles would not take place until the war at sea had been completed.