Indie Book Award Honors “Tempting Skies”

Tempting Skies was named finalist by 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

I’m grateful to note that Tempting Skies, Beyond the Wood Book 3, has been named one of the best indie books of 2017 by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group (IBPPG).

The group formalized the recognition by naming the Civil War novel a finalist in its 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The awards were presented May 31 in a ceremony at the Harvard Club in New York City.

Beyond the Wood, the first book in the trilogy, received the same recognition in 2012.

IBPPG promotes “professional standards in independent book publishing (also known as ‘indie’ book publishing), and provide[s] support and recognition for the independent book publishing profession.” (Bold type in original.) Its Next Generation Indie Book Awards is “the largest not-for-profit awards program for independent publishers.”

The competition is co-sponsored by Marilyn Allen, founder and partner in the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency.

Next Generation Indie Book Awards was founded by Catherine Goulet, Co-Chair of the 2017 awards. She indicates the program “has become known as the Sundance of the book publishing world.”

Tempting Skies Civil War NovelsGoulet also said, “Authors and publishers who compete in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards are serious about promoting their books,” adding that “they aim to stand out from the crowd of millions of books in print.” She points out the challenge faced by indies, stating that they “must work harder to get their best books into the hands of readers.

Independent book publishing companies include small presses, larger independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers and self-published authors.

Tempting Skies has been called, “extraordinary and consistently entertaining.” It continues the story of Virginian Betsy Richman as the Civil War’s devastation trudges southward toward her Shenandoah Valley homestead. Her mother’s one-time slave William Richman, at last a legally free man, painfully struggles to scrape away slavery’s emotional scars and remnant self-doubt, and his strong-willed and intelligent new wife, Victoria, struggles to find meaning in her new life.

I can’t end without thanking the folks at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for the recognition and support.

Chanticleer Book Reviews lauds “A River Divides” as “exceptional in development”

Chanticleer lauds "A River Divides."

Chanticleer Book Reviews evaluated “A River Divides” because the Civil War novel was a 2014 Laramie Awards category winner.

I’ve been posting too many blogs on reviews and notice of my books lately as reviews have come in following publication of Temping Skies. I apologize for that. I’m committed to writing a “non-self serving” blog in the near future.

But before I turn selfless, I just got notice that Chanticleer Book Reviews, a literary affiliate of the Historical Novel Society, just published a review of A River Divides, the previous book in the Beyond the Wood Series.

I appreciated the attention and review. Chanticleer earlier named the novel a 2014 category winner in its Laramie Awards program which recognizes “emerging new talent and outstanding works” in Western and Civil War fiction.

“A River Divides” was named Best in Category by Chanticleer in its Laramie Awards program.

The review appeared in the March 1, 2017 edition of Chanticleer’s thrice-monthly email highlighting its latest critiques.

The email graciously introduced A River Divides as “Rich in detail and exceptional in development.”

The review itself noted:

Like the first book in Beyond the Woods Series, the second, A River Divides, offers a complex view into life during the Civil War era. . . .

Author Michael J. Roueche does a great job introducing esoteric terms while giving them proper context, thereby helping present-day readers immerse themselves in the historical tapestry he’s created. All the characters in this story demonstrate authentic shades of good and bad, making their choices (and their consequences) even more intriguing.

Reading the first in the series isn’t required here but doing so will certainly enhance the experience.

While the reviewer seemed mildly put off by the shifting points of view (no apologies from me on that point), K. McCoy’s overall conclusion was “Roueche’s beautifully written imagery and ability to immerse readers in place and time will delight and hook readers from the very beginning to the very end.”

Thanks to Chanticleer and K. McCoy.

Civil War News Recognizes “Tempting Skies”

Civil War News Highlights Tempting SkiesWe’re grateful to Civil War News for including Tempting Skies in its February book section. The paper doesn’t review novels anymore, but it introduced in the February edition a column dubbed Novel Notes, stating that “from time to time we receive works of fiction set in the Civil War era and will occasionally recognize them.” We appreciate the newspaper finding Tempting Skies worth mentioning.

I chuckled when I read in the column, after it quoted conflicting dialogue between two people from Tempting Skies: “What I like about Civil War novels is that they offer a forum for characters to argue about the causes and nature of the war in ways that would get the rest of us in trouble with the PC-bosses.”

Writing fiction does allow you to present different perspectives without having to justify why you’re including them. Civil War News Mentions Tempting SkiesThat the feelings and opinions existed provides reason to consider them. In many cases, you don’t need to agree or disagree with statements made. You can leave that to the reader.

Historical fiction offers lots of flexibility not granted to nonfiction writers. In the Beyond the Wood Series, I elected to forgo profanity because I didn’t think it important to my purpose, although it was certainly a daily part of the war. I also went to great lengths not to include some derogatory, racially and emotionally charged words for, among other reasons, they raise emotions in me and others that stem from our 20th and 21st century experiences. Of course, racially charged words certainly existed and were hateful, harmful and defining in the 19th Century as well, so I tried to write in a way that implied their odorous existence, especially in A River Divides, Book Two, Beyond the Wood.

For highlighting Tempting Skies, I express thanks to Civil War News and historian Stephen Davis, the publication’s book review editor. Dr. Davis has written several nonfiction books about the war. Check out the Civil War Trust’s worthwhile interview with him about the provocatively titled work What the Yankees Did to Us: Sherman’s Bombardment and Wrecking of Atlanta.

Midwest Book Review Carries Second Review

We also were surprised and glad to see Midwest Book Review carry Teri Davis’s review of the book, which she called “a Civil War masterpiece.” A very kind statement.  I didn’t expect Midwest to carry a second review of the book, so I was doubly pleased. Thanks to long-time Midwest Book Review head James A. Cox for his years of service and to Teri for the review.

We appreciate all the support we’ve received from many. Praises “Tempting Skies” reviews Tempting just posted its review of Tempting Skies.

Thanks to Teri Davis who reviewed the novel and to Nancy Eaton who manages I excerpt portions of the review below. To see more of the review or other books they’ve looked at, visit

The review starts off with a question:

How would you like to read your ancestors’ journals about their lives while living through the Civil War? Would you be able to understand the perspectives of both sides?

Just recently in the year 2012, while searching through the attic of a mansion in Lexington, Kentucky, scheduled for demolition, a manuscript and letters revealed the history of this estate beginning in the 1820s. These documents are the foundation of the third book of [The Beyond the Wood] trilogy.

Barnard Cooter Gravestone

Barnard Cooter Union Grave in Knoxville National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of

Davis’s introduction reminds me of an unrelated family history experience Susan and I had in the early 2000s. At the time, we were researching Eastern Tennessee family and reached out to people through the Internet. We made contact with a woman who miraculously had a copy of a letter Susan’s fourth great grandfather John Cooter (from the German Kuter), born in 1804 in Virginia, had written to siblings in Missouri touching on his Civil War experiences in East Tennessee. We felt at that moment that we had unearthed an invaluable, enriching treasure, so the lead off question seemed particularly interesting to and meaningful for me.

Just for fun, I’m including an excerpt from John’s letter with original spelling and punctuation. An interesting disclaimer and maybe an indication of how strongly John supported the Union, John tells his siblings all his sons sided with Federals, with one, Barnard, enlisting and dying in the war. However, a family historian reports that another of John’s sons, John Adam Cooter, fought for the South. Confederate records indicate that John A. Cooter enlisted in 1862 and fought for the Confederacy in the First Regiment, Tennessee Cavalry [Carter’s]. Here’s a bit of John’s letter as best we could transcribe it:

John Cooter post-war letter to siblings

I can tell you that I have had a great deal of trouble since the commencement of the war we had hard times her threw the war. My boys all stayd home by scouting and hiding but my sone Barnard he went to the Federal army and volantiored in the serves of his country and he was taken sick and died on the 18 of may 1865 at Knoxville. . . .you wanted to hear of the times her. Money is scars here. Produce is plenty such as corn wheat and oates. Wee have made more corn and oates this year then wee have made for a good many years. weat worth two dollrs for bushel. corn 50 cents oates 25 poark from 7 to 8 cents now. Sara came by to tell you of some of the old sitisens you one node that was kild by the Rebels. old Jesse Mays old Hiram Smith James Mcolam Jaoh Rutherford Thomas Mclane A gardner two of esteps(?) Sons Jon William Hendry and his brother Edward and a great many more . . . tell Polly Brown that two of dimons boys was kild. John was a Fereral and was kild by the Rebels. Jim was a Rebel and was kild by the Federals. Jim was a bad boy for plundering and taking property. . . .I would wrote sooner if I had nown where to direct to. . . . The post oficises have been tore up so that wee never new where or who to write to.

Back to the review. Ms. Davis answers a question that worried me as I wrote Tempting Skies:

Can anyone read Tempting Skies and understand the characters without having read the previous two books? Definitely. Each character continues in their development with a quick, but not distracting background established in the previous books. By reading the third book first, I found myself wanting to know more about each person’s past when mentioned.

In the end, Ms. Davis concludes:

Tempting Skies is a brilliant novel revealing the day-to-day, unglamorous existence during the Civil War. Showing everyone has some losses during a war, the characters become realistic through Roueche while exploring the sites, smells, and sounds of Washington City in 1864, as well as the dangers.

Michael Roueche is a masterful storyteller creating a Civil War masterpiece in Tempting Skies.

Thank you, Teri, for your kind words.

“Tempting Skies” Recommended by “The US Review of Books”

Tempting Skies Recommended by US Review of BooksUS Review of Books just awarded Tempting Skies its “Recommended” rating. “The recommended rating is used less than 10-20% of the time.” US Review says that recommended books of fiction “are compelling and lasting reads.”

I’m grateful for the rating. I also want to thank the reviewer Dylan Ward for his thoughtful analysis.

You can check the review out at The US Review of Books website. I’ve also posted it with permission below, but changed the order–listing the criticism section before the summary–and added subheads.

(Note: If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, don’t read the summary yet. In fact, you may want to put off reading this summary till after you’ve read the book.)

Thanks again to Dylan and US Review.


Tempting Skies is Recommended

Roueche’s third installment in the Beyond the Wood Series completes a well-researched and interwoven narrative of the American Civil War. It once again demonstrates the award-winning author’s notable contribution to the genre. His novel, while at times complex, is nevertheless engaging and nothing is wasted. It boasts a large cast of characters who are all essential to the whole of the saga. Their strengths and weaknesses are portrayed in realistic light, each facing their own past in moments of trial and tribulation. As the novel nears its finale, surprising revelations encapsulate a tale of drama, romance, and suspense. Through it all, Roueche expertly highlights the plight of soldiers, discrimination, politics, and violence set against the backdrop of the waning days of a war-torn America. It is a worthy read.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review


“Coercion. Slavery. Freedom. Casualties. Deaths. Suffering. Starvation. Humiliation. She’d seen them all and was left not knowing what to want, what to believe, what to hope for, except for Hank and her child.”

It begins with the discovery of a “remarkable” manuscript that reveals events which occurred in the summer of 1864. During the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the manuscript depicts several lives that intersect amid a dangerous political landscape and the changing tide of a segregated society. Betsy Gragg, formerly Betsy Henderson, secludes herself in a Washington D.C. boarding house, haunted by her southern past. Her new husband, Henry Gragg, a member of the Union’s 19th Indiana Infantry, wills himself across the Virginia battlegrounds to reunite with Betsy and their unborn child. Actress, Anna Whitehead, falls victim to the cunning and murderous Lucius Walthorpe (a.k.a. Oskar Dante) who assumes the alias of Daniel Jefferson for his latest revenge plot against Betsy. Runaway slave, William Richman, finds himself in uncharted waters as a freeman while his wife, Victoria Richman, defies conventionalism as a nurse caring for wounded soldiers, becoming witness to the scars of war.

“Midwest Book Review’s” Take on “Tempting Skies”

Midwest Book Reviews praises Tempting SkiesMidwest Book Review (MBR) included a look at Temping Skies, the final book in the Beyond the Wood series, in its December 2016 issue of Reviewer’s Bookwatch magazine.

Here’s what MBR reviewer Jack Mason had to say–although I took the liberty of moving the Critique portion of the review ahead of the Synopsis and reformatted it a bit:


Tempting Skies Civil War Novels

An impressively gifted storyteller, this concluding volume of a truly outstanding Civil War era trilogy by Michael J. Roueche is as extraordinary and consistently entertaining a read as his first two novels. While very highly recommended for community library Historical American Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that Tempting Skies is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99), as are the first two volumes: Beyond The Wood (9780983756712, $17.99 PB, $4.99 Kindle) and A River Divides (9780983756767, $17.99 PB, $7.99 Kindle).


The third volume in Michael J. Roueche’s Beyond the Wood series, Tempting Skies is set some four decades after the conclusion of the American Civil War, and the former Kentucky slave, Victoria Richman, has passed away.

Among her belongings, her bereft family discovers a narrative she’s written recounting the summer of 1864 in Virginia and the Nation’s Capital. Mrs. Richman’s manuscript describes a defining year, full of fury, sorrow, dread, hate, hope and love in the lives that intersect hers:

Betsy Richman Henderson tries to escape once again her demoralizing dance with a still-scheming Lucius Walthrope, even as war’s devastation trudges southward toward her Shenandoah Valley homestead.

William Richman, at last a legally free man, painfully struggles to scrape away slavery’s emotional scars and remnant self-doubt. Amidst inner disarray and outer humiliation, he battles for his place in a new social order of liberty framed in 19th Century racism.

Victoria herself struggles to find meaning in her new life. Thoughtful and intelligent, she resists a mundane life far from the war and its shifting purpose as she lives and chronicles the dramatic climax of the Beyond the Wood Series.

Thank you to Jack and Midwest Book Review.

“Ink and Fairydust Magazine” Interview

For its November/December issue, Ink and Fairydust Magazine interviewed me. Ink and Fairydust is an online, every-other-month publication that highlights the arts to “young Christians.”

Thanks to Courtney and all the folks at Ink and Fairydust for the interest and support. It comes at a perfect time with the release of Tempting Skies.

Ink and Fairydust MagazineCheck out the interview.

The November/December issue also includes Christmas-focused poetry and short fiction. Enhance the season at Ink and Fairydust.

An Ink and Fairydust Excerpt

Here’s my answer to one question from the interview (Links and pictures added):

Who are some of your favorite authors and inspirations, and why do they inspire you?

A couple favorite, inspiring novels—neither interestingly were written in English—are Anna Karenina and Les Misérables.

Anna Karenina presents such a vivid contrast in the lives of those who make wise decisions and those who betray themselves and others with choices that cannot bring happiness. As I recall, after Tolstoy’s conversion to Christianity, he rejected all his earlier work, including Karenina. But I personally find much in it to support faith.

In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo creates an absorbing story and character of redemption, sacrifice, forgiveness and selflessness in Jean Valjean. Valjean is perpetually surrounded by self-serving, thoughtless creatures, yet after his “salvation,” he acts almost inexplicably to help those very self-serving, thoughtless creatures. Even as their inattention brings his premature death, he exhibits unwavering compassion and love. (A side note: Les Misérables was new and popular in the US during the Civil War. One of the despicable characters in A River Divides reads enough of the novel to lift an idea that enables him to continue his menacing ways.)

I’m also inspired by William Tyndale for his tireless and perilous work translating into English the Bible for the common man. I honor him for the dedication, talent and work that became the foundation and much of the substance of the great artistry of the King James Bible and, I suppose, helped “open the King of England’s eyes.” And if you think about Tyndale’s great influence on the English language, you have to note William Shakespeare. A few years ago and stemming from a personal goal, I read and blogged about all of his plays and poems (many for the first time). The beauty of the language he created and his spot-on insights into the human soul are just as real and relevant today as they were four centuries ago, as is his influence on our day-to-day language. I was so moved by my Shakespeare experience that I included a Shakespeare-loving English soldier in soon-to-be-published Tempting Skies.

Announcing “Tempting Skies”

Yesterday, Vesta House Publishing announced release of Civil War novel “Tempting Skies”:

Tempting Skies Civil War Novels

Bountiful, Utah (October 31, 2016) — Vesta House Publishing is pleased to announce publication of Tempting Skies, Book Three, Beyond the Wood, by international-award-winning author Michael J. Roueche.

The 368-page novel is the final book in the historical fiction series set in the American Civil War.

Four decades after the Civil War, former Kentucky slave Victoria Richman has passed away. Among her belongings, her bereft family discovers a narrative she’s written recounting the summer of 1864 in Virginia and Washington City. Mrs. Richman’s manuscript describes a defining year in the lives that intersect hers:

• Betsy, a Southern sympathizer stranded in Washington City, tries to escape a scheming sociopath, even as the war’s devastation trudges southward toward her Shenandoah Valley homestead.

• William Richman, at last a legally free man, painfully struggles to scrape away slavery’s emotional scars and remnant self-doubt. Amidst inner disarray and outer humiliation, he battles for his place in a new social order of liberty framed in 19th-Century racism.

• Victoria struggles to find meaning in her new life. Thoughtful and intelligent, she resists a mundane life far from the war and its shifting purpose as she lives the climax of the trilogy.

“War, romance and mystery collide in this deeply researched Civil War novel,” proclaimed the Denver Post of the first book in the series, Beyond the Wood.

The initial installment recounts the story of Betsy struggling with burdens left by the death of her Confederate soldier husband and the conspiracy of neighbors. At the same time, she becomes the obsession of a Union soldier who imagines a romance that drives him relentlessly toward an impossible rendezvous with her. The 514-page novel was recipient of the 2012 John Esten Cooke Award for Civil War and Southern history.

Midwest Book Review “highly recommended” the second in the series, A River Divides. It called the book “a sober, thoughtful, and expertly researched Civil War novel.” The work was selected Drama Category Winner, Laramie Awards for Western, Pioneer and Civil War fiction.

The 395-page novel begins in the winter of 1864 as Eastern Theater soldiers languish in camp boredom, and conspiracy and treachery envelop Betsy. Meanwhile, her family’s runaway slave William, craving his chance to fight for the Union, flees Virginia, stumbling into the murky waters of Kentucky servitude.

Michael J. Roueche grew up in Virginia and spent most of his life in the Old Dominion. He holds degrees from Brigham Young University and Virginia Tech and spent many years in corporate communications. He and his wife of 40 years currently reside in Colorado. They have five kids and several grandchildren.

Roll, Jordan, Roll: A Book Review

Roll, Jordan, Roll, The World the Slaves Made: Controversial and indispensible

A self-professed communist, who got kicked out the Communist Party, included his Marxist viewpoint of American slavery in “Roll, Jordan, Roll.”

Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, winner of the 1975 Bancroft Prize, is indispensable to understanding American slavery in the antebellum South. It’s also delightfully controversial in history and content.

It was written by Eugene D. Genovese , a communist later turned conservative. He was in his Marxist phase when he wrote it, and he tried to squeeze his image of slavery into his perspective of ideological class conflict and exploitation. I found his communist theorizing for the most part easy to ignore, though tedious at times, but I appreciated his comparisons of slaves in the Old South with workers and slaves and their circumstances around the world. Some readers, however, thought his social theories devalued Roll, Jordan, Row.

Roll, Jordan, Roll: A Theory of Paternalism

Other reviewers have complained Genovese wrote of slavery as one Goodreads reviewer claims focusing “on slavery as a system of paternalism. It tries hard but in its efforts reduces slaves to one dimensional caricatures who have bought into and welcome the system of slavery.” I can’t imagine we’re thinking of the same book.

But it’s not just casual reviewers have who disputed the book’s perspective: In its obituary for the author, the New York Times noted “historian Edward L. Ayers . . . called it ‘the best book ever written about American slavery'” while historian Eric Foner held that “the buying and selling of slaves could hardly be considered paternalistic; parents do not normally sell their children.”

Sounds to me like a semantic disagreement.

"Row, Jordan, Row" notes specially trained dogs, often owned by poor whites, tracked runaways, maiming and killing if not pulled quickly from the tracked slaves.

“Row, Jordan, Row” notes specially trained dogs, often owned by poor whites, tracked runaways, maiming and killing if not pulled quickly from the escaping slaves.

Genovese does write extensively in Roll, Jordan, Roll about paternalism but never suggests slaves bought into or welcomed the abominable social order or system. There was never a doubt in my mind that the complete wrongness of slavery in all its forms under-girded Genovese intent and work in the book. To me Roll, Jordan, Roll did exactly the opposite of what such detractors claim. It portrays a range of slaves and slave experiences, always presenting the victims as individual human beings under unbearable circumstances. His major premise is slaves individually and collectively created meaningful lives and community, stubbornly refusing to adopt slaveholder will as their own. As Genovese writes:

Slavery, a particularly savage system of oppression and exploitation, made its slaves victims. But the human beings it made victims did not consent to be just that; they struggled to make life bearable and to find as much joy in it as they could. Up to a point even the harshest of masters had to help them do so. The logic of slavery pushed the masters to try to break their slaves’ spirit and to reconstruct it as an unthinking and unfeeling extension of their own will, but the slaves’ own resistance to dehumanization compelled the masters to compromise in order to get an adequate level of work out of them.

In this quote, I hear criticism of slaveholders and their dehumanization of slaves in their pursuit of wealth—a legitimate attack on the capitalism of the antebellum past North and South which conspired against Africans stolen from their homelands. In no sense does the quote above, which captures the spirit of the tome, hold that slaves approved of or passively accepted their state. When the author wrote about slave revolts (or lack of them), he reprises the theme:

In the United States those prospects [of revolting], minimal during the eighteenth century, declined toward zero during the nineteenth. The slaves of the Old South should not have to answer for their failure to mount more frequent and effective revolts; they should be honored for having tried at all under the most discouraging circumstances.

As time went on those conditions became steadily more discouraging: the hinterland filled up with armed whites; the population ratios swung against the blacks; creoles [I believe he uses creole in the sense of American born] replaced Africans; and the regime grew in power and cohesion. . . . Meeting necessity with their own creativity, the slaves built an Afro-American community life in the interstices of the system and laid the foundations for their future as a people. But their very strategy for survival enmeshed them in a web of paternalistic relationships which sustained the slaveholders’ regime despite the deep antagonisms it engendered.

The slaves’ success in forging a world of their own within a wider world shaped primarily by the oppressors sapped their will to revolt, not so much because they succumbed to the baubles of amelioration as because they themselves were creating conditions worth living in as slaves while simultaneously facing overwhelming power that discouraged frontal attack.

Neither quote suggests to me a view of slaves as willing, docile human beings accepting happily their state, willingly ceding their independence and will to the slaveholder. But the author also is not presenting a simplistic view of slavery that offers all slaves as heroes and all slave owners as despotic. In his work, Genovese portrays a complex system where players (some better than others) by choice and others without choice work for their own purposes, exacting as much as they can from the other side.

Roll, Jordan, Roll depicts slaveholders consciously manipulating the feelings and loyalties of their slaves to their own purposes. Included in those manipulations is granting “privileges” as one-time “gifts” to slaves, but the slaves successfully seized many such privileges, claiming them as rights for the future, thus bettering as best they could their living conditions. Over time, this give and take developed into recognized, “accepted” traditions. Thus “masters had the upper hand, but slaves set limits as best they could” in a series of horrible compromises. Such a view seems consistent with the complexity of all human relations and therefore appears credible.

Clearly, however and unfortunately, both master and slave consciously or unconsciously bought into a paternalistic relationship and strengthened it by their respective behavior based on masters generally taking responsibility for clothing, feeding and protecting (not necessarily well) and slaves coming to expect it. This led to some slave owners believing their own propaganda and feeling betrayed by the “lack of gratitude” slaves showed when they would run away or had the audacity to leave the plantation or farm after the war or Union army freed them.

Varied Voices

For me, the best aspect of Roll, Jordan, Roll was Genovese’s use of quotes from slaveholders and slaves across the wide array of topics covered, offering varied voices and circumstances to create a broader, more textured understanding of the state of slavery in the South.

I also appreciated the book’s discussion of the development of an ironic style of communication among slaves. They didn’t have the freedom to speak the truth so they developed the ability to speak “undercover,” saying at times the opposite of what they meant. Roll, Jordan, Roll never gives us a stereotypical slave as fool, while it does capture slaves sometimes playing the fool to manage masters, some of whom understood and at times appreciate the theater and some who become the fools by not recognizing the manipulation.

Another appreciated aspect of Roll, Jordan, Roll was revelation of the flexibility of the slave work calendar. Sometimes we’re left with the impression slaves were worked 14-16 hours a day constantly for years on end, always leaving one wondering how they could survive. That was the lot of some slaves in other countries in the hemisphere where they were literally worked to death. But in the American South, master self-interest meant slaves generally were not required to work such long hours in all weather conditions year round. During specific seasons and activities, such as cotton harvest, they did labor exceptionally long days. But that was, Genovese suggests, the exception. That’s not to imply slave life was pleasurable because of a “shortened” work day as forced labor and hours are wrong and miserable on any scale. But it presents a more realistic perspective on work hours.

Roll, Jordan, Roll is dense, long (nearly 700 pages; over 800 with notes) and complicated. It covers a wide expanse of topics, including religion, law, work and work conditions, freedmen, mammys, runaways, love, sex, drivers and overseers, marriage, the elderly, children, cooking and funerals. (Researching the last topic is why I picked up the book in the first place.) Necessarily some topics aren’t covered in as much depth as I would have liked. But the book is a major accomplishment and a unique contribution to our understanding of the world the slaves made. In the end it is an indispensable tribute to what slaves were able to achieve in spite of being forced to play a rigged game of chance.

Mr. Genovese’s great labor enriched my understanding of the awful institution of slavery in the South.


Nod to transparency: Some members of my family descend from slaves held in the US and one family of ancestors held—based on census records—two slaves, a young woman and a boy under 10.


Teaching with Living History in Schools: An Interview with Educator Kurt Knierim

Lobos Mess sponsored by Kurt Knierim.

Lobo Mess, a Civil War living history club at Rocky Mountain High School in Ft. Collins. Photo by Joyce Bryant.

Several years ago, we attended a Civil War living history reenactment in Colorado. One highlight of the event was meeting a group of young women in period attire who we learned were students of Kurt Knierim, a social studies teacher from Rocky Mountain High School in Ft. Collins. They were also members of the school’s Civil War Living History Club dubbed Lobo Mess. (Lobo for the school mascot and mess for Civil War soldiers who ate together.)

I’ve been thinking about the impact living history has on young people of late, so I reached out to interview Knierim to get his insights from using living history to teach and motivate students.

Kurt Knierim in uniform.

Kurt Knierim, award-winning educator, poses in uniform. Photo courtesy of Sean Papile.

As background, Knierim has been teaching at Rocky Mountain since 1992 and holds an honorarium faculty appointment in the history department at University of Colorado at Denver. He majored in history at Colorado State University and has earned Master’s degrees in education and American History. He was the 2010 Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History Teacher of the Year for Colorado. Not surprisingly, he also teaches “Secondary Social Studies Methods” for the History Department at Colorado State University.

Knierim’s Lobo Mess according to the school website is a “Civil War Living History independent study class…that allows high school students to take an active role in and present Civil War era living history.” It’s made presentations before “well over 10,000″ people” at “elementary schools, civic organizations, home school groups, television, museums, national parks, Colorado state parks, parades and battle reenactments.”

Where did you come up with the idea of getting students dressed in period clothes to do living history presentations?

I started participating in living history in 1997. From the beginning I was asked to visit schools and do presentations. By 2002, I had accumulated enough uniform parts to cobble together a second uniform. With uniform in hand, I asked one of my high school students to accompany me to a presentation at McGraw Elementary School. In preparation for the school visit, I taught the student the basics of the School of the Soldier and thus began what would become the Lobo Mess.

What’s the School of the Soldier, and what do you include in yours?

It was the “basic training” that was included in the first part of every drill manual from the period.  I use a blend of Hardee’s 1855 manual as well as Casey’s 1862 manual.  I feel it is important for the students to be proficient at the basics of drill because it allows them to function as soldiers and affords them opportunities to “fall in” with other groups.

(Note: William Joseph Hardee resigned from his post at West Point to join the Confederacy at the beginning of the Civil War. His tactics manual was used by both sides during the war.  The Hardee Hat, named for the General, was also used by both sides, most famously by the Union’s Iron Brigade. Silas Casey was a Union general during the war. Both were career military men.)

What difference has your approach made?

Lobos Mesa presents to students.

A Lobo Mess member explains Civil War paraphernalia to middle school students. Photo by Gabrielle Wymore.

There are three benefits I have seen with the club.

First, the club is students presenting to students. There are not many other models of clubs besides maybe “reading buddies” that pair students with students to teach and learn.

Second, it has produced public speaking confidence for the members of the Mess. It is wonderful to see the transformation from rather shy students who love history into young adults that don’t think twice before presenting to upwards of 100 students at a time.

Third, it provides students a way to experience history in ways they would not be able to in the regular classroom setting. By digging into research and “living out” their research, they gain knowledge and skills they will never forget.

What kind of feedback do you get from the club and living history?

Students seem to love it. I regularly have former “Messers” inquire about presentations, “crash” weekly meetings, and show up to events even years later.

In December (2014), current members of the “Mess” attended a Civil War ball–sponsored annually by the First Colorado Volunteer Infantryin Denver. In addition to my current Messers, five others showed up, some having graduated as long ago as 2010.

Parents get so excited about it they sometimes tag along to presentations to see their kiddos in 1860s action.

The community has also been supportive. For the last six summers, we have partnered with the Fort Collins Discovery Museum (Local History Museum) to present for their “Wild West Days” summer program. In addition, the local history group, the Westerners, has invited us to present a couple times at their meetings. It’s also donated several hundred dollars to the club almost every year.

Lobos Mesa in formation.

“Messers” join maneuvers near Red Rocks in Colorado. Photo courtesy of Stuart Lawrence.

We’re a long way from most reenactments. Do you get a chance to take students to very many reenactments?

We are a four-year high school, so I try to take a trip to a larger reenactment once every four years. Although we have gone as far as West Virginia (Battle of Rich Mountain), we usually head South to the Glorieta Pass reenactment near Santa Fe New Mexico in early May. I have also taken students to several NPS and State historic sites to do living history weekends.

How do these trips impact students?

Students get really excited about them. It really encourages them to stick with the hobby or even study history after high school.

One example would be Jim Bertolini who graduated in 2005. He continued to do living history for a number of years after high school and now has a Master’s in history. He currently is a historian in the State Historic Preservation Office for all of Nevada.

Club members, left to right, Ayrika Johnson, Monica Stauffer, Elle Chaffee, Katrin Sharpe and Nisa Rubio portray civilian ladies in photo taken by Lobo Mess member Sean Papile.

Tell us about what you personally do for the living history club.

I sponsor the club, which includes bringing in guest speakers and leading weekly meetings. I also aid the students in scheduling presentations, doing research for their presentations and arranging transportation to and from presentations and events.

What are your/their biggest obstacles?

We are always strapped for cash. We have more interest than ability to outfit students. Although we have a solid pool of material culture (9 infantrymen, 3-4 male civilians, and 7 ladies), there is always an issue of not having the right size of something or having to turn folks away because we cannot outfit them. Another obstacle is time. I always get many more requests for presentations than we have time for.

The soldiers of Lobo Mess, from left to right, Ben Colon-Bonet, Ryan Bolander, Nick AmRhein​, Logan Haas, Bjorn Swenson and Kurt Knierim pose for a unit photo. Photo used by courtesy of Sean Papile.

How have you changed your approach over the years?

I have given over more and more to student leadership. Partly for practical reasons, and partly to build leadership. We also have every member put together at least one 10-15 minute “station” of interactive information to share at presentations.

Does this approach appeal only to students already interested in history, or do you attract students “new to history” as well?

We get all types. That is another strength of the club. We have the high flying AP crowd as well as the kids on Individualized Education Programs (IEP). This is great for the kiddos to have to get to know and work with students they would not ordinarily rub elbows with. Participating students are generally interested in the history, the material culture or the acting part of it.

Has interest and popularity of the class increased over time?

Yes, we have gone from one student to an average of about 15. Our biggest year, we had 20 and I had to turn kids away.

Are others picking up your approach?

I have had interest here and there, but without substantial monies for outfitting folks, there is not much chance of a club like this getting off the ground.

I’m sure it’s also crucial to have a dedicated teacher involved as well. Thanks Kurt Knierim. We hope your program continues to flourish and look forward to seeing you and your students at future living history reenactments.

Confederados: Brazilian Neighbors I Never Knew

The cemetery of the original Os Confederados of Americana.

The Protestant chapel at Campo (Field) Cemetery (Cemitério do Campo) where many of Os Confederados are buried. The cemetery is now in Santa Bárbara d’Oeste (West Santa Barbara), previously Santa Bárbara. It was originally a field donated as a cemetery by one of Os Confederados. Santa Barbara is next to Americana.

About 15 years ago, I met a middle-aged woman in Virginia who spoke English with an accent I didn’t recognize. When she heard I’d lived briefly in Brazil many years earlier, she enthusiastically identified herself as a native of Vila Americana, a town in Brazil. I could tell the revelation was significant to her. But not to me.

I’d never heard of the Brazilian town, even though I lived briefly as a conspicuous American in several locations in the State of São Paulo where Americana is located. I hid ignorance about her hometown as I was sure she would be disappointed. But from our brief conversation I gleaned Americana had been the chosen home of Confederates fleeing post-Civil War America, including her ancestors.

Since meeting her, I’ve read a bit about Os Confederados (“The Confederates” who migrated to Brazil), and recent articles in Smithsonian Magazine and The New York Times reminded me of my experience.

Most modern articles emphasize the linguistic peculiarity of a people speaking English with an accent reminiscent of the deep South in 1865. Perhaps a few descendants of Os Confederados do speak English with something like a Southern accent, although I am instantly suspicious of such claims, doubting the 150-year survival of any speech pattern dominated by another language and culture. The accent was already suspect by 1979 when an American writer visited Confederado descendants in Brazil, noting in a fascinating article about his encounter:

The man spoke an American English that, while wholly fluent, sounded nothing like I had ever heard before. There was the cadence, a slow molasses drawl, but there was more. The words sounded like they came from deep within the bowels of Georgia, maybe just north of Macon, where the gnat line begins. But that wasn’t it either. The man had a Portuguese accent, and his inflection and the words he used, how he strung them together, it sounded all wrong. His speech was wobbly and splintered, run together, so some of the words didn’t make any sense.1

There remains a “romance” (sometimes a romantic sadness) in writings and videos from outsiders about Os Confederados. But it is only from a safe 5,000-mile distance untouched by the cultural revolutions of the post-Civil-War US that anyone can speak without inhibition (almost with pride and flippancy) about being the “only…unreconstructed Confederates on the earth because…we never pledged allegiance to the damn Yankee flag.”2

Interestingly, in spite of being unreconstructed, descendants of Os Confederados maintain sentimental attachment to the US as well as the Antebellum South, just as former Confederates in the States created a post-war Southern culture that featured a strong allegiance to the United States. In 1915, one Vila Americana-area resident Cicero Jones wrote of Os Confederados, “All are more or less content and would fight for the Stars and Stripes as we would for the Stars and Bars.”3

Charles Norris, sone of one of the original Confederados died in World War I.

Charles Norris as his picture appeared in the New York Times, September 2, 1928. The accompanying article noted he died fighting for the US Army in “the World War.”

Since the Stars and Bars saw no more action, that part of his statement remains untested, but within three years of Jones’ statement, the Confederados had lost one family member, Charles Norris, grandson of the community’s founder who had married a “local” woman and had several daughters. Although he’d never been to the United States, he “went” home to serve in the American Army during World War One and was killed in France.4

Well documented is the small, annual Festa dos Confederados (Confederate Festival) where descendants of the most successful Confederado colony, Americana, sometimes dubbed the lost colony of the Confederacy, celebrate their heritage and raise funds for maintenance of the cemetery founded by the colonists. The cemetery was originally established because the immigrants were mostly protestant in a Catholic country that wouldn’t allow “heretics” in Catholic cemeteries.

Thoughtful reflection on the experience of Os Confederados leaves one with mixed feelings, but they’re the sentiment of an outsider. You can’t help sharing Governor, later President, Jimmy Carter’s thoughts after a 1972 visit he and his wife, Rossalyn—whose great uncle W.S. Wise was one of Os Confederados buried in the cemetery of Os Confederados—made to Americana, as reported in the Atlanta Constitution:

Jimmy Carter at cemetery of Os Confederados.

Then Governor Jimmy Carter visited Campo Cemetery in 1972.

My most significant feeling was one of great sadness they had foregone for all those generations the enjoyment of being a part of this nation they still revere so deeply. The futility of it all was apparent. None of them looked upon their ancestors as mistaken. They didn’t seem to feel any self-pity.5

In the end, I suspect, Os Confederados, in spite of their affection and admiration for the US, the Confederacy and their ancestry, will continue to be slowly woven into the rich Brazilian tapestry till few will remember from what yarn a strand of them comes.

Even in 1928, the signs of coming acculturation were pressing down on Os Confederados. Josephine Crowder wrote in the New York Times of her visit to a Mrs. Jones of Americana, granddaughter of Confederate Colonel W. H. Norris from Alabama, the first Confederado settler in the area. He had migrated to Brazil with his son, Robert, Mrs. Jones’s father, sending for the family after they got settled. Crowder noted, “struggle as hard as she can, Mrs. Jones cannot keep her children Americans. Sooner or later Brazil will get most of them.”4

William Clark Griggs in his book about Os Confederados, published nearly 30 years ago, wrote:

Fourth generation Brazilian-Americans in most cases no longer speak English and thus are losing a significant part of their heritage. Letters and documents treasured by their families for over a century can no longer be read by some and consequently have lost much of their meaning to this newest group of descendants of Confederates. …The new generation of Brazilian-Americans are becoming Brazilian in the truest sense of the word, but it took over 120 years for the change to occur.3

A Closer Look at Os Confederados


What attracted Confederados to Brazil?

Fear of future faced by South caused many, including Os Confederados, to flee the blighted South.

Fear of Northern oppression and a bleak economic future encouraged Confederados to flee the US.

Os Confederados were swept to Brazil by a perfect storm consisting of a felt need of the Southerners to escape difficult post-war circumstances in the US, agents and promoters who went to Brazil and published encouraging reports, and a Brazilian government urgently needing increased population and skilled laborers.


One young woman wrote, “’there is complete revolution in public feeling. No more talk about help from France, or England, but all about emigration to Mexico or Brazil.”3

George Washington Keyes, one of Os Confederados, wrote to a friend in 1869, “I left the United States because of the anarchy I expected to prevail, poverty that was already at our doors, and the demoralization which I thought and still believe will cover the land.”5

Confederado Robert Morris commented 50 years after leaving the US, “ You folks made our lives so impossible in the United States that we had to leave.”5

In 1995, the Seattle Times reported the Judith McKnight Jones, who was 68 at the time, great-granddaughter of one of the original Confederados as saying, “They came here because they felt that their ‘country’ had been invaded and their land confiscated. To them, there was nothing left there. So, they came here to try to re-create what they had before the war.”6

Promoters and Agents

Interest in Brazil was heightened by travel guides and books about the country, some predating the war. Confederates in various states set up emigration societies to explore moving to Brazil, and some agents published pamphlets and information about Brazil, further inflaming interest in the massive country. Some offers and agents were fraudulent, and some colonists would live to suffer under the deceit. When the first emigrants entered Brazil, they also began writing home about the possibilities of the new country, and some of these letters made their way into newspapers.7

A Welcoming Nation
Confederados briefly stayed at luxious government hotel in Rio.

Many of the arriving emigrants stopped in Rio de Janeiro, capital of Brazil, where the Emperor Don Pedro II’s imperial government housed them in a luxurious government hotel.

Both the government and the culture of Brazil attracted the colonists. The country remained neutral during the war, but sought ways to help the North American Rebellion. Brazil’s culture was like that of the South in some ways, including being “ruled” by a rural aristocracy.5

Brazil also wanted to promote emigration. In 1850, slave importation ended and the government wanted to attract workers to make up for labor loss. The government enacted the Immigration Law of September 27, 1860 which called for free colonies which could govern themselves, and subsidies for roads, schools, churches and land. It provided immigrants with temporary shelter and moved colonies located far from regular transportation to more accessible sites.7

Emperor Don Pedro II, an opponent of slavery, encouraged and welcomed the fleeing Confederados.

Emperor Don Pedro II, “the magnanimous,” a long-standing opponent of slavery, encouraged and welcomed the fleeing Confederados.

Emperor Dom Pedro II personally extended invitations to the Rebels and met with some Confederado agents. When they first arrived, emigrants were given food and lodging in a luxurious government hotel. The Emperor at least once visited emigrants in the hotel. After their brief, comfortable stay, the pioneering Confederados were sent to their chosen place of residence with the government covering cost of transportation. The government also subsidized, with loans, passage for some emigrants to come to Brazil.5

However the government was in the middle of a war and never kept all its commitments, eventually leaving some Confederados in poverty with little possibility of escape.

How many Southerners fled to Brazil after the War?

Estimates cover a wide range from a few thousand to 20,000. Eugene Harter, descendant of Os Confederados, who with his parents and siblings returned to the US in 1935, claims 20,000 based on a study of available sources.5 But with incomplete records and the fact that some came individually, the best answer is nobody really knows. Likewise, it’s impossible to know how many returned to the US or stayed in Brazil. Some who remained in Brazil assimilated into local populations.

What type of men and women went?

The failed Mexican immigration movement included more high-ranking Confederate officers, but the Brazilian emigrants were stalwart Confederates, as shown by brief biographies of various men on the website of Fraternidade Descendencia Americana, an association of Os Confederados descendants,8 including:

Os Confederados: father and son Norris.

Robert Cicero Norris (r) served in the Confederate Army while his son Charles (l), a Brazilian native, would die fighting for the US in World War 1. (

Robert Cicero Norris: Private, Company F, 15th Alabama Infantry & 1st Lieutenant company A, 60th Alabama Infantry. He was alive in 1913, age 75. He was born on March 7, 1837, in Perry County, Alabama, but was a resident of Dallas County, Alabama. He was the son of William H. Norris, and was educated at Fulton Academy & Mobile Medical College. He enlisted on January 28, 1861, under Capt. Theodore O’Hara to take Pensacola Navy Yard. On July 3, 1861, he enlisted in Co. F, 15th Alabama Infantry, in Stonewall Jackson’s Brigade. In 1862, he was appointed Sergeant Major, and in 1864, was appointed 1st Lieutenant of Co. A, 60th Alabama Infantry. He was wounded 4 times and fought at Malvern Hill, Cold Harbor, Cedar Run, 2nd Manassas, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Wilderness, Petersburg, etc. He was captured at Hatcher’s Run & held at Ft. Delaware until June 17, 1865. He went to Brazil in 1865, but returned in 1890 to finish his medical degree. He returned to Vila Americana, Brazil and practiced medicine. He was a master mason. He died on May 14, 1913 in Brazil.

Ezekiel B. Pyles: Private, Company A, 11th Kentucky Cavalry & Company D, Dortch’s 2nd Battalion Kentucky Cavalry. He originally joined Company A, 11th Kentucky Cavalry in September 1862, and accompanied Gen. John Hunt Morgan on his great Ohio Raid. He escaped by swimming the Ohio River at Buffington Island, and joined other Morgan’s Men in Co. D of Dortch’s 2nd Battalion Kentucky Cavalry in August 1863, at Knoxville, Tennessee. He fought in the Tennessee & Georgia and at the Battle of Saltville, Virginia, on October 2, 1864. He was assigned to the brigade of Gen. Basil W. Duke & was captured at Kingsport, Tennessee, on December 13, 1864. He was taken to Camp Chase, Ohio, where he was imprisoned until February 17, 1865, when he was transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland, for exchange. After his exchange, he was admitted to a Confederate military hospital at Richmond, VA, on February 26,1865. He was furloughed from hospital for 30 days on March 6,1865, and returned to southwest Virginia where he re-joined his command. When the rest of his command disbanded on April 12,1865, he refused to surrender and made his way to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he became part of the final escort for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. After being released from service by President Davis, he surrendered at Washington, Georgia, May 10, 1865. He went to Brazil and was still alive in 1913, age 66.

Did legal slavery in Brazil motivate Os Confederados to choose that country?

Brazilian slaves in 1882.

Slaves in coffee yard of farm in São Paulo, 1882–six years before slavery ended. (NPR:

It was an attraction for some Confederados, and some did buy slaves when they arrived. (Slaves cost about half the price in Brazil as in the US.) Others—maybe most—didn’t have the means to buy slaves, if they had been so inclined. Slavery in the massive South American country by the time the Southerners arrived was sloping toward 1888 peaceful extinction.5

Slavery in Brazil was dramatically different from that of the US South. Only the South’s largest slaveholders rivaled holdings of the hundred slaves of the average Brazilian slaveholder, perhaps making the South American form less “paternalistic” and perhaps, if possible, less personal.9

Some slaveholders in the US, deceiving themselves, perceived or claimed slaves as an “extension” of their family, leading to accounts of masters and mistresses being surprised and disgusted by the “disloyalty” of slaves at emancipation when freed slaves left their former owners. With such large numbers of slaves, Brazilian holders were less likely to take that view. Slavery in Brazil also may have been harsher, especially during the sugar cane harvest when slaves worked 18 hours a day in the fields.9

Race relations were different as well in the Latin country. Brazilian sociologist Josè Arturo Rios, writing of the challenges of the settlers, noted:

They imagined they would find in Brazil, a slave-holding country, the same segregation between whites and blacks. …For a long time…the social rise of Negroes and mulattoes had been going on, and the Southerners found themselves, to their stupefaction, in a society in which the color criterion was not the dominant one for social classification. With consternation they saw mulattoes and Negroes in the bosom of society, occupying important positions, and, through that fact, ceasing to be regarded as Negroes.5

What was the position of US Government, Southern leaders and newspapers?

The immigration was discouraged by most in the States.

Jefferson Davis initially petitioned the government to allow his family to immigrate, but after his release from government custody wrote, “Because the mass of our people could not go, the few who were able to do so were most needed to sustain others in the hour of a common adversity.”5

Robert E. Lee was one of those who encouraged former Confederates to stay in the US. (Library of Congress)

Robert E. Lee was one of those who encouraged former Confederates to stay in the US. (Library of Congress)

Robert E. Lee offered in a letter, “They should remain, if possible, in the country; promote harmony and good feeling, qualify themselves to vote and elect to the State and general legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interest of the country and healing all dissensions. I have recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities, and have endeavored to practice it myself.”5

Union authorities also discouraged flight from the country.

Media in both regions discouraged it. The Montgomery Advertiser, on August 10, 1867, published:

The American citizens live about in huts, uncared for—there is much general dissatisfaction among the emigrants and the whole Brazil representation is a humbug and a farce. The American Consul is in receipt of numerous and constant applications from helpless American citizens to assist them in getting back to their true, rightful country . . . . Dissipate the idea that Alabama is not still a great country—cease dreaming over the unhappy past—say nothing that will assist to keep up political troubles, stay at home, but work, work, work and Alabama will yet be, what she ought to be and can be, a great and glorious country.5

The Galveston Daily News observed on January 18, 1867:

We noticed a number persons on the street yesterday destined for Brazil. The party consisted of women and children, convoyed by several men with guns on their shoulders. All were evidently from the country, and as we gazed upon them, could not help experiencing a feeling of sadness, partly from thinking of the causes that induced them to leave the land of their nativity, and partly because they were about entering upon a life new to them; and we fear, little think of the dangers, trials, and hardships incident to being a stranger in a strange land.3

The New York Times crowed in 1870 when 120 of Os Confederados returned to the States. The paper hoped returning emigrants’ disappointing experiences would discourage others thinking of escape. It opened an article headed “Another Brazilian Bubble Burst” with this “neutral” observation:

Everybody recalls the fever for Central American and South American colonization which seized some of our people in 1865. It raged chiefly in the South, where, at the close of the war, some heartless or deluded ultra-Confederates persuaded many of their country men to quit their native shores forever, rather than to return to the ‘hated Union.’10

What became of Os Confederados?

Some Confederados slowly mixed with local Brazilians assimilating into country and culture. Others migrated to the more successful colony that would eventually be called Americana. Some returned to the United States because of financial difficulties; disillusionment; lack of local transportation; homesickness related to distance from family and friends; language, religious and cultural issues and differences; inability to vote; and low pay for skilled workers.3

Additionally, the Brazilian government failed to live up to many of its commitments to the Confederados, and within a few short years, many were destitute and desperate to return to the States.

Confederados emigration continued into the early 1900s.8

Ironically, among emigrants who remained in Brazil were former slaves who migrated with white Southerners. A man named Rainey (I don’t know if that’s his first or last name.) settled in Rio de Janeiro and created a successful ferryboat business. Stephen Watson migrated with his former master Judge James Harrison Dyer to Frank McMullan’s New Texas colony, trusting his former master more than the economic uncertainties of the post-war South. Dyer operated a variety of businesses. Watson quickly learned Portuguese, enjoyed living in Brazil and helped Dyer build a profitable sawmill. A financial setback and homesickness sent Dyer back to the states, but he transferred ownership of his remaining property–the sawmill and land–to Watson who proved more than up to the task. He “became very wealthy, married a Brazilian lady, and had a large family. He was highly admired in the region.”5

Did the colonists impact Brazil?

The moldboard plow was a significant contribution to Brazilian agriculture.

The moldboard plow was a significant Confederado contribution to Brazilian agriculture.

There were probably too few colonists and scattered too broadly to change the course of the young nation. However, Confederados did improve Brazilian agriculture. They introduced, produced and repaired the moldboard plow in an agriculturally focused country still using the hoe, leading one settler to claim of that introduction, “the leaven sown…has transformed a country whose area is larger than the U.S. By transformation, I mean agriculture, and that means all.”3

“Once a Rebel, Twice a Rebel”:

These words mark a headstone in the Confederados’ cemetery, highlighting one more irony in the history of the colonists. In 1932, São Paulo, the most wealthy Brazilian State, led other states in a rebellion against the provisional federal government set up following a government overthrow. The coup d’état had defeated a constitutionally elected government and set new limits on states rights. Among the rebels thus fighting for states rights were residents of Americana, descendants of the North American Rebels. Brazilian dictator and head of the provisional government Getulio Vargas put down the rebellion, offering quick amnesty to those who had fought against his government.5

What were their main settlements?

Os Confederados colonies in Brazil.Site locations noted on map.

1) Santarèm

Lansford Hastings led Confederado settlers to the unforgiving environment of the Amazon. George Barnsley, an emigrant who originally joined the New Texas settlement, claimed Hastings’ effort “attracted much attention and a number of emigrants settled near him, but either through the climate, or rains, or insects, or more probably laziness, his colony came to nothing.” The reality was that while unsuccessful settlers moved on, some remained. There were 92 colonists on the land in 1888.3 In 1940, original settler David Riker, could report, “I’m glad I stayed on. God has been good to me. My sons are good sons, my daughters are good daughters. My wife is good and true. We lack for nothing we ought to have. How many can say the same?”5

A 1983 tour guide-book of South America noted of Santarèm:

This city…was settled in 1865, by residents of South Carolina and Tennessee who fled the Confederacy where slavery was abolished. …It now serves as a supply center for miners, gold prospectors, rubber tappers, Brazil-nut gatherers, and the jute and lumber industries. Several bars display the Confederate flag, and you still occasionally meet the settlers’ descendants, who mixed with the multiriacial Brazilians and have names like Jose Carlos Calhoun.5

2) Rio Doce

Founded by Colonel Charles Gunter, the Confederado settlement promised early success, but malaria, serious drought and lack of government-promised steamship service weakened the community. Some professionals in the colony migrated to Rio de Janeiro. Others moved to other settlements or assimilated into surrounding Brazilian life. Gunter died at the settlement in 1873.5

3) Villa/Vila Americana (settlement near the Brazilian town of Campinas)

The most successful and well-known of the settlements was established with colonists living close together. The community that would become Americana attracted emigrants from other struggling Confederado colonies. It’s home to the annual Festa dos Confederados and is featured, along with its residents and festa, in most contemporary media about Os Confederados. It was founded by Colonel William H. Norris who purchased the five-hundred acre Machadinho Estate and three slaves.5

An American historian has written of the Confederado colony:

In many ways the emigrants comprising the group in and near Villa Americana, as the settlement came to be called, were the happiest and most successful group in Brazil. This was perhaps due to the homogeneity of the group and to the fine and unselfish leadership of the Norrises, father and son, who were men of sufficient means to help the settlers overcome the first financial difficulties.7

4) Juquià

It was an enterprise of Reverend Ballard Dunn who scouted Brazil for emigration and returned to the US to write a book about the country, hoping to recruit colonists. The 350 Confederado recruits traveled to Brazil subsidized by loans from the South American country. He called his colony Lizzieland for his deceased wife. Barnsley described the site, as “extremely picturesque, but with the slight defect of being without good lands and in the rainy season was half under water.” Dunn mortgaged the land for $4,000 and three months after settling his colonists on the vast tract of Brazilian land, the Reverend left Lizzieland, never to return. Floods shortly afterwards destroyed improvements and many of the settlers melted into the Brazilian cultural landscape or slipped to other colonies.3,5

5) New Texas

Texans Frank McMullan and William Bowen organized a colony of 152 Confederados. McMullan died shortly after arriving in Brazil, and leadership of the colony fell to Bowen. But Confederado Judge James H. Dyer fought for control of the settlement. The conflict, isolation, homesickness, shortage of food and money, and inability to build roads to get their crops to market soured most colonists on the chosen site and by 1870 all had returned to the US or resettled in other areas, especially the thriving settlement which would eventually be named Americana. Dyer stayed, building several successful sawmills and operating a steamboat, all the while searching for a hidden treasure of gold. When a storm took the steamboat, Dyer gave up, sold one sawmill and gave the other and his remaining property to his former slave, Steve Watson (Vassão), and returned to the States.3,5

6 Xiririca

Dr. James McFadden Gaston, a surgeon from South Carolina scouted Brazil for settlement and wrote the 1866 book “Hunting a Home in Brazil.” He headed a 100-person Confederado settlement, but most moved over time to other areas of Brazil till the settlement essentially evaporated into other settlements or into Brazilian culture. Gaston moved several times himself, eventually ending up with a medical practice in the Brazilian town of Campinas, State of São Paulo, close to Americana.3

7) Paranaguà

Colonel M.S. McSwain and Horace Land headed a colony to the Brazilian state of Paranà just to the South of São Paulo. Some of the colonists assimilated into ethnic groups around Paranaguà, especially German communities, while some returned to the US.3


1 Bloom, Steven G. “Brazil’s Secret History of Southern Hospitality.” Brazil’s Secret History of Southern Hospitality. Web. 19 May 2015. <>.

2 23mbtx23. “Confederates in Brazil.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 Apr. 2011. Web. 15 May 2015. < >.

3 Griggs, William Clark. The Elusive Eden: Frank McMullan’s Confederate Colony in Brazil. Austin: U of Texas, 1987. Print.

4 Crowder, Josephine. “A Stanch American Who Has No Country.” ProQuest Historical Newspapers [ProQuest]. The New York Times, 2 Sept. 1928. Web. 20 May 2015.

5 Harter, Eugene C. The Lost Colony of the Confederacy. College Station, TX: Texas A & M UP, 2000. Print.

6 Harris, Ron. “Confederates In Brazil: They Fled American South.” Seattle Times 4 May 1995. Seattle Times. Los Angeles Times. Web. 01 June 2015. <>.

7 Weaver, Blanche Henry Clark. “Confederate Emigration to Brazil.” The Journal of Southern History 27.1 (1961): 33-53. JSTOR. Web. 01 June 2015. <>.

8 “SCV Camp #1653 “Os Confederados” – Brazil.” SCV Camp #1653 “Os Confederados” – Brazil. Web. 01 June 2015. <>.

9 Genovese, Eugene Dominick. Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. New York, NY: Vintage, 1976. Print.

10 “Another Brazilian Bubble Burst.” ProQuest Historical Newspapers [ProQuest]. The New York Times, 25 February 1870. Web. 20 May 2015.

Additional Os Confederados Resources:

Americana (Brazil) Oral History Project Collection. Emory University <>

“Ex-Confederates in Brazil.” ProQuest Historical Newspapers [ProQuest}. The New York Times, 22 April 1928. Web. 20 May 2015.

Facebook Page: <>

Hawkins, Gary. “The Lost Confederados: Why thousands of Southerners fled to Brazil after the Civil War, why they stayed, and why their descendants still remember.” Garden and Gun Magazine September/October 2008. Web 29 May 2015. <>.

Hendrick, Bill. “The Confederados: Descendants of Rebel Soldiers, Young Brazilians Visit the South to get in Touch with their Past.” The Atlanta Constitution, 10 August 1998. Web. 19 May 2015. <>

Hoge, Warren. “Confederates’ Descendants Keep Tradition in Brazil: Insisted on English Textile Center of 120,000.” ProQuest Historical Newspapers [ProQuest]. The New York Times, 19 August 1979. Web. 20 May 2015.

Luft, Kerry. “In Brazil, A Touch of Johnny Reb.” The Chicago Tribune, 30 April 1995. Web. 29 May 2015. <>.

Malanowski, Jamie. “The Civil War: The Underappreciated and Forgotten Sites of the Civil War.” Smithsonian Magazine Apr. 2015. Web. 15 May 2015. <>.

Soodalter, Ron. “DisUnion: Confederates in the Jungle.” The New York Times 8 May 2015. Web. 15 May 2015. <>

Tigay, Alan M. “The Deepest South: Five Thousand Miles below Mason-Dixon Line, a Brazilian Community Celebrates Its Ties to Antebellum America.” American Heritage Magazine Apr. 1998. Web. 29 May 2015. <>.

Memorial Day: Established to Remember the Civil War Dead

Memorial Day Commemoration began at Arlington House (the Custis-Lee Mansion)

Arlington House (the Custis-Lee Mansion) overlooking graves at Arlington National Cemetery was draped in black for the first Decoration Day in 1868.

Happy Memorial Day! (Is one to be happy on Memorial Day? Or should we be thoughtful and grateful?)

Memorial Day was originally established as Decoration Day just after the Civil War to remember soldiers (Union and Confederate) who had died during the conflict. Later it was extended to all who died in military service. According to the government’s Veteran’s Department:

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Gettsyburg and Memorial Day.

Lincoln spoke for all future Memorial days when he praised those who had given “the last full measure of devotion” during his “few brief, but most appropriate, words” at Gettysburg.

On this Memorial Day, thanks to all who have served our nation and especially today to those who gave “the last full measure of devotion.” Lincoln, of course, at Gettysburg, when that battlefield lay quiet, captured it for all Memorial days to come:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Living History: Getting Young People Involved

Living History Reenactor Charlier Carter in original photo.

Living History Reenactor Charlie Carter portrays Betsy in photo used on final Beyond the Wood cover.

Several years ago, a short time before publishing “Beyond the Wood,” we happened to visit family in a small college community in Michigan. As we drove into town, we saw a sign promoting a Civil War living history reenactment the next day.

Living History Reenactor Charlier Carter on Cover

Final Cover, with Charlie’s image, as designed by Nick Zelinger.

We convinced the family we were visiting to come with us to watch the reenactors of the 10th Michigan.

While at the living history event, my wife noticed a young woman she thought would look great on the cover of the book. (I didn’t even know we were worrying about a cover.) My wife introduced herself to reenactor Charlie Carter, and Charlie graciously agreed to pose for a few photographs. One of those photos now graces the book’s cover.

We reached out to Charlie recently to see how she was doing and ask a few questions about her living history experiences. To illustrate my belief that living history and reenactments interest young and old about the past, I’m posting my interview with her:

Charlie, how did you get into living history?

My family discovered reenacting when my brother was in Boy Scouts in about 2006-2007. His den leader, Susan, was a reenactor, and for one of the boys’ badges, they had to pick up the empty cartridge packets after each reenacting battle.

My mother has always been huge into history and the Civil War, so we would all go with my brother and make it a family outing. We went every year, and in 2011 she finally convinced my dad to dress up. Since then we have attended many more events and have a wonderful portrayal.

I started dressing up in 2008. I loved the dresses. I thought they were so beautiful and elegant. Susan, my brother’s den leader, was at that 2008 reenactment and was kind enough to dress me, and I got to walk around with her for the day.

When we met you, you were with the Michigan 10th. Is that the unit you always portray?

Yes, we were with the 10th Michigan Infantry, but we’re currently with Michigan Living History Education Association (MLHEA) based out of Bay City, Michigan. We typically portray the unit as either Confederate or Union, whichever the reenactment needs. However, we probably portray MLHEA as Confederates 75 percent of the time.

(Note: The MLHEA is unusual in the variety of living history it portrays. According to its Facebook page it portrays “the Fort Saginaw Infantry 1822, Civil War 16th Michigan, 114th Pennsylvania [Zouave], the 27th Virginia Rockbridge Rifles, 3rd Division (WW1) and 3rd Division (WW2), Air Force and Infantry of Vietnam in the Greater Michigan Area.” It is “a timeline organization for Michigan history spanning from 1822 to the 1960s.”)

You recently finished making your first Civil-War-Era dress to use in your living history portrayal. I understand the dress was named a 4-H fair reserve grand champion. Congratulations! How long does it take and what goes into making a civil-war era dress?

Charlie models award-winning Civil War dress of her own creation.

Charlie models award-winning Civil War dress of her own creation.

It depends on the style, and how advanced your pattern reading and sewing skills are. The dress I made took about a month, one day a week, for 2-3 hours a sitting. I had a teacher from a local school guide me, and we had to fit it into her crazy schedule.

It was a fancier dress because of the pagoda sleeves, and technically I should have sheer or light cotton under to go underneath, but I haven’t gotten around to making them yet.

Detail of dress made by living history reenactor Charlie Carter.

Close-up detail of fabric and lace of Charlie’s dress.

It is more an afternoon-evening dress, and could be dressed up even more for a ball gown. It’s actually pretty easy to move around in. Once you learn how to position the skirt so you can sit, you’re all set. The hoops move with you and its surroundings. If you squeeze between the table and the tent pole, it folds and comes right behind you! It is extremely comfortable. A fun fact I’ve heard is that the number of rungs the hoop has, the wealthier the husband! The dress is cotton. The skirt, waistband pleats and floor hem are hand sewn. The Bodice is all machine sewn except for the hooks down the front. It was a lot of fun making, but stressful at times because the pattern was wonky.

Will you try another?

Since I’ve made one and worked out all of the kinks in reading patterns, I’d like to attempt a sheer for next year. We’ll see how that goes.

Who made the dress you wore at the reenactment we attended and that appears on “Beyond the Wood”?

It belonged to the wife of the 10th Michigan’s Colonel. Interestingly, her mother had made it for her wedding to the Colonel.

Do you see introducing living history to your children?

Yes. My Fiancé and I both deeply enjoy Civil War reenacting, and we are excited to continue it when we have a family of our own. It’s a great way to learn about our nation’s history, and it’s a constant learning experience.

Why do you think it important to learn and know about the Civil War?

The Civil War was a HUGE part of our nation’s history. And it still is, today. So many people think history is so dull and boring, but it’s really not. It’s fascinating! It’s enjoyable. It’s fun reading about people before us. It helps us figure out who we are and where we came from.

What’s your favorite part of reenacting?

My favorite parts of being a reenactor are the little girls that come up and say I look like a princess and those “Ah-Ha!” moments for spectators when I answer a question and a light bulb goes off for them–they’ve learned something they never knew or had a question cleared up.

We went to Gettysburg last summer for the 150th anniversary. It was amazing. So cool, and I got chills when we toured the battlefields. It was such an awesome experience! We learned so much more.

Do you have a favorite Civil War era hero/heroine?

We read a book in school called The Girl In Blue, by Ann Rinaldi. And while the story was fictional, it was based on the life of Sarah Emma Edmonds , which made me aware of all the women who gave up their identities to serve, and what they had to endure to keep their secrets safe. Based on The Girl in Blue, Sarah is my favorite.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about living history?

Just that I really love being a Civil War reenactor. I enjoy hanging out with my friends and family at events and crossing paths with wonderful people.

Thank you very much, Charlie. We’re particularly excited to hear of your plans for marriage and wish you all the best.

Stout’s “Upon the Altar of the Nation”: A Book Review

Upon the Alter of the Nation sets out to determine if the Civil War was "a just war."Earlier this year, I read Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War by Harry S. Stout, Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity at Yale University.

Professor Stout’s intent is to determine if the Civil War was a “just war.” I’m not sure he left me with a clear conclusion on that issue, however, he did give me a better feeling for the descent of both sides into the tragedy of precedent-setting “total war.” He does a great job of portraying citizens, clergy, press, politicians and generals descending into increased acceptance of spilled blood; while many eventually developed a near blood lust.

Stout Focuses on Total War

Stout contends Sherman's march  for creating more animosity and long-term determination among those in his path. (Library of Congress.)

Stout contends Sherman’s march created animosity and long-term resistance among those in his path. (Library of Congress.)

Lincoln is presented as one of the few (maybe the only one) who maintains throughout “malice toward none,” although Stout holds the president ultimately responsible for eventual total war. But it is Grant and especially Sherman and Sheridan that Stout judges harshly, as related to taking the war to citizens. He blames Sherman’s march to the sea for creating more animosity and determination among those (especially the women) it affected directly. He even links the resentment of Sherman’s actions to the creation of the “Lost Cause.” And he reminds us that the “total war” justification was used by Grant/Sherman/Sheridan to slaughter men, women and children in their later, definitely unjust war against Native Americans.

Throughout, Stout presents the war as creating a secular national religion for both South and North that focuses on nation worship, with its blood sacrifices, its destiny and role as the great hope of the world, and finally with its martyred messiah in Abraham Lincoln.

I enjoyed reading quotes from sermons of ministers in North and South and gaining a better understanding of the role religion and its spokesmen played in the war culture. The most interesting and unexpected contention in the book was that the South was actually less religious than the North at the onset of the war, but that the war, revivals and conversions of Southern soldiers led to a dramatically increased religious society and culture when those same soldiers came home. Intriguing stuff.

Second Inaugural of Lincoln: A Book Review

White suggests the Second Inaugural is Greater than the Gettysburg AddressMy wife recently gave me a copy of Ronald C. White, Jr.’s book Lincoln’s Greatest Speech. It sat gathering proverbial dust, until I decided I should read something significant to mark the 150th anniversary of the president’s death.

Years ago I read Gary Wills’ majestic book on the Gettysburg address (which made my list of 25 favorite books about the Civil War). I thought this book would be a good companion, and it proved a worthwhile, enjoyable read. It started slowly and never revolutionized my perspective as the Wills book had years ago. However it did refine my thoughts about and appreciation for Lincoln and for his Second Inaugural.

Crowd awaits Second Inaugural Address

Crowd gathers on rainy morning of March 4, 1865 for Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. (Library of Congress)

The key takeaway from the book for me is to reaffirm the war changed Lincoln’s understanding of God. In his struggle to comprehend the meaning of the war, he found what he believed was greater clarity of the intent of God. He began to see a power higher than army or politician whose just purposes would somehow be fulfilled in the war.

White’s book reinforces my impression that Lincoln’s faith did grow substantially during the war. Those who counter that Lincoln was agnostic and spoke words that would resonate with his “religious” audience miss a key point. A speaker writing for the mood and background of his audience would never have given the Second Inaugural as Lincoln did. His message and tone were not what the audience came for or perhaps clamored for.

  • It craved revenge. He spoke of “malice for none.”
  • It blamed the South. He “said there was blame that must be shared by the entire nation.”
  • It wanted to celebrate political, economic and military trouncing of a rebellious enemy who, after all, had started it all. Lincoln contended that the judgements of God were just and called the nation “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” both North and South.
Lincoln at Second Inaugural.

Lincoln delivers an unexpected Second Inaugural speech of forgiveness and unity. (Library of Congress)

If Lincoln was agnostic, a theist or faithless, he was tone-deaf and dishonest. Perfect Lincoln was not perfect, but he was also not profoundly dishonest. Such dishonesty would have been required for him to speak such thoughtful words without believing and feeling them. In a man who over time proved forgiving and compassionate, we see no evidence of such inner corruption.

African-American soldiers at Second Inaugural

African-American soldiers among those who gathered for Second Inaugural. (Library of Congress)

In addition to a line by line analysis of the Second Inaugural, White gives us:

  • Interesting historical information and perspective on the speech and Lincoln’s background, e.g., Western Union finished its transcontinental telegraph at 3 am the day after the speech, enabling San Francisco to wake to next day reports of the speech.
  • Lincoln spoke in an unexpected tone. Contrasting with the expected bravado of the conqueror in both election and war, the president gave a humble speech that pointed blame for slavery at both sides and called for mercy, love and reunification. “When he delivered his Second Inaugural Address, he used personal pronouns only in the first paragraph, and from there on directed all attention away from himself.” Unlike the usual speeches after presidential reelection, he never thanked voters for returning him to office.
  • Every president before Lincoln had referenced God in some way, but only one had quoted a biblical phrase. “Lincoln would quote or paraphrase four Biblical passages.”
  • Both sides literally “read the same Bible.” Especially during early war days, Bibles (or more precisely New Testaments, because soldiers didn’t want the added weight/size of both testaments) were shipped from the North to both Yankee and Confederate soldiers, under flags of truce as they crossed lines.
  • Domestic journalistic reviews were mixed, but White quotes an American correspondent in Paris writing that many of the French envisioned the possibility after the war of “’a fleet of [American] gunboats sailing up the Seine to take Paris!” They were naturally reassured by the speech with its prayer for peace “with all nations.”
  • Many British newspapers had written supporting the Confederacy throughout the war, but after the speech, the London Spectator, “using Biblical imagery, opined that Lincoln ‘seems destined to be one of the “foolish things of the world” which are destined to confound the wise, one of the weak things which shall “confound the things which are mighty.”’”

White writes in the Epilogue “At the Second Inaugural… his words sum up the life and thought of the man….” and, “the Spirit of Lincoln’s words awe. His words prove lasting because he embodied what he spoke. He acted throughout his presidency ‘with malice toward none; with charity toward all.’”

The book is powerful because it highlights how the speech courageously broke with tradition of past presidents and speeches, was artfully and humbly written, and most importantly, was an expression of the inner man.

It becomes clear in the book that this speech was important to Lincoln and he believed it would be remembered. He wrote of the effort to Thurlow Weed, “’I expect the latter to wear as well—perhaps better than anything I have produced . . . but I believe it is not immediately popular.’”

The author quotes Frederick Douglass as telling the soon-to-be-”martyred” president, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.”

Lincoln’s life and inner man as shone through the Second Inaugural Speech was “a sacred effort” at living and in literary poetry. White helps us consider both a little more closely and leaves us much to ponder.