Today, December 16, 2017, as my own contribution to Wreaths Across America, I drove an hour and a half to Paxton MA to put a wreath on the grave of Private George W. Gould, an ordinary soldier who died at Cold Harbor in 1864 to save the Union and end human chattel slavery. The tag on the edge of the ribbon has his story and a link to this website that I created to host his Civil War letters, in the hopes that someone will come across it and his voice will speak to us again.
It was a frigid day as I trudged through the snow-covered cemetery to lay the wreath. In addition to the GAR flag, the little flag I added on Veterans Day was still in place. Light snow began to fall as placed the wreath. I sang the Star-Spangled Banner in a hushed voice, saluted Private Gould, and thanked him for his service. There would be no United States 🇺🇸 today if it were not for men like Private Gould who sacrificed everything for us. #wreathsacrossamerica2017
I drove an hour and a half today – Veterans Day 2017 – to Paxton MA to add yet another 🇺🇸 flag to the grave of George W. Gould, an ordinary Union private from Massachusetts who died in Cold Harbor VA on June 3, 1864 to save the Union and forever end human chattel slavery in America. There is a United States today because of the sacrifice of Pvt. Gould and several hundred thousands of others during that rebellion more than 150 years ago. I saluted his grave. I honored his service. There have been many American heroes, but I honor this one specifically – through both these web pages and my graveside visits – so that long after he has been dead and otherwise forgotten, his sacrifice, his voice, is again resurrected for our time. It is specific to him, as well as symbolic for all who gave everything in the cause of freedom.
This morning, I made an hour and fifteen-minute drive over to Paxton MA to put a flag on the grave of George W. Gould, an ordinary private from Massachusetts who fought for the Union and was killed at Cold Harbor in 1864. Exactly one year ago, on Memorial Day 2016, I launched this website to tell his story and host his Civil War correspondence, which I digitized and transcribed. I deliberately wore my APU tee shirt to the graveside, because without the training I received from APUS during my MA History program, this website honoring George W. Gould would not exist.
I stood at his grave on the eve of Memorial Day 2017, and thanked Private Gould for his service & his sacrifice. I told him that some wars by necessity had to be fought, and that his war was one of these. I said that if he and his brethren had not shed their blood there would likely be no United States today. Then I saluted the grave.
Like most soldiers who died for his country, he was an ordinary man who made an extraordinary sacrifice.
On July 30, 2016 Stan Prager did a presentation at History Camp at Holyoke Community College on the letters of George W. Gould and digital archiving techniques. The complete PowerPoint presentation is available below, although it lacks the audio narration.
Title: Civil War Letters: Resurrecting Lost Voices — DIY Digital Archiving
Presenter: Stan Prager Room 302
Description: A chance encounter with the previously unpublished Civil War letters of a Massachusetts soldier killed at the battle of Cold Harbor led to a project that digitized & transcribed this correspondence, and the creation of a website to share it for public access. This presentation discusses this kind of Do-it-Yourself (DIY) digital archiving that can be achieved on a shoestring budget with today’s technology.
On July 29,2016 Stan Prager appeared on Western Mass News television to showcase digitization as the marriage of history & technology and to promote “History Camp” at HCC in Holyoke on July 30th where Stan did a presentation on the George W. Gould letters and D.I.Y Digital Archiving. This website was featured in the news segment:
One the favorable results of my trip to Leicester to photograph the plaque at the Town Hall was that it put me in contact with Don Lennerton and Patrick McKeon, members of the Leicester Historical Commission. After a couple of lengthy telephone calls and some email exchanges, I made another trip to Leicester to meet up with Patrick in person, who had gone way above and beyond to gather pertinent materials about George W. Gould and his family for me. Gifted with strong intellectual curiosity and a passion for history, Patrick invested time online and on foot to assist me with my research. He assembled a biography of George W. Gould as well as a concise regimental history of the Mass 25th, and presented me with a typed document plus a sheaf of other papers containing a wealth of materials when I met him at a local doughnut shop on July 26, 2016. It was Patrick who solved for me the mystery of George’s missing daughter Clarra Etta; it turns out that after George’s death she was adopted by Charles and Sarah Hatch and given a new name, Nellie Elizabeth Hatch, which is why I ran into a dead end researching her. Patrick also volunteered his afternoon to give me a tour of historic Leicester, regale me with tales of Civil War lore, and serve as a guide to the grave-sites of both Cora Gould McKinstry and Nelle Hatch Stillman.
I am grateful to Patrick for his kind assistance! Some of his materials will be added to this website in the near future. And I expect we will continue to stay in touch going forward as we each continue to pursue our shared passion for history.
In the course of my research into the life of George W. Gould, I previously visited his grave in Paxton, but I wondered if his name was engraved on any Civil War memorials. There is a modest Civil War memorial on the green in Paxton across from the cemetery where he lies, and a much larger one in Worcester, but his name was inscribed on neither one. In my attempt to solve this mystery, I happened upon the Facebook page for the Grand Army of The Republic for the City of Worcester Board of Trustees, where I posted an inquiry and a link to this website. They were kind enough to look into it and discover that George W. Gould’s name does appear on a plaque honoring the dead from Leicester; they posted a photo of the plaque and directed me to the Town Hall in Leicester where it is housed.
On July 11, 2016, I took it upon myself to drive to Leicester to see the plaque for myself. Upon arrival, I was treated with great kindness by Kelly at the P&Z desk, who directed me to the plaque’s location. The plaque actually fills up an entire wall in the front hallway. There I encountered Bill, in maintenance, a fascinating man with an interest in black powder and re-enacting, who helped me move furniture so I could get a good picture.
Here is a close-up of the George W. Gould inscription … Wonder if he was related to Levander M. Gould? Need to look into that …
I love the quote on the top of the plaque:
Bill also took the time to relate the history of the building and to take me downstairs where framed pictures of that history are on display. Apparently, the plaque was originally housed in the Old Town Hall, which burned down in 1937:
That original building contained it’s own GAR Hall where the plaque was featured. I so wish that was still extant:
According to Bill, the plaque — which survived the fire — was relocated to this building, which was once a high school, in 1939. I am so grateful to Bill and Kelly for taking the time to assist me in my research, as well as Grand Army of The Republic for the City of Worcester Board of Trustees for directing me to the Leicester Town Hall.