AMERICAN COLONY IN BRAZIL – PART II
CONFEDERATES IN THE AMAZON AND OTHER UNLIKELY PLACES
by U.R. Wright
At the end of the Civil War in the 1860's, a migration of Confederates to Brazil began, with the total number of immigrants estimated in the thousands. They settled primarily in the southern Atlantic coastal region of the country, in Americana, Campinnas, Sao Paulo, Juquia, New Texas, Xiririca, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Doce. One colony settled in Santarem, in the north on the Amazon River. Most immigrants traveled by ship.
The cost of passage was $20-$30, and the voyage took several weeks. Each family was encouraged to bring a tent, light weight furniture, farming supplies and seeds, and provisions to last six months. Land was offered by the Brazilian government at 22 cents an acre, with four years credit, and rich farmland was promised by Brazilian authorities who welcomed these immigrants who would bring superior farming techniques and practices that promised to upgrade those in existence among the Brazilian farmers.Brazil actively encouraged Confederate immigration before the end of the war with offers of financial assistance in transportation, land ownership, and settlement to come and establish new homes in a country where slavery still existed and where cotton might once again become king. Though not all Southerners favored the idea of leaving the South, and Robert E. Lee vociferously opposed it, many embraced the opportunity to leave the defeated Confederate states and begin anew.
After landing on the coast, travel by land and river was difficult. Women who had never cooked a meal or washed a garment were cooking and washing over an open campfire. Malaria was prevalent, and a drought ruined most of the first crops in the colony of Rio Doce.
Although many Confederates ultimately returned to their homes in the United States, many more settled permanently in Brazil and their descendants are living in Brazil...many still celebrating their Southern American heritage as well as their Brazilian culture.
The preceding map shows the location of the major “colonies” established by the Confederate emigrants to Brazil. Within the area of these colonies the culture brought by the colonists is still evident to this day. Following the fall of the Confederacy many Southerners could not/would not live under the yoke of the victorious Yankees. Within each Confederate state colonization societies were organized to promote emigration on a vast level. Of all locations examined, Brazil appeared to offer the best opportunity to allow the Southerners reestablish the lifestyle lost to the northern Yankees. Newspapers of the day reported the emigration plans that threatened to take the South’s best people. Newspapers referred to the situation as Brazilian fever.Brazil had become an exotic interest of Southerners before the war due to glowing accounts of Southern authors comparing the country with the American South. For example, the temperate Brazilian climate resembled that of the South; the parallels that exist between the Amazon and Mississippi River valleys are tremendous; and the fact that Brazil was sympathetic to the South during the war because it too embraced slavery.
High-placed Brazilians convinced Dom Pedro II of a need for Southern agricultural and technical expertise, and an association to promote Southern emigration was established in São Paulo in 1866.Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro did much to encourage Confederate immigration. He had his agents meet with prospective colonizers and opened immigration offices at the Brazilian embassy in Washington and the consulate in New York City. Dom Pedro subsidized the settlers’ ship passage and saw to it that a bureaucracy was in place for receiving them. Dom Pedro sought to import the superior farming technologies and techniques of the plantation southerners; in particular he wanted to establish a cotton growing industry in Brazil. Pedro was successful in his endeavor to turn Brazil into a successful cotton producer but much more in the area of agriculture was brought by the colonists. Thanks to colonizer Joe Whitaker, railroad freight car loads of watermelons were shipped from Brazil for the first time – mostly from the railroad depot in the “colony” of Americana. One hundred railroad boxcars per day left the colonists farms in the late 19th century.
A few of the freed slaves in the United States emigrated side by side with the Confederates. Many of these one-time slaves prospered in Brazil and rose to a high level in Brazilian society. Brazil never experienced the discrimination against their black citizens as it was practiced in America even though slavery was practiced in the country for a time after slavery ceased in America. In Brazil a free black was equal to any other citizen of Brazil.Following is a list of known family names of those Southerners who are known to have immigrated to Brazil in the years following the Civil War (Eugene C. Harter, The Lost Colony of the Confederacy, 1985, Univ. Press of Mississippi)
For a time the Southern Colonies of Brazil remained homogeneous and maintained their southern identity, culture and customs. As years passed the colonists integrated into Brazilian society. By the third generation of colonists there was considerable intermarriage with Brazilians where previously this was not condoned by the colonists, but always accepted by Brazilians.
In 1920 when a daughter of one of the most prominent Confederado (the name applied to the emigrants from the confederacy) families married a black American, who had his own sugar plantation in the Santa Barbara area. There was no outcry. The one time southern Americans had learned from their Brazilian neighbors that color was no barrier.Some of the colonies maintained their distinct southern plantation identity well into the late 19th century. Brazilians came to integrate some of the colonists’ culture into their own. It is interesting to note that to this day Amazon Indian tribes are seen to decorate their pottery with the design of the Confederate flag, the result of having encountered the colonists who chose to settle in the vast jungle.
In 1955 the Confederate descendants of the original colonists organized themselves into the American Descendants Fraternity. Members of this fraternity and their guests meet four times a year. The meeting is usually on a Sunday in the city of Americana, and begins with a service in a chapel where the altar is covered with the three flags, Brazilian, Confederate and U.S.Americana was the most prosperous of the original Confederate colonies with its train station and many businesses and professions. In 1912 the population was approximately 2,500. The town was among the most progressive in Brazil. The town, now a city, has a population of 120,000. At one time the city was populated mostly by descendants of the original colonists and the Confederate flag flew over the town. This is no longer true as most of the descendants of the original colonists have dispersed throughout Brazil and represent less than 10% of the population. A confederate cemetery and church remain and it is here that the American Descendants Fraternity meets.
After the south lost the Civil War, the people were demoralized, and many of them looked for a better life in other countries. The emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, an admirer of the United States and interested in developing the cotton industry in his country, actively supported and subsidized immigration.The Americans thus came to Brazil at the invitation of the emperor, but they stayed because they found a warm welcoming country with a climate similar to their own with soil good for growing cotton and other crops they were used to growing at home. Now, here they lie at a cemetery in Brazil far from their homes in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Texas and others. But their descendents, who live in and around a town called Americana (founded by the Americans), have not forgotten them and do much to honor their memory and keep some of the old traditions alive.
Campo cemetery, belongs to the members of The Fraternity of American Descendents(Fraternidade Descendencia Americana). About 400 Americans and some of their descendants are buried here. One of the graves belongs to W.S. Wise, a great uncle of Rosalynn (Mrs. Jimmy) Carter, wife of the former president of the United States. In 1972, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter made a visit to this cemetery. The cemetery contains a small chapel, an obelisk with the confederate flag and the names of the original families, and a small museum with photos and artifacts from the original settlers.The descendents (called "confederados" in Brazil), through their organization, the Fraternity of American Descendants (Fraternidade Descendencia Americana), have an annual festival called "Festa Confederada" which is held at the cemetery. At this festival confederate flags are flying, traditional dress is worn, and traditional foods such as southern fried chicken, biscuits and gravy are enjoyed. The members play the music and do the dances that were popular in the Old South.
Help if you can. It is certain that there were Kentuckians with Confederate sympathies who went to Brazil to begin new lives. No names for certain have been found to identify these Kentuckians. If one or more of our Ancestral News readers can substantiate the name or names of Kentuckians who relocated to Brazil following the War of Northern Aggression (Civil War) we wish them to notify us. Any such information reported to us will be published in a subsequent issue of Ancestral News.