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Home > Features > NLW 2600E - Humphrey & Sarah Roberts letters

NLW 2600E: The letters of Humphrey and Sarah Roberts

5th Ohio Troopers, I Company (by permission of J David Petruzzi)

5th Ohio Troopers, I Company
(by permission of J David Petruzzi)

NLW 2600E includes 5 of the letters sent by Humphrey and Sarah Roberts to their family in Wales between 1856 and 1864. They had emigrated from the Brymbo area in north east Wales, and by the 1850s they had settled in the township of Madison, Jackson County, and it seems they had quite a comfortable life there. There are several reports in the letters about the harvests, the price they had for wheat and corn and the farm stock and it is no wonder that they state they will stay in the new country for the rest of their lives:
digital library document"... we think we have earned footing here now, and it is likely that it will be here we shall be for the remainder of our life."

It is noted that one of the sons - William - is working in a furnace in Tennessee while their other son - Benjamin - is searching for work over winter but that this was difficult as the iron works all over the country more or less gave up working during the winter months.

Even though many Welsh people were living in County Jackson during this period, it seems that Humphrey and Sarah Roberts did not pass the Welsh language to their children. At the end of the letter sent in 1863, it is noted that it is Ann, their daughter, who was sending the English letter to the family in Wales and that she's hoping for a English letter back from her cousins. digital library document"Our children", Humphrey and Sarah say, digital library document"are unable to speak Welsh.

"A very dark cloud hangs over our land at present, and only God Himself knows what the end will be. No mortal imagination can conceive how the trouble ill terminate, but it is feared that rivers of human blood will flow through the fruitful, and once glorious fields of America before the restoration of peace, because of the anger and enmity of the two parties towards each other."
digital library documentNLW 2600E

The event which changed the family's life completely and which turned the country upside down was, of course, the American Civil War. The letters refer to the chaos, the bloodshed, and the suffering, and mentions battles such as the Battle of Port Gibson, the Battle of Champion Hill and digital library documentthe Battle of Buffington Island, Ohio.

The sons of Humphrey and Sarah Roberts enlisted in the army in 1861. Benjamin first joined the 18th Ohio Regiment and William joined the 22nd Ohio Regiment. By 1863 Benjamin was a Second Lieutenant in C. Company, 56th Regiment, Ohio Volunteers and William was in the same Company, being the regiments' flag bearer.

digital library documentLetter dated 21 February 1856 (Welsh and English; English translation) >>

digital library documentLetter dated 27 May 1858 (Welsh; English translation) >>

digital library documentLetter dated 27 June 1861 (Welsh; English translation) >>

digital library documentLetter dated 8 February 1863 (Welsh; English translation) >>

digital library documentLetter dated 11 May 1864 (Welsh; English translation) >>