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This collection of essays--which also includes a previously unpublished narrative by an original settler-- examines the fascinating experiences of southern Confederate exiles in Brazil and their continuing legacy.

During the late 1860s Southerners dissatisfied with the outcome of the Civil War and fearful of the extent of Union reprisals migrated to Brazil to build a new life for themselves. The Confederados--the great majority from Alabama and Texas--began a century-long adventure to establish a new homeland and to preserve important elements of their Old South heritage.

For more than a hundred years, descendants of the original settlers have largely maintained their language and customs while contributing to Brazil's economy and society. Here, scholars from many fields examine every aspect of this unique mingling of cultures within the larger historical and cultural context.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817309442
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 05/21/1998
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Cyrus B. Dawsey is Professor of Geography and Director of the Institute for Latin American Studies at Auburn University. James M. Dawsey is Dean of the Faculty at Emory and Henry College. Michael L. Conniff is Professor and Director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of South Florida.

Read an Excerpt

The Confederados

Old South Immigrants in Brazil

By Cyrus B. Dawsey, James M. Dawsey

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 1995 The University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-0944-2



The Context of the Southern Emigration to Brazil

Cyrus B. Dawsey and James M. Dawsey

When the Confederate exiles left the United States during the mid-1860s, they were responding to a combination of interacting "push" and "pull" conditions, some real and some imagined. As we will see in chapter 4, these conditions often involved complex webs of personal and institutional relationships that extended across national boundaries. Disappointment over the outcome of the Civil War was a major reason for the movement. Most of the migrants were people who had been a part of the social and military fabric of the Old South, people who, with great loyalty to the ideals of the Confederacy, could not bear the thought of living subject to the hateful Yankees. Some of these sentiments lingered on in Brazil, as demonstrated by the continued prominence of the Confederate battle flag at the preserved American Campo chapel near Santa Bárbara (described in chapter 8) and emphatic gravestone inscriptions at the nearby cemetery (e.g., "Once a rebel, twice a rebel, and forever a rebel"). The victorious Union was cursed for decades, and some expatriates in Brazil were apt to demonstrate little courtesy or hospitality when they encountered fellow Americans who came from a state beyond the Mason-Dixon line.

The Vanquished South

The migrants left behind a region ravaged by war where they had been afraid and their lives had been filled with stress. Many accounts, such as the diary of the Confederate officer Douglas French Forrest, describe the social and economic disintegration occurring in the South at the end of the war. By mid-May 1865, Confederate currency had lost its value. Out of pity, Forrest gave some money to two sick soldiers and purchased $600 of Confederate paper money for $3. Kirby Smith's army had been dispersed, and "the whole country for miles around was filled with predatory bands, utterly irresponsible, recognizing no rights of property, utterly demoralized." These bands stole anything that was useful and destroyed everything else. Forrest and his companions guarded their possessions as best they could. A horse thief was caught and hanged.

Rumors abounded: The disbanded troops of the North were rioting. "Violence and anarchy," Forrest heard, "defies description, surpassing, if it were possible, that of our own land." Andy Johnson's cabinet had resigned. Sherman was about to establish a Western Confederacy. President Davis was safe in Nassau.

At first, Forrest half believed the rumors and refused to accept defeat. He was angry and remained convinced of the justice of the Southern cause. He found it difficult to contemplate reunion. "[The great powers of Europe] little understand the South," he wrote on May 24, "if they suppose us capable of soon forgetting our dead slaughtered by Yankee hirelings, our homes destroyed, our women outraged, our old men murdered! Heaven grant our people virtue and valor in this critical period of our history. I am most anxious to see and converse with the Genl. & earnestly trust he will regard the matter as I do & agree not to quit the country, but to try to arouse the people & to lead them again into the fight in our just quarrel."

As the days passed, however, the reality of defeat set in. By June 3, Forrest vowed "to leave the country without ever being a prisoner paroled or otherwise of our detested foes." On June 4, Forrest wrote that although "no one seems to have any decided plan of action," he was adhering to the project of crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico. "[I] am purposed to quit the South malgré eux on my noble horse. I have considered the question from every standpoint, & am sure that my notions are not Quixotic, but according to right reason. There is no reason why I should put myself into the hands of the loathed Yankees." And the next day, Forrest joined General Walker on what he called "the Mexican scheme" and began the migration to the south.

Daniel Sutherland has argued that the word "disarray" best characterizes that period in the Deep South soon after Appomattox. The father of Bellona Smith, whose first-person account is presented in chapter 2, had served as a bugler in the Southern army in Galveston, and once released from duty, he must have taken several weeks to reach his home in Navarro County. For the Confederates, getting home could be a problem. Forrest hid at night and took special precautions against strangers. Smith must have done the same. A soldier trying to return to Tennessee wrote in his diary that "the tories are worse than before the late surrender, robbing, cowhiding, hanging, shooting, etc. To reach my family's present whereabouts we must pass through 70 miles of bad country where I may meet many who will recognize me. There be some to meet with whom is to kill or be killed."

Bellona Smith did not report what Alfred Smith encountered in Navarro County when he returned home after the war. Returning soldiers and war refugees expected to find their houses burned, family and friends missing, property stolen or confiscated, and plantations destroyed. One Southerner expressed his reservations about going back in this way: "It will be a sad home-coming, without a home to go to. The family circle is broken by the death of our boys, and many dear old friends will be missing. Then we are uncertain as to whether we shall be able to save enough from the wreck of our fortune to enable us to live even in a very modest way."

Sometimes, what the returnees found was even worse than imagined. The fabric of the South's government, economy, and society was in great disarray. Describing South Carolina, J. S. Pike wrote:

The banks were ruined. The railroads were destroyed. Their few manufactories were desolated. Their vessels had been swept from the seas and rivers. The live-stock was consumed. Notes, bonds, mortgages, all the money in circulation, debts, became alike worthless. The community were without clothes and without food. Everything had gone into the rapacious maw of the Confederate Government; vast estates had crumbled like paper in a fire. While the shape was not wholly destroyed, the substance had turned to ashes. Never was there greater nakedness and desolation in a civilized community.

Given the situation in the South at the end of the war, it is not surprising that many desired to leave and go elsewhere. In chapter 3, William Griggs describes at length the condition confronting Bellona Smith's father as he made the decision to leave Texas. The largest number of people relocated within the United States, following the trail west or moving to the North in search of employment. But perhaps as many as 10,000 went into exile in foreign lands—most often to Latin America.

There were many reasons why those who migrated to other countries did so. Some, like Forrest, appear to have decided almost on impulse. They despaired of the South's ability to control its own destiny; they feared imprisonment and reprisals; and they hated the Yankees. With indefinite plans and focused on the "push" conditions of the collapsed Confederacy, they followed their instincts and fled.

Restlessness played a part. Alfred Smith had moved to Texas from Georgia,where he had been taken in by the McMullan family; before that, he had spent some time in Alabama. By the war's end, tens of thousands of refugees roamed the South. Many had become homeless at the beginning or near the beginning of the Civil War, and they were accustomed to moving around. Damage to abandoned property had been much more extensive than to that possessed by their civilian neighbors who had stayed behind. In her book on the subject, Mary Elizabeth Massey entitled one of the chapters "Half the World Is Refugeeing." Half the world found little home to which to return.

Although most of the bands of semimilitary outlaws, such as encountered by Forrest, had been brought under control by the end of 1865, lawlessness, violence, fear, hunger, poverty, ruin, and social disorder were to mark the South for many years. Many of those who left the region were belligerent and bitter. Judith MacKnight Jones claimed that one of the Confederate emigrants to Brazil, Clay Norris, so hated the North, that even when he was old, if someone asked him about the war, he responded with a stream of curses directed at the Yankees. Bellona Smith Ferguson wrote that the exiles Bowen and McMullan were "disappointed and sore over the 'lost cause.'" Some of the exiles did not accept the fact that the war had ended; some were disgusted with their own leaders; most blamed the Yankees for what had happened to the South.

Premonitions of reconstruction horrors were common. Northern merchants and speculators moved into the Southern states after the war, taking away economic opportunities from Southerners. Many Southerners who wished to regain their fortunes—or just to feed their families—were pessimistic about their future in the South. The idea of living and working alongside of their freed black labor frightened many Southerners. Some who left wanted to re-create the Old South in a different country. Southern pride and honor motivated much of the exodus.

Adventure was another reason why some wished to leave. Gold, treasure, and images of tropical paradise attracted many of the Southerners who went to Latin America. The tract of land in Brazil selected for colonization by the Reverend Ballard Dunn was supposedly a site where a pirate had buried his treasure. When first arriving on the banks of the Azeite River, Bellona Smith's family camped near two "sailor men ... gold seekers." Another Texan, a J. M. Keith, actually struck a fortune in São Paulo prospecting for gold, tin, silver, copper, and other minerals. The descriptions of exotic foreign lands were appealing to the war-suffering Southerners, but for those who made the move, the reality of life in the tropics proved to be quite different from what had been promised.

Attracted to Brazil

So many Southerners talked of emigrating that associations with the purpose of gathering information concerning conditions overseas appeared, and agents began to scout out territory that might be suitable for colonization. William Griggs discusses these efforts more fully in chapter 3. One of the best-known associations was the Southern Colonization Society of Edgefield, South Carolina, which selected Dr. Hugh A. Shaw and Maj. Robert Meriwether "to explore the Southern and Western Territories of the United States and especially the great Empire of Brazil." The Shaw and Meriwether report describing the human and physical geography of parts of Brazil was first printed in the Edgefield Advertiser in May 1866. Later, it was reprinted in several different places and was included in the very popular book Brazil, the Home for Southerners, by the Reverend Ballard S. Dunn.

Another explorer who represented a group of Southerners contemplating migration to Latin America was Gen. William Wallace Wood, who toured Brazil in 1865 on behalf of approximately 600 Mississippi and Louisiana planters. Dr. James McFadden Gaston explored the province of São Paulo on behalf of some South Carolina families at the time of Wood's tour. Brazil, in fact, was the most popular area of exploration, with perhaps as many as twenty agents being sent there on behalf of Southern associations.

The Reverend Ballard S. Dunn, former minister of St. Philip's Episcopal Church in New Orleans, toured Brazil in early 1866. After visiting several coffee plantations in the interior of São Paulo Province, Dunn settled on a tract of land in the Juquiá valley of the Ribeira de Iguape river system near the coast southwest of Santos. He purchased a piece of property of the "most romantic, thoroughly rich, and beautiful country" imaginable for a negotiated price of forty-two cents per acre. The area was described in his book, which became an important recruiting tool.

Besides Dunn, other Southern agents were interested in the Juquiá. James McFadden Gaston would eventually lead a group of South Carolinians to that area; so also would Colonels Frank McMullan and William Bowen, the organizers mentioned by Bellona Smith. McMullan and Bowen spent approximately five months touring Brazil before deciding to acquire property along rivers of the Ribeira de Iguape system near Dunn's site in southern São Paulo. The two agents carefully recorded information that they thought would be of interest to possible migrants: the geography of the area, conditions regarding the weather, agriculture, soils, and so forth. They met with Dunn at Ribeira de Iguape and exchanged information before selecting their tract. Their greater care led to the selection of a site that was less susceptible to flooding than the one chosen by their neighbor, Dunn.

Other organizations besides the colonization associations helped promote the emigration of Southerners to Latin America. Various businesses and entrepreneurs played roles. For example, the Toledo, Young and Company paid a lecturer to travel throughout the South, enticing settlers to British Honduras. Before the war, Matthew Fontaine Maury had argued that the Amazon River had the potential to become as useful as the Mississippi, and he had urged open navigation on the Brazilian river. After the war, his argument for economic development of the Amazon's resources found a ready champion in the Brazilian statesman Tavares Bastos, who promoted the idea along with that of Southern immigration to Brazil. And the Reverend James Cooley Fletcher, who collaborated with Daniel Parrish Kidder on the best-selling Brazil and the Brazilians, helped negotiate government subsidies for a steamship line between New York and Rio de Janeiro to be used to help with the migration.

Several foreign governments also promoted Southern emigration. Emperor Maximilian of Mexico was sympathetic to colonization, and he appointed Matthew Fontaine Maury as the commissioner of colonization and Gen. J. B. Magruder as chief of the land office. Maximilian's idea was to induce Southerners to migrate to the Córdova and Tepic regions by promising free passage, 640 acres of land to heads of families and 320 acres to single men, religious tolerance, freedom from taxation for one year, and freedom from any military obligation for five years.

Venezuela also facilitated the migration of Confederate planters by offering vacant or unused lands in the state of Guyana and the territory of Amazonas. Citizenship was also offered to those who stayed for over one year. The colonists were to be exempt from certain import and export duties and from paying taxes for five years. With citizenship would come freedom of religion and speech and also representation in Congress.

But the Latin American government that provided the most support was that of Brazil under Emperor Dom Pedro II. Thus, upon arriving in Brazil, Wood's party was met with music bands, processions, festivities, guides, letters of introduction, and interpreters. The other agents were also received well, and for the migrants who followed, the Brazilians promised and usually provided land for as little as twenty-two cents an acre at easy terms. Help with accommodations and transportation upon first arrival, easy citizenship, and promises of constructing infrastructure to facilitate the movement of crops to market were also offered. Upon arrival, the colonists would stay in Rio de Janeiro in a big hotel which had been assigned by Dom Pedro II to the foreigners. Bellona Smith wrote that the emperor "contributed much toward the expense [of the foreigners], taking personal interest in all who came to his beloved Brazil."

In Brazil, many of the Southerners expected to find a kindred culture. Brazil had been a staunch ally during the Civil War, having accorded the formal status of belligerent to the Confederacy and having harbored and supplied the Southern ships. Although Dom Pedro II had ended the external slave trade in 1850, emancipation did not follow until 1888. Thus, Brazil was the only major nation that retained the institution of slavery after 1865.

But it was economic opportunity more than cultural similarity that enticed Southern planters to emigrate to Brazil. Many saw the beginning of a cotton boom. Brazilian cotton production had increased dramatically during the war years, and exports had doubled. As the Manchester Association had provided Brazilian planters with seeds, Brazil had begun to supply the English textile mills with cotton. English agents in Rio promoted new machinery with the new crop, and railroad interests saw increased cultivation of cotton as a way to expand traffic into the interior of the province of São Paulo. The agents from the emigration societies reported that the Brazilian climate was favorable for cotton farming. The Brazilian cotton bush was said not to have to be planted every year as in North America, but only once every five years. Moreover, two crops of high quality cotton could be harvested each year. The quality of the Brazilian cotton was considered to be better than that of the South, and it brought a better price on the British market.


Excerpted from The Confederados by Cyrus B. Dawsey, James M. Dawsey. Copyright © 1995 The University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Foreword Michael L. Conniff,
Introduction The Confederados Cyrus B. Dawsey and James M. Dawsey,
One Leaving The Context of the Southern Emigration to Brazil Cyrus B. Dawsey and James M. Dawsey,
Two The Journey The Sarah Bellona Smith Ferguson Narrative Edited by Cyrus B. Dawsey and James M. Dawsey,
Three Settling Migration of the McMullan Colonists and Evolution of the Colonies in Brazil William C. Griggs,
Four Fitting In Relocating Family and Capital within the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World Economy: The Brazilian Connection Laura Jarnagin,
Five The Heritage The Confederados' Contributions to Brazilian Agriculture, Religion, and Education James M. Dawsey and Cyrus B. Dawsey,
Six The Baptists Southern Religion and Émigrés to Brazil, 1865–1885 Wayne Flynt,
Seven The Methodists The Southern Migrants and the Methodist Mission James M. Dawsey,
Eight A Community Center Evolution and Significance of the Campo Site in the Santa Bárbara Settlement Area Cyrus B. Dawsey,
Nine Constructing Identity Defining the [begin strikethrough]American[end strikethrough] Descendants in Brazil John C. Dawsey,
Ten The Language The Preservation of Southern Speech among the Colonists Michael B. Montgomery and Cecil Ataide Melo,
Eleven Conclusions Currents in Confederado Research Cyrus B. Dawsey and James M. Dawsey,
Postscript Reflections of a Confederado Eugene C. Harter,
Annotated Bibliography James M. Gravois and Elizabeth J. Weisbrod,

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