A weekly newspaper reporter made front page news in America after recently discovering long-lost letters written by the only Welshman killed at Custer’s Last Stand.
Mike Lewis appeared on the front of Saturday’s Billings Gazette, in the US state of Montana, as part of his attempt to unearth a photograph of Sgt William James, known as ‘Yr Unig Cymro’ (The Lone Welshman), which has been missing for 140 years.
Sgt James died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, fought between the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army, led by George Armstrong Custer, and the combined forces of three Native American tribes.
Mike, a reporter with the Fishguard County Echo, had first become aware of the story of Sgt James after watching a documentary about him in 2002, and has been trying to discover more about the soldier ever since.
He said: “Following up on the programme, I managed (by pure fluke) to trace James’s great-great-grand-nephew, an elderly gentleman living just a few miles from Dinas, and subsequently wrote an article on him and his wife for the County Echo as well as the Welsh Mirror.
“That appeared to be that, but on returning to work for the County Echo in Fishguard in 2014 and driving past Pencwnc Farm in Dinas (where James was born and raised) every morning, I found myself drawn to his story once again.
“What kind of person was he? What drove him to leave home, emigrate and ultimately enlist in the 7th Cavalry? More importantly could I find a photo of this lost soldier?”
Mike has managed to trace a bundle of letters Sgt James sent home to his younger brother in the years prior to the battle – but has yet to find the elusive photo.
His quest has captured the imagination of the Billings Gazette, and he and his wife will now travel to Montana in October to donate copies of the letters to the Little Bighorn National Monument Museum – and attempt to find he picture.
Mike added: “The Billings Gazette gave the story of my quest an excellent show and according to my contact there – reporter Mike Ferguson – ‘a load of folks’ in the newsroom are looking forward to meeting us.
“It will be interesting to witness at first-hand the workings of a Montana newspaper and, of course, we will be travelling out there just when the presidential campaign reaches its climax.”