Brazilian Naval Rebellion

Rise of the Southern Cone

South America 1894.0209

Brazilian Naval Rebellion

War of the Pacific, rise of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil (9 February 1894)

Historical Map of South American nations

The overthrow of the Empire of Brazil in 1889, led to instability as the newly declared republic tried to find its feet in the face of resistance from anti-centralist groups. In 1893, the navy revolted while rebellion erupted in the south. The Brazilian government defeated both movements but would continue to face unrest for many decades even as the country consolidated its hold over the interior.

Main Events

Rio Grandese Revolt

Anti-centralist Brazilian exiles crossed the Uruguayan border into Rio Grande do Sul state, uniting with other rebel forces to fight a guerrilla hit-and-run war against Brazilian federal troops. The conflict spilled over into the neighboring states of Santa Catarina and Paraná but, despite besieging Porto Alegre and Bagé and briefly capturing Lapa, the rebels were beaten back. On 1 July 1895, rebel leader Silva Tavares negotiated an armistice, with the Brazilian government granting a general amnesty for all remaining rebels on 11 October.

Principality of Trinidad

The Franco-American adventurer and author James Harden-Hickey claimed the uninhabited islands of Trindade and Martim Vaz, declaring himself James I of the Principality of Trinidad. He appointed his friend Minister of Foreign Affairs, and opened in office in New York as he attempted to organize colonists. However, in July 1895, the British seized the island to use as a cable station, ignoring the erstwhile prince's protests.

Brazilian Naval Rebellion

Admiral Custódio de Melo, aboard the ironclad battleship Aquidabã, led the Brazilian navy in revolt in Rio de Janeiro in an attempt to bring about a change of government in Brazil (as he had done successfully done in an earlier naval revolt in November 1891). However, the government stood firm, leading to civil war as the navy raided along the coast and supported rebel movements elsewhere in Brazil. The revolt was restrained by the presence of foreign warships in Rio's harbor, with more arriving from late September to protect their interests. Facing military setbacks on land and unable to maintain his blockade, de Melo fled to Buenos Aires in April.

Rio de Janeiro Affair

In incidents on 21 and 26 January 1894, Brazilian rebel naval forces opened fire on US merchant ship trying to break through the rebel blockade of Rio de Janeiro, forcing the Americans to take cover. In response, three modern cruisers, led by the USS Detroit under Commander Willard H. Brownson, made to escort the merchantmen into the wharves on 29 January. After a short exchange of fire, which saw the Brazilian rebels back down after taking heavy damage to the cruiser Trajano, the US ships made it through, reopening Rio de Janeiro to American commerce.

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