Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 7. Reports of Lutheran Ministers

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXXI. Non-English Writings I

§ 7. Reports of Lutheran Ministers

To the literature of the eighteenth century belong the extensive reports and letters by Lutheran ministers in America to the church’s fathers at home. Thus the Hallesche Nachrichten, addressed to the Lutheran ministerium in Halle, carefully written with minute details by the Rev. Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg, patriarch of the Lutheran church in America, and by other Lutheran ministers, give us an authentic picture not only of the beginnings and growth of the Lutheran Church in America but also of pioneer conditions in many of the colonies. Similarly the Urlsperger Nachrichten, addressed to the Rev. Dr. Samuel Urlsperger at Augsburg, give us an intimate view of the Salzburgers of Georgia and the beginnings of the Lutheran church in the South. The Diaries of Moravian Missionaries (Brothers Schnell, Gottschalk, and Spangenberg), who visited the frontier settlements, travelling mostly on foot, from Western Pennsylvania, to the Valley of Virginia, and through trackless wastes to the western settlements of North Carolina, thence to the coast, in 1743–1748, are a wonderful record of modest courage and splendid sacrifice. Dark in colouring is the picture drawn by Gottlieb Mittelberger in his Reise nach Pennsylvanien im Jahr 1750 und Rückreise 1754, in which the misfortunes of immigrants on the sea and their slavery on land is painted with terrifying realism. More judicial is Achenwall in his Anmerkungen über Nordamerika (1769), or J. D. Schöpf in his Reise durch einige der mittlern und südlichen vereinigten Staaten … in den Jahren 1783 und 1784. Very interesting are the letters of Hessian soldiers, who fought for the English king, found in Eelking, Schlözer’s Briefwechsel, and elsewhere, or the letters of the Baroness von Riedesel, the wife of the Brunswick general who was captured with Burgoyne at Saratoga. Her letters describe the whole of the disastrous British campaign, and subsequent to that the journey from Canada to Virginia, and thence several times back and forth to New York in the expectation of release from captivity. Among the mercenary soldiers stationed in Canada was the German poet J. G. Seume, who had been kidnapped by recruiting officers and forced into foreign military service against his will. Seume’s autobiography, Mein Leben, records his experiences in America closing with 1784, and many of his best poems were inspired during this period, among them the ballad Der Wilde, which contains the oft-quoted phrase Europas übertünchte Höflichkeit, in antithesis to the blunt simplicity but genuine hospitality of nature’s children.