Reference: NLW MS 22421D
The American Civil War, 1861-5, saw the bloodiest fighting in the history of the United States. A collection of letters at the National Library of Wales show that Welsh immigrants were directly involved in the conflict.
In 1861, John Griffith Jones, originally of Penisarwaun, enrolled with Company G of the 23rd Wisconsin Voluntary Infantry of the Union Army. The regiment travelled through Kentucky to the heart of the Confederacy and the swamps of Louisiana. The letters, written between John Griffith Jones and his immigrant family in Wisconsin, recount the story of a common soldier. Details about army life and fellow Welsh conscripts are intertwined with accounts of the ravages of war, illness and death. The letters also document many strange and wonderful things - exotic plants, large snakes, alligators and the beauty of New Orleans. All of the letters are in Welsh.
John Griffith Jones was killed in service in 1864.
Thousands of Welsh families emigrated to America in the 19th century to escape a life of hardship and poverty in Wales. The majority settled in the northern states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. Welsh-speaking communities kept their native culture alive through religion, the eisteddfod and Welsh-language publications such as Y Drych.
The American Civil War was fought between the northern Unionist states and the southern states of the Confederation. Human slavery was common in the 19th century, especially in the mainly agricultural Confederate states. These feared that the newly-elected President, Abraham Lincoln, had plans to abolish the slave industry. This led to secession and ultimately to war. The war involved 3 million soldiers and over 600,000 lives were lost.