As documented on SNN in an earlier article, thousands of Southerners left the South once it was conquered by the United States in 1865. Many of them went to Brazil while others scattered throughout Latin America. Generally, they were well-received by the governments of these countries and took up farming or related agricultural pursuits. On pages 255-256 of his book The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire: 1854-1861 (which SNN has reviewed), Purdue University history professor Robert E May writes about these Southern emigrants and their fate in Latin America.
In a sense the southern dream of a tropical slave empire survived even after the Confederate defeat. Following Lee’s surrender, thousands of confederates streamed into tropical countries, particularly Mexico and Brazil. They left the country for a number of reasons: many had lost their property in the Civil War [sic] and hoped for a fresh start in a new land; bitterness against the “Yankees,” who now would control both federal and state government, was rampant, and many could not bear the thought of living in the new union; emancipation aroused racial fears; some Confederate officials and army officers expected severe punishment; and service in Maximilian’s army was an incentive for the militarily inclined.
Fortunately for these people, circumstances made them particularly welcome in Brazil and Mexico. Both the Brazilian government and the Maximilian regime in Mexico desired Confederate immigrants, although Maximilian would not permit the Confederates to fight as a unified body under him. In fact, southerners were encouraged by special incentives. Brazilian bands greeted southern land agents with “Dixie,” and the Brazilian government offered land at very cheap rates, provided long-term loans for the voyage to Latin America, supplied temporary food and housing for migrants, and exempted them from military service. Maximilian, hoping that a Confederate influx might help forestall the Juarist partisans opposed to him, offered similar inducements. Within months, many southerners were part of the mainstream of life in tropical countries. Thomas Reynolds, once governor of Missouri, served as a railroad superintendent for Maximilian to encourage immigration. Confederate purchasing agent Colin J. McRae became involved in merchant affairs in Spanish Honduras.
Most of the Confederate exiles, however, gravitated to rural colonies primarily devoted to farming. Extensive plantations devoted to the production of corn, cotton, sugar, and watermelons arose in the Sao Paulo province of Brazil. The Confederate colony of Carlota was formed some seventy miles to the west of Vera Cruz on land that Juarez had confiscated from the Mexican church. Confederate General Jo Shelby promoted a colony in the Tuxpan area on the eastern coast of Mexico, north of Vera Cruz.