Diogo de Campos Moreno

Date of birth: 1566, Tangiers or Ilha Terceira

Date of death: date and place unknown

Sargento Mor of Brazil.

Link to BRASILHIS DATABASE: https://brasilhis.usal.es/es/personaje/diogo-de-campos-moreno

Diogo de Campos Moreno, an essential figure in the first two decades of the 17th century in Portuguese America, was Sargento Mor of Brazil. He was born in 1566 in Tangiers or Ilha Terceira. Hélio Viana affirms that his North African origin is more probable, since he makes some allusions to this region at the beginning of the Livro da Razão and because his nephew Luís de Guevara was also from there (Vianna, 1955: 40). His military experience began in Flanders, in whose war he participated as ensign in the armies of Alexander Farnese, being seriously wounded in one of the clashes. His marriage to the Azorean Teresa Joaquina de Teive produced a daughter, who remarried Pedro Teixeira (Vianna, 1955: 39). He was first appointed Sargento mor do Brasil in 1602, when he accompanied Governor Diogo Botelho to take up his post. Governor Botelho had clear instructions from the king to carry out a comprehensive inspection of the defensive system of the Estado do Brasil and to make the necessary reforms. It was reported that Francisco de Souza, together with the engineer Baccio de Filicaia, had begun some of these reforms, which were clearly insufficient. The inspection tasks were entrusted to Diogo de Campos Moreno, probably assisted by the chief engineer of Brazil, Francisco Frias da Mesquita, appointed to this post in 1603. In the same year, Diogo de Campos Moreno made a first inspection visit to the newly conquered areas north of Pernambuco: Paraíba and Rio Grande, passing through Itamaracá and Olinda. In Paraíba he went to extinguish the Inhobí sugar mill, which had been declared useless, owned by Ambrósio Fernández Brandão. It is possible that this was the reason for his complaint to the king in 1604[1]. That same year Moreno was back in Salvador de Bahia, where he was a “providential witness” of Paulus van Caerden’s attack on the city (Vianna, 1955: 41). As a consequence of this attack, he was sent to Europe by Governor Diogo Botelho to report on the precariousness of Brazil’s defenses and to ask for more military means (Santos Pérez: 2020, p. 72). Between March and October 1605, Campos Moreno was at the court in Valladolid, and according to his own testimony “alcançou ordem para as fortificações do dito Estado e outras cousas de importancia” (Campos Moreno: 2011 [1614], p. 30). It is possible that on that visit he brought the king drawings of fortification plans that Philip III promised he would study.

According to Helio Vianna, he also asked for resources to proceed with the “Jornada do Maranhão”, that is, the conquest of this territory, a question to which the king also promised to respond. Philip III acknowledged, in a letter to the Conselho da Índia in 1605, his numerous services to the crown, including the “defense of the beach of the city of Salvador when a large Dutch armada went there”. In return, after this visit to the court, he was granted numerous mercies: the crown of Castile paid him 20 escudos for his status as an “entretenido”, perhaps a condition inherited from his participation in the Flanders war, a privilege that was renewed “while he served in Brazil”; the king also granted him 200 cruzados in a single payment for help when he embarked on his return, as well as the granting of the habit of the Order of Christ, with twenty thousand reis in pension, based on a request that Moreno had made in Portugal[2]. 

In 1608, by order of the new governor of Brazil, Diogo de Meneses, Campos Moreno was again in Paraíba and Rio Grande inspecting the fortifications of Cabedelo and Reis Magos, which he found in a deplorable state and about which he made numerous comments in one of the works he signed: the Relação das praças fortes[3], an extraordinary report of the captaincies with illustrations of all the existing fortresses in Brazil until the year 1609 (Melo, 1984). In 1610 he carried out an inspection in the captaincy of Ilhéus, also by order of Governor Meneses, to investigate the diversions of brasilwood, a product subject to the royal monopoly. 

In 1612 he was back in Europe “to take up his house”, in his own words, although Berredo noted that he also did so because he had gone to Portugal “with the dependence of the just dispatches of his many services” (apud Vianna, 1955: 43). In a letter from the governor Gaspar de Sousa to Martim Soares Moreno, Diogo’s nephew, dated December 1612, he informed him that his uncle was well in Lisbon, preparing to travel to Madrid “to his private affairs”. According to Hélio Vianna, during this stay in Portugal and Spain, the sergeant major would have completed the text of the Razão do Estado do Brasil and delivered it to the king in Madrid. The original was anonymous. The Brazilian historian Francisco Adolfo Varnhagen in the 19th century, and later Hélio Vianna, agreed in attributing the work to Diogo de Campos Moreno. The attribution was based on the profound knowledge that this personage had of the military system and fortresses, the references to very specific issues related to North Africa (as we have seen, according to some sources he was born in Tangiers), the coincidence of the dates (he states that he was writing the text in the year 12 and was very probably in Lisbon), and his testimony that he presented the monarch with plans of fortresses in 1605, a fact that coincides with his presentation to the court of the drawings that would later make up the Relação das praças fortes of 1609, this one signed by him. For Varnhagen, the definitive fact for the attribution is a phrase in the author’s commentary on the fortress of Rio Grande, in which he states: 

Pella mostra q o anno de 611 tomou o sargento mor deste estado vizitando esta fortaleza se acharao efectivos 75 soldados com suas armas bem a ponto, e o capitao e offigiaes maiores e menores da primeira plana (aparegeram no armazem) (Campos Moreno, 1949, [1612]) p. 562).

The origin of this Livro da Razão goes back to the request that the king made to the governor Diogo de Meneses around 1610 in which he urged him to make a “Livro” in which:

“assentassem todas as capitanias dele, declarando as que são da Coroa e as que são de donatários, como as fortalezas e fortes que cada um tem e assim a artilharia que nelas há, com a declaração necessária do número das peças, peso e nome de cada uma, (…. ) gente que tenho de ordenança, oficiais e ministros, com declaração de ordenados, soldos e despesas ordinárias que se fazem em cada uma das ditas capitanias, e assim do que cada uma delas rende para a minha Fazenda, pondo-se ao dito livro título de Livro do Estado” (Vianna, 1955, pp. 7 y 8).

Philip III’s request to the governor of Brazil was similar to one made in 1605 to the viceroy of the State of India, Martim Afonso de Castro, in which he urged him to send a list of the stores and “provimentos” of the State of India and “juntamente me mandareis as plantas e desegnhos de todas as ciudades e fortalezas, tiradas pelo engeheiro d’esse Estado” (Doré, 2014, p. 178).

In the regiment of 31 August 1612 of the new governor general Gaspar de Souza, the king referred to this order he had given and showed his disagreement because he had not yet received a copy of the book (Mendonça, 1972, p. 434). 

Diogo de Campos Moreno returned to Europe between 1612 and 1613, and most probably wrote the book in Lisbon with the notes he brought from Brazil. We do not know if the king received a copy, although Campos Moreno undoubtedly passed through the court during this stay in Europe to receive the appointment, for the second time, of Sergeant Major of Brazil in 1613, with the order to leave in command of the troops for the conquest of Maranhão, with three hundred thousand reis of salary [4]. Three copies of the Livro da Razao are preserved, two in Porto and one in the Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, two of them illustrated with extraordinary maps by Teixeira Albernaz I. The copy of the IHGB was given in 1627 to the second Marquis of Eliche, Ramiro Núñez de Gusmán, nephew and son-in-law of the Count-Duke of Olivares, so its passage through the court is practically certain (Guedes: 1968, p. 7).

Although Sluiter considers it “the only source with a general description [of Brazil] in the second decade of the seventeenth century”, forgetting the existence of the Diálogo das Grandezas do Brasil, it is nevertheless an extraordinary source for understanding Brazil in that period (Sluiter, 1949, p. 519). The Livro da Razão gave an account of the state of each of the captaincies of the State of Brazil, both militarily and economically. The introduction was a reasoned exposition of the advantages and problems affecting the territory. The way it begins is symptomatic of how the men of the time saw Brazil and what they wanted the monarch to think: “O estado do Brasil é parte oriental do Perú…”. The author showed that he was familiar with the Spanish colonial system in America, as comparisons with it were constant. According to the text, the fundamental evils were the existence of capitanías de donatario, outside the royal administration, the poor administration of the indigenous population, partly due to the overprotection exercised by the Jesuit priests, the malfunctioning of the transport system and the precarious defense situation. According to J. Antônio Gonsalves de Melo, these themes, plus the damage caused by the absence of the donatary captains, are like a personal “mark” that makes Campos Moreno recognizable as the common author of the different texts (Melo: 1984, p. 178). 

The author of the Livro da Razão, most probably Moreno, stands out as an “arbitrista”, giving various pieces of advice to the king on how to administer his possession in the South Atlantic: he urged him to create a fleet of galleons to transport sugar, avoiding the fragmentation “like ants” in multiple small ships of that trade, or that private ships be armed to fight pirates, and even that a tax similar to the averia be charged to finance the defense; he also recommended putting the donatary captains under the royal discipline just as in Peru “Dr. Lagasca (…) did (…). Lagasca (…) who not only freed the state of the Indians from the Pizarros but also from other inconveniences…” (Sluiter: 1949, p. 522), or, at least, that he should appoint capitães mores in all of them for their good administration; he acidly criticized the Jesuits, who, according to the possible author, gave too much “pampering” to the Indians, who could be used as man power, recommending that a system of “repartimiento” or “encomienda” be instituted, as was practiced in Spanish America. Finally, along the lines of the Relação das Praças Fortes, he gave numerous pieces of advice on how the existing fortresses should be improved, from Porto Seguro to the north for, as he reminds us at the beginning, these were the captaincies that remained under the authority of Governor General Meneses after the creation of the “Repartição Sul” in 1607-8. 

As mentioned, the copies that have come down to us are decorated with extraordinary maps of Brazil by João Teixeira Albernaz. The inclusion in the copy of the Instituto Histórico e Geográfico of Rio de Janeiro of a map of the island of Maranhão, where the fort of Santa Maria, built at the end of 1614 and the beginning of 1615, already appears, leads us to suspect that this copy is later than the ones in the Municipal Library of Porto. 

Diogo Campos Moreno’s intention on his visit to the court in 1613 was to obtain the grants relating to his performance in office and the salary arrears, but he had a new commission from Philip III: to return to Brazil with the same post of sergeant major, with 300,000 reis of salary, to lead Moreno’s old project of the “Jornada do Maranhão”, this time for urgent needs, as the French had founded a fort there and intended to establish a permanent colony [5]. This provision is not without significance, since by royal order the post of sergeant major had been abolished in 1612. In this way, the king not only entrusted Campos Moreno with a high function again, but also reinstated a suppressed post, increasing the amount of the order from 80,000 to 300,000 reis. Campos Moreno would have refused the new commission three times, but news that an armada was being prepared in Holland to attack Brazil finally made him accept the mission. He embarked in Lisbon in March 1614, arriving in Recife in May. During that year and 1615 he organized the Maranhão campaign together with Jerónimo de Albuquerque. The expedition under the command of Moreno and Albuquerque, with the participation, among others, of the major engineer Francisco Frias da Mesquita, reached the island of Maranhão in October 1614. In the bay of Guaxinduba, opposite the French positions, they built a fort in the shape of a hexagon, which they named Santa Maria. It was a varied army, made up of Portuguese, Pernambucan and even Castilian forces, with a large contingent of flecheiro Indians, who engaged in several battles with the French under the command of La Ravardière (Alírio, p.). In 1615, the contenders signed a precarious peace after the forces commanded by Albuquerque and Moreno seized the fort of Saint Louis from the French. To confirm this peace and consult on the fate of Maranhão, Diogo de Campos Moreno set off again for Europe in January 1615, travelling with the Frenchman Mathieu Maillart. The Councils of Portugal and of State studied the case and disagreed with the signed peace. Despite Moreno’s responsibilities in these arrangements, he was not punished for them, but was ordered to return to Maranhão to conquer the place and expel the French for good. Back in Brazil, he achieved the surrender of the La Ravardière detachment on 3 November 1615. During the campaign he wrote the second work attributed to him, the “Jornada do Maranhão por ordem de Sua Majestade feita no ano de 1614”, a primary source on the events of the conquest of the region from the French (Moreno, 2011, [1614]). It seems that he returned to Portugal, since according to Capistrano de Abreu it was in the Kingdom where he died around 1617 (Santos Pérez, 2020, p. 75).

An exceptional character, already considered as such at the time, Capistrano de Abreu commented that his participation in the Flanders campaigns and his knowledge of Spanish and French gave him an “arrogant” air of “impatient superiority” (apud Vianna: 1955, p. 52). Be that as it may, his figure expresses like few others the transcultural characteristic of that period, in which a person born in Tangiers was trained as a soldier in Flanders, learned several languages, visited numerous enclaves in Brazil and moved between different territories of the Hispanic Monarchy, including the court, being one of the best examples of the “circulation” that characterized the first globalization of the Early Modern period.


[1] AGS, Provincial Secretaries, Book 1487, fol. 71v. January 30, 1604. The king to the Vicerrei of Portugal on the petition of Ambrósio Fernandes Brandão.

[2] AGS, Secretarías Provinciales, libro 1493, fol. 71. Valladolid, 5.03.1606. Diogo de Campos Moreno.

[3] ANTT, PT/TT/MR/1/68. Diogo de Campos Moreno, “Relação das praças fortes em 1609”. Published by José Antônio Gonsalves de Melo in Revista do Instituto Arqueológico, Histórico e Geográfico Pernambucano, vol. 57, 1984, pp. 185-246. In diverse letters of 1605 and 1606 the king confirms to have received the “plantas das fortalezas” sent by Diogo Campos Moreno. These must be preparatory drawings prior to the “Relation”. Vid. “Correspondencia de Diogo Botelho”, Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro (RIHGB), vol. 73, 1st part, Rio de Janeiro, 1910, pp. XXX, XXXII.

[4] AGS, Secretarías Provinciales, libro 1506, 24 de julio de 1613, fols. 19 y 31.

[5] AGS, Secretarías Provinciales, libro 1506, 24 de julio de 1613, fols. 19 y 31.


Cardoso, Alírio (2012). Maranhão na Monarquia Hispânica: Intercâmbios, guerra e navegação nas fronteiras das Índias de Castela (1580-1655). (Tesis Doctorado en Historia), Universidad de Salamanca.

“Correspondência de Diogo Botelho”, Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro (RIHGB), vol. 73, 1ª parte, Rio de janeiro, 1910, pp. XXX, XXXII. 

Doré, Andrea (2014). “O deslocamento de interesses da Índia para o Brasil durante a União Ibérica, mapas e relatos”, Colonial Latin American Review, 23:2. 

Doré, Andrea (2020). Cartografia da Promessa. Potosi e o Brasil num continente chamado Peruana. São Paulo: Intermeios. 

Guedes, Max Justo (1968), “Notícia Histórico-bibliográfica do Livro que dá Razão do Estado do Brasil” en Livro que dá razão do Estado do Brasil, Edição comemorativa do V Centenário de nascimento de Pedro Álvares Cabral, Instituto Nacional do Livro/Ministério da educação e Cultura, Río de Janeiro. 

Mendonça, Marcos Carneiro de (1972). Raízes da Formação Administrativa do Brasil. Río de Janeiro: IHGB.

Mello, José Antônio Gonsalves de (1984), “A Relação das Praças Fortes do Brasil (1609) de Diogo Campos Moreno”. En: Revista do Instituto Arqueológico, Histórico e Geográfico Pernambucano. V. LVII (1984), p. 177–246.

Moreno, Diogo de Campos (2011 [1614]), Jornada do Maranhão por ordem de Sua Majestade feita o ano de 1614. Brasília, Edições do Senado Federal – Volume 161. 

Sluiter, Engel (1949), Anónimo, Report on the State of Brazil-1612, The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Nov., 1949), pp. 518-562.

Vianna, Hélio (1955), Moreno, Diogo de Campos, Livro que da Razão do Estado do Brasil- 1612 (edição crítica com introdução e notas de Hélio Vianna), Recife, Arquivo Público Estadual.


José Manuel Santos Pérez (Universidad de Salamanca)

How to quote this entry:

SANTOS PÉREZ, José Manuel. “Diogo de Campos Moreno“. In: BRASILHIS Dictionary: Biographic and Thematic Dictionary of Brazil in the Spanish Monarch (1580-1640). Available in: https://brasilhisdictionary.usal.es/en/diogo-de-campos-moreno-3/. Date of access: 10/12/2023.

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