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Confederados: The 20,000 Confederates who emigrated to Brazil after losing the Civil War

 Nikola Budanovic

In 1865, the Civil War ended with a Confederate loss and the Union abolishing slavery. The bloody conflict caused more than 600,000 military casualties and nearly depleted the Southern economy.

The North disbanded the Confederate army and began a period known as the Reconstruction. It wasn’t exactly welcomed in the South, and some decided to leave the United States for somewhere else.

“Somewhere else” turned out to be the Empire of Brazil, spanning a vast space taken up by today’s Brazil and Uruguay.

The Emperor at the time, Dom Pedro II, was interested in developing his own cotton and sugar-cane industry.

For this, he needed skilled farmers, and the Southern émigrés seemed fit for the job. Most of them were from Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina and came from large households that relied heavily on agriculture.

Descendants of Americans during the Confederate Festival in Santa Bárbara d’Oeste , São Paulo . Author Felipeattilio
CC BY-SA 3.0

The Emperor offered them financial help with travel expenses, subsidized the price of land, and let them build plantations tax-free.

Some 20,000 people moved to Brazil between 1865 and 1885, where slavery was still legal. (The numbers vary, with some sources claiming that a more realistic figure is around 10,000 settlers.)

The Confederate settlers inhabited various places. Some saw the appeal in developing the urban areas of Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paolo, while others decided to try their luck in the vast and scarcely inhabited northern and southern Amazon region, like Santarem and Parana.

Confederate immigrants Joseph Whitaker and Isabel Norris. Source
Confederate immigrants Joseph Whitaker and Isabel Norris.

The colonies remained a cloistered community for years to come. The Confederate refugees married among themselves and spoke only English. They also invested in separate schools, churches, and cemeteries, importing priests and teachers from the United States.

The colonists founded the first Baptist Church in Brazil, together with the Campo Cemetery in which members of the Protestant religion were buried, according to their tradition.

Alison Jones, who was a third-generation descendant of the original settlers, described her experience growing up in such an environment to the Seattle Times in a 1995 interview:

I remember when I was 4 years old, I was lost in a textile factory and I couldn’t tell the people anything because I only spoke English. I didn’t learn Portuguese until I started school.”

House of the first Confederate family in Americana. Source
House of the first Confederate family in Americana.

Some historians interpret this migration as motivated by the fact that Brazil hadn’t abolished slavery until 1888, and that former slave owners of the South wanted to continue their exploitative way of living somewhere else.

But Alcides Gussi, an independent researcher of the State University of Campinas, Sao Paolo, begs to differ. Even though slavery was legal, Gussi claims that only four families actually owned slave labor, with a total number of 66 slaves, in the period between 1868 to 1875.

Whether it was because of the dire financial situation among most of the settlers, or because the former Confederate slave owners realized their mistakes, remains unclear. Perhaps it was a bit of both.

Confederate Festival in Santa Bárbara do Oeste , São Paulo , Brazil . Author Felipeattilio – CC BY-SA 3.0

Some cases were recorded in which the freed slaves decided to accompany their former masters.

Most notable was the story of Steve Watson. Watson went to Brazil, together with Judge Dyer of Texas, his former owner, who assigned him to be an administrator of a sawmill. At one point, Dyer decided to return to the U.S., due to a combination of homesickness and financial failure. He left all his property in Brazil to Watson.

Judith McKnight Jones, a great-granddaughter of one of the original American settlers, tried to explain the reasons for her family’s departure from Texas during the migration to the Seattle Times:

“They came here because they felt that their ‘country’ had been invaded and their land confiscated. To them, there was nothing left there. So, they came here to try to re-create what they had before the war.

I grew up listening to the stories. They were angry and bitter. When they talked about it, moving here, the war, leaving their homes, it was always a very sore subject for them.”

Nevertheless, the American settlers managed to form communities and preserve their cultural heritage within their new country. Two new towns emerged from their small, disclosed communities―Santa Bárbara d’Oeste and Americana.

Both of these settlements are located in the Brazilian state of São Paulo and are part of the Metropolitan Region of Campinas. These towns are now the home of a number of descendants of the American colonists, who remain connected through Brazil’s Fraternity of the American Descendants.

The Confederados, as they are called by the Brazilians, today host the annual Festa Confederada―a ceremony dedicated to preserving the memory of their ancestors.

The festival features Confederate flags and uniforms, dances, and music from the period, together with American Southern cuisine spiced up with Brazilian flavors.

The State of Paraná was the southern state receiving American immigrants . Source
The State of Paraná was the southern state receiving American immigrants. Author:SamirNosteb -CC BY-SA 3.0

The event’s main purpose is fundraising for the Campo Cemetery, as the burial ground remains perhaps the most powerful symbol of their community.

Even though the descendants have almost completely assimilated into Brazilian society, they hold affection for the short-lived Confederate States of America, which they consider their original homeland.

Note: Where ever racist people immigrate, apartheid spread and prosper

The most potent weapon in long-term wars: Bread!

Henri Fabre wrote:

History honors the battlefields where death strikes us, but fails to talk of the wheat fields that keep us alive. History relate the names of royal bastards, but is incapable of telling the story of wheat and cereals. This is mankind foolishness…”

I am discussing the importance of bread among the “Bread eating” civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, the Greek, Romans, and the western empires.

Mind you that there are civilizations who relied on rice for daily subsistence, fish, oat or dried meat.

For example, the Mogul managed to conquer quickly the vastest of lands in history because they ate dried meat, stashed under their saddles.

The Germans ate oat raw, the same way that their horses did. This is an excellent cause to resist the Romans preemptive wars for centuries. The Romans considered these Germanic tribes as barbarous for this main reason.

For the bread eating civilizations, the  empire that grew more wheat in the long-term to feed the soldiers and the people back home was set to win the war.

The term “burned land” refers to the strategic method of burning the cereal crops as the invading army advanced.

It is no surprise that the period selected by invading armies is when the cereal crops were ripe for harvest: The reasoning was that the invading army will have plenty of food to harvest for the journey.

Napoleon Bonaparte campaign against Russia ended in a tragic fashion because Russia Czar Alexander I ordered burning the cereal field ahead of the advancing French armies.  For 50 days, the retreating French Grand Army was decimated due to lack of bread. The horses died for lack of oat and the soldiers relied on horse meat and their blood to survive.

It was not the cold but lack of bread that defeated Napoleon. It is reported that the French soldier felt hungry for an entire year afterward, regardless of how many times he ate per day: Hunger lingers deep in the subconscious.

Actually, many more French soldiers died from eating too quickly and too much bread as they reached safe destination.

In the US civil war, Lincoln won the war because the Northern States grew wheat in abundance and the South persisted on growing cotton, a harvest they could no longer export or eat.  The southern army was defeated for lack of bread in the last year of the war.

The north welcomed more immigrants from Europe and distributed vast land to them to grow wheat. And the women were used to plant the field, while the women in the south were helpless in these important tasks.

The largest northern center for baking bread in Alexandra was run by experts who studied the French treatise on processing flour and baking bread. “Whatever this war reserves for us, our silos are filled with wheat grains

In contrast, the daily Savannah Republic of Georgia published: “It is the ultimate in absurdity that our planters persist in growing cotton. Without bread, the soldiers will desert the battlefield and the people will die of hunger. Grow corn!”  The bushel of wheat cost $120 in 1863 in the southern States.

Cotton export represented two third of the wealth in the USA before the civil war, and only 3% of the cotton were processed for lack of industry in the south.

When Alexander of Macedonia landed on the shores of Turkey with a 30,000 strong-army, a Greek general, at the sold of Persia and governor of the province, suggested the war tactic of burning the land as Alexander advanced.  Persia King was sure of defeating the Greek army and declined this idea.

It was the Phoenicia City-State Tyre that warned Alexander of the Persian trap in Isos, and the Greek army circumvented the trap by marching at night. Tyre meant to weaken Persia hold on its economy, and it never crossed its mind that Alexander will destroy Tyre after 7 months of siege.

The armies of Napoleon were fed the best bread in Europe, thanks to Parmentier who supervised the milling and baking processes of the wheat.

Napoleon focused on the industry (the generator of wealth) and neglected agriculture: He imported wheat and cereal from Russia and Ukraine at cheaper prices than at home. In 1805, the war resumed against England and the combined forces of Prussia and Russia. The sea was blocked for import and Russia denied wheat and cereals to the French. England even purchased wheat from Egypt Muhammad Ali at premium prices in order to prevent the French from importing any wheat.

In 1813, Napoleon ordered the distribution of 2 million dish of soup daily for 5 months, until the next harvest of cereals. The soup was constituted of leftover bread, bones and vegetable of the season. The English mocked Napoleon saying “The French are reduced to eat dirt and bones

Note 1: Part of the stories were extracted from “History of bread in the last 6,000 years” by Heinrich Eduard Jacob, published in 1954.

Note 2: Ants harvest many kinds of grains, but saw only one kind of seminiferous “Herbacee Aristida” or “ant’s rice”, performing mono-culture for survival. This grain germinates during the rainy seasons and gives two harvests.

Note 3: Before new techniques for milling wheat using metallic cylinders and powered by steam engines, the bread eating civilization suffered from bad teeth, particularly the molars: milling with stones left residue of abrasive particles of stones in the flour..

Note 4: In 1830, a certain Muller (miller) conceived of cylinders powered by steam engine of Watt and Evans to mill the grain. The manufacture consisted of 5 stories of cylinders.  Engineer Jacob Sulzberger improved on the technique. Stefan Szechenyi from Hungary hired engineers from Switzerland to install a modern mill, and Hungary became the bread basket of Austria and Vienna for many decades.

In 1873, the US got interested in this mill during the Universal Exposition in Vienna. By  1879, governor Washburn hired engineers from Hungary, and the US became the world bread basket, and going on till now.

“I was one year old; mother was made to separate from me”; (Feb. 15, 2010)

“I was 7 of age when mother died, or around that.  I don’t know the date of birth: No records were kept for slaves. Slaves were told they were born during periods of sawing, reaping, gathering cherries, or extraordinary events.  Horses too had no birth certificates: it drove me mad because everyone knew my father was the white master of the plantation.

Masters had win-win situations: they sent black slave mothers to another remote plantation, a year after caring for the child. Worn out female slaves would bring up the kids instead of the mothers.

Mother used to walk over 10 miles at night to see me occasionally.  When I woke up she was long gone: she is to be whipped if she shows up at the remote plantation late to work.

I think that I saw mother 5 times in her short life; and only at night.” (Memories of a slave, 1846)

Frederick Douglas (1818-1895) was born in Maryland (Talbot County, USA) and fled the plantation in 1838 to the northern states after forging a safe exit conduct.  He became a brilliant orator within the abolitionist movement and gave conferences in England.

Douglas was officially freed in 1846 and was close to President Abraham Lincoln. Douglas convinced Lincoln to enroll blacks in the Federal army during the civil war.  Douglas was appointed president of the Bank of Freed Slaves, then consul in Haiti.


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