Welsh Writings from American Civil War

Enlisting Arthur and Llywelyn in the Union Cause:

Members and visitors met at Peniel Chapel on 16 May 2019 to hear Professor Jerry Hunter share his extensive knowledge on the topic of Welsh Writing from the American Civil War. Professor Hunter is originally from Cincinnati but now lives in Wales and is currently a Reader in the School of Welsh, Bangor University. He has a particular interest in the American Civil War based on Welsh-language evidence and has published extensively on this and related topics.

Professor Jerry Hunter

The census taken in 1860, one year before the start of the American Civil War revealed there were nearly 30,000 natives of Wales living in America, 89% of these were concentrated in four northern states. All would speak Welsh, and many would give the language to their children and grandchildren. So there may have been as many as 100,000 Welsh speakers in America at this time.

In mid-19th century America there were around 300 non-conformist chapels serving the Welsh-speaking population. Many of the ministers were radical in their anti-slavery views. Several Welsh-language periodicals were produced (e.g. Y Drych) with articles and poetry which appealed to the readers to fight slavery as both sons of Columbia (Americans) and sons of Prince Llywelyn. Robert Everett, a famous proponent of anti-slavery published in one of these Welsh-language periodicals and Welsh-Americans were generally anti-slavery in contrast to other northern racial groupings.

600,000 men died in the American Civil War, the huge losses largely a result of new military technology outstripping existing military strategy. Professor Hunter read out some very moving and lyrical private manuscripts from Welsh soldiers who fought in the famous battles of the war including Gettysburg and Fredericksburg. The fear, bravery and faith of the soldiers shone through their letters to the audience in Peniel chapel and the evening finished with many questions from the audience, one member telling us that his great grandfather’s brother fought at the battle of Chattanooga.

This was a very interesting talk which threw light on a little-known subject and the audience were most appreciative.

Diane Williams

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