Soldier's Heart (Gary Paulsen novel)
|Genre(s)||Historical War novel Civil War novel|
|Publication date||September 8, 1998|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Pages||128 pp 106 pp[(Paperback)]|
|LC Classification||PZ7.P2843 So 1998|
Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers is a historical war novella by Gary Paulsen aimed at the teenage market. It is a fictionalization of the true story of the farmboy Charley Goddard, who at the age of 15 enlisted in the Union Army in the American Civil War, was involved in combat at Bull Run and Gettysburg, and returned traumatized and suffering from "soldier's heart" (Da Costa's syndrome).
Soldier's Heart is based on a true story about a fifteen-year-old boy in Minnesota named Charley Goddard who lies about his age to join the First Volunteers of Minnesota to fight in the Civil War. Some of the events and time sequences are not completely factual, but the essential elements of the book's story are true.
Charley Goddard is an example of a dynamic, or round character. He goes through several phases before, during, and after the war. Before the war, when Charlie was 15, he wanted to demonstrate to his family that he could be the center of the house and provide for them. Therefore he enlists in the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, and when he arrives at Fort Snelling for training, he realizes conditions are much more sickening and worse than what he had in mind. People are dying before the war even begins. Diseases spread causing epidemics.
There were no official uniforms (The men had to make do with red flannel shirts), many of their rifles don't work, and they had to live on rations of old bread and beans, washed down with watered coffee. When they traveled, women would giggle as they pass, and when he received his monthly pay he would buy local pies; one time spending $2 ($100 in 2013 dollars).During the war, he has began to notice that real war was awful, as at Bull Run one of his fellow privates next to him had his head ripped off by a cannon ball which plowed through a horse and ended at the rear end he was so traumatized that he began to kneel behind a tree and vomit.
Later at Gettysburg, when the veteran regiment charged at a much larger confederate line, he was shot, and was passing out while seeing his life - when he truly thought death awaiting him.
When he regains consciousness, he finds out that he was seriously wounded.
After the war, he is around 22 years old and cannot walk well, because his knees have been damaged. Emotionally, he already feels old. He tries to think of things he likes but he can't because the war haunts his memories.
At the end of the book, commentaries state that Charley did not fight at Bull Run in life, and dies only 23 years old, from the wounds' failure to heal properly.
(Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution)
Charley Goddard is a fifteen-year-old boy growing up in the farming community of Winona, Minnesota, in 1861, just prior to what will become the Civil War. He lives with his single mother and little brother, Orren. Charley's father was killed when a swarm of bees landed on a horse, scaring it into kicking Charley's father in the face, killing him.
The whole area is talking about what they think will be a "shooting war." The atmosphere at the town meetings discussing the possibility is festive, with flags and drums and patriotic speeches. As a volunteer army is beginning to form, Charley decides he wants to be part of it after a brief argument with his mother. Everyone assumes that it will be an easy, victorious battle, most likely over in a month or two if it happens at all. Charley lies about his age and joins the 1st Regiment, Minnesota Volunteers in what he thinks will be a fun experience that will make him a man. They pay is eleven dollars a month, much more than he makes working on the farms.
Charley trains and learns to be a soldier. In his letters, Charley describes the experience as something much different than he had imagined. Upon leaving the camp, the men are treated as heroes even before they leave town, accompanied by much cheering and flag waving. On the train ride to their new camping location, Charley meets a slave, who quickly blesses him and gives him a cake for what he is doing for the southern slaves. However, a slave owner soon finds the woman and drags her back inside her house as the train departs again.
Charley feels great, and the troops' morale is high. However, not long after, he finds himself in his first battle near Manassas Junction, in 1861. The Union soldiers are forced off the field. He is caught in the middle of violent suffering and death, and he cannot believe what is happening so suddenly all around him. When the battle is over, hundreds of his comrades have been killed, and Charley and the other survivors are stunned. It was named The Battle of Manassas Junction by some newspapers but was quickly called the Battle of Bull Run by some of the men, for the creek that ran nearby.
A camp is created near Washington and eventually reaches ninety thousand men. Charley becomes part of the day-to-day routine of the camp. He and the others forage the farms in the area for food and eventually build log houses to live in during the approaching winter. However, many men get diseases such as dysentery and die in the camp. Charlie also gets dysentery, but recovers. During the time here, Charley participates in battle against the Rebels. The Union wins, but not without losing many men. One of them is a man whom Charley befriended only hours before. His name is Nelson, and he is shot in the stomach. Nelson knows the surgeons do not have the skills or time to mend his wound and that he will be left to die. As a result, he shoots himself with his own rifle on the battlefield as the other soldiers leave for the return march to the camp. This battle, although unnamed in the book, is likely the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American History.
Charley takes part in a winter battle near Richmond, Virginia where the Confederate Army uses its mounted men to charge Charley and the 1st. Nearly one hundred enemy horses charge the six hundred infantrymen. Charley and the others are told to shoot the horses in order to defeat the cavalry, and they do so, killing every horse and man. He then fights a large army of confederate soldiers. After all the fighting is over he is told he has been shot in the shoulder, but when he arrives at the temporary hospital he is told that the blood on his uniform is not his, and he is not shot.
Next, Charley participates in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863. Here he has the protection of rocks and logs and a large force of artillery behind him. Most of the charging Rebel soldiers are killed in the lines as they attack, but some eventually get close. The Officers realize this danger, and send the only unit still in relative shelter, The First Minnesota Volunteers. They rush at the soldiers, killing them as they go hacking and shooting each other. Charley eventually succumbs to the hits of the Rebels, got spun and then knocked out. He saw a red veil come down his eyes and claims that at last he died.
Charley is 21 now. Charley claims he had become so old at heart, and waited death, for it was his only escape. He knows too much and the violent killings numbed him. He says that he should be studying marriage and raising young ones, but it wouldn't be that way for him. He's tired and broken, walking with a cane and passing blood, knowing it would be near over for him. In some ways it made him sad and he was near glad of it. There was so much men that he knew that was there already, and knew it was only a matter of time. He wants to go see them to get rid of this constant pain and sounds he could not stop hearing. He limped to have a picnic near the river, and took out roast beef a jug of cold coffee, that he's used to drinking coffee that made his stomach knot. The army taught him to thrive on coffee. He can still sit to a small meal and not feel starved at all. He then admires a Confederate's pistol. Everybody wanted one, and asked Charley to get them some, he imagines committing suicide with it. He takes out cheese and bread and admires the river, thinking of all the pretty things.
Later in the author's note, it is noted that in the Battle of Gettysburg, the 1st Minnesota's 262 men charged down Cemetery ridge, towards a force sveral times larger than they are - only forty-seven men were left standing of the initial 1000 in the Regiment. Charley was not one of them. He was hit severely, was found, and the army surgeons did whatever they could. He fought at later actions, but his wounds did not heal properly, nor his mental anguish. The war finished and he tried to hold jobs, but he couldn't. He went running for county clerk based on his war record. He was elected, but before he could serve, his wounds and the stress took him down and he died in December 1868; he was only twenty-three years old.
- Winona, Minnosota
- Fort Snelling
- St. Louis
- 1st Battle (Battle of Bull Run)
- 2nd Battle (likely Antietam)
- 3rd Battle
- 4th Battle (Battle of Gettysburg)
- The Boys of War, Henry Mayer, The New York Times, November 15, 1998.