American Colony of Civil War Confederates In Brazil – Part 1

I Don’t Know Why This Most Interesting Aspect of Our Civil War History is So Little Known
by U.R. Wright

An American Brazilian is a Brazilian person of full, partial or predominant North American ancestry, or a US–born person immigrant in Brazil.

The Confederados are a cultural sub-group in the nation of Brazil. They are the descendants of people who fled from the Confederate States of America to Brazil with their families after the American Civil War.

At the end of the American Civil War in the 1860s, a migration of Confederates to Brazil began, with the total number of immigrants estimated in the thousands. They settled primarily in Southern and Southeastern Brazil: in Americana, Campinas, São Paulo, Santa Bárbara d'Oeste, Juquiá, New Texas, Xiririca, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Doce. But in Santarém, Pará – in the north on the Amazon River – and the states of Bahia and Pernambuco received a significant number of American immigrants.

At the end of the American Civil War, the Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil was interested in having cotton crops due to the high prices and through Freemasonry contacts, recruited experienced cotton farmers for his nation. Dom Pedro offered the potential immigrants subsidies and tax breaks. General Robert E. Lee advised Southerners not to flee to South America but many ignored his advice and set out to establish a new life away from the destruction of war.

Many Southerners who took the Emperor's offer had lost their land during the war, were unwilling to live under a conquering army, or simply did not expect an improvement in the South's economic position. In addition, Brazil would not outlaw slavery until 1888. Although a number of historians say that the existence of slavery was an appeal, Alcides Gussi, an independent researcher of State University of Campinas, found that only four families owned a total of 66 slaves from 1868 to 1875. The Confederates were the first organized Protestant group to settle in Brazil.

The American Immigration to Brazil was started within the year of 1865, in small ships and sailboats hurriedly reshaped. They were exhausted men, women and children, many were very injured, others were sick and depressed, but they were determined to give a new start to their lives in faraway Brazil.

Between 1865 and 1885, almost ten thousand White Americans coming mainly from Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Mississippi, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee ran ashore in the ports of Belém, Vitória, Rio de Janeiro and Santos. Once they arrived, they had to redouble their so weakened energies and confront other faraway and tough trips around the land until they could reach the region of Campinas, whose climate and lands are similar to those of the Southern United States.

It is unknown just how many immigrants went to Brazil as refugees from the war, but unpublished research in the records of the port of Rio de Janeiro by Betty Antunes de Oliveira counts some 20,000 Americans that entered Brazil from 1865 to 1885. Of those, an unknown number returned to the United States as conditions improved there. Many immigrants renounced their U.S. citizenship and adopted Brazilian citizenship.

The first original Confederados known to arrive was the senator William H. Norris of Alabama—the colony at Santa Bárbara d'Oeste is sometimes called the Norris Colony. Dom Pedro's program was judged a success for both the immigrants and the Brazilian government. The settlers brought with them modern agricultural techniques and new crops such as watermelon, and pecans that soon spread among the native Brazilian farmers. Some foods of the American South also crossed over and became part of general Brazilian culture such as chess pie (a very sweet desert found in the south.  The recipe calls for the preparation of a single crust with a filling of eggs, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and corn meal.  The corn meal is what makes this pie unique from other custard pies), vinegar pie (A dessert designed by thrifty women for times of year when there was no fruit in season, back when everyone had to cook seasonally by necessity.  By using vinegar as a flavor base they could make a custardy pie that was sweet and tangy), and southern fried chicken.

The original Confederados continued many elements of American culture and established the first Baptist churches in Brazil. They also established public schools and provided education to their female children, which was unusual in Brazil at the time.

The first generation of Confederados remained an insular community, but by the third generation, most of the families had intermarried with native Brazilians or immigrants of other origins. Descendants of the Confederados increasingly spoke the Portuguese language and identified themselves as Brazilians. As the area around Santa Bárbara d'Oeste and Americana turned increasingly to the production of sugar cane and society became more mobile, the Confederados drifted to cities. Today, only a few descendant families still live on the original land owned by their ancestors. The descendants of the original Confederados are mostly scattered throughout Brazil but maintain the headquarters of their descendant organization at the Campo Cemetery, in Santa Bárbara D'Oeste.

The descendants maintain affection for the Confederate flag even though they all consider themselves completely Brazilian. Modern Confederados distance themselves from any of the racial controversies.  In Brazil, the Confederate flag has not had the racial stigma that has been attached to it in the United States. Many descendants are of mixed race and reflect the varied racial categories that make up Brazilian society in their physical appearance. Recently the Brazilian residents of Americana, now of primarily Italian-descent, have removed the Confederate flag from the city's crest citing the fact that Confederados now make up only 10% of the city's population.

The Confederate flag was associated with the city in the wake of Jimmy Carter's visit to the region.

In 1972, then Governor (and future President) Jimmy Carter of Georgia visited the city of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste and visited the grave of his wife Rosalyn's great-uncle who was one of the original Confederados.

Many Confederados have traveled to the United States at the invitation of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an American descendants' organization, to visit Civil War battlefields, attend reenactments, or see where their ancestors lived in the United States.

The center of Confederado culture is the Campo Cemetery in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste, where most of the original Confederados from the region were buried. Because of their Protestant religion, they established their own cemetery. The Confederado community has also established a Museum of Immigration at Santa Bárbara d'Oeste to present the history of Brazilian immigration and highlight its benefits to the nation.

To this day the descendants still foster a connection with their history through the Fraternity of American Descendants, a descendant organization dedicated to preserving the unique mixed culture. The Confederados also have an annual festival, called the Festa Confederada which is dedicated to fund the Campo Cemetery. The festival is marked by Confederate flags, traditional dress of Confederate uniforms and hoop skirts, food of the American south with a Brazilian flair, and dances and music popular in the American south during the antebellum period.

NOTE:  The Lost Colony of the Confederacy (Williams-Ford Texas A & M University Military History Series) by Eugene C. Harter.  A book based on actual events, “The Lost Colony of the Confederacy" chronicles the immigration of Southerners who fled the former states of the Confederacy and resettled in Brazil at the invitation of Brazil's ruler at the time, Emperor Dom Pedro II. Many Confederates immigrated to Brazil to take advantage of that nation's rich natural resources and most importantly, African slaves in one of the few countries in the Americas who had not abolished slavery yet.  The book is available at and can be ordered at most bookstores for under $20.00.