Off to War The cotton mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, like those where Gould worked. Wikimedia Commons.
Following the fall of Fort Sumter, tens of thousands of volunteers across the North rushed to defend the Union. One of these individuals was a twenty-year-old millworker named Francis, or Frank A. Gould, of West Boylston, Massachusetts. He mustered in as a Private in Company K of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on July 16, 1861, at Fort Independence. Although we do not know for certain why Francis enlisted, the thrill of military adventure no doubt played a role in his decision. Perhaps Francis, like many of his countrymen, believed that the coming war was in defense of the divine status of the Republic. Francis supported both his mother and step-father at the time as well, so the incentive of higher pay may, too, have persuaded him.
Francis soon found soldiering to be hard work, as he recounted in a wartime letter that “we drilled every day for 7 or 8 weeks” following his enlistment. Still, soldiering was not all work. In the weeks before Francis officially mustered in, his company attended numerous speeches and banquets in their honor; perhaps even more satisfying, grateful locals gifted the men with daggers, havelocks, and handkerchiefs. Although this grand treatment was common for the first wave of recruits, Francis’s term of service differed considerably. Massachusetts had already filled its quota for Ninety-Day enlistments, so all soldiers of Company K enlisted for a three-year term of service.
The regiment encamped near Sharpsburg, Maryland the following month. Francis and his comrades, along with Companies C and I, marched to Harper’s Ferry at the end of August. From September 1 to October 31, they quartered just across the Potomac River from the town. Here, Francis most likely experienced his first taste of combat in the Battle of Bolivar Heights, on October 16, 1861. Although little more than a skirmish, Francis’s Company came under Confederate artillery fire during the engagement. After Francis and his fellow soldiers had rejoined the regiment, they marched to defend a series of dams along the Potomac River. They saw action near Dam Number 5, located approximately seven miles from Williamsport, Maryland throughout the final months of 1861.
The following year, Francis witnessed fierce fighting at Second Manassas and Antietam. It is possible that he may have missed part of the first of these campaigns, as he is listed as sick in the roll dated August of 1862. If he did participate in the Battle of Second Manassas, Francis aided Union soldiers in a futile attempt to reinforce the swiftly collapsing Union line. Despite this blow, Francis soon experienced the excitement of victory at Antietam, fighting his way through the shattered husks of the infamous cornfield. After scarcely a year of campaigning, approximately 165 soldiers out of an initial 1,038 remained fit for duty.
Replacements reached the regiment following Antietam. Francis had a bitter experience with one named Charles Rice, who alleged that Francis stole a revolver from his tent on October 12, 1862. A Court Martial hearing did not occur until January 3, 1863. Francis was acquitted of the charges. Nonetheless, the slanderous charge may have significantly undermined his morale and alienated him from his comrades. Between these two episodes, Francis fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, although the 13th Massachusetts only saw skirmish action along the Union flank. During the evening of December 12, 1862, a Confederate picket visited soldiers of Francis’s company, and it is possible that Francis met this man himself. Though we will never know for sure, this meeting may have temporarily weakened Francis’s resolve to fight, particularly in the wake of such a disastrous Union defeat. Historian James McPherson states that soldiers “experienced the same estrangement from their civilian populations and a growing affinity for the brotherhood of soldiers on the enemy side.” Unsurprisingly, officers on both sides found fraternization between enemy combatants unacceptable for this reason.
Nevertheless, Francis fought on. He saw mishap after mishap befall the Army of the Potomac in 1863, beginning with the Mud March and continuing through the humiliating defeat at Chancellorsville. These blows left Francis and his comrades constantly questioning and mocking the Army of the Potomac’s leadership. In the days following Chancellorsville, the regimental historian recalled that the men of the 13th Massachusetts were “sore in body and sick at heart as we thought with mortification how little had been accomplished since leaving our camp.” However, as Francis marched towards Gettysburg, soldiers in the 13th Massachusetts began to see the looming battle as a defense of their homes, giving them a new sense of resolve. Indeed, for the first time in months, Francis and his comrades marched forward in high spirits, ready to face the Confederates wherever they might meet them.
On the Flank of the First Corps The regimental flag of the 13th Massachusetts. Wikimedia Commons.
A Mortal Wound to the Hip 13th Massachusetts Volunteer Monument at Gettysburg. Wikimedia Commons.
Francis Gould died of his wounds on July 14, 1863, in Christ Lutheran Church. He lived for two nearly two weeks after his wounding, and no doubt suffered considerably. However, he may have had the opportunity to experience as much of the “good death,” as a soldier on campaign could—surrounded by comrades, his name remembered and his body identified. His death brought the war home to his family and friends, and the burial process after Gettysburg perhaps provided his death with some meaning to both comrades and civilians.
Gould’s Service Record states that he received a “hip wound” at Gettysburg. If “hip” here refers to the hip joint, Francis underwent a full leg amputation. This operation carried an 83% mortality rate. Even a general hip wound carried a heavy mortality rate. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion lists 386 cases involving shot fractures of the hip. Three-hundred-forty-six resulted in death (to view a drawing of the impact of a bullet around the upper femur and hip joint, see Appendix). Most Union wounded found themselves transported to hospitals in cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore. The fact that Gould died in a hospital in Gettysburg speaks volumes about his condition after treatment. The grim inevitability of Gould’s death highlights both the septic nature of Civil War era surgery and the deadliness of the Minie ball. Regardless of whether an amputation took place, the wound most likely became infected. In this case, there are several possible culprits, including gangrene, tetanus, and pyemia: a form of blood poisoning. As any one of these infections spread, Gould’s health would have declined daily until his eventual passing.
Francis Gould was far from being alone on the 13th Massachusetts’s list of casualties. The regiment entered the Battle of Gettysburg with 284 men and officers, though only 99 remained fit for duty by the close of the first day of fighting. Interestingly, the regiment’s official history provides little indication of what attitudes its soldiers held towards the dead in the aftermath of Gettysburg. As Gould’s comrades marched on or recovered in hospitals beyond Gettysburg, some individuals surely thought back on Gould. Perhaps some soldiers viewed his death as a form of justice, believing that Gould’s was, in fact, guilty of stealing Pvt. Rice’s revolver. Or perhaps his death freed his character from any remnant of doubt in the eyes of his comrades. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust states that many individuals in both the North and South fought a private battle throughout the war to make sense of the carnage around them. The meaning of Gould’s death as a sacrifice for Union finds its strongest expression in the actions of the Federal government itself. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address provided many with the reassurance that the sacrifices upon the fields of Gettysburg mattered. The National Cemetery itself, Faust states, gave meaning to the memory of the soldiers and their sacrifices to the nation.
Without a doubt, the largest blow caused by Gould’s death fell upon his mother. Even before the war, Gould sent money to his mother to purchase food and clothing. She lacked a steady income because she cared for Gould’s step-father who was in failing health. During the war, Gould sent fourteen deposits of money – in amounts ranging from $1 to $20 – home to his mother whenever he was able, totaling $126. For a perspective on the extent to which Gould supported his mother, a Union soldier received $13 each month. Gould served in the 13th Massachusetts for just under 24 months at the time of his death; in other words, over one-third of his total pay went home.
Gould’s step-father died in August of 1863, leaving Harriet alone to care for her two teenaged daughters. Harriet found herself both widowed and without a son within the span of a month. At a time when the place of a woman in society was that of a homemaker, how could Harriet support both herself and her daughters? Just like countless other women in both the North and the South, Harriet sought aid from pensions. On January 29, 1864, Harriet applied for a pension certificate, which was formally filed on February 6, 1864. The initial rate, which is found on the certificate dated March 21, 1864, sat at a sum of $8 per month. Harriet continued to draw this pension until her placement in the Westboro Insane Asylum in November of 1901, where she died the following March.
The story of Francis Gould and his family does not end here, however. Officially, Gould is interred at the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. According to family lore, however, relatives had Gould’s body removed from his original resting place and buried in Southborough, Massachusetts. Indeed, a local cemetery has one Frank A. Gould listed as buried therein on July 14, 1863. Thus, even today, descendants of Francis Gould’s sisters challenge the official narrative of Gould’s resting place.
Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain, compiled 1861 – 1934, National Archives, Washington D. C.
Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers Who Served in the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, National Archives, Washington D. C.
Davis, Charles. Three Years in the Army: The Story of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers from July 16, 1861, to August 1, 1864. Boston, MA: Estes and Lauriat, 1894.
Faust, Drew Gilpin. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. New York: Vintage Books, 2008.
Fay, John Sawyer. The Memoirs of John Sawyer Fay. Unpublished. Quoted in Bradley M. Forbush. “The Maryland Campaign: September 10th – 17th 1862.” 13thmass.org. Last modified September 22, 2012. Accessed March 9, 2017. http://13thmass.org/1862/antietam.html#mozTocId581470.
Forbush, Bradley M. “Casualties of the 13th M.V.I, July 1st – July 3rd, 1863.” 13thmass.org. Last modified October 18, 2016. Accessed March 7, 2016. http://13thmass.org/1863/gettysburg_5.html#mozTocId41030.
Goellnitz, Jenny. “Civil War Battlefield Surgery.” Ohio State University Ehistory. Accessed March 8, 2017. https://ehistory.osu.edu/exhibitions/cwsurgeon/cwsurgeon/amputations.
Gould, Francis A. Francis Gould to ‘Uncle Jonathan.’ December 29, 1861. Quoted in Bradley M. Forbush. “Casualties of the 13th M.V.I, July 1st – July 3rd, 1863.” 13thmass.org. Last modified October 18, 2016. Accessed March 9, 2017. http://13thmass.org/1863/gettysburg_5.html#mozTocId41030.
Gould, J. P. “Report of Major J.P. Gould, Thirteenth Massachusetts Infantry.” In Fred C. Ainsworth, Robert N. Scott, Henry M. Lazelle, George Breckenridge Davis, Leslie J. Perry, Joseph W. Kirkley, John Sheldon Moody, and Calvin D. Cowles. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Vol. 5. Series 1. Washington, DC: Government. Printing Office 1881: 243 – 244.
McPherson, James M. For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Kindle.
Nelson, Scott and Carol Sheriff. A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America’s Civil War, 1854-1877. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Otis, George A. and D.L. Huntington. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. Part III, Volume 2. Washington, DC Government Printing Office, 188.
Population Schedules of the Eighth Census of the United States, 1860.
Narrative and map by Zachary Wesley, Gettysburg College.