The maximum national hero, also named "Knight of the Seas" and "Peruvian of the Millennium" was born in the city of Piura on July 27, 1834. He was son of Lieutenant Colonel Juan Manuel Grau y Berrio, native of the city of Cartagena Of Indies, that came to Peru forming part of the army of Simón Bolívar. Nationalist Peruvian, married to Maria Luisa Seminario y Castillo, Piurana by birth and daughter of Fernando Seminario y Jaime, ordinary mayor of the Piuran cabildo and perpetual councilor.
The little Miguel Grau, because his father was an employee of the Customs of Paita, was placed under the tutelage of Manuel Francisco Herrera, captain of the Neogranadino brig "Tescua", ship in which he made his first moves at sea, and suffered a hard experience to sink that brig in front of the island Gorgona (Colombia). However, in spite of it, it would embark again. His naval career began in 1854 as Midshipman, graduating as Ensign in 1856.
In 1858, he participated in favor of the revolution of the General Vivanco against the government of Ramón Castilla, but when this movement failed, it was separated from the Navy, returning to the Merchant Navy, and in this period, made numerous trips to over the world.
In 1862 he rejoined the Navy and two years later was commissioned on an official mission to Europe, for the acquisition of warships for the squadron. Being in France as part of this commission, was appointed to take charge of the newly acquired corvette "Union", being its first commander. This ship, next to its twin "America", begins its trip towards Peru in February 1865, arriving at Callao months later.
In December of that year, Peru had signed a treaty of offensive and defensive alliance with Chile before a series of incidents produced as a result of the presence of the Spanish Squadron in Pacific waters, which since 1864 had captured the Chincha Islands, and With a series of hostile acts threatening continental peace.
When the war was declared to Spain on January 14, 1866, the "Union", along with other Peruvian ships, were in Chilean waters, forming the denomination Allied Fleet, which on February 7 of the same year was beaten Against a Spanish division in the Battle of Abtao, occasion in which Miguel Grau, already with the rank of Commander, commanded with boldness the "Union" crew.
Concluded the conflict, in 1867 Grau retired with the license of the active service in the navy for the marriage the 12 of April of that year, with the Lima lady Dolores Cabero Núñez, with whom she had ten children.
In 1868 he rejoined the Navy again, being named commander of the monitor "Huáscar". Already in 1872, a root of the coup d'etat of the Gutiérrez brothers, was pronounced against this unconstitutional attitude leading a movement in favor of the democratic stability and the constitutional order.
In 1876 he penetrated politics actively. He was a member of the Civil Party, and also served as Deputy for the department of Paita, leaving the command of "Huáscar" during two legislative periods.
In 1877 he was appointed by President Prado in the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. The following year, during his administration, there was a Navy Report to the Government, document in which he informed and evaluated the general situation of the Navy in both the material and the personnel, indicating important recommendations.
When the war broke out with Chile, it was destined again to the command of "Huáscar", ship of which I would never know to disconnect to him. Grau was aware that Chile had better ships in its squad than those that pose in Peru. Nevertheless, onboard of "Huáscar" with his skill and expertise, knew how to make the most of the ship resources and capacity of his brave crew to walk in front of the enemy coasts for six months as if his squad did not exist , Threatening the lines of maritime communications that underpinned the Chilean war effort.
The first important episode during the maritime phase of the conflict took place on May 21, 1879, when the first Peruvian naval division, composed by the monitor "Huáscar" and the armored frigate "Independencia", faced Chilean ships That blocked the port of Iquique, engaging the battle, which is an occasion in which Grau showed the enemy his greatness of spirit and his famous sagacity: after sinking the corvette "Esmeralda" to the third spolonazo, ordered to save The survivors of the vanquished vessel
After this episode, and with the loss of the frigate "Independence" in front of Punta Gruesa, all the weight of the naval campaign was practically on the men of "Huáscar". Nevertheless, and theirs knew that sooner or later it would be time to face the hidden enemies. In spite of the precariousness of their situation, Grau and the crew of the "Huáscar", continued denying the use of the sea in all the enemy fleet. The 26 of May of 1879 attacks Antofagasta and the following day it catches two merchant ships in Cobija.
On June 3, is sighted by the blind White Encalada and the gunboat Magallanes, but manages to escape after a short duel of artillery. During the night of July 10 penetrates Iquique and attacks the naval units blocking the port. The gunboat "Magallanes" manages to elude the "Huáscar". But, faced with the probability of having to face the blind "Cochrane", the commander Grau decides to return to the port of Arica.
On July 17 an intercepting Chilean convoy set sail, and a week later it captured the "Rimac" transport, with 300 men belonging to the regiment "Carabineros de Yungay", and war supplies. Grau's successes aboard the "Huáscar", in particular the capture of the "Rimac", led to the resignation of the enemy's Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Juan Williams Rebolledo, after which a new chief is appointed and submits to Chilean ships to a recovery of their operational capacities, in order to hunt the "Huáscar", which takes most in September.
Meanwhile, the Peruvian monitor and his brilliant commander continued to penetrate the Chilean coast, destroying port facilities and vessels, and avoiding, as much as possible, damaging defenseless settlements, to affect the Chilean economic effort necessary to sustain the war. In recognition of his merits, on August 26, the Peruvian Congress granted him the promotion to the degree of Rear Admiral, which Grau would refuse to show, since this would lead to leaving the command of "Huáscar".
At the beginning of October, the Chilean squad is ready to carry out a plan designed to capture the "Huáscar", and this is set in motion. The final moment arrives at dawn on the 8th of that month, when at approximately 3:30 hours, the "Huáscar" and the "Union", arriving from Antofagasta, spotted three fumes, noticing later that they were enemy ships.
Grau acted like other times, since there was no other possibility, and drove eastward to continue north. At 7:15 hours, he distinguished three other fumes coming from the North, which were the "Cochrane", the "O'Higgins" corvette and the "Loa" transport, which sailed to the Peruvian division to close the way. Given the situation of being between two enemy divisions and in the conviction that the avoidance of battle before such superior forces was impossible, Admiral Grau was prepared to fulfill his duty. He ordered the commander of the "Union" to save his ship, which was done by taking advantage of his greater gait.
Twenty minutes after the action began, a grenade launched from the "Cochrane" crashed into the commander's tower, flying through the air to Admiral Grau and leaving the Lieutenant Diego Ferré dying, which the aid service. The combat was continued with singular courage on the part of the defenders of the "Huáscar", whose armor did not have resistance before the powerful batteries of the Chilean ships. The battle was tenacious and sustained, and several commanders of the Peruvian ship were killed during the fighting, due to the damages received, the last commander of the "Huáscar", Lieutenant Pedro Gárezon, He ordered to flood the ship to avoid its capture. However, the ship, already incapacitated for the defense, without the government, but with the flag in a single time, underwent the approach of the enemy. In this last glorious episode that was recorded aboard the "Huáscar", each one on board monitor complied with his, following the example of his commander. With Grau sacrifice, he concluded the life of one of the most illustrious Peruvians of all time. All the facts of his life were marked by exemplary behavior, and his plunder not only lies in the heroic behavior he showed on the occasions when he had to defend his homeland and his unparalleled marine expertise, but in the way he knew Overcome the difficulties that destiny put him in his way. As the Peruvian historian Jorge Basadre said: "Miguel Grau Seminario was a man committed to his time, his country and his values, he was honest and loyal to his principles, defended the constitutional order and was an enemy of dictatorships. Was always in the line of affirmation of the moral norms and traditions of the republic, honored in the stateroom and in the tower of command, also in the living room and in the home.