The story of the Confederados is one of the more interesting that developed after the War Between the States or Civil War.
Frustrated with Reconstruction rule, an estimated 10,000-20,000 men, women and children left the South and emigrated to Brazil where they settled in the state of Sao Paolo. Emperor Dom Pedro II hoped to take advantage of the economic destruction of the South by Union armies to establish a cotton industry in Brazil that would quickly become the best in the world. He encouraged the immigration of Southerners by offering them cheap lands, tax breaks and help in covering the costs of their transportation.
In addition, slavery was still legal in Brazil.
The option of simply leaving the post-war South held great appeal to many people, among them a group of Baptists from Greenwood, Florida. The following appeared in the Marianna Courier on March 14, 1867:
Mr. Editor: – It is said that he who labors for the good of his fellows accomplishes that for which God made him. The good of those interested is the object of this communication.
Emigration to Brazil is becoming a passion, and truly may those who feel the want of means to recuperate their lost fortunes desire a more favorable situation than can be had here. I am prepared to inform the migratory that liberal inducements are now made by the Government of Brazil to all such. They are in brief as follows, viz:
1st. Transportation from New York to their homes in Brazil for $50, to be paid in five years after settlement commencing two years after arrival.
2nd. As fertile lands as can be found anywhere, at from 20 to 90 cents per acre on a credit of six years. The first payment to commence two years after settlement.
3d. Exemption from taxation, as also from military duty for five years.
4th. Religious liberties – with all the privileges of native born citizens.
5th. A provisional house of sufficient dimensions, with about five acres of cleared land.
6th. In case of necessity, they shall have six months provisions furnished.
Those desirous of availing themselves of these with other advantages may do so by giving their names to the undersigned. None but those of good character and industrious habits need apply. It is necessary that those going should forward their names with the number of their family. As we expect to start in April, berths must be engaged on the steamers or you will likely be left at New York. The vessels upon which we go sail from New York on the 22d of April. There are about 70 going with me.
Greenwood, Fla. S.M. PYLES [I]
Rev. Pyles was a Baptist minister and most of those in his group were of that denomination. Most were not slave owners and had no desire to be, but instead simply wanted to get away from the Reconstruction government to a place where they could rebuild their lives and provide safety and prosperity for their families. He was a resident of Georgia when the war began but moved to Florida and served as a minister or chaplain to five companies of Florida troops. He had settled in Greenwood by the end of the conflict.
Such feelings intensified when the U.S. Army declared martial law in Florida on April 8, 1867. The war had been over for two years by that point and no widespread outbreaks of violence were reported. The measure was part of the “Radical Reconstruction” law passed by Congress over the veto of President Andrew Johnson. Many northern Republicans felt that the Southern states should be punished for their participation in secession and the war and the new act made sure that they would be.
Rev. Pyles led his group north to New York from Jackson County since emigration from Southern ports was prohibited. The final number that went from Jackson County was 30, although 49 more left from the adjoining states of Alabama and Georgia:
FOR BRAZIL. – The steamer North American from this port yesterday, took out quite an installment of the long-talked of Southern emigration to Brazil. More than 200 emigrants left. – Of these 136 were from Texas, 25 from Georgia, 24 from Alabama, and 30 from Florida. The passenger list indicates a large immigration by families. Many children are enrolled, and in the Florida list the emigrants are mostly registered under the names of the Findley, the Scarwhite or the Piles family. – N.Y. Com. Adv. [II]
Among those known to have gone south with Rev. Pyles were his daughter, Julia Antoinette Pyles Minchin, and her husband, Joseph Long Minchin. He served in Company I, 4th Florida Infantry (CSA) and fought in several of the largest battles of the war including Chickamauga and Atlanta.
Information on Minchin indicates that the Pyles group arrived in Brazil on June 24, 1867. He initially found work as the foreman of a coffee plantation but soon purchased 900 acres of his own. Although many Confederados – as they were called in Brazil – found life there more difficult than expected and eventually returned to the United States, the Pyles and Minchins did not. Joseph Long Minchin was still living on his farm near Nova Odessa in 1921. [III]
Rev. S.M. Pyles, the leader of the group, also lived out his life in Brazil. He died there on April 9, 1898 and is buried in the famed Campo Cemetery in Sao Paolo. It was established as a burial place for the Confederados and is the scene of the annual reunion of Confederado families. His wife, Nancy Pyles, survived him to die in Brazil on April 1, 1912. She is also buried at Campo.
Members of the Pyles and other families from Jackson County still live in Brazil to this day.
To learn more about the Battle of Marianna, in which some of the future Confederados fought, please enjoy this free mini-documentary:
[I] Marianna Courier, March 14, 1867.
[II] Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, May 3, 1867.
[III] Information on Confederate veterans living in Brazil, assembled by SCV Camp #1653 “Os Confederados,” www.confederados.com.br.