I'm currently writing a series called Escape to Paradise. It's the story of a group of disgruntled Southerners who left the South after losing the Civil War and headed toward greener pastures. (In my story, they sail for the lush jungles of Brazil!) But what many people don't know is how bad things became for the South after their defeat. The North was angry and they wanted revenge for their lost loved ones, so they came down upon the south like a fierce judge's gavel. Here are just a few facts I uncovered during my research.
Defeat covered the South with the gray pallor of hopelessness. Almost every family had lost at least one member or at the least had a family member disabled from the war.
Union troops tore up fences, drove cattle away, burned houses, confiscated lands, and stole food. The civilian population had nowhere to live and little food to eat. Many sought refuge under trees or in borrowed tents. Railroads were torn up, schools closed, banks insolvent, towns and cities reduced to rubble.
Northern merchants and speculators moved in, taking jobs from southerners. Factories were desolate, merchant ships swept out to sea, livestock consumed, notes, bonds, mortgages, and Confederate currency became worthless. Bands of robbers swept the land. Violence and anarchy ruled.
Southerners could not transfer title or participate in some business activities until they received a pardon from the North. Neither could they hold state of federal office. Northern tax collectors descended to make south pay for the war. They bought land cheap for resale.
Congress declared 150,000 Confederate citizens guilty without trial and deprived them of rights of citizens.
Many confederate officers hanged and imprisoned, while notherners often called for the hanging of regular southern citizens whom they considered traitors Whole towns lay in ruins.
The landscape “looked for many miles like a broad black streak of ruin and desolation, the fences all gone; lonesome smoke stacks, surrounded by dark heaps of ashes and cinders marking spots where human habitation had stood; the fields along the road wildly overgrown by weeds with here and there a sickly patch of cotton cultivated by Negro squatters.”
People left because of anarchy, poverty and demoralization. As a consequence nearly 3 million Southerners left the South in the years following the Civil War. Some went to Canada, Mexico, out west, and some went to Brazil to start over in a land where they could be free.