War for the Future


Caribbean Dreams/Nightmares

Welcome to the RVA Global Tour. eat great food, see great art, take selfies with history, and earn prizes at the museum. 

  1. Snap a photo with two or more posters. 

  2. visit the american civil war museum to get your prize.

Scroll down for Francisco Serrano’s story, find others at the tour home page, and take off around the world… from Richmond! [Note: This is a prototype test of the Global Tour. Please let us know what you think! email to cgraham@acwm.org]


At Virginia’s secession convention in the State Capital, Thomas Goode of Mecklenburg County warned that Republicans would “re-enact...upon Southern soil, the bloody tragedy of St. Domingo.” Good had recalled the Haitian revolution and trembled at the thought of slave rebellion in Virginia.

Abolitionists celebrated emancipation in the Caribbean with this image.

Abolitionists celebrated emancipation in the Caribbean with this image.

Confederates were aghast not only at the violence in Haiti, but also the apparent economic decline suffered by French and British colonies in the Caribbean since emancipation of slavery there in the 1830s. Secession, according to Confederates, allowed them opportunities to influence the course of events in what they referred to as “our Mediterranean.”

The Confederate State Department looked hopefully to Spain, and its chief colony, Cuba, because Cuba remained a slaveholding stronghold. Charles Helm went to Havana as an agent to court commercial and political alliances with Count Francisco Serrano, the Spanish Captain General of Cuba.

Serrano worked hard to revive Spanish fortunes in the Caribbean. He arranged for Cuba-based Spanish soldiers to join a French and English expedition to Mexico. He dispatched soldiers from Havana to the former Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) to reassert Spanish authority there. Confederates hoped that the invasion indicated Serrano’s desire to reinstitute slavery on Santo Domingo, but Serrano had never seriously considered that option. Stiff Dominican resistance eventually drove the Spanish back to Cuba in 1865.

Helm’s hopes for a proslavery alliance with Spain faded when Serrano was replaced as Captain General of Cuba by Domingo Dulce, known to be working to suppress the slave trade. Another Confederate diplomat, William Preston, held Dulce in contempt, noting that “though professing sympathy for the Confederacy, [he] is really afraid of the North.”

Confederates, then, had lost all hope for a proslavery alliance in the Caribbean.

Your Turn: Capitol to Caribbean


Virginia's path to secession starts at the State Capitol building. 


Grab a mojito and a cigar at Havana 59 while discussing the role of the Caribbean in Confederate ambitions.