18 of the Copacabana Fort revolt
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The 18 of the Copacabana Fort revolt happened on July 5, 1922, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, then Federal District of Brazil. It was the first revolt of the tenentista movement, in the context of the Brazilian Old Republic.
Tenentismo is the political-military movement and various rebellions of young officers (most were lieutenants) of the Brazilian army that happened during 1920’s. They asked for reforms in the power structure, and amongst these reforms were the end of the cabresto vote (a tool of political control through many ways such as abuse of authority, buying of votes, use of public institutions, violence, ghost voting, exchange of favors, and fraud), the institution of a secret ballot, and the reform of public education.
The army saw itself as the only force capable of saving the Republic from the old elite which commanded the country. As a result, the movement was for one part only of society, the army, and this isolated the Tenentista movement from the rest of the society.
Reasons for the revolt
On October 3, 1919, a civilian - João Pandiá Calógeras - was designated as War Minister for the first time in the history of the Brazilian Republic. He held this post until November 15, 1922. The president who named Calógeras to this post was Epitácio Pessoa, who was president from 1919 to 1922.
In 1921, the Correio da Manhã (Brazil)|, a Brazilian newspaper published in Rio de Janeiro from 1901 to 1974, published letters supposedly written by Artur Bernardes (Brazilian president from 1922 to 1926) who assumed the post after João Pandiá Calógeras, and Raul Soares, a Brazilian politician who was Navy Minister during Epitácio Pessoa’s government and Secretary of the Interior during Artur Bernardes’ government. These letters included insults to the Army and to the Marshal Hermes da Fonseca (Brazilian president from 1910 to 1914) and the most important figure in the Army during Epitácio Pessoa’s and Artur Bernardes’ governments. Later, it was found that the signatures in the letters were forged.
In 1922, Artur Bernardes (supposed author of the letters published in 1921) won the Presidential elections. The Militar Club, a traditional military college in Rio de Janeiro, and Borges de Medeiros, a famous Brazilian politician and lawyer, asked for the creation of a court to review this result. But the elections were recognized by the Congress. In June 1922, Epitácio Pessoa intervened in the state of Pernambuco’s elections, and this act was strongly criticized by Marshal Hermes da Fonseca. As a reaction, Epitácio ordered Marshal Hermes da Fonseca’s arrest and the closure of the Militar Club.
The Copacabana Fort revolt
The revolt was supposed to include many military bases, but only Fort Copacabana, at Copacabana, some marginal elements from the Military village, Vigia Fort, the Realengo Military School, the 1st Engineering Battalion, navy and army members, and the 1st Military Division revolted. This happened because the government received the notice that the revolt would happen and removed the crucial people from the most important military bases.
The Fort Copacabana rebels fired their cannons against many important government and military bases during the early morning of the 5th. During the rest of the day, the fort was bombed. In the early morning of the 6th, the Captain Euclides da Cunha and the Lieutenant Siqueira Campos allowed the soldiers to escape if they wanted to; 273 of 301 left the Fort. Meanwhile, a destroyer and two battleships took up positions near the Fort and started to shell it. Captain Euclides Hermes left to negotiate, but he was arrested. The government’s last word was an order to the rebels to either surrender or be destroyed. Then, those inside the Fort cut a Brazilian flag in 29 pieces, one for each rebel, and decided to march to the Catete Palace, head office of the Executive Power. Most of them dispersed and only 18 were left (a civilian joined then to form this number). Reduced to 10 men (after some deaths), they fought the loyalist troop - about 3,000 men). Only the Lieutenants Siqueira Campos and Eduardo Gomes survived.
What was reported in some newspapers
"As forças que estão sitiando o forte de Copacabana, sob o comando do general Menna Barreto, tiveram ordem do governo para enviarem um 'ultimatum' à fortaleza, intimando-a a render-se dentro de uma hora. Em caso contrário será bombardeada por forças legais de terra e navios de guerra." O Combate, 5 July 1922.
"Na Villa Militar só houve um pequeno movimento subversivo, imediatamente abafado. Um pelotão, às ordens de um tenente, atirou contra a sala onde estavam reunidos os oficiais. O capitão da companhia a que pertencia esse pelotão, de nome Barbosa Monteiro, oficial de extraordinário valor moral e intelectual, saiu ao encontro dos soldados sublevados e recebeu uma descarga que o fez tomar morto. O pelotão, imediatamente cercado pelo resto da companhia, que acudiu, foi, com seu comandante, feito prisioneiro e desarmado. (...)" A União, 9 July 1922.
"- Nunca desejei e nunca pensei ter de assinar um ato como este, mas agora o faço gostosamente, certo de que estou prestando um serviço à República e às instituições." A Pátria, 6 July 1922.
- Forjaz, Maria Cecilia Spina. Tenestismo e Política. Ed. Paz e Terra.
- Borges, Vavy Pacheco. Tenentismo e Revolução Brasileira. Ed. Brasiliense.
- Ordonez, Marlene; Machado, Lizete Mercadante. História - Brasil: A Monarquia e a República - 6a Série - Col. Horizontes. Ed. Ibep.
- Torres, Iraildes Caldas. As Primeiras-damas e a Assistência Social - Relações de Gênero e Poder. Ed. Cortez.
- Besse, Susan K. Restructuring Patriarchy: The Modernization of Gender Inequality in Brazil, 1914-1940.
- Bethel, Leslie. Brazil: Empire and Republic, 1822-1930 (Cambridge History of Latin America).
- A União newspaper. 9 July 1922.
- O Combate newspaper. 5, 6, and 7 July 1922.
- A Noite newspaper. 6 July 1922.
- Correio da Manhã newspaper. 6 July 1922.