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Richard Launcelot Maury, who developed the idea for the New Virginia Colony.

The New Virginia Colony was a colonization plan in central Mexico, to resettle ex-Confederates[1] after the American Civil War. The largest settlement was Carlota, approximately midway between Mexico City and Veracruz, although other settlements were planned near Tampico, Monterrey, Cuernavaca, and Chihuahua.[2]

The venture was conceived by Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury. Because of his work for the Confederate Secret Service, Maury was unable to return home to Virginia.[3] Maury, as an internationally famous oceanographer and navy man, was a long-time friend of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and had been awarded a medal by Maximilian before the Civil War. Maximilian had also been head of the Austrian Navy and awarded Maury the medal for his work in oceanography.

Maximilian liked Maury and his idea of inviting Confederates and anyone else to resettle in Mexico and offered land grants to any who would come and stay. Slavery was banned in Mexican law however, so no settler could bring slaves into Mexico. He was also eagerly seeking settlers from Germany, Austria, and France, as part of his strategy to rebuild and Europeanize Mexico.[4]

Maury explained a network of planned settlements to Maximilian, who liked what was heard. They were to be primarily in the agricultural regions surrounding Mexico City but also in the northern areas around Monterrey and Chihuahua. American "colonization agents" were appointed to districts, and Maury began to prepare surveys for the proposed colonies. One of Maury's colleagues was explorer and archeologist William Marshall Anderson, whose brother, U.S. Brevet Major General Robert Anderson, had commanded the Union soldiers at Fort Sumter. Two others had worked under Maury when he was the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory. His eldest son, Col. Richard Launcelot Maury, had also emigrated to Mexico. Maury had plans for his entire family to eventually move there to a colony. Virginia was war-torn: "back to what? To poverty and misery . . ." declared Maury in a September 1865 letter. [5]

Confederate generals such as Fighting Jo Shelby, Edmund Kirby Smith, John B. Magruder, Sterling Price, Thomas C. Hindman, and Alexander W. Terrell made their way to Mexico after the war.[6]

Throughout the period, Maximilian's regime was under attack by Republican leaders Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz. From 1865 onward, Juárez and Díaz were covertly supplied from a US Army depot in El Paso, Texas. In 1866, Napoleon III withdrew the French troops that had been supporting Maximilian.[7]

When the French withdrew from Carlota in March 1867, the area was overrun by the forces of Juárez and the remaining New Virginia colonists fled the area. The New Virginia settlements were abandoned as the anti-Maximilian forces reached them. The survivors generally moved toward the coast. The imperial government collapsed in May 1867 and most of the settlers left Mexico.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Among those who "fled" to Mexico to save their lives from a revengeful Northern administration was Pendleton Murrah, the recently-elected governor of Texas.
  2. ^ Andew Rolle, The Lost Cause: The Confederate Exodus to Mexico (University of Oklahoma Press, 1965). ISBN 978-0-8061-1961-8 (reprint, 1992).
  3. ^ Charles Lee Lewis, Matthew Fontaine Maury: The Pathfinder of the Seas (U.S. Naval Institute, 1927). ISBN 1-4366-7917-6 (reprint, Kessinger Publishing, 2008).
  4. ^ Jasper Ridley, Maximilian and Juarez (Ticknor & Fields, 1992). ISBN 1-84212-150-2 (reprint, Phoenix Press, 2001).
  5. ^ Fontaine Corbin, Diane (1888). Matthew Fontaine Maury, Chapter 15 – via Wikisource.
  6. ^ Rolle, The Lost Cause. Also see, An American in Maximilian's Mexico 1865-1866 by William Marshall Anderson, who was using the trip as an archeological expedition.
  7. ^ Richard O'Connor, The Cactus Throne: The Tragedy of Maximilian and Carlotta (Putnam, 1971). ISBN 0-380-00641-3 (reprint, Avon, 1976).