I don’t normally link to the Economist because it’s not like they need it or anything, but when they oblige us with an engaging article on one of the most pointless and - per capita – destructive wars in human history then such reluctance seems out of place.
Because López had drafted every man in Paraguay, there was no labour to work the fields, and starvation set in. Many who subsisted on bitter wild oranges succumbed to cholera, malaria and dysentery. As able-bodied men died, López recruited a new army of wounded and child soldiers. He armed them with sticks painted to look like guns, disguising the youngsters with fake beards.
I think a lot of the detail here might have come from John Gimlette’s At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, which I believe I’ve recommended before. And here’s the War Nerd on the same topic from back in 2007. And if you fancy a long read on the Sertao revolt, an e-book of RB Cunninghame Grahame’s account of the life and miracles of Antonio Conselheiro is available here.
In tangentially related news it’s really beginning to look like farewell presidente for Hugo. Never did such a profoundly silly man do a bit of good for so many people. He may have worn clown shoes but he kicked the right arses.