Was constantly called on by civilian leaders to suppress rebellions and insurrections in various parts of the country, yet he never attempted to make himself dictator or assume a commanding role in the political life of the nation. He first appeared on the national scene in 1823 when, as a lieutenant in Dom Pedro I’s personal Battalion, he was sent to Bahia and defeated a Portuguese force that refused to acknowledge Brazil s independence. He was raised to the rank of captain at the age of 20.
Transferred to the Brazilian province of Uruguay, Alves de Lima fought in the unsuccessful attempt by Dom Pedro I to block the independence movement and maintain this area as a part of Brazil. He returned to Rio de Janeiro in 1828 and was promoted to the rank of major. He was soon caught up in the problems surrounding the unpopularity of Emperor Dom Pedro 1. When the emperor abdicated in 1831, his decision was strongly influenced by his loss of military support, including that of his own battalion. The Regency government (1831-1840) relied heavily on Major Alves de Lima to put down civilian disorders that had broken out all over Brazil following the abdication of the emperor.
Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1837, Alves de Lima was quickly raised to colonel and posted in 1839 to the northern province of Maranhao where an insurrection had erupted. By 1841 he had broken the rebellion, was given the title of Baron of Caxias, promoted to general, and was elected to serve in the Chamber of Deputies as the delegate from Maranhao.
Shortly afterward, General Alves de Lima was sent to southern Brazil, where a nagging civil war (1835-1845) was raging. He took command in 1842 and brought an honorable settlement to this conflict.
Brazil entered into war with Paraguay (1864-1870). Caxias became involved in partisan politics when he became an adviser to the Conservative Party and found himself in conflict with a new political coalition of moderates and Liberals who had organized the short-lived Progressive Party. He actively supported Conservative politicians. When he was offered the post of commander-in-chiet of the Brazilian armed forces, a crisis developed and the Progressive cabinet was forced to resign. Although the Liberals had a majority in Parliament, Emperor Pedro II selected a Conservative Ministry that placed Caxias in full control of the war against Paraguay. Many Brazilians feel that this was the first step in military intervention in the Brazilian political process.