Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Frederick Douglass on Decoration Day, 1871

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 31, 2021

On Decoration Day, 1871, Frederick Douglass gave the following address at the monument to the Unknown Dead of the Civil War at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a short speech, but one of the best of its type I’ve ever encountered. I’ve posted it before, but it think it’s something worth re-reading and contemplating every Memorial Day.

The Unknown Loyal Dead
Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on Decoration Day, May 30, 1871

Friends and Fellow Citizens:

Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence.

Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring to-day is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live; for, whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable.

Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.

No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers when we write above their graves this shining epitaph.

When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country.

We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation’s life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.

I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my “right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,” if I forget the difference between the parties to hat terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.

If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans; which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones — I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember?

The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find enough on both sides to kindle admiration. In the raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching courage marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier.

But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.


Image: Graves of nine unknown Federal soldiers in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. Photo by Flickr user NatalieMaynor, used under Creative Commons license. Text of Douglass speech from Philip S. Foner and Yuval Taylor, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings.

Decoration Day at Arlington, 1871

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 31, 2021

As many readers will know, the practice of setting aside a specific day to honor fallen soldiers sprung up spontaneously across the country, North and South, in the years following the Civil War. One of the earliest — perhaps the earliest — of these events was the ceremony held on May 1, 1865 in newly-occupied Charleston, South Carolina, by that community’s African American population, honoring the Union prisoners buried at the site of the city’s old fairgrounds and racecourse, as described in David Blight’s Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory.

Over the years, “Decoration Day” events gradually coalesced around late May,  particularly after 1868, when General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a day of remembrance on May 30 of that year. It was a date chosen specifically not to coincide with the anniversary of any major action of the war, to be an occasion in its own right. While Memorial Day is now observed nationwide, parallel observances throughout the South honor the Confederate dead, and still hold official or semi-official recognition by the former states of the Confederacy.

Recently while researching the life of a particular Union soldier, I came across a story from a black newspaper, the New Orleans Semi-Weekly Louisianan dated June 15, 1871. It describes an event that occurred at the then-newly-established Arlington National Cemetery. Like the U.S. Colored Troops who’d been denied a place in the grand victory parade in Washington in May 1865, the black veterans discovered that segregation and exclusion within the military continued even after death:


The custom of decorating the graves of soldiers who fell in the late war, seems to be doing more harm to the living than it does to honor the dead. In every Southern State there are not only separate localities where the respective defendants of Unionism and Secession lie buried, but there are different days of observance, a rivalry in the ostentatious parade for floral wealth and variety, and a competition in extravagant eulogy, more calculated to inflame the passions than to soften and purify the affections, which ought to be the result of all funeral rights.

Besides this bad effect among the whites there comes a still more evil influence from the dastardly discriminations made by the professedly union [sic.] people themselves.

Read this extract from the Washington Chronicle:


While services were in progress at the tomb of the “Unknown” Comrade Charles Guthridge, John S. Brent, and Beverly Tucker, of Thomas R. Hawkins Post, No. 14 G.A.R., followed by Greene’s Brass Band, Colonel Perry Carson’s Pioneer Corps of the 17th District, Butler Zouaves, under the command of Charles B. Fisher, and a large number of colored persons proceeded to the cemetery on the colored soldiers to the north of the mansion, and on arriving there they found no stand erected, no orator or speaker selected, not a single flag placed on high, not even a paper flag at the head boards of these loyal but ignored dead, not even a drop of water to quench the thirst of the humble patriots after their toilsome march from the beautifully decorated grand stand above to this barren neglected spot below. At 2 ½ o’clock P.M., no flowers or other articles coming for decorative purposes, messengers were dispatched to the officers of the day for them; they in time returned with a half dozen (perhaps more) rosettes, and a basket of flower leaves. Deep was the indignation and disappointment of the people. A volley of musketry was fired over the graves by Col. Fisher’s company. An indignation meeting was improvised, Col. Fisher acting president. A short but eloquent address was made by George Hatton, who was followed by F. G. Barbadoes, who concluded his remarks by offering the followign resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:

Resolved, that the colored citizens of the District of Columbia hereby respectfully request the proper authorities to remove the remains of all loyal soldiers now interred at the north end of the Arlington cemetery, among paupers and rebels, to the main body of the grounds at the earliest possible moment.

Resolved, that the following named gentlemen are hereby created a committee to proffer our request and to take such further action in the matter as may be deemed necessary to a successful accomplishment of our wishes: Frederick Douglass, John M. Langston, Rev. Dr. Anderson, William J. Wilson, Col. Charles B. Fisher, William Wormley, Perry Carson, Dr. A. T. Augusta, F. G. Barbadoes.

If any event in the whole history of our connection with the late war embodied more features of disgraceful neglect, or exhibited more clearly the necessity of protecting ourselves from insult, than this behavior at Arlington heights, we at least acknowledge ignorance of it.

We say again that no good, but only harm can result from keeping up the recollection of the bitter strife and bloodshed between North and South, and worse still, in furnishing occasion to white Unionists of proving their hypocrisy towards the negro in the very presence of our dead.

The black soldiers’ graves were never moved; rather, the boundaries of Arlington were gradually expanded to encompass them, in what is now known as Section 27.  Most of the graves, originally marked with simple wooden boards, were subsequently marked with proper headstones, though many are listed as “unknown.” In addition to the black Union soldiers interred there, roughly 3,800 civilians, mostly freedmen, lie there as well, many under stones with the simple, but profoundly important, designation of “citizen.” The remains of Confederate prisoners buried there were removed in the early 1900s to a new plot on the western edge of the cemetery complex, where the Confederate Monument would be dedicated in 1914.

Unfortunately, the more things change, the more. . . well, you know. In part because that segment of the cemetery began as a burial ground for blacks, prisoners and others of lesser status, the records for Section 27 are fragmentary. Further, Section 27 has — whether by design or happenstance — suffered an alarming amount of negligence and lack of attention over the years. The Army has promised, and continues to promise, that these problems will be corrected.

As Americans, North and South, we should all expect nothing less.


Images of Section 27, Arlington National Cemetery, © Scott Holter, all rights reserved. Used with permission. Thanks to Coatesian commenter KewHall (no relation) for the research tip.

Three Veterans

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 31, 2021

Note: This is the first of three posts that I republish every Memorial Day weekend. Last week I was traveling, and so was unable to post them over several days as I usually do.


This Memorial Day weekend, I’d like to highlight three Civil War veterans interred here in Galveston. I don’t have a familial or personal connection to any of them, but I think of them as neighbors of mine, of a sort.


Charles DeWitt Anderson (1827-1901) served as a Colonel in the Confederate army, and in the summer of 1864 was charged with the defense of Fort Gaines, on the eastern side of the entrance to Mobile Bay. After Admiral Farragut forced the entrance to Mobile Bay on August 4, Anderson found himself entirely cut off, besieged and under artillery fire from the land side of Dauphin Island and unable to have any effect on the Federal fleet, which had moved farther up Mobile Bay, out of range of Fort Gaines’ guns. Faced with demoralized Confederate troops inside the fort, Anderson surrendered on August 8. Given a choice of surrendering to the U.S. Army or Navy, Anderson turned over his sword to Farragut. One of Farragut’s last acts before he died in 1870 was to request that Anderson’s sword be returned to him. It came back to Anderson with the inscription, “Returned to Colonel C. D. Anderson by Admiral Farragut for his Gallant Defence of Fort Gaines, April 8, 1864.”

What fewer people know about Anderson is that he and his younger brother arrived in Texas as orphans, their parents having died on the ship en route to the Republic of Texas in 1839. They were adopted right there on the wharf by an Episcopal minster. In 1846, Anderson was the first cadet admitted to West Point from the newly-established State of Texas; his application letter was endorsed by U.S. Senator Sam Houston. Although Anderson did not graduate from the Point, he eventually received a direct commission into the Fourth U.S. Artillery in 1856, and served until resigning his commission in 1861. Anderson served longer as a U.S. Army officer than as a Confederate one; you can view a detail of an 1859 map drawn by Anderson of the area around Fort Randall, Dakota Territory, here.

In his postwar years he worked as an engineer on a variety of public works projects, and at the time of his death was serving as the keeper of the Fort Point Lighthouse here. William Thiesen, the Atlantic Area Historian for the U.S. Coast Guard, recently wrote about Anderson’s experience at Fort Point during the 1900 Storm, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Recall that, at the time, Anderson was in his seventies:

True to his mission, Anderson kept the light burning during the storm even though most ships by then were either adrift, out of control or washing ashore at points along the Texas coast. However, late that evening, floodwaters surged and carried off equipment on the lighthouse’s lower deck, including the lifeboat and storage tanks for fresh water and kerosene fuel. With seawater rising into the keeper’s quarters it seemed as if Fort Point Lighthouse was adrift on a stormy sea. With the wind speeds nearing 200 miles per hour, the lighthouse’s heavy slate roof began to peel away. Eventually, some of the flying stone tiles shattered the lantern room windows and the inrushing wind snuffed out the light for good.

Anderson had tried his best to maintain the light, but the flying glass had lacerated his face and driven him below. By late that evening, the quarters’ first floor had flooded, the wind had permanently extinguished the light, Keeper Anderson suffered from facial wounds and the storm surge had trapped the elderly couple on the second floor. With all hope lost, Anderson and wife Lucy made their way to the second floor parlor room, sat down and waited in silence for the floodwaters to take them away.

But the end never came. On Sunday morning, the Andersons emerged arm-in-arm onto the lighthouse gallery to see the human toll of the hurricane. The scene they witnessed beggars description. In a silent watery funeral procession, the ebbing tide carried away countless bodies from Galveston Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Anderson likely saw as much carnage, if not more, than at any time during his Civil War career. But, unlike the war, the storm did not favor one victim over another; instead, it took the lives of women and children as well as men.



George Frank Robie (1844-91) was a Sergeant in Company D of the Seventh New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, who won the Medal of Honor “for gallantry on skirmish line” during fighting around Richmond, Virginia in September 1864.

Robie originally enrolled in the Eighth Massachusetts Militia, a three-month unit, the day after the surrender of Fort Sumter in 1861. His service record gives his age at enlistment as 18, but other sources suggest he was a year younger. After being discharged, he enlisted in the Seventh New Hampshire in September 1861 as a Sergeant. He re-enlisted in the regiment in February 1864, and was appointed First Lieutenant in October. Although Robie was recommended for a medal during the war, his Medal of Honor, like many, was not actually awarded until June 1883 by resolution of Congress.

He moved to Galveston after the war, working as a clerk in a railroad office, but suffered from rheumatism that had first afflicted him during his service in Virginia. Robie returned to New England, and in 1884 was awarded a pension for disability. Robie subsequently returned to Galveston, dying here in 1891. To my knowledge, Robie is the only Civil War Medal of Honor winner interred in Galveston County. The Fitts Museum in Candia, New Hampshire, where Robie was born, holds Robie’s sword in its collection.



Josiah Haynes Armstrong (1842-98) was a Sergeant in the Third U.S. Colored Infantry. He was born free in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, enlisted as a Corporal on June 26, 1863 at Philadelphia, and soon thereafter was promoted to Sergeant. The Third U.S.C.I. spent the latter part of the war in the Jacksonville, Florida, area, although Armstrong became ill and was transferred to a military hospital in St. Augustine. Some time later, his company commander, who had heard that Armstrong was convalescent and working at the hospital as a cook, wrote to request that he be sent back to the regiment, as he would “be obliged to make another Sergt in [Armstrong’s] place, which, as he is an excellent non-com officer, I am loathe to do.”

After his discharge, Armstrong remained in Florida, where he became a member of the clergy in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He also served in the Florida State House of Representatives, representing Columbia County, in 1871, 1872, and 1875. He moved to Galveston in 1880, where he was pastor of Reedy A.M.E. Chapel here. Armstrong also served as Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas, the African American branch of American freemasonry, from 1890 to 1892. He was ordained a Bishop in the A.M.E. Church in 1896, two years before his death at age 56.


Anderson photo courtesy Col. Anderson’s great-grandson, Dale Anderson, and Bruce S. Allardice.


The Copy-and-Paste Confederacy

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 20, 2021

The Virginia Flaggers may not be my biggest fans, but they clearly think my efforts are good enough to plagiarize this old 2013 post of mine. Virtually every word in their Facebook posting is one I wrote eight years ago, verbatim. The only important thing they omitted was the name of the artist who colorized the original black-and-white image, Mads Madsen, and that’s actually a bigger offense.

The Flaggers claim to stand for “Honor, Dignity, Respect, and Heritage,” but those things apparently don’t prevent them from taking others’ work and passing it off as their own. The Confederate Heritage™ movement has always done this, of course, so I shouldn’t be surprised.


Well. . .Bye.

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 14, 2021

Update, March 1: It turns out that Bill Dorris’ estate is worth far less than one might expect, given his bequest of $5 million to his dog, who didn’t even live with him. Like, maybe ONE TENTH of that.

What a BS artist that guy was. Thanks to KEW for bringing this to my attention.

Charles William “Bill” Dorris (above), the Nashville attorney and developer who owned the land on Interstate 65 where that hideous fiberglass statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest stands, carked late last year. Dorris insisted he wasn’t racist, of course, but in 2015 he told Nashville Public Radio that the institution of slavery has been badly maligned, as it was a form of “social security” for African Americans. Dorris remained a self-indulgent asshole to the end, leaving $5 million in his will to his 8-year-old border collie, who didn’t even live with him. The dog will continue living with its long-time caretaker, Martha Burton, who I hope at least gets to benefit materially from every dime in that dog’s trust.

The rest of Dorris’ large estate is currently in probate court, that will decide the fate of the Interstate 65 property and the Forrest statue. The statue itself was created by Dorris’ friend, the unrepentant white nationalist and segregationist Jack Kershaw, who died and went to Hell in 2010.

Photo by Shelley Mays of the Nashville Tennessean.

“There stands Jackson. . . wait, where’d he go?”

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 7, 2020

Stonewall Jackson no longer glowers across the parade ground at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

H/t Kevin. Photo by Steve Helber, Martinsville Journal.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 26, 2020

For a while now I’ve been posting this well-known Thomas Nast cartoon from 1868, “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner.” This year, though, I’d like to direct my readers to Pat Young’s detailed discussion of the work and the symbolism in it — there’s a lot there you may not have noticed.


Dead Confederates Blog, Now Cited by VDARE. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 1, 2020

Recently I discovered that one of my old blog posts about Frederick Douglass was cited by a fellow named Mike Scruggs, writing at VDARE. Scrugg’s short essay was a pastiche of tired and mostly-debunked tropes about Black Confederates, and the post he cited (and linked to) was one of mine that discussed Douglass’ well-known assertion from September 1861 that there were Black soldiers, “having muskets on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops,” in the Confederate army at the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run. More specifically, my post discussed likely sources for Douglass’ claim, tracing fragmentary reports from the battlefield through nearly a dozen northern newspapers, with new details and embellishments added with each reprinting, until it appeared in at least two newspapers that Douglass likely would have read at home in Rochester, New York, including Horace Greeley’s New York Daily Tribune. Douglass was a wise and judicious man, but at the end of the day he was just as dependent on the contemporary press for his knowledge of current events as we are now. My essay was not just showing that Douglass was wrong on the facts, but explaining in detail how his error most likely came about.

VDARE is a white identity/white nationalist organization; its name comes from Virginia Dare, reputed to be the first English child born in what later became the United States. Scruggs’ essay isn’t even really about events that happened in 1861-65; it is, like so many other shouty, shallow claims about Black Confederates, simply another shot in the modern political- and cultural wars, as reflected in Scruggs’ title, “Hey, BLM—Why Didn’t Robert E. Lee’s Black Teamsters Desert After Gettysburg?” Scruggs’ Black Confederate narrative is, like most others, an attempt to whitewash the odium of chattel bondage from the history of the Confederate cause. Scruggs is using, as many others have before him, Frederick Douglass as a sort of rhetorical human shield to defend the Confederacy. One wonders if Scruggs has ever actually read much of Douglass’ writing, apart from what he’s seen on various butternut blogs and Facebook pages. (I think I know the answer to that one.)

The VDARE website thrives of white grievance, just as much of the Confederate Heritage™ movement does. Some of VDARE’s most popular article tags (see below) are “Anti-White Hates Crimes,” “War on Christmas,” “White Guy Loses His Job,” “Immigrant Mass Murder,”and “Camp of the Saints,” an infamous 1973 French dystopian novel about swarms of brown-skinned immigrants overwhelming Western Europe, that has become a literary touchstone for white identity movements, much as The Turner Diaries were for American militia groups thirty years ago.

Maybe I should be annoyed that this blog should be cited on VDARE, but mostly I’m amused – amused at the ineptitude of folks like Scruggs who, it seems, linked the first article he found that included the Douglass quote about Black Confederates, and never bothered to read the piece. Or maybe he did, and figured his own readers were too lazy or incurious to click through and read it for themselves. Both those things may be true.

Maybe I should add a tagline here, “as cited by VDARE!” Or not.

You can find Scruggs’ essay here (no, I’m not linking directly):


The Confederados

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 12, 2020

There have been a lot of articles over the years on the confederados, descendants of the southerners who emigrated to Brazil after the Civil War, hoping to recreate their plantation-based culture in a new region. This included slaveholding, of course, that remained legal in Brazil for another two decades after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in the United States. Most articles have been pretty shallow, treating the confederados like a quaint curiosity, a people and culture caught in a time bubble, a little part of the old Confederacy that survives in an out-of-the-way spot in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s a pretty silly notion, of course; the confederados of 2020 are Brazilians through and through, who attend a Confederate-themed festival every year. They’re like someone who puts on a kilt to go to a renaissance fair every year, but has never been to Scotland, and mainly knows Scots culture from repeated viewings of Braveheart. The annual Festa Confederada in Brazil is history-themed cosplay, Gone with the Wind meets the Carnaval in Rio.

More importantly, the confederados are now facing their own reckoning on issues of race — not the same ones we deal with here in the United States, but their own, very different racial structures and cultural traditions, that are unique to Brazil. It’s pretty fascinating:

Brazilians in recent weeks have demanded the removal of the notorious statue in São Paulo of a 17th-century settler who enslaved indigenous people. Protests for black equality have rumbled through several cities. And in Americana and Santa Bárbara d’Oeste, the cities founded by the Confederates, Brazilians who have never been to the United States are increasingly asking questions piercingly familiar to Americans: Where should the Confederacy be remembered — on a flagpole, or in a museum?

“My mind has been opened to the questions,” said [Marina Lee] Colbachini, 35, whose middle name pays homage to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. She attended the festival for most of her life, but has now stopped going. Despite worrying what her community might think, she has begun asking that the flag be taken down.

“It represents my family’s traditions,” she said. “But in the entire world, in the United States, they know what it also represents.”

The debate has simmered for years. On one side is the Fraternity of American Descendants, the group that throws the annual party, tends to the Confederate cemetery grounds and promotes a Lost Cause orthodoxy reminiscent of the most ardent Confederacy apologists. On the other is the Black Union for Equality (UNEGRO), which has been leading a community charge to strip the festival of the flag considered by many to be a symbol of hate and repression.

In what might be the farthest outpost of the American culture wars, a new battle over the Confederate flag is only just beginning.

A mass exodus in search of land and slaves

The newspapers called it “Brazilian fever.” With the war lost, thousands of Southerners, fearful of living under Northern rule among freed slaves, were seeking other opportunities. Some pushed for Mexico. Others for Venezuela. But Brazil, which wouldn’t abolish slavery for another 23 years, proved to be the most attractive of countries.

Emperor Dom Pedro II, a fierce advocate of the South during the war, tried to induce their immigration, offering free transport, cheap land and an easy path to citizenship. Before long, Southerners sailed out from New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., for Rio de Janeiro. Eventually, between 8,000 and 20,000 immigrated.

“Move here and buy land,” Col. Charles Gunter urged in a letter to the Charleston Mercury newspaper in 1868. “We have here a beautiful place for our village, in the center of rich land, and on a grand river.”

But historians say one of the central draws was a country where Southerners could freeze time and continue a lifestyle that had been put to a violent end in the United States. In journals, one bragged about how inexpensive Brazilian slaves were; another lamented that they couldn’t bring recently freed American slaves to Brazil.

“They came to continue having slaves,” said Luciana Brito, a historian at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia. “They associated the existence of slavery in Brazil with the maintenance of a system of racial subservience.”

Brito and other historians have scoured letters, journal entries and deeds of sale. One researcher found that more than three-fourths of Southerners who wrote to the Brazilian government to inquire about immigration were slaveholders. At least 54 families bought at least 536 slaves upon entering Brazil. Using racial epithets, they expressed fears of an “African government” in Brazil, and black “rulers” in the United States.

“The confederados presented themselves as refugees of a devastated America,” said Jordan Brasher, a geographer at Columbus State University who wrote his dissertation on the confederado communities. “As the downtrodden, poor, defeated Confederate soldiers looking to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

“They also brought the ideology of white supremacy and racial terrorism from the United States South to Brazil.”

In one dark episode, two Confederate immigrants led a mob in the lynching of a police chief who had refused to track down escaped slaves — in front of his family. The confederados were also suspected of assassinating a Brazilian senator who supported emancipation.

In 1888, Brazil became the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, nearly a quarter-century after the United States. But interracial relations in the two countries were different. There were neither draconian racial distinctions in Brazil nor government prohibitions on intermarrying between races. The races mixed, yielding a country of extraordinary diversity. Over time, some confederados adopted new opinions on race.

“One of the changes most evidenced in the Confederados of my youth . . . was their belief in tolerance among the races,” Eugene C. Harter, who was raised among the confederados, wrote in a book about the community. “This they had acquired from the Brazilians.”

The confederados and their descendants assimilated and intermarried. English was largely forgotten. The towns become indistinguishable from their neighbors.

One of the few elements to remain was the yearly Confederate party, with its pageantry, its music and its flag.

And those last lines are the crux of the matter, for me. The confederados are not Confederates, and haven’t been for several generations. They’re Brazilians, who (like the rest of us) have to make their way in the twenty-first century.

Go read the whole thing.


Image: João Leopoldo Padoveze, president of the Fraternity of American Descendants of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste, poses at the Cemitério do Campo in April 2019. (Giovana Schluter Nunes)



Celebrating Independence Day in Vicksburg, 1877

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 4, 2020

[This post originally appeared in 2011]


It’s a common trope that the citizenry of Vicksburg, Mississippi, did not celebrate the Fourth of July until well into the 20th century. While it’s certainly true that the anniversary of the fall of that city to Grant in 1863 continued to resonate with Vicksburg residents down through the years, in fact the date was observed by plenty of local residents, white and black, even if the celebration was unofficial and somewhat more muted there than elsewhere. And they were celebrating it even when the war itself was a recent memory. From the Vicksburg Daily Commercial, July 3, 1877:

To-morrow being the anniversary of our Nations independence, all patriotic citizens of this great Republic are expected to observe it as a holiday. We desire to be reckoned among this class of patriotic citizens, consequently no paper will be issued from this office to-morrow. The glorious Fourth happens to come in hot weather this year, and we are glad to be able to observe it ‘neath the shade of country forests.

And a follow-up, on July 5:

The people of Vicksburg came nearer celebrating the glorious Fourth yesterday than they have done for several years. True, there was no general suspension of business, as indicated by closed doors, but so far as the profits of trade were concerned doors might as well have been closed, for the salesrooms were deserted almost entirely. Everybody was out of town, apparently, enjoying the holiday in some way. Several hundred people attended the Hibernian picnic at Newman’s Grove, and not withstanding the extreme heat, all seemed to enjoy the festivities of the day. The colored population turned out in large force, fully one thousand men of them going down the river on excursion bvoats to picnic-grounds, yet there were enough of them left in the city to form a very respectable procession of colored Masons, and a very large audience to listen to the oration of Judge J. S. Morris, and to assist in laying the corner-stone of King Solomon’s Church. There was no prolific display of fire-works on the streets, but occasional reports from fire-crackers and large torpedoes could be heard, accompanied now and then by a patriotic cry, “rah for the Fourth of July!” We do not wonder at the lack of patriotic enthusiasm displayed on our streets. No amount of patriotism could have induced any sane man to exert himself very considerably on such a day when the thermometer registered very nearly 100° Farenheit [sic.] in the shade. However, the observance of Independence Day yesterday, slight as some may have thought it, was yet sufficient to indicate the prevalence of a broader National sentiment and a determination to at least partially forget the past which renders the Fourth of July especially distasteful to Vicksburgers, and make it in future “The Day We Celebrate” as much as any other National holiday.

To be sure, the Fourth of July remained a bitter date for many Vicksburg citizens, for a long time. Undoubtedly there are some who still reject the date as one for celebration. But in this, as in so much else about the legacy of the war, the reality is more complex than the mythmakers would have one believe.