"I promised, before leaving Houma, to communicate to you upon my arrival here. I have not done so as promptly as I should have done; I did not wish to write until I had investigated affairs here to some extent."

So begins a letter dated Cordova, Mexico, Nov. 28, 1865, published in The New York Times and reprinted in the Thibodaux Sentinel on Jan. 13, 1866. The author is identified only as "a Southern gentlemen now in Mexico":

"After a stormy and protracted voyage, we landed at Vera Cruz on the 6th. I found Gens. Price and Shelby, Gov. Harris of Tennessee, and Judge Perkins of Louisiana, settling a colony near here, under an arrangement with the Imperial authorities. I have visited the lands, and I have never beheld so lovely and so rich a country.

"I have made my settlement of 640 acres, every foot of which is as rich as I could desire. There are about thirty of our fellow-citizens here, making settlements. I find that I am the pioneer with a wife. Gen. Shelby and several others have sent for their families and we expect to have quite a little society of our own.

"We are 92 miles from Vera Cruz, 3,000 feet above the level of the Gulf. This altitude gives us a most delightful climate. Time passes here with so few changes that, were it not for the darkness we would scarcely know that it was passing.

"The whole country seems to be bringing forth its productions by steam, so rapid is the growth. The fruits indigenous to the tropics, with coffee, sugar, rice and tobacco, grown with marvelous abundance. I think this is the garden spot of all that I have seen of the continent of America. We are now in fifteen miles of the terminus of the railroad which will be complete to Cordova in about one year, and to Mexico in five.

"The government sells to actual settlers 640, heads of family; 320 to single men. These lands (were) once in the highest state of cultivation, and have rendered immense incomes; but during the revolutions they fell into the hands of the Church, from which they have been recently confiscated and set apart for the use and occupation of actual settlers (immigrant.) The lands in the hands of private parties, immediately adjoining, and which are no better, sell for $25 to $50 per acre by the league.

"Cordova is a place of about four thousand persons, and is now one of the most quiet and orderly town I have ever seen, not excepting Havana. Robbers infest the road between here and Vera Cruz to some extent, but make no attacks on persons who make the least resistance. There has been no case where two armed men have been robbed during the last six months. The French authorities are wide awake, and the least offense is sure to send a platoon of half a dozen Turcos.

"There are many fine opportunities here for making money. I have now a position which will pay me $150, clear of expenses, per month as a surveyor. I have also several opportunities to get work on the railroad; but, as I wish to improve my farm, I do not like to tie myself down on a salary.

"All my old home friends have extended to me every courtesy, both here and at Mexico, since my arrival, and I think I have a future of prosperity before me.

"I do not apprehend any difficulty with the United States. Napoleon's combinations with the crowned heads of Europe will be hard to break, and, if not broken, interference in Mexico's affairs by the United States will involve them in a war with five important powers certain and perhaps more."

While the letter may make little sense to modern readers, doubtless 1866 Southerners understood it perfectly. The writer, a Confederate sympathizer, unable or unwilling to live under federal law, had migrated to Mexico to start over.

Background: An excerpt from "The Life of Sterling Price," by Lucy Simmons, 1922, explains the situation and references:

"After the war General Price went to Texas to visit his wife, (making) the trip with two pairs of white mules and a wagon. Nothing was left him from the wreck of war, as all his property had been confiscated.

Late in the summer of 1866, about thirty Confederates -- General Price among them -- moved into Mexico from San Antonio, Texas. Archduke Ferdinand Joseph of Austria had assumed the crown of Mexico and the title of Maximilian I, by the aid of the French Notables and the French army then in Mexico.

"Maximilian's government offered Confederate soldiers the chance to establish an American settlement on the abandoned and confiscated land for $1 per acre. Judge John Perkins, Ex-Governor of Louisiana, and Sterling Price were appointed to act as Commissioners of Colonization and Immigration.

"The Confederate settlement was located at Cordova, Mexico. Price soon became owner of 640 acres. He then wrote to his family to come to him, for he did not feel that he could return to the States and ask pardon for the part he had played in the great civil struggle.

"Mrs. Price found her husband not only ill and out of funds, but discouraged as well. He had attempted to get his house built on his farm before the rainy season set, but had failed since all the work had to be done by hand.

Nevertheless he was enthusiastic about the Cordova settlement; for he shared the belief of the other Confederates that in this country fortunes might be made.

"However the French government was not stable in Mexico. Maximilian's power was on the wane, and marauding bands soon infested the land and destroyed the gardens and orchards of the Confederates, forcing American settlers to abandon their lands.

The Overland Monthly reported that in the summer of 1865, promoters had presented a land scheme to Maximilian, which had for its object the colonization of portions of Mexico by Southern families who were indisposed to bear the humiliation of defeat. Captain Maury was chief of the land or colonization bureau; General Magruder held the second place in that department; and the eminent ex-Judge Perkins of Louisiana secured the place of agent at Cordova.

As early as June 22, 1866, The New York Tribune reported, "The hopes the confederate emigrants to Mexico had entertained of an extensive settlement in that country under the paternal hand of Maximilian, are at an end. The Cordova colony, founded by General Price and Judge Harris, has broken up."

"On January 11, 1867, General and Mrs. Price, with their daughter and son, returned to Missouri. Ill with Mexican dysentery, on September 29, 1867, General Sterling Price died."