With Spain and the Dutch Republic at war in 1643 a Dutch fleet sailed from to Dutch Brazil to Southern Chile with the goal of establishing a base in the ruins of the abandoned Spanish city of Valdivia. The expedition led by Hendrik Brouwer sacked the Spanish settlements of Carelmapu and Castro in Chiloé Archipelago before sailing to Valdivia. The Dutch arrived to Valdivia on August 24, 1643 and named the colony Brouwershaven after Brouwer who had died weeks ago. The short-lived colony was abandoned on 28 October 1643. Nevertheless the occupation caused great alarm among Spanish authorities and the Spanish resettled Valdivia and begun the construction of an extensive network of fortifications in 1645 to prevent any similar intrusion. Albeit contemporaries considered the possibility of a new incursion the expedition was the last one of the Dutch the west coast of the Americas.
In the years following the Battle of Curalaba (1598) a general uprising developed among Mapuches and Huilliches. The Spanish cities of Angol, La Imperial, Osorno, Santa Cruz de Oñez, Valdivia and Villarrica were either destroyed or abandoned. Only Chillán and Concepción resisted the Mapuche sieges and attacks. With the exception of Chiloé Archipelago all the Chilean territory south of Bío Bío River became free of Spanish rule. The abandoned city of Valdivia turned into an attractive site for Spains enemies to control since it would allow them to establish a base amidst Spains Chilean possesions. In 1600 local Huilliches joined the Dutch corsair Baltazar de Cordes to attack the Spanish settlement of Castro in Chiloé. While this was a sporadic attack the Spanish believed the Dutch could attempt to ally the Mapuches and establish a stronghold in southern Chile. The Spanish knew of the Dutch plans to establish themselves at the ruins of Valdivia so they attempted to re-establish Spanish rule there before the Dutch arrived again. The Spanish attempts were thwarted in the 1630s when Mapuches did not allow the Spanish to pass by their territory.
In 1642, the Dutch East India Company joined the Dutch West Indies Company in organizing an expedition to Chile to establish a base for trading gold at the abandoned ruins of Valdivia. The expedition, while small compared to the Dutch forces that took over much of Brazil, expected the collaboration of Mapuche-Huilliche allies in Chile. Summarizing, the expedition had to instructions to:
- Capture gold mines
- Capture Valdivia
- Make alliances with indigenous peoples (Mapuches and Huilliches)
- Explore Santa María Island
Except for the leadership the true objectives were not known to the participants of the expedition.
The Nethernlands, Brazil and Cape Horn
Hendrik Brouwer and his fleet left the Netherlands on November 6, 1642 with 250 men on board. The fleet sailed from Recife in Dutch Brazil where John Maurice of Nassau provided it with food and water plus a force of 350 men. As the expedition was aimed at cold southern latitudes woolen clothes were rationed among the crew and passengers. The supply ship Orange Tree was lost near Cape Horn but managed to return to Recife with a broken mast. The loss of this ship strained the expedition's supplies. While rounding Cape Horn, the expedition established that Staten Island was not part of the unknown Southern land since it sailed east and south of the island.
On May 1643 the expedition arrived to Chiloé Archipelago. The Spanish at the small settlment and fort of Carelmapu spotted the Dutch on May 20 and sent footmen and cavalry to prevent the Dutch from landing. In face of this the Dutch had to land further away from Carelmapu in Punta de la Arena. With a force of 200 musketeers and arquebusiers the Dutch advanced on Carelmapu. The Dutch started bushfires in their advance to clear their way. The Spanish emptied the fort of Carelmapu and hid the women and children in the forests. After the ordered Dutch troops opened fire on the Spanish forces the Spanish retreated hastly into the woods. The Dutch entered the fort of Carelmapu and captured the horses of the Spanish. A counter-attack by the Spanish on the Dutch ended in failure and with the Spanish governor of Chiloé Andrés Herrera dead. Carelmapu ended up being sacked and its Catholic church vandalized. The plunder of Carelmapu gave the Dutch the opportunity to replenish their depleted food supplies but they revealed their presence to the Spanish. However in Carelmapu the Dutch learned that their arrival was expected as they recovered a letter send to the settlement's corregidor from higher authorities in which he was warned in advance of a Dutch expedition and was ordered to use a scorched earth strategy against them. In Carelmapu the Dutch capture a Spaniard who later guided them to the Spanish settlement of Castro and other places in the archipelago.
Fernando de Alvarado succeeded Andrés Herrera as military commander of the Spanish in Chiloé. Upon hearing about the Dutch advance on Castro the Spanish removed the straw roofs of the houses and of the wood shingle roof of the church to render them useless as shelters and more difficult to burn. As in Carelmapu the settlement was sacked and the local church vandalized. According to Diego de Rosales prisoners were insulted in Spanish, Latin or Portuguese being called cowards, and the Dutch asked them to tell were they could find women. In July the expedition returned to Carelmapu where 470 Mapuche-Huilliches were convinced to join the expedition to Valdivia. Overall the period from May to middle August was spent gathering intelligence in Chiloé Archipelago.
On August 7 Hendrik Brouwer died in Puerto Inglés. Maurice of Nassau had foreseen that this could happen and had a provided the expedition with a sealed letter to be opened in the case. The letter transferred command to vice-general Elias Herckmans who had until then been in charge of the ship Vlissingen and previously been governor of Paraíba. The expedition sat sail for Valdivia on August 21 and reached their destination withing three days.
Elias Herckman arrived at the mouth of Valdivia River in Corral Bay on August 24. From there on the Dutch had a troublesome upward sailing in Valdivia River to the location of Valdivia as they lacked experience of sailing in rivers. The ruins of Valdivia were however reached the same day. In Valdivia the Dutch established a new settlement, which Herckmans named Brouwershaven after Brouwer who was buried there. Before September the Dutch had established a friendly relationship with Manquipillan a local cacique. A ship was sent back to Dutch Brazil on September 25 to report on the positive development of the colony and ask for supplies. Captain Elbert Crispijnsen was in command of the ship. In Valdivia the Dutch begun the construction of a fort, nevertheless nearby Mapuches begun to distrust the Dutch and halted their delivery of food. The Mapuches begun to realize the Dutch had no plans of leaving and their search for gold causes suspicion. Mapuche chief Manqueante from Mariquina provided relief to the hungry Dutch in form of cattle. This relief was only temporarily since it was likely a farewell gift. In addition to this the Dutch did not find the gold mines they expected. In view of these problems on October 15 the Dutch took the decision to retreat to Mancera Island abandoning Valdivia. Before leaving Manqueante was contacted by Herckmans to let him know the Dutch had intentions of returning to Valdivia with 1000 African slaves to take care of mining and agriculture to leave the indigenous poeples free of forcer labour. This promise was never fulfilled.
Back in Brazil
The expedition finally left Valdivia on October 28 and reached Recife on December 28. In Brazil the reinforcement and provisions asked by Crispijnsen were soon to sail off to Valdivia and John Maurice of Nassau was disappointed to know that the colony had been dismantled. The uprising the broke out in Dutch Brazil in 1645 put an end to the Dutch pretensions in Chile.
Having been told by Manqueante that the Dutch had plans to return to the location, the Spanish viceroy in Peru sent from El Callao in Peru 1000 men in twenty ships and ordered 2000 men to march by land from Central Chile in 1644 to resettle Valdivia and fortify it. The land troops never made it to Valdivia, probably due to Mapuche resistance. The massive fleet, that was added two ships in Chile, was unprecedented in the region. The Spanish soldiers in the new garrison disinterred and burned Brouwer's body.
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