Tracking down Confederate ancestors in Brazil

I’ll be blunt: If you appreciate Southern history — all of it, even the rough parts — then this story from the literary website Narratively (www.narrative.ly) is one you won’t want to miss.

Yes, it’s from last summer, but I ran across it during the holiday week and remain amazed at how well writer Stephen G. Bloom tells the story of the descendants of Confederates who settled in Brazil after the Civil War.

Bloom wrote, "After the Civil War, Brazil had been as much a land of opportunity for American Southerners as the United States had been for Europeans. Instead of stomaching life under Yankee rule, as many as 7,000 Confederates opted to set sail for Brazil, a country twice the size of the U.S. at the time, and a nation where slavery was still legal. The Brazilian government, under the rule of Emperor Dom Pedro II, recruited the Confederates, taking out advertisements in U.S. newspapers and sending representatives to the American South to persuade proud Southerners to live out their dreams in Brazil.

"The Brazilian government was eager to import the Confederates’ cotton-growing knowledge, and in return guaranteed them arable land at twenty-two cents an acre. Most went to areas surrounding São Paulo, but others set sail to Rio de Janeiro. At least one shipload of Southerners docked in the port of Belém, set sail down the Amazon River and survived on berries and monkey meat, but perished from malaria. The only community of Confederates that survived was the group that got to the place they called Americana, which they chose because it most closely paralleled their home in Georgia."

It is that community, Americana, that Bloom highlights in his story. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

— Phillip Tutor