Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Confederate Ancestors Fed Up

Missing in 1870 Census, Found in 1880?


The civil war ripped Confederates of their land, possessions, and slaves. They no longer felt safe and were discontent with the Reconstruction and changes in their way of living. They felt as “outsiders” in their own country.

Up to twenty thousand southerners left the United States between 1865-1885, for a 30 to 60 day passage and new life in Brazil.[1] Most of these exiles were from Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina. However, 12 of the southern states were represented in Brazil. It is estimated that many of these expatriates, returned to the United States, the others and their descendants became Confederados.[2]

For Genealogists – Descendants of Confederates
Your ancestor may have decided to leave the USA for a few years, or indefinitely, after the Civil War. Children birth places and names may be the first clue. Local newspapers are also a good source. Ship records and Brazilian immigration records may also assist.[3]

Why Brazil?
In spite of pleas from Gen Robert E. Lee to not leave the south, the disenchanted Confederates answered the call of Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil. Pedro offered land grants and transport assistance. Land was offered at 22 cents an acre, with four years credit and the expatriates successfully farmed and planted cotton.[4] A big attraction of Brazil was that slavery was not abolished until 1888.

Confederado Communities?
The Confederates settled in São Paulo and Paraná provinces in the American colonies of Americana, Campinas, Juquiá, New Texas and Xiririca. There were also colonies in Espírito Santo and Santarém. The Baptists/Protestant Campo cemetery, for the Confederados is located outside Santa Barbara do Oeste. Campo is the meeting place for festivals and is usually filled with fried chicken, cornbread and southern cuisine. The largest, “Festa Confederado,” raises awareness of the Confederados every April and the Confederate flag is proudly flying on the 4th of July celebration.

Although the Confederados were in a Catholic dominant country, their communities survived around the English speaking Protestant churches. English was spoken with a southern drawl as late as the 1950’s.[5] And, the descendents of the Confederate colonists still call themselves Confederados.

Even though the original settlers were not accustomed to the racially mixed families and the large population of Brazilian free coloreds The present day Confederados have embraced the Brazilian culture,. Whereas, early settlers did not intermarry with the Brazilians, due to their racial mix, present day descendents of the Confederados reside in all provinces of Brazil, and they freely intermarry.[6]

Why Return to the USA?
There were diseases like malaria and smallpox that drove many colonists to return to America. In addition, not all of the soil was good for farming, and Brazil abolished slavery in 1888. There was also civil unrest in 1932.

Ex-slaves Went Too?
It was not too uncommon for a freed-slave to travel to Brazil in order to upgrade his “colored” status. Although slavery was still legal in Brazil for 23 years after emancipation in the USA, free coloreds in Brazil were given many more opportunities than those given to the ex-slaves during the Reconstruction Era.[7]

For More Information
A full bibliography and overview is given in Confederados: South Goes South: American Perspectives on Southern Immigrants to Brazil by Ernest R. Rheaume is online.

Accurate, Accessible Answers
[1] “30-60 day passage” reported in Brasil: migrações internacionais e identidad. http://www.comciencia.br/reportagens/migracoes/migr16.htm Online access 15 June 2010. Although there are no accurate numbers of those who left, in 1872 the most accurate data records approximately 4,000 exiles. The numbers range between 3 thousand and 20 thousand. Some historians believe the numbers were intentionally lowered as to not cause a mass exodus. Movimento de passageiros norte-americanos no porto do Rio de Janeiro; 1865-1890, autor and researcher Betty Antunes de Oliveira, (a descendent of a Confederado) documented up to 20 thousand colonists in Brazil.
[2] It is estimated that up to 60% of the exiles returned to the USA.
[3] The Confederados often moved in religious and community groups. The Brasil: migrações internacionais e identidad identifies the number of Americans who landed on the shores of Brazil in 1867.
[4] The Confederados: Forgotten Descendants of the Confederate States of America http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/41849/the_confederados_forgotten_descendants.html?cat=37
[5] Brazil, No promised land for Confederates: http://www.brazzil.com/2004/html/articles/apr04/p107apr04.htm; Preserving the Culture: http://www.comm.unt.edu/histofperf/tonyspenser/Preserving%20the%20Culture.htm; online access 15 Jun 2010
[7] Black people in Brazil who had white ancestry were not considered “black.” In 1976, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (BGE) reported a classification system whereby the citizens were able to identity themselves using skin color; and, there were 134 terms.The Brazil reader: history, culture, politics. Levine, Robert M. and Crocitti, John J; online access Google Books; pgs. 386-390. Racial Classifications in Latin America http://www.zonalatina.com/Zldata55.htm; Online access, 15 June, 2010.


  1. I have never heard this before, how intriguing. Wonder if that is what happened to my soldier who disappeared after the war? Thanks Kathleen!

  2. This is wonderful information. I knew Loyalists left during and following the Revolutionary War, but I did not realize so many Southerners left following the Civil War. A whole new avenue to check! Thank you.

  3. Thanks for commenting everyone. I should also mention that some of the Confederate loyalists went to Mexico also. I will write about where to find information on that later.

  4. Wow! All I can say is I had no idea. Thank you for enlightening me!

  5. Kathleen,
    You are the first American I've ever encountered to know about the Confederados! I lived in Santa Barbara d'Oeste for a year when I was in high school and participated in the annual festival at the Campos cemetery. It was a big deal and appeared on their TV news. Thanks for sharing this info on your blog. It brought me back to that special time and place in my life.

  6. Hello Kathleen,
    I just left Thomases' blog, GeneaBloggers where he wrote in glowing terms about your blog. I'm so glad he has introduced you. I'm like the others who have commented above, I had no idea about the numbers of people leaving for Brazil after the Civil War. I found one of my ancestors arriving in New York and the manifesto said he was arriving from Brazil. I found myself imagining why he had gone there. Never did find out or come to a good conclusion. Now I will go back and look at this one a little more closely.

  7. This is fascinating. I have a Confederate family who are missing in 1880. It would never have occurred to me to look outside the country, but that will certainly be my next step.