The War of the Pacific
, sometimes called the Saltpeter War
in reference to its original cause, was fought between Chile
and the joint forces of Bolivia
, from 1879 to 1883. Chile gained substantial mineral-rich territory in the conflict, annexing both the Peruvian province of Tarapacá
and the Bolivian province of Litoral
, leaving Bolivia as a landlocked country.
Ramón Freire Serrano (November 29, 1787 – December 9, 1851) was a Chilean military and political figure.
Freire was born in Santiago in 1787 but moved to Concepción where he in 1811 joined the independist struggle by entering the army as a cadet. After the collapse of the independent Patria Vieja following a Spanish invasion he and many other Chilean took refuge in independent Argentina.
Freire returned to Chile together with the José de San Martín's Army of the Andes in 1817. Once in Chile Freire was sent with a hundred men to liberate Talca. Later, he fought in the decisive Battle of Maipú.
After the royalist collapse, Freire was named intendant of Concepción, Chile. From that city, he led operations against a mix of outlaws and royalist and Mapuche guerrillas in what has come to been known as the Guerra a muerte ("War to the Death") phase of the Chilean war for independence.
In 1823, Freire rose against the authoritarian government of Bernardo O'Higgins, forcing him to renounce his position as supreme director. The successful insurrection catapulted Freire into becoming head of state himself; in that office, he exiled O'Higgins and abolished slavery.
The following year, 1824, Freire organized an expedition to expel the royalist Spanish from the Chiloé Archipelago, their last stronghold. The expedition failed after republican Jorge Beauchef lost the Battle of Mocopulli. In 1826, Freire tried again to conquer Chiloé, this time leading an army of 2,500 men himself; the governor of Chiloé, Antonio de Quintanilla, surrendered to the superior force.
Freire was again elected head of state in 1827, this time with the title of president; but he resigned the office later the same year. In 1829, José Joaquín Prieto led a successful insurrection that created a junta (a congress of notables), which Freire did not recognise and which he opposed in the Battle of Lircay. After being defeated, he went into exile in Peru. From Peru, he managed to hire two ships with which he planned to capture Chiloé and from there overthrow the new regime. After a secret shipboard mutiny, however, he was handed over to Chilean officials.
Freire then was sent to the prison island of Robinson Crusoe by direct orders from Diego Portales. He returned to mainland Chile only in 1842 and retired from public life. He died in 1851.