CONFEDERATE DESCENDANTS IN BRAZIL



Since the end of the War Between the States, much had been written and said by all those who wish to find the truth behind America's bloodiest and most disheartening war. Few realize that this War took more lives than all of America's other wars together. The War Between the States took more than 600,000 lives and ruined the Southern economy. The scars would take decades to heal. The immigration of Southerners to Brazil following the War is an interesting and curious event connected with the War. This immigration was a direct result of the outcome of the War.

This wave of immigration, which may have included up to 9,000 people, has left in Brazil a community of descendants of Southern immigrants. They are identified as the "Confederados". The descendants are all over the country, but the largest community, and by far de most important is located in the State of Săo Paulo. This community, founded by the Southerners, has grown into the town of Americana. Americana and its older mother city, Vila Santa Bárbara (today Santa Bárbara D'Oeste), a few miles apart, are the gravity center of the community of Southern descendants in Brazil. Since 1954, the Fraternity of American Descendants has held headquarters there.

The descendants gather at the Campo Cemetery every quarter session of the year, on its second Sunday, for a religious service, a discussion of topics related to Fraternity, and a traditional lunch. Each family brings dishes, desserts, drinks and all present enjoy Brazilian and Southern favorites in a communal style. The old-timers chat in the familiar Southern drawl, while children run and play, speaking Portuguese and very little English.

The Campo Cemetery is located on the countryside, surrounded by sugar cane fields. It is 10 miles from Americana and Santa Bárbara D´Oeste. These two cities are 100 miles from Săo Paulo, Brazil's largest city and capital of Săo Paulo State.

"Soldier rest! Thy warfare o´er
Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking
Days of toil or nights of waking"
This is the inscription found on the tombstone of Confederate Veteran Napoleon Bonaparte McAlpine, who rests together with a number of other Confederate Veterans and Confederado leaders in the Campo Cemetery.

Of these, the most prominent and the real founder of the Confederate colony was Colonel William Hutchinson Norris, a native of Oglethorpe, Ga. He moved to Alabama and later served as a Senator, after living for several years in Dallas, Texas. Colonel Norris was a lawyer and is mentioned in the book "Reminiscences of Public Men of Alabama".

When the carpetbaggers swarmed into the South at the close of War, Colonel Norris gathered and made his way to Brazil. Emperor Dom Pedro II welcomed the Southerners in person there, thanks to contacts Colonel Norris had with the Masons and to Brazil's need of agricultural skills of the Southern planters, especially in cotton farming. Contrary to some biased accounts, the Southerners did not immigrate to Brazil in a futile attempt to perpetuate slavery. When the immigrants arrived, the slave system in Brazil was in decline and slavery was peacefully abolished in 1888.

Colonel Norris, a veteran of the Mexican War, was in his sixties when the War Between the States raged. His sons, Reece, Frank, Robert and Clay, all served. Robert Norris served in the 15th Alabama Infantry under Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, in the Army of Northern Virginia. After 57 engagements, only 247 of the 1250 in the regiment were left. Robert was wounded several times and in 1864 was captured and sent to a Union prison, Fort Delaware.

There are many other Confederados of whom we have military information, thanks to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. There were Lucien and George Barnsley, of the 5th Georgia Infantry, from Rome, Floyd County, Ga. (This unit was known as the Rome Light Guards). Lucien was a captain. George was a medical officer (See listing for additional information).

The immigrants bought land in the State of Săo Paulo at 22 cents an acre, and in the States of Pará, Espírito Santo, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina; some went to Santarém, Pará State, the Vale do Rio Doce region as well as to Iguape and most to Vila Santa Bárbara. The community that grew up around Vila Santa Bárbara was the most important and would grow into Americana, now an important textile center.

The Campo Cemetery, later to become the spiritual center of the Confederate colony in Brazil, was founded because of laws that restricted the burial of Non-Catholics in the Catholic Cemetery grounds, after Beatrice Oliver died in 1868. The Southerners decided to follow the Southern tradition and dedicated God's Acre as a burial place for their dead. The old Oliver farm was in a convenient place and its highest spot was not adequate for cultivation. It became the unofficial cemetery of the community, and in 1955, the Fraternity of American Descendants was founded, in part to maintain the cemetery. After many years, Sonny Pyles donated the plot legally to the Fraternity. During the first years in Brazil, the Southerners avoided mingling with other Brazilians, for cultural reasons. However, as the colony evolved and immigrants from many parts of world arrived, they turned into real Brazilian and married Italians, Poles, Germans, Dutch and, believe it or not, Russians!

The Russian immigrants are an interesting part of Brazilian history. A Russian community was founded only five miles from Americana named New Odessa. During the Cold War, the Brazilians marveled at the lack of friction between the two groups, unaware of the fact that the Confederados were not Yankees and that the Russian immigrants were not Red Russians!

Today the Campo Cemetery is the testament of the most successful Southern colony founded after the War Between the States. Some of those who immigrated to Brazil returned to the United States in later years. Those who remained assimilated into Brazilian society. Very few of the people who live today in Americana trace their ancestry to the Southern immigrants. The descendants of the 400 or 500 families that stayed in Brazil are scattered throughout the country, many living in large cities. Despite this, the Confederados have managed to found and maintain an Immigration Museum in Santa Bárbara D'Oeste and the Fraternity is doing very well, with a vibrant Board of Directors and an affluent membership. Today, the Confederate descendants consider themselves Brazilians, speak the language and have adopted local customs and manners.

However, one cannot go to a Fraternity meeting and avoid the strange feeling that somewhere, somehow, there is a part that always seems to be missing... The Southern heart so deeply wounded in the battlefields of the War.