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SANDY POINT.  Nov 19, 1877.

The settlement of Sandy Point, which has just been the scene of a fearful tragedy, belongs to Chili. It is situated on the Peninsula of New Brunswick, in the Straits of Magellan, towards the eastern entrance of this national waterway. The place has risen rapidly in importance during the last 10 years. It serves as a coaling port for steamers passing from ocean to ocean. The mines in the neighbourhood produce a steam coal of fair quality, and the settlement also serves as an entrepôt for the produce of the chase in Southern Patagonia, the Indians resorting periodically to Punta Arenas, as it is called here, to dispose of ostrich and other skins. The coast is flat, and the sides of the low hills are well wooded, save where the settler has burnt the trees to form a clearing. In 1875 the population numbered over 1,100, including some 180 Europeans, besides which there are 100 artillerymen stationed to guard the convicts transported from Chili. The town consisted of about 200 houses, including a Government house, barracks, church, hospital, schools, and penitentiary.

Scarcely a week ago this flourishing little Chilian colony was almost entirely destroyed. Happening to be on board the steamer Valparaiso, I observed with others, as we approached from the Atlantic, that the town was apparently reduced to half its size. Captain Fowler failed to find the lighthouse, which formed a conspicuous landmark, and as the steamer gained her anchorage the partial destruction of the town became only too evident. The Government-house, the hospital, and all the principal houses and traders' stores had disappeared. The captain of the port was in his boat waiting to receive the steamer. The moment our anchor went he gained the deck, and we learnt in a few words the cause of this extraordinary scene of desolation. A mutiny had broken out among the artillery men on the night of the 11th inst.; they rose and set free the convicts, some 80 or 90 in number, and then together had pillaged and burnt the town. The Governor, Señor Dublé Almeida, came on board in a boat from the Chilian corvette Magallanes, and almost at the same time, another boat from the United States corvette Adams brought alongside Mr Dunsmure, the English Acting Vice-Consul. The Governor had his head bound up, and walked with difficulty, supporting himself on a stick. From him we had an interesting narrative of the course of the outbreak. During the account he gave all were struck with the gallantry with which he had conducted himself, although he modestly laid slight stress on the dangers he had confronted. He told us that he had made his rounds as usual on the night of the 11th inst., and had retired to rest, when he was awakened by repeated explosions. Supposing that the magazine was on fire, he dressed hurriedly and went to the alarm-bell, the cord of which he pulled without effect. He then opened the door, and saw in front a battery of field-pieces served by the garrison. The troops had revolted. He returned to his wife and children, whom he took down into a cellar under the house. Then disguising himself, he went out single-handed to quell the mutiny. It was remarkable that throughout the terrible scenes of violence of that night the mutineers were mostly too drunk to recognise clearly what was passing ; and favoured in this way, the Governor made his way across their fire towards the barracks of the National Guard, all of whom had orders to rally there at the sound of a cannon. He was too late ; the artillery had already taken possession of the place, and in answer to his challenge, refused admission to another civico, as they styled him. He learnt that the captain had been assassinated and the other officers killed or dispersed. He tried in vain to discover who were the ringleaders, but before he could ascertain this a glare from the square showed that the Government-house was in flames. He rushed back and managed to extricate his wife and seven children from the cellar, and conveyed them to a shed near the water's edge, carrying the little ones in a blanket. Returning again to the square, he now learnt that a Sergeant Pozo and a Corporal Riquelme were among the leaders. The greatest confusion reigned ; the drunken mutineers killed one another and fired indiscriminately on men, women,and children who were trying to find safety in flight to the woods. Some were sacking the warehouses. Near the church a field-piece was being fired into the square. Señor Dublé went towards it, and recognised by the light of the discharge Sergeant Pozo. Approaching the cannon, he demanded to know who was in charge, to which one of the figures replied, "I am." Pointing his revolver to his breast, the Governor shot the man dead, receiving immediately a blow on the head with a ramrod, which knocked him senseless to the ground. He was brought to by the pain caused by the cannon passing over his legs as it recoiled, and he managed to crawl round to the back of the church. While lying there he overheard a plan to seize the English steamer, due in a day or two from the Pacific, by which the mutineers were to effect their escape, carrying with them the proceeds of the pillage. The Governor immediately determined, at all hazards, to attempt to reach the Magallanes, a Chilian steam corvette then engaged in surveying Skyring Water, a place some 90 miles from Punta Arenas. He set out for Cabo Negro, and managed to reach it on foot. He got horses there, and completed his journey in 23 hours, reaching the vessel at 4 a.m. on the 13th inst. The vessel had just got steam up to proceed with the surveying when the Governor attracted attention and was taken on board. The vessel at once steamed towards Punta Arenas. In a few hours they came up with a boat containing Mr Dunsmure, the English vice-consul, and some three or four other persons. Mr. Dunsmure informed them that he had seen the German steamer Memphis the day before and had warned the captain, and that he was on the look-out for the English steamer then due. As the Magallanes appeared m sight of the colony, the mutineers decamped. The anchor was dropped at 11 a.m. on the 14th, and a few   hours afterwards the Adams arrived from the east. The captain of the American vessel immediately placed a volunteer force at the disposal of the Governor, and seconded by them, the crew of the Magallanes succeeded in restoring order in the town. Both vessels became a refuge for the poor fugitives, who had escaped so hurriedly that they had no clothes.

The Memphis arrived on the 12th, but, warned on the way, her ladder was raised immediately the captain of the port stepped on it, leaving the armed men below in the boat. The latter were then made to send up   their arms and afterwards made to come on board, where they were severally pinioned. Among them was Sergeant Pozo. The artillerymen on shore fired twice on the steamer. As the Memphis stood out eastward on her way to Montevideo she sighted the Adams near Sarmiento Island, and the American corvette took the prisoners on board and steamed back with them to Punta Arenas. The Memphis continued her course, bearing a telegram to be forwarded by the consul in Montevideo to Santiago.

It is said that the chief cause of the discontent was the strict discipline maintained by the captain, on whom the mutineers first wreaked their vengeance. After killing him, they mutilated his body in a most horrible manner. They intended next to kill the Governor, but, strangely, they did not recognise him beneath his disguise. The captain of the port was taken three times into the square to be shot, but each time they spared his life, as they required his assistance to capture the steamers. There are now about 50 prisoners on board the Magallanes. The dead are said to number 42, and the wounded 13. Among the dead are several of the artillerymen. Riquelme and about 90 men, with all the plunder they could take, set out for the Pampas as soon as the Magallanes appeared in sight. Their intention was to reach Santa Cruz, but they are likely to be molested by the Indians and to be in danger of starvation.

The sufferings of those who failed to effect their escape during the night when the outbreak commenced were terrible. Round the piano of one house five corpses were found, and it is said that the brutal soldiery shot those who did not dance to their liking.  

Some of the women were carried off by the  troop under Riquelme. Every sort of violence and brutality was practised by these savages. The wife of the Governor remained concealed in the woods with her children for two days, without clothing. She was found some two miles from the town.

The English steamer due here from the west has not yet arrived. This fortunate  delay was occasioned, we heard in Montevideo, through her machinery being out of repair. I shall therefore take my letter on to Valparaiso, where I shall learn what measures the Chilian authorities have taken to secure order and relieve distress. All the respectable inhabitants have lost heavily, and nearly all the Europeans are left houseless and destitute of food or clothing.

VALPARAISO, Nov. 30.    

On receipt of the telegram sent viậ Montevideo, the Chilian authorities despatched the corvette O'Higgins with a force of 150 picked men, provisions for 200 men for four months, and a commission to try the mutineers and award capital sentences without right of appeal. The Pacific Steam Navigation Company, whose steamers call fortnightly on their way home, will also take down provisions, and will give Mr Dunsmure any stores he requires to relieve English subjects who are starving. With the presence of the two other men-of-war now at Punta Arenas the security of life and property is sufficiently assured. The Chilian Government have announced their intention of discontinuing the deportation of convicts to the Settlement.

Source: "The Argus" (Melbourne, Vic.), 16 March 1878
Clipped: 30-IX-2012
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