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Confederados in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste.
U.S. Confederate states, in red, which sent U.S. citizens to Brazil.
Americana was the main destination of American Confederates in Brazil.

The Confederados in Brazil (Portuguese pronunciation: [kõfedeˈɾadus]) is the Portuguese-translated name used to define all American Confederates and their descendants who live in Brazil. The immigration process of American Confederates began after the end of the American Civil War, and was encouraged by the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II. The Confederados fled American abolitionism and hoped to be able to continue their lifestyle of slavery in Brazil.

The aim was to settle and stimulate cotton production in the Empire of Brazil. It is estimated that up to 20,000 American Confederates emigrated to the Empire of Brazil from the Southern United States after the American Civil War. Initially, most settled in the current state of São Paulo, where they founded the city of Americana, which was once part of the neighboring city of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste. The descendants of other Confederados would later be found throughout Brazil.

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.

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 popular music in the American south during the antebellum period.


An early American Confederate family in Americana.

Background and beginning[edit]

After the end of the American Civil War, the Confederates found themselves in a very difficult economic situation, having their states completely devastated by the war and enslaved people freed. Not only the economic issue, as well as the persecution and discrimination that followed against the Confederate population by abolitionists, forced them to seek better living conditions where they could regain their comfortable lifestyle by enslaving people.

They heard about Brazil and the advantages that the emperor gave to anyone who knew how to grow cotton. Before the war, the U.S. South was the world's biggest cotton exporter, exporting to the looms of England and France. The Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II, in his forties, saw the opportunity for Brazil to enter the market and encouraged the arrival of cotton planters from the southern U.S. states to Brazil.[1]

In order to regain the ability to own slaves, many rebels fled to Brazil under the invitation of the Emperor, where slavery was legal.

The area of the city of Campinas was a popular destination of the Confederate Americans.

Emmigration companies[edit]

Even before the end of the war in 1865, there was already talk of emigrating to Brazil, but very little was known about this country. After the war ended, there was such a revival of the issue that several emigration companies were formed. Representatives were sent to Brazil to check the land, climate and facilities offered by the emperor.[2]

In November 1865, the state of South Carolina formed a colonization society and sent Major Robert Meriwether and Dr. H. A. Shaw, among others, to Brazil to investigate the possibility of establishing a colony. On the way back, they published a report mentioning that two lords had already bought land and settled here.[2]

Many Southerners who accepted the Emperor's offer lost their slaves during the war, were unwilling to live under a conquering army, or simply did not expect an improvement in the southern economic situation under abolitionism. Furthermore, Brazil would not ban slavery until 1888. The Confederates were the first organized Protestant group to settle in Brazil.[2]

Americana and Santa Bárbara d'Oeste colonies[edit]

Festa Confederada in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste.

On December 27, 1865, Colonel and Senator William Hutchinson Norris of Alabama landed in the port of Rio de Janeiro. In 1866, William and his son Robert Norris climbed the Serra do Mar, stopped in São Paulo and speculated on land. They were offered land for free in what is now the neighborhood of Brás, but he did not accept it because it was marsh. They were also offered the land where São Caetano do Sul is today, and they refused for the same reason. They decided to go to Campinas, but at the time, the railroad went only 10 miles beyond São Paulo, and it was no advantage to take it, as Campinas is 45 miles from São Paulo. So the Norris bought an ox cart and headed for Campinas. They took 15 days to reach the city, and there they stayed for a while looking for land, until they cast their sights on the plain that stretched from Campinas to Vila Nova da Constituição, current Piracicaba.[3]

The Norris bought land from the Domingos da Costa Machado sesmaria and established themselves on the banks of Ribeirão Quilombo, at the time belonging to the municipality of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste and where today is the center of the city of Americana. Upon his arrival, Colonel Norris began to give practical courses in agriculture to farmers in the region, interested in cotton cultivation and new agricultural techniques. The plow he brought from the United States caused so much sensation and curiosity that, within a short time, they had a practical agricultural school, with many students who paid him for the privilege of learning and still cultivating their gardens. The Colonel wrote to his family that he had made US$5,000 for that alone. In mid-1867, the rest of his family arrived, accompanied by many relatives.[3]

Confederate Norris family house in Americana.

Numerous farms were founded by North Americans who cultivated and processed cotton. They established an intense trade, notably from 1875 onwards, with the installation of the Santa Barbara Station by the Companhia Paulista de Estrada de Ferro. Due to the constant presence of these immigrants, the village that was formed in the vicinity of the Station became known as "Vila dos Americanos", or "Vila Americana", and gave rise to the current city of Americana.[3]

The installation of the Carioba factory by the North American engineer Clement Willmot and Brazilian associates, located one mile from the train station, also dates from this period. This industry really played a very important role in the foundation and development of Americana. The education of children was one of the priorities for American families who set up schools on the properties and hired teachers from the United States. The teaching methods developed by American teachers proved to be so efficient that they were later adopted by Brazilian official education.[3]

Confederate David Bowman Riker, from Charleston, South Carolina, United States, syringeist in Santarém, Pará, Brazil.

Religious services were celebrated on the properties by pastors who moved between various properties and the various centers of American immigration. In 1895 the first Presbyterian Church was founded in the village of Estação. Due to the prohibition of burying people of other faiths in the cemeteries of cities administered by the Catholic Church, American immigrants began to bury their dead near the farmhouse. This cemetery became known as the Campo Cemetery, currently a tourist attraction in the city of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste. Even today the descendants of American families are buried there. It is in this place that descendants gather periodically for religious cults and parties around the chapel founded in the 19th century.[3]

Amazonas state colony[edit]

Jason Williams Stone, an American immigrant of British descent from Dana, Massachusetts, United States, moved to Brazil before the American Civil War, and ended up becoming a tobacco and rubber farmer, soon staying very rich. Jason's plantations, which had more than five thousand hectares, were called Colonia Stone, and were located near the city of Itacoatiara, in Amazonas. Many of his descendants still have the surname "Stone". They are found mainly in the cities of Manaus and Itacoatiara, in Amazonas.[4]

Pará state colony[edit]

The city of Santarém, in the state of Pará, received a wave of refugee families from the American Civil War that took place in the South of the United States. The first to land was the Riker family. In the 1970s, David Afton Riker published a book called The Last Confederate in the Amazon, which chronicles the saga of this migration and life in the new homeland. The Confederates and their descendants became notable in the business and political life of the region.[5]

It is not known how many immigrants came to Brazil as war refugees, but unprecedented research in the records of the port of Rio de Janeiro, by Betty Antunes de Oliveira, shows that around 20,000 U.S. citizens entered Brazil between 1865 and 1885.[5]

Descendants of the immigrants[edit]

In 1972, Jimmy Carter, then governor of Georgia, visited the American Cemetery in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste, where the bodies of Confederates who emigrated to Brazil after the American Civil War are located.

The first generation of Confederates remained an island community. As is typical, in the third generation, most families had already married native Brazilians or immigrants from other origins. Confederate descendants increasingly began to speak the Portuguese language and identify themselves as Brazilians. As the region around the municipalities of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste and Americana became a hub for sugarcane production and society became more mobile, the confederates moved to larger cities in search of jobs in urban areas. Currently, only a few families of descendants still live on land owned by their ancestors. The descendants of the confederates are more spread throughout Brazil. They maintain their organization's headquarters at the Campo Cemetery, in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste, where there is also a chapel and a memorial.

Descendants make a connection to their history through the American Descendant Fellowship, a descendant organization dedicated to preserving immigrant culture. The descendants of the confederates also hold an annual festival in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste called "Festa Confederada", which is dedicated to funding the Campo Cemetery. During the festival, Confederate flags and uniforms are worn, while Southern American food and dances are served and performed. The descendants maintain affection for the Confederate flag, although they identify themselves as fully Brazilian. Many Confederate descendants traveled to the United States at the invitation of Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization of American descendants, to visit civil war battlefields, participate in reenactments, or visit the places where their ancestors lived.[6]

The Confederate flag in Brazil did not acquire the same political symbolism as it has in the United States. After then-Governor Jimmy Carter's visit to the region in 1972, the government of Americana even incorporated the Confederate flag into its coat of arms (although most of the Italian-descendent population removed it a few years later from the city's official symbol, as the descendants of the Confederates now comprise about a tenth of the city's population). During his visit to Brazil, Carter also visited the city of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste and the grave of a great-uncle of his wife, Rosalynn Carter, at Cemitério do Campo. At the time, Carter noted that Confederate descendants sounded and looked exactly like their country's southerners.[6]

Today, the Campo Cemetery (and the chapel and memorial located within it) in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste is a memorial, as most of the region's original Confederate immigrants were buried there. As Protestants, they were prohibited by the Catholic Church from burying their dead in local cemeteries and had to establish their own cemetery. The community of descendants also contributed to the Museum of Immigration, also located in Santa Bárbara d'Oeste, to present the history of U.S. immigration to Brazil.[7]

The American immigrants introduced into their new home many new foods, such as pecans, Georgia peanuts and watermelon; new tools such as the iron plow and kerosene lamps; innovations such as modern dentistry, modern agriculture, and the first blood transfusion; and the first non-Catholic churches (Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist).[8] Some foods of the American South also crossed over and became part of general Brazilian culture such as chess pie, vinegar pie, and southern fried chicken. The immigrants also established public schools and provided education to their female children, which was unusual in Brazil at the time.

Immigration in numbers[edit]

Confederate immigrants Joseph Whitaker and Isabel Norris in Brazil.
The chapel of Santa Bárbara d'Oeste, created by American Confederates.
Santa Bárbara d'Oeste received in the late 1860s Confederate refugees from the American Civil War (known as Confederados), who then settled in the region.
Battle flag of the U.S. Confederacy.
American immigration to Brazil by State up to January (1867)[9]
State Immigrants
São Paulo 800
Espírito Santo 400
Rio de Janeiro 200
Paraná 200
Pará 200
Minas Gerais 100
Bahia 85
Pernambuco 85
Total 2,070

The Confederate emigres were some 20,000 Southerners, from 12 southern states (i.e. Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi) who preferred the Brazilian wilderness to life under Yankee rule after the Civil War.[10]

U.S. ancestry in Brazil[edit]

Number of American descendants by state
State Descendants
São Paulo 100,490
Espírito Santo 50,258
Rio de Janeiro 25,220
Paraná 25,000
Pará 24,800
Minas Gerais 12,610
Bahia 10,686
Pernambuco 10,000
Total 260,000

Confederado phrases in Brazil[edit]

"...My father took part in the 1st Battalion that left Gonzalez. He was hurt in a battle in Virginia and sent back home, but he soon afterwards recovered and went back to the war. He was confined to prison and released. He returned home and once again returned to the battle field. "...In those days of shocking terror, both rebuilding and staying there turned impossible. Daily crimes surrounded us and there was nothing we could do..."[11]

"Our farm was beautiful, had several acres, good houses, horses and cattle. We had a corn mill, cotton-benefiting machineries (...) The Brazilian government received us very well, hosted us on the Immigrant Hotel, thus giving us shelter and food. It was my duty to explain that we were not immigrants. We were refugees. War refugees."[11]

"I have sugar cane, cotton, pumpkins, squash, five kinds of sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, cornfield peas, snap beans, butter beans, ochre, tomatoes and fine chance at tobacco. I have a great variety of fruits on my place. I have made enough to live well on and am better pleased than other."[12]

"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", recalled an engineer and third-generation descendant. "I didn't learn Portuguese until I started school."[13]

"They came here because they felt that their 'country' had been invaded and their land confiscated," said great-granddaughter of the original McKnight family that moved to Brazil from Texas, in the Southern United States. "To them, there was nothing left there. So, they came here to try to re-create what they had before the war."[13] "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."[13]

Notable Confederado descendants[edit]

In fiction[edit]

Yale University history professor Rollin G. Osterweis penned Santarem, a novel about Confederados.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Confederados forge new cultural identity - Washington Times". Internet Archive.
  2. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 July 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2022.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e "Folha de S.Paulo - SP abriga sulista que o vento levou - 16/03/98".
  4. ^ "Jason W. Stone b. 19 Feb 1830 Dana, Worcester, Massachusetts d. 1913 Itacoatiara, Amazonas, Brazil: Whipple Database".
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b "G1 > Edição São Paulo - NOTÍCIAS - Descendentes de confederados celebram em SP o fim da Guerra Civil dos EUA".
  7. ^
  8. ^ Orrizio, Riccardo. Lost White Tribes: The End of Privilege and the Last Colonials in Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Brazil, Haiti, Namibia, and Guadeloupe. Simon and Schuster, 2001, pages 110–111.
  9. ^ Brasil: migrações internacionais e identidade
  10. ^ Total U.S. Immigration
  11. ^ a b Confederado phrases in Brazil
  12. ^ Confederado phrases in Brazil
  13. ^ a b c Confederates histories in Brazil
  14. ^ Harris, John B. (March 2, 1982). "Retired Yale History Professor, Rollin G. Osterweis, Dies At 74". The Hartford Courant. p. 8. Retrieved May 14, 2018 – via

Further reading[edit]

Archival material[edit]

  • Auburn University in Alabama maintains a special collection of material related to the Confederado emigration, including correspondence, memoirs, genealogies, and newspaper clippings, especially related to Colonel Norris.

External links[edit]