Today I want to invite You to a thread about a very little-known topic - the XIX century fleet of Bolivia.
It's something I wanted to draw for a long time, but only recently plucked up the courage to try drawing ships that not only are completely different from all others I drew until now, but also I had only one, low-quality line drawing as a source for each of them (strictly speaking, I found a painting of one of them, but it looked so much different that I just decided not to put too much attention to it) - for that reason I'm not going insist too much on their accuracy.
Although nowadays Bolivia is a landlocked country, it has a small navy operating on rivers and Lake Titicaca. In the 19th century it had, however, a relatively short coastline in what now is northern Chile (which annexed these territories after the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific) and operated a tiny and rather ephemeral navy.
Earliest references to the Bolivian navy date back to the 1826 constitution which contained provisions for creation of the maritime force, but it doesn't seem that any serious steps were made towards actually establishing it.
Apparently in 1831 two small vessels of the Peruvian navy, the Congreso and Libertad were temporary flying a Bolivian flag, though it's rather unclear to me.
More "solid" steps towards the Bolivian navy were made during the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, which lasted between 1836 and 1839. During that period a unified navy of confederacy existed, and after it's breakup, some of it's vessels found their way to the navy of Bolivia.
It seems that the Fuerza Naval Boliviana (as it's referred to) was rather peculiar force, which lacked any solid structure and support services. It never had more than 4 vessels and it's effectiveness was seemingly rather limited. It's main task was prevention of transport of contraband (untaxed guano and saltpeter) from the small ports on the coastline to Chile (done mostly by Chilean ships), which become common especially after 1843. In 1872 president Agustín Morales initiated an attempt to purchase two ironclads similar to Chilean Blanco Encalada and Almirante Cochrane, but Bolivians emissaries were unsuccessful in securing a necessary loan. Eventually, around 1873 the Bolivian navy practically ceased to function anyway - both for technical and financial reasons, and the minimal protection of the coastline was apparently done by Peruvian navy.
Last attempt to revive the seagoing Bolivian naval force took place during the War of the Pacific, when president Hilarion Daza signed a decree authorizing issuing of letters of marque to ship owners willing to undertake privateering for Bolivia. This move was met with protests from US and European governments and it seems that only one ship was actually prepared (though never used) for such activity. Said vessel, steamer Laura, was owned by several citizens of Peru, however at that point Peru was still technically neutral and government prevented it from even leaving Callao (where it was eventually sank by Chileans on/around 16 January 1881).
Largest ship of the Bolivian navy was steam paddlewheel gunboat General Sucre
(dimensions: 31,2 x 6,4 x 3,7m; armament: 1 x 32-pounder gun on the main deck and 4 x 12-pounder in battery). It bore the main brunt of the coastal patrol service and at least once, in 1846 intercepted a Chilean smuggling vessel. Apparently it was paid off in 1875.
Bolivia, General Sucre
Second largest vessel was another paddlewheeler, El Morro
(dimensions: 29,3 x 6 x 3 m; armament: 1 x 24-pounder gun on the main deck and 6 x 12-pounder in battery). Besides the patrol service it also performed fairly extensive hydrographical survey duties. In early 1870s was retired due to poor technical condition.
Bolivia, El Morro
(dimensions: 35 x 6 x 2,6 m; armament: 6 x 12-pounder in battery) served largely as customs ships.
Brigantine Maria Luisa
(dimensions: 30,1 x 5,3 x 2,8m; armanent: 4 x 6-pounder in battery) earned it's moment of glory when in 1843 intercepted a small (2 guns, crew of 22) Chilean vessel Rumera that was involved in contraband and "piracy". In 1872 it was sold to civilian user and sank in 1875.
Bolivia, Maria Luisa
Finally, I would like to thank ALVAMA for kind suggestions and consultations and to CraigH whose works provided me a styllistical inspiration.