Military Wiki
War of Independence of Brazil
Brazilian independence compilation.JPG
The Portuguese Cortes; Portuguese troops in Brazil, Pedro I on board the frigate Union; Pedro I declared the independence of Brazil, Pedro I was crowned Emperor of Brazil.
DateFebruary 18, 1822 - March 8, 1824
LocationBrazil and Uruguay
Result Brazilian victory and territorial unity of the Empire

 Empire of Brazil

Flag United Kingdom Portugal Brazil Algarves.svg United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves

Commanders and leaders
Empire of Brazil D. Pedro I
Empire of Brazil Baron of Laguna
Empire of Brazil Visconde de Majé
United Kingdom Thomas Cochrane
United Kingdom John Pascoe Grenfell
FrancePierre Labatut
Flag United Kingdom Portugal Brazil Algarves.svg D. John VI
Flag United Kingdom Portugal Brazil Algarves.svg Madeira de Melo
Flag United Kingdom Portugal Brazil Algarves.svg Cunha Fidié
Flag United Kingdom Portugal Brazil Algarves.svg Álvaro da Costa
Flag United Kingdom Portugal Brazil Algarves.svg José Maria de Moura
27,000 - regular soldiers and militia
90 ships
18,000 - regular soldiers
55 ships
Casualties and losses
5,700 - 6,200 dead

Brazil's War of Independence (also known as Brazilian War of Independence) was waged between Brazil and Portugal. It lasted from February 1822, when the first skirmishes between militias took place, to November 1823, when the last Portuguese garrison surrendered. The war was fought on land and sea and involved both regular forces and civilian militia.


The Brazilian revolutionaries created the Brazilian Army and the Brazilian Navy by forced enlistment of citizens and foreign immigrants. They enlisted slaves into militias and also freed slaves in order to enlist them in the army and the navy. Land and naval battles took place on the territories of Bahia, Cisplatina, Rio de Janeiro, the vice-kingdom of Grão-Pará, and in Maranhão and Pernambuco, which are today the States of Ceará, Piauí and Rio Grande do Norte.

Fights between militias broke out in the streets of the main cities of these territories in 1822[1] and quickly spread inland, despite the arrival of reinforcements from Portugal in 1822. The Portuguese forces were able to stop the local militias in certain cities, including Salvador, Montevideo and São Luís. However, they failed to defeat the militias in most of the other cities and proved ineffective against the guerrilla forces in the rural areas of the country. By 1823, the Brazilian army had grown, replacing its early losses in terms of both personnel and supplies. The remaining Portuguese forces, already on the defensive, were rapidly running out of both manpower and supplies. Outnumbered across a vast territory, the Portuguese were forced to restrict their sphere of action to the provincial capitals along the shore that represented the country's strategic sea ports, including Belém, Montevideo, Salvador & São Luís do Maranhão.

At sea, the Brazilian action was led by Thomas Cochrane. The newly emerging navy experienced a number of early setbacks due to sabotage by several of the Portuguese-born men in the naval crews. But by 1823 the navy had been reformed and the Portuguese members were replaced by native Brazilians, freed slaves and Brazilian-born free men, as well as British and American mercenary forces. This helped to strengthen the Brazilian navy which succeeded in clearing the coast of the Portuguese presence and isolating the remaining Portuguese land troops. By the end of 1823, the Brazilian naval forces had pursued the remaining Portuguese ships across the Atlantic nearly as far as the shores of Portugal.

Today there is a shortage of reliable statistics[2] about the war. The total number of casualties suffered by both sides remains uncertain. Casualty estimates are based on contemporary reports of battles and historical registrations, and range from 5,700 to 6,200 in total.

Opposing forces

The population of Brazil at the turn of the century was 3.4 million. 3/5 of it were free men, mostly from the mixture of African blood, Indian and European. Whites born in Portugal were called Reinóis, while whites born in Brazil were known mazombos. The white minority, particularly those born in Portugal, held political power, as well as much of the economic power. The 2/5 of the remaining population consisted of black slaves.

It is difficult to say how many Reinóis lived in Brazil in 1822, since all subjects were Caucasians of Portugal. The majority of the population lived near the ocean, focusing on the provinces of Pernambuco, Bahia and Minas Gerais. These three regions dominated economic and political life of the colony, and its strategic control. Pernambuco region was a thriving sugar producing crop of great value at the time. The southern Bahia produced sugar, cotton, tobacco and molasses. That was the most densely populated and rich country. Further south still, was located in the Rio de Janeiro, who controlled the gold and diamonds of Minas Gerais.

Both parties (Portuguese and Brazilian) saw the Portuguese warships spread across the country (mostly in poor condition) as the instrument through which military victory could be achieved. In early 1822, the Portuguese navy controlled a ship of the line, two frigates, four corvettes, two brigs, and four warships of other categories in Brazilian waters. There were about 10,000 Portuguese soldiers and units of the royal cavalry reliable along the Atlantic coast. About 3,000 soldiers were involved in the siege of Montevideo, a similar number of soldiers occupied Salvador, and the rest of the troops were scattered throughout the region.

The Brazilian Army entering Salvador after the surrender of Portuguese forces in 1823.

Warships available immediately for the new Brazilian navy were more numerous, but in disrepair. Despite the hulls of several ships that brought the Royal Family and the Court to be abandoned in Brazil Rio de Janeiro, their hulls were rotten, being of little value. The Brazilian agent in London, Marquis of Batley (Philibert Marshal Brant) received orders to acquire warships fully equipped and manned to credit. No vendor, however, was willing to take the risks. Finally, we performed initial public offering, and the new emperor personally signed 350 of them, inspiring others to do the same. Thus, the new government was successful in raising funds to purchase a fleet.

Arranging crews was another difficult problem. A significant number of former officers and Portuguese sailors volunteered to serve the new nation, and swore fealty to him. Their loyalty, however, was under suspicion. For this reason, British officers and men were recruited to supply the deficiency and end the dependence on the Portuguese. There was so little supply of sailors who eventually received a pardon prisoners to serve the fleet.

The Portuguese army in Brazil consisted line troops and militiamen. All soldiers were appointed by the Court of Lisbon. In 1817, a revolt broke out in Pernambuco Republican. As a result, 2,000 soldiers "Auxiliary Division" were sent to Brazil. With the arrival of the troops lusas, native officials in Brazil were not contemplated with great responsibilities.

Campaigns Independence

The influence of Portugal over Brazil was held by garrisons in strategic ports. The Portuguese strategy to regain control of Brazil was retreating troops in Montevideo and use them to strengthen the garrisons in Bahia. These troops re-conquested Bahia, while the Portuguese Navy blocked the Rio de Janeiro. The strategy was to isolate the Dom Pedro Portuguese garrisons and force them, one by one, to return to Portugal.

During 1822, the inhabitants of Brazil took sides in the political events that took place in Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon. There was split in the Luso-Brazilian Army who occupied Cisplatin (Uruguay). Portuguese regiments retreated to Montevideo and were surrounded by former teammates, Brazilians, led by Baron de Laguna (himself a Portuguese, but, as many others, on the side of Brazilian independence). In remote and sparsely populated northern Pará and Maranhão, together pro-Portuguese declared loyalty to the motherland. Pernambuco was in favor of independence, but in Bahia, there was no consensus among the population.

Key Battles


  • Siege of Recife

Piauí and Maranhão

Grand Pará

  • Siege of Belém



Peace treaty and aftermath


  1. (Portuguese) Laurentino Gomes; 1822 Nova Fronteira, Brasil 2010 ISBN 85-209-2409-3 Chapter 10 pg 161
  2. (Portuguese) Laurentino Gomes 1822 Nova Fronteira, Brasil 2010 ISBN 85-209-2409-3 Chapter 10 pg 163

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