Regardless what you call it, the War for Southern Independence, the War Between the States, the War of Northern Aggression, or as many do, the American Civil War, it remains the most costly war America ever fought. Not only in terms of lives lost – more than all of America’s other wars combined – and economic devastation, but it also resulted in a schism of the people and the creation of a monolithic national government.
It was an unnecessary war. A war fought primarily because Abraham Lincoln refused to allow the Southern states to peacefully secede. Secession was a legal and Constitutional process in spite of Lincoln’s refusal to accept it.
Even today most people, if asked, would tell you the War was fought to free the slaves. After all, Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, wasn’t he?
The truth of the matter is that Lincoln fought the War to "save the Union" which he claimed predated even the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and could not be broken. Emancipating slaves was an afterthought, a war strategy to keep England and France from declaring on the side of the South. If anyone has ever taken the time to read the Emancipation Proclamation they would find Lincoln really freed no slaves except those in territories not controlled by Union forces.
With the defeat of the South and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse there began a period of severe despair in Southern states brought on by Reconstruction.
A period of harsh military occupation followed and Southern heritage and culture was designated for obliteration.
Many Southerners could not, or would not, accept living under Union occupation. Many had lost all their property or had it stolen or burned by Union troops, their lifestyle was destroyed; they were faced with abject poverty and being relegated to second class citizen status under the new rule.
As a result, many Southerners began packing up their lives and emigrating to foreign countries as an answer to their suffering. Many went to Mexico or Canada while many others answered the invitation of Brazil’s Emperor Dom Pedro II. Gen. Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis begged Southerners not to go but millions of Southerners abandoned their former lives never to return. With the lure of cheap land to settle and a friendly atmosphere many sought to build a community with Southern values in the jungles of Brazil.
While quite a few did eventually come back home, those who elected to stay permanently became part of a Confederate-values colony northwest of Sao Paulo that was named Americana. They became known as Confederados.
Slavery was still legal in Brazil but that was not a deciding factor for the Confederados since they used native workers rather than slaves to work their fields.
Many of the first Baptist churches in Brazil were started in Americana and the city became an image of the antebellum period of the American south. There were public schools which provided education for their female children – something rare in Brazil. They flew the Confederate flag, continued traditional southern cuisine, had debutante balls and sang southern hymns.
Gradually, the Confederados became more Brazilian and now only a few descendants still live on the land owned by their ancestors. Yet, many can tell the history of those Southern soldiers from whom they are descended. Today, Americana is a city of 120,000 population. Confederados make up about ten percent of that population but their ties to the old South lives on. Every year they have Fiesta Confederada with Confederate flags, Confederate uniforms, talk about ancestors fighting "damned Yankees," typical southern food, and dances with ladies in antebellum gowns.
It’s comforting to know there is at least one place in the world where respect for Confederate tradition is not besmirched by purveyors of political correctness.