18931201 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/shse-j012


S.S. “Nile”,   near Bahia                                                          1st Dec. ’93.


My dear Mother,

You will have heard of my telegram to the office giving Bahia as my address. To-morrow I expect to arrive there, so I am writing this to send on with the steamer. Before leaving B. Aires I recvd. your welcome letter of 9th Oct which was a long time on the way. Perhaps I acknowledged it in my last of Nov. 15th though.

As things are still so bad in the Argentine I have come up here to try Bahia & Pernambuco with the intention of returning to the “Plate” if business improves there.

I scarcely expect it to be very good in Brazil either with the fighting still going on in Rio, but it can’t be worse than in B. Aires & I must go somewhere. We spent a day in Rio Harbour & had an excellent view of the proceedings as we lay not much more than half a mile away from Admiral Mello’s flagship the “Aquidaban”, which was engaged with three shore batteries, and about a mile from Fort Villegaignon which was being pounded by Santa Cruz & Lage Forts & a heavy battery on the hills.[1] The expenditure of powder & shot, & the consequent noise & smoke, were most impressive, but the only damage done, as far as we could see, was to the Rebel Fort Villegaignon, where about one shot in five or six took effect, sending the masonry flying & raining clouds of dust, while the rest fell into the water, sending up columns of spray.[2]

This map will give you an idea of the position. All forts are on the Government (Peixoto’s) side except Vellegaignon which after two months neutrality, declared for the revolted fleet.


Map of the Rio harbor showing positions of the various ships and the three forts that guard the mouth of the Guanabara Bay. Sketch by JMcC.
Map of the Rio harbor showing positions of the various ships on December 1, 1893, and the three forts that guard the mouth of the Guanabara Bay. Sketch by JMcC.

We were stopped outside the Bay by the Govnmt. forts to land Rio passengers, others not being allowed to leave the ship. This measure is to prevent Mello’s emissaries from coming & going freely. We steamed up to our anchorage before 9 o’c. a.m. & the firing began very soon after.

From Sta Cruz to Villegaignon is about a mile & a half.[3] The Rebel vessels anchored close to Rio did not take an active part that day. The United foreign war vessels of which there are some 15 or 18 in the Bay will not allow them to fire on the town itself.

I have written a long description of it all to Mrs Weinberg, by way of a Christmas letter & I don’t like writing about the same thing all over again. Besides the above is really all there is to tell, in fewer words.

A friend of mine who joined us at Rio knows all the leading men personally, & he says that there will be a restoration of the Empire within six months & the grand-son of the late Emperor will be called to the throne. It is all arranged. Mello is to leave Rio, & Admiral de Gama[4] is to unite various elements that have declared their readiness to support him, get rid of Peixoto, & give the country the opportunity of recalling the Imperial family. My friend declares the Country will acclaim the restoration, having had quite enough of Republican Government. He speaks very positively about it & he has special opportunities of obtaining inside information.

The “Nile”, this new steamer of the Roy. Mail Co, is a very fine ship. She has a magnificent promenade-deck & there are notable improvements on the last built vessels in the smoking-room, the ventilation, & the general arrangement.

I know almost all the officers & I have had a cabin to myself for the 9 days’ run from B. Aires to Bahia.

The voyage has been very quiet; I have written a lot of letters & played a good deal of chess, but I would much rather be working with some result if I could manage it.

There is an American lady on board whom I met once in B. Aires. She is unmarried, not very young, & not very pretty, but bright, amusing, & well-informed. Well, at Rio six or eight middies from an American man-of-war came on board, and after dinner one of them turned to me on deck, – begged pardon – was I a passenger – his friends had come to see him off – would I introduce them to some of the young ladies!!!    For calm glorious sublimity of cheek give me the stars & stripes!  I smilingly acquiesced, begged to be presented to his comrades & having obtained the American lady’s permission I led them up to her & introduced them in a batch, & then left her holding a court. I had to go away & have a quiet chuckle to myself.

Please send your letters to Pernambuco c/o Mr Theo Just.[5] I am somewhat uncertain where I shall go next. It depends on circumstances, but the letters will be forwarded wherever I may be.

I hope to have another opportunity of writing in time for Christmas, but if not, a merry one to everybody, with good cheers & a pleasant outlook for the coming year.

Best love,



The Aquidaban bombarding the forts of Rio de Janeiro print by M. Fouqueray, copied from a photograph. Reproduced in the Le Monde Illustre of 16th December 1893.
The Aquidaban bombarding the forts of Rio de Janeiro, print by M. Fouqueray, copied from a photograph. Reproduced in the Le Monde Illustré of 16th December 1893.


  1. The Brazilian Naval Revolts, or the Revoltas da Armada (in Portuguese), were armed mutinies promoted mainly by Admirals Custódio José de Mello and Saldanha Da Gama and their fleet of Brazilian Navy ships against the claimed unconstitutional staying in power of the central government in Rio de Janeiro. The revolt included the powerful battleship "Aquidaban" and a collection of small ironclads, modern cruisers, and older wood 'cruiser' or steam frigate type ships. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolta_da_Armada. The "Aquidaban" was a Brazilian ironclad battleship built in the mid-1880s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_battleship_Aquidab%C3%A3
  2. Fort Coligny was a fortress founded by Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1555, in what constituted the so-called France Antarctique historical episode. For protection against attacks by hostile Indians and the Portuguese, Villegaignon built the fortress with the help of the 500 colonists who travelled with him in two ships armed by the king of France, on a small island called Serigipe by the Indians of the region, near the mouth of the large Guanabara Bay. The island was rocky and almost barren, but served Villegaignon's purpose of being near the shore, at the same time achieving a good defensive position against attacks from sea and land. The fortress fell and was destroyed on March 17, 1560 under the siege of Portugal's navy and troops under the command of Mem de Sá, third Governor-General of Brazil. Villegaignon had already returned to France, in 1558. The fortress was named as such in honor of Villegaignon's supporter and friend, the French Admiral and leader of the Huguenots, Gaspard de Coligny. After the foundation of Rio de Janeiro in 1565 by Estácio de Sá and the expulsion of the French in 1567 a new fortress was built there by the Portuguese, in order to defend the mouth of the Guanabara Bay, by crossing fire with two other fortresses, Guajará and Santa Cruz. This fortress was almost totally destroyed by bombardment in a revolt of the Navy, in 1893. Today, the island, which was renamed Island of Villegaignon, is home to the Naval School (since 1938) and is permanently connected to the mainland, near the Santos Dumont Airport. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Coligny
  3. Apart from Fort Villegaigon, there were two other forts - both guarding the mouth of Guanabara Bay. Fort Santa Cruz (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortaleza_de_Santa_Cruz_da_Barra) and Fort Lage (https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forte_Tamandar%C3%A9_da_Laje).
  4. Luís Filipe de Saldanha da Gama (b 7th April 1846 Campos dos Goytacazes,  d 24th June 1895 Campo Osório, Rio Grande do Sul) was an admiral of the Brazilian Navy. He led the Revolta da Armada against the Brazilian Republican government with Custodio Jose de Melo and was killed by Brazilian government forces in the Federalist Riograndense Revolution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saldanha_da_Gama and https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1893/d86
  5. Theodor Just. Moore & Weinberg agaent in Pernambuco. See Index to People.


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John McCaldin Loewenthal: Letters Home from a Victorian Commercial Traveller, 1889 - 1895 Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Fink, Robert Boyd, Sarah Watkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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