The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Book Reviews

Confederate Settlements in British Honduras. By Donald C. Simmons Jr. (Jefferson,
N.C.: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2001. Pp. vii+176. Acknowledgments,
foreword, preface, conclusion. ISBN 0-7864-1016-7. $27.50, paper.)
Every student of the Civil War knows that thousands of die-hard Confederates
relocated to Central and South America after the war, unwilling to live in a con-
quered, slaveless South. Most historians have concentrated on the large colonies
of Confederate expatriates in Venezuela, Brazil, and the Caribbean, because of
their size and the greater accessibility of primary source materials. But several
thousand Southerners also traveled to the British Honduras, and it is the history
of these exiles that interests Donald C. Simmons.
Most of the white Southerners who relocated to the Honduras were well-to-
do planters hailing from the lower South, particularly Louisiana and Mississip-
pi. They were attracted to the Honduras by its close proximity to the South-a
four-day voyage by steamer from New Orleans-its economic potential as a
source of sugarcane production, and the fact that its British rulers spoke the
same language and enjoyed roughly the same lifestyle as the exiles. "I did not
feel entirely a stranger," wrote one Southerner when he arrived in the Hon-
duran capital of Belize City, "because here I heard spoken my native language"
(P. 44).
The exiles found a generally hospitable welcome from the British ruling elite
in Honduras, and during the late 186os and early 1870s they carved several
colonies out of the formidable Honduran jungle. The Southerners experiment-
ed with a variety of crops, and at different times grew sugarcane, corn, rice,
yams, plantains, bananas, and even beans, peas, and turnips. Sugarcane became
the cash crop of choice, and throughout the last decades of the nineteenth cen-
tury ex-Confederate planters processed and exported sugar, with varying de-
grees of success.
But the disadvantages of life in the Honduras far outweighed the advantages
for most Southerners. The British liked the idea of attracting new settlers to
their colony, but they severely restricted opportunities for the Southern exiles to
attain full citizenship rights. Southerners were also dismayed by comparatively
tolerant British attitudes toward people of color, with whom the white populace
mingled freely on the streets of Belize City and elsewhere. Segregation-minded
white Southerners were shocked at the sight of black policemen and customs of-
ficials. But most of all, perhaps, the exiles were repelled by the land itself, a
harsh, tropical environment that was totally alien to these former lower South
planters. "The real reason for the failure of the settlements was that Confeder-
ates found themselves unfamiliar with the climate and the terrain," Simmons
wrote (p. 122). For they did fail. By the end of the nineteenth century, most of
the exile settlements were gone, their inhabitants returning to America or
blending into the Honduran populace and eventually losing their distinctive
Southern identities.
Simmons has produced a thoroughly researched, competently written narra-
tive of these events. Of particular value are the multiple appendices that offer
detailed primary source data listing passengers of the various ships that brought

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed July 22, 2014.