Lake County History Chapter 84: Brazilian Stars and Bars

Southerners and those in the North that were sympathetic to the South had their trials as well. They believed in what they fought for with every bit as much blood and courage as the Union soldier.  The Lake County Copperheads, and their objectives, should the South lose, were ambitious.

1) The Napa Register (Mazatlán Times) was to be the spokesman for the Copperheads.

2) A ‘White Man’s Colony’ would be established in Mazatlán, Mexico.

3) Sonora and Sinaloa would be open to European settlement.

4) Colonies would also be established in Haiti and Jamaica.

The signer, at the head of the list of the thirty-nine men that signed the ‘Objectives,’ was Alexander McLean. McLean was one of the three commissioners, which the California Legislature, named in the Law to create Lake County.

After arriving in Lake County in 1865, McLean went to South America with his wife and children, along with two other men. In 1866, they crossed the Andes Mountains and started up the ‘California Colony’ on the Parana River, seventy miles above Rosario, Cordoba, or what was known as the Entre Rios Province, in Argentina. McLean received $10,000 from the Argentine government along with a large section of land. He colonized the land by inducing fifty American copperhead families to join him.

      Tallman’s Colony

In all probability, George Tallman and Alexander McLean knew each other and were in contact. Although the Tallman family went to Mexico to found their colony, their objectives were the same. On the day Lee surrendered, he put his plans for a colony into effect.

The loss of the Civil War meant the end of their time in Lake County. A feeling among the Lake County Copperheads was universal; ‘The people in Lake county won’t let us stay. Now that the North has won the war, they will not leave us alone. We must leave to survive.’

The majority of citizens in Lake County were anti-slavery and supported the Union. Six months earlier, Abigail Williams, the Judge’s wife, had cried out to the people in front of the Courthouse that gathered to hear the latest war news, “The Union merchant vessel, Pembroke, which carried all our possessions, has been lost to a Southern frigate.”

The worst and most successful of the Confederate warships was the Florida. Captain Richard Floyd, her captain, had boarded the freighter Pembroke, confiscated the cargo, imprisoned the crew, and brought the Union supply ship to a Southern harbor to be refitted for war. Mrs. William’s goods and all her belongings were sold, and the money sent to Jefferson Davis in Richmond to help finance the war.

The war over, Tallman and the conspirators were ready. Lake County was too dangerous a place to remain. The plan was to leave their homes and go to Brazil, or Peru, or Mexico. Confederates all, these folks had come from Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky to build themselves a new life in California. They settled in Lake County. Now that life was ended.

“Well,” Lemuel Billings said at last, “We leave for Brazil. We’ll set up our own colony in a place where nobody will dare to call us Secesh or burn down our barns in the night.”

The seven persons that spoke together that night in George Tallman’s parlor were the vanguard of the two score families. They formed the nucleus of the new Confederados in Mexico and South America. Three weeks later, the train of horse-drawn wagons began the pilgrimage to the coast at Ukiah and then past Hopland to San Francisco to board a ship to South America.

Ten years later, after the reconstruction began in Lake County, some of the emigrants straggled back, their hardships of South American wildland survival too much to endure. 

To this day, there is a town in Brazil that still raises the Stars and Bars of the old Confederate flag. Some of its inhabitants, descendants of the originals, on holidays still dress in the gray uniforms of the southern soldier. They raise tattered Confederate flags, and they speak Spanish. But they remember.

Next Episode: Richmond’s Rat Hell

For more on Civil War History, read Paleno’s ‘The Porter Conspiracy’

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Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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