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IRISH MERCENARIES IN BRAZIL< Back to Exposições virtuais
- Portugues Brasil
IRISH MERCENARIES IN BRAZIL
For three turbulent days in June 1828 the city of Rio de Janeiro experienced a uniquely violent event: a large-scale military revolt led by disaffected Irish and German mercenaries, and repressed with the help of African and Afro-Brazilian slaves.
The story began in 1826 when the Emperor Dom Pedro I dispatched an Irish officer in the Brazilian army – Colonel William Cotter – to his native Ireland, to raise a battalion of foreign recruits to bolster his forces in the ongoing war with the nascent Argentine Republic.
Representing the venture as one of “agricultural colonization” – to circumvent restrictions on the recruitment of Irish subjects into foreign armies – Cotter rapidly assembled a force of 3,100 Irishmen, women and children.
But on arrival in Rio, the emigrants were given an ultimatum: to receive their promised land grants, all able-bodied Irishmen would have to enlist in the Brazilian Imperial Army for four years.
Outraged, most refused to comply and were left languishing on meagre rations in makeshift barracks. But a few hundred relented, opening a bitter rift with their fellow migrants.
When disgruntled German mercenaries revolted against the brutal punishment of a member of their own battalion, their press-ganged Irish comrades rose up and joined them in a three-day binge of wanton destruction against the city and its inhabitants.
Following a period of inaction by the authorities (in a city devoid of regular troops to put down the rebellion), a ceremonial battalion was hastily mustered which aided by local militiamen and armed slaves - pushed the mercenaries back to their barracks and bombarded them into submission.
The Irish survivors of the uprising were rounded up and sent on a homeward journey most would never complete. Within three years the Emperor would abdicate his throne, his authority fatally eroded by the recruits he had looked to for salvation.