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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 had not been allowed in Mexico before Maximilian arrived and still was not allowed so no settler could bring in any slaves into Mexico. The new Emperor 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 suggested. These 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, "go back? --to what!" declared Maury.[5]

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

Throughout this period, Maximilian's regime was under attack by the Amerindian and mestizo 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, and many of the New Virginia colonists soon followed or were killed by bandits or anti-Maximilian partisans.[7]

Maximilian was executed by firing squad in 1867, and the New Virginia Colony settlements mostly vanished. The peak population of these settlements is not known, but seems to have been no more than a few thousand.

See also

  • Second Mexican Empire
  • Confederados


  • 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. Matthew Fontaine Maury by Diane Corbin edited by Sir Clements Robert Markham-(See: 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).