It is estimated that as many as 20,000 Southerners emigrated to Brazil after 1865 to avoid the oppressive Northern domination of their homeland. They carried their antebellum cultural traditions with them, and notably, an anthropological study of the effects of television on Brazilians (Prime time Society, Kottak, 1990), found that the American “Confederados” tradition of literacy and reading created a hostility toward television.” Another reference (Diplomatic Relations Between the US and Brazil, Hill, 1932), raised the question as to why these Southerners moved “to a nation that had large numbers of black freedmen of full citizenship if one of their reasons for flight was repugnance at abolition in the South.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Postwar Despair and Flight
“Returning soldiers and war refugees expected to find their houses burned, family and friends missing, property stolen or confiscated, and plantations destroyed. One Southerner expressed his reservations about going back in this way: “It will be a sad homecoming, without a home to go to. The family circle is broken by the death of our boys, and many dear old friends will be missing. Then we are uncertain as to whether we shall be able to save enough from the wreck of our fortune to enable us to live in a very modest way.”
Describing South Carolina, J.S. Pike wrote:
“The banks were ruined. The railroads were destroyed. Their few manufacturies were desolated. Their vessels had been swept from the seas and rivers. The livestock was consumed. Notes, bonds, mortgages, all the money in circulation, debts, became alike worthless. The community were without clothes and without food . . . vast estates had crumbled like paper in a fire. While the shape was not wholly destroyed, the substance had turned to ashes. Never was there greater nakedness and desolation in a civilized community.”
Given the situation in the South at the end of the war, it is not surprising that many desired to leave and go elsewhere. The largest number relocated within the United States . . . But as many at 10,000 went into exile in foreign lands – most often to Latin America.
They despaired of the South’s ability to control its own destiny; they feared imprisonment and reprisals; and they hated the Yankees.
Premonitions of reconstruction horrors were common. Northern merchants and speculators moved into the Southern States after the war, taking away economic opportunities from Southerners.
“[On one postwar voyage to Brazil, our] . . . Captain was an Americanized Spaniard. We learned afterward that he had been bribed by the Yankees to wreck the vessel somewhere on the coast, and that is why he never sailed out to sea. Soon after the storm began, he tied up the helm and retired to his cabin leaving the whole crowd to the mercy of the waves and storm.”
(The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil, Cyrus B. & James M. Dawsey, editors, University of Alabama Press, 1995, excerpts pp. 13-14; 29)