Dear Sister: The Civil War Letters of the Brothers Gould

Dear Sister: The Civil War Letters of the Brothers Gould

Dear Sister: The Civil War Letters of the Brothers Gould

Dear Sister: The Civil War Letters of the Brothers Gould


This collection of 139 letters from six of the seven Gould brothers who left their homes in central New York to fight for the Union Army forms a moving depiction, not only of life on the front lines of the Civil War, but of life on the home front as well. These letters, written to their beloved sister Hannah, span the entire four years of the conflict and run the gamut from initial enlistment to eventual death or discharge. Through the eyes of the Goulds, an immigrant English family struggling to make a new life, one is able to experience this major American historical event with a new understanding.


The strengths of the Gould letters lie in their simplicity and directness. This is a reflection of the writers' background. Of English stock, the Gould family could trace their lineage back to Moulton in North Devon, England, dating to 1577 in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. John Watts Gould, family patriarch, immigrated to Newburgh, New York, in 1834. At twenty-nine years of age, the master stonemason came with a skill much in demand, building aqueducts and canals. Within a year John sent for his family.

His wife Mary and three children joined him in 1835. Her Atlantic crossing was not without tragedy. Their fourth son, frail from birth, died on board. James entered a watery grave at three years of age. Following custom, Mary's next born received his name.

Hard work produced success for John Gould. Within a few years he acquired several rental properties. Eight years and five children later, John was ready to move on. He exchanged two brick houses he owned in Newburgh for nine hundred acres of woodland in Delaware County, New York. Following a visit to his new property in June 1842, John decided to move. In September, Mary and her eight children, age 13 to 1 year, went with him. It took almost a month to travel nearly one hundred miles to their new home, not yet built.

Within two weeks of arrival the Goulds had a house raising. Neighbors helped set the timbers. Mr. Gould and his older sons, John and George, completed the home five days into the new year. In the middle of winter the Goulds moved from their squatter's log cabin to their new . . .

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