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  • The South Will Rise Again…in Brazil August 17, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Carl Sandburg once wrote that the American Civil War was fought over a verb: ‘the Unites States IS’ or ‘the United States ARE’ and there can be no doubt which verb won. The South struggled with every nerve and muscle in its body. But, by 1865, the Confederate States had  lost and were dragged kicking and screaming back into the Union, while ‘IS’ was beaten over the heads of the recalcitrant.

    Most southerners settled into a bitter acclimatisation relishing ‘the lost cause’, though not prepare to relive it.

    But Beachcombing has long had an interest in those few that refused and passed into exile abroad after defeat or after the death of Lincoln. Confederate exiles went to Mexico and the town of Carlota there, to Europe (where some served in the national armies) then, by far the most significant group, went to Brazil.

    In fact, between 10,000 and 20,000 Confederados, as they are known today, settled in Brazil, many around Sao Paolo in Americana part of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste.

    Why Brazil?

    Some have argued that Brazil’s ‘southern’ attitude to slavery helped. Humanity’s most despicable institution was to survive under ‘Order and Progress’ until 1888. But it was more likely the special incentives given to the Confederados by the Brazilian government that sensed the energy and industry of the exiles.

    Among those who headed south was William Hutchinson Norris, an Alabama Senator and veteran of the Mexican-American war. He arrived in the area around Americana in 1867 after a terrible journey to Rio where his ship was blown by a storm to Cape Verde! He died in his new country in 1893 and his son Robert, who had fought in the Civil War, is buried besides him there.

    Many Confederados returned to the United States, but others like Norris stayed on. And still today the Confederados are a recognised ethnic group in the area. Indeed, in the middle of the last century English (with a drawl) was still spoken within families and loyalty was given first to the Confederate flag and only second to Brazil.

    A grave stone from the Confederado cemetery (in English) whose dedication is worth ten pages of musings: ‘Roberto Stell-Steagall, 3 September 1899, Brazil – 31 January 1985, Brazil. Once a rebel/Twice a rebel/ And forever a rebel.’ Steagall’s father Henry Farrar Steagall, was a Texan who had served under Lee and who had then disobeyed his old general by going into exile – Lee told Confederates to remain in the United States. Roberto, meanwhile, had fought in 1932 for Sao Paolo to secede from Brazil in the Constitutionalist Revolution.

    Beachcombing has a distant memory of a scratchy record in his father’s collection where an unreconstructed country singer played Dixie on his electric guitar to an ecstatic southern audience and then repeatedly screamed ‘the south’s gonna rise again!’

    Well, the Confederado equivalent is a yearly gathering at Americana for the Festa Confederada where Civil War era clothes are donned and the Confederate flag is lifted high once more. The picture at the head of the post is taken from there.

    But few of those who visit the festa can speak fluent English and the Confederados are by now a part of Brazil not an annex to Davis’s lost dream. The unspeakably sexy Ellen Gracie Northfleet, Brazil’s first female supreme court judge is of Confederado descent, as is the Brazilian rock star Rita Lee Jones Carvalho.

    Another footnote to history.

    Beachcombing would love to hear any other accounts of Confederate exile groups: drbeachcoming AT yahoo DOT com