On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier's Civil War Letters from the Front

By James Henry Gooding; Virginia Matzke Adams | Go to book overview

intelligent correspondent, and a good soldier." Curiously, the editors made no comment when they published a letter from Captain Grace on March 9, 1864, announcing (incorrectly, as it turned out), that Gooding had been killed during the battle at Olustee in late February. Perhaps they felt it was enough to have given his talent a voice during his lifetime. Certainly for me, it has been a privilege to help in making that voice heard once again.


Acknowledgments

The poems and letters of James Henry Gooding were rediscovered through a series of happy accidents. Two years ago, in going through some odds and ends to be cataloged for the Old Dartmouth Historical Society's Whaling Museum Library, I came across the six broadside poems. The one about Eli Dodge led me to crew lists from the New Bedford customs records, and then to the discovery that Gooding was a mulatto. Frustrated at being unable to find out anything more about the publication history of the poems or about other writing that Gooding might have done, I turned to Carl Cruz, a descendant of Sergeant Carney, who has been collecting information about New Bedford's black community for some time. Cruz gave me an article written by Everett Allen, which discussed a letter sent to President Abraham Lincoln by a black soldier in the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Regiment.58 The article was about Gooding and included a transcript of his letter to Lincoln, as well as facsimiles of documents from his military file in the National Archives.59 Later, Allen arranged to have his research notes about Gooding sent to me. Unfortunately, he had been unable to find out anything about Gooding's early life. Gooding's marriage had been childless and there were no direct descendants; surviving members of Ellen Gooding's family knew little except that her husband had been a seaman and had died in the Civil War.

One day I walked up to the New Bedford Free Public Library to have a look at the James Congdon Papers there, on a hunch that this might

____________________
58
Everett S. Allen, "A Letter to President Lincoln", [ New Bedford] Sunday Standard-Times, Feb. 20, 1972.
59
Gooding's letter to Lincoln is included in Appendix A.

-xxxv-

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