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EXILES, EMIGRANTS, AND SOJOURNERS: THE POST-CIVIL WAR CONFEDERATE EXODUS IN PERSPECTIVE Daniel E. Sutherland SCATTERED REMNANTS of once-proud rebel armies in the Southwest stagger across the Rio Grande into Mexico. High-ranking civil officials race from Richmond for Cuba, England, and Canada. Jefferson Davis himself surrenders while trying to escape to Texas. By the summer of 1865 the entire Southern population stands alert to the possibility of mass exodus. Southerners seem possessed, driven, victims of some dread fever that mounts through 1865, reaches epidemic proportions by 1866, and rages unchecked for nearly three years. People speak of "Texas fever," "Mexico fever," "Brazilian fever." A frenzy not witnessed since the "gold fever" of 1849 sweeps through the South. The correspondence of bruised, broken, and bewildered Confederates overflows with speculation and inquiries about the prospects of emigration. People who are not thinking of leaving know someone who is. "Does anybody in your country have the Mexico fever?" a Georgia woman asks her sister in Tennessee. Another Georgian inquires of his friend, "Have you any authentic news from Honduras? What of it and what have you determined on? How would California do? We are now receiving direct intelligence from our friends in Brazil all doing well and highly pleased." A South Carolinian estimates that five thousand people in his state are speaking of exodus. Spectators marvel as the "expatriation mania" seizes "many of the most intelligent, spirited, and useful of the Southern people."1 Fever, mania, whatever one calls it, Confederate flight in the first few years after the Civil War seems to puzzle historians as much as it per1 Carrie Stakely to Martha Hall, 25 Jan. 1866, Hall-Stakely Family Papers, Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knoxville-Knox County Public Library, Knoxville, Tenn.; J. T. Magruder to William W. Fergusson, 7 Jan. 1868, Fergusson Family Papers, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville; Douglas A. Grier, "Confederate Emigration to Brazil, 1865-1879" (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1968), 23; Metropolitan Record and New York Vindicator, 3 Feb. 1866, p. 3. Civil War History, Vol. XXXI, No. 3, ©1985 by The Kent State University Press 238CIVIL WAR HISTORY plexed contemporaries. Three problems persistently stymie efforts to comprehend the exodus. First, scholars devote most of their attention to the exotic Latin American emigrations, particularly to Mexico and Brazil. They give only the scantiest attention to the sizeable number of Southerners traveling to Canada, Europe, and the northern and western United States.2 Second, they do not adequately explain the reasons for flight. Most studies focus on the process of emigration, describing the problems of settlement and assimilation on foreign shores. References are made to the South's devastated condition, to Southern fears of imprisonment or execution, and Southern apprehension about living alongside blacks as social and political equals, but the complexities of motivation remain unexplored and unappreciated.3 A third difficulty is the tendency of those few historians who deal with motivation to concentrate, to the near exclusion of other factors, on Southern "racism" and "class consciousness ." None can gainsay the importance of these considerations, particularly the "Negro question," but previous interpretations of flight have been far too narrow, based largely on the writings of a few emigration promoters and restricted to explanations of Latin American emigration.4 A broader perspective is required, one that makes sense of the emigration as a whole and places the variety of conditions, rationalizations , and impulses that inspired flight in a reasonable context. 2 The number of emigrants was not as large as people thought at the time, primarily because far more people talked of exodus than actually exited. Still, the numbers are impressive . Estimates of emigration outside the United States are largely guesswork, but most authorities (see note 3 below) believe that roughly 5,000 Southerners fled to Brazil, 2,500 to Mexico, 1,000 to Honduras, and 500 to Venezuela. However, for a challenge to these figures see Gaines M. Foster, "Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, History, and the Culture of the New South, 1865-1913" (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, 1982), 21-22, 36-37. A reasonable range for Canada and Europe is from 500 to 1,000 each. Measuring movement...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 237-256
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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