In 1864 Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López seized the Brazilian steamer, the Marquês de Olinda, initiating what became the most significant war ever fought in South America. By 1866 López's offensive had ended, replaced by a brutal and protracted Allied siege of Paraguay. Whigham's study takes the story of this epic conflict from this point, describing not only key personalities and various military engagements but also explaining how the war shaped society, how men and women mobilized only to suffer on an unimaginable scale. He shows how thousands of Brazilian, Argentine, and Uruguayan soldiers were killed by 1870 and many more left wounded or broken. On their side, the Paraguayans saw their population fall to less than half its pre-war figure, and the country's economy more or less ceased to function. Yet, for all the devastation it unleashed, the Triple Alliance War also acted as a major catalyst, permanently changing political parameters on the continent and etching the struggle into popular memory in an unforgettable way.
The Road to Armageddon is the definitive work on the Triple Alliance War of 1864-1866. There is no other work in English that covers this war in such detail and with such a wide use of sources. Unlike the other works published on the Triple Alliance conflict, which are based almost exclusively on secondary works, The Road to Armageddon is based on a broad consideration of newspaper sources and primary materials from a score of archives and libraries in Brazil, Paraguay, Great Britain, Argentina, Uruguay, Italy, and the United States. In addition to focusing on high politics and the conduct of the war, the study also attempts to examine the conflict from the bottom up, with testimony drawn from poor men and women who witnessed the worst aspects of the war. The Road to Armageddon is not the only English-language work on the war, but it is distinctly the most complete. The images, which are relatively unknown in North America, are particularly fine as are the maps.