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Henrique Dias

DIAS, Henrique, Brazilian soldier, born in Pernambuco at the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century; died in Recife, 31 August 1661. He was of pure African blood, and received but scanty education. In 1633 the Portuguese army was suffering continuous defeats from the invading Dutch forces, which advanced to the conquest of the country, when a party of Negroes, headed by Dias, appeared before General Matias de Albuquerque, commanding the Portuguese, and offered to fight against the invaders. Albuquerque confirmed Dias as captain of his men, and on 18 September of the same year Dias rendered great service, guiding an expedition of 200 Portuguese to cut off the march of 1,000 Dutch troops that were coming to the relief of Iguarassd. The battle was bloody, and the Negro captain fought bravely and was wounded. Till 1635 Dias took part in all the engagements, but on 8 July of that year he was taken prisoner at the fort of Arraial do Born Jesus, after a three months' siege and a heroic defense. The Dutch, mistaking the Negro for a man of no importance, left him at liberty, and, after hiding for some time in the woods, Dias rejoined the Portuguese army and gave them tidings of the fall of Arraial do Bom Jesus. On 9 July he distinguished himself again in a battle under the orders of Felippe Camarao. On 17 and 18 February 1637, the Negro captain, at the head of a company of eighty of his race, took again a prominent part in the battle of Porto Calvo. He was dangerously wounded in the left hand during the battle, and had it immediately amputated so as to return to the fight without loss of time. On recommendation of the commander-in-chief, he was rewarded by the king of Spain and Portugal with knighthood and the cross of the order of Christ, and was also appointed chief commander of all the colored troops. From 1637 till 1645 Dias distinguished himself as a guerilla chief in the defense of San Salvador da Bahia, and in the repulse of the forces of Prince Maurice of Nassau. In 1645 he deserted with his colored troops from Bahia to join the forces that had risen against Spanish rule. He passed through the districts of Sergipe and Sao Francisco, and in Alagoas roused the inhabitants to revolt, joining afterward the forces of Cardoso and Fernhndez Vieira, who were at the head of the insurgents in the province. From 1645 till 1654 Dias took part in numerous engagements, and, while the other generals were absent for the conquest of Hamaraca, he commanded for some time the forces besieging Recife, and was again victorious in the two battles of Guararapes; in fact, excepting the capitulation of Arraial do Born Jesus, he was never defeated in twenty-one years of warfare. Yet, while the Portuguese government, after the expulsion of the Dutch invaders and the independents from Spain, rewarded liberally all the chieftains of the war in the province of Pernambuco, Dias was forgotten, and died in poverty. But his name was given to a regiment, which has always been commanded by a man of the Negro race.

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