Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers by Gary Paulsen, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers

Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers

4.2 105
by Gary Paulsen

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In June 1861, when the Civil War began, Charley Goddard enlisted in the First Minnesota Volunteers. He was 15. He didn't know what a "shooting war" meant or what he was fighting for. But he didn't want to miss out on a great adventure.

The "shooting war" turned out to be the horror of combat and the wild luck of survival; how it feels to cross


In June 1861, when the Civil War began, Charley Goddard enlisted in the First Minnesota Volunteers. He was 15. He didn't know what a "shooting war" meant or what he was fighting for. But he didn't want to miss out on a great adventure.

The "shooting war" turned out to be the horror of combat and the wild luck of survival; how it feels to cross a field toward the enemy, waiting for fire. When he entered the service he was a boy. When he came back he was different; he was only 19, but he was a man with "soldier's heart," later known as "battle fatigue."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A stark, utterly persuasive novel of combat life in the Civil War that may well challenge generations of middle-school readers."—The New York Times

"Paulsen's storytelling is so psychologically true that readers will feel they have lived through Charley's experience."—Publishers Weekly, Starred

"The nightmare of the Civil War comes to the pages in this novel from Paulsen . . . based on the real-life experiences of a young enlistee."—Kirkus Reviews, Pointer

"The novel's spare, simple language and vivid visual images of brutality and death on the battlefield make it accessible and memorable to young people."—Booklist, Starred

Library Journal
First published in 1998, this story of the Civil War as seen through the eyes of 15-year-old Charley Goddard is less bearable. Paulsen spares the reader nothing in this first-person account, based on a true story. You can smell the rot and feel Charley's sickness as he experiences the horrors and mental toll of fighting at Bull Run and Gettysburg. While a strong stomach is a requisite, the payoff is some of the most compelling and immediate writing for teens on the subject of war. Charley does return to his home in Minnesota, only to die in his early twenties, a victim of his "soldier's heart."—Angelina Benedetti, "35 Going on 13," BookSmack! 8/19/10
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Bookseller Reviews

Little Charley Goddard was a soldier with a secret. This diminutive, grim-faced Minnesota volunteer was underage; only fifteen; seduced by the sound of drums and songs and slogan to march off to a war he couldn't imagine. An electrifying and sobering Civil War novel.
Martha Davis Beck
Paulsen doesn't address the issues that bring men to war; he is interested in describing what war is. In our age of missiles, which can make war seem more remote and its effects less palplable, a novel like Soldier's Heart may be an important one for young adults to read—and to remember.
Riverbank Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From the author interview at the beginning of this recording, listeners will be caught up in Paulsen's storytelling. His wrenching look at the brutal Civil War (based on one boy's real-life experiences) comes to life via Wendt's (Cheers) robust bass voice. As a patriotic and eager 15-year-old, Charley Goddard lies about his age to join the First Minnesota Volunteers in 1861. He never imagines that taking part in the "shooting war" means watching thousands of men be killed and wounded and seeing many others suffer from dysentery and other diseases. From Bull Run to Gettysburg, listeners march with Charley to the front lines, getting a better picture of just how awful battle can be. Though Charley survives the war with only relatively minor physical injuries, his mind and soul are forever changed--he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder, then called soldier's heart. He dies, feeling much older than his years, at 23. Wendt provides some tender moments as Charley deals with horrific conditions, and he skillfully avoids melodrama in a generally straightforward reading. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA - Helen Turner
Charley Goddard boosts his age from fifteen to eighteen, enlists to serve with the First Minnesota Volunteers in the Civil War, and in battles from Bull Run to Gettysburg learns that war is not adventure but grinding horror. Post traumatic stress disorder, shell shock, and battle fatigue are newer, more clinical terms for Charley's "soldier's heart," a malady shared with other survivors of the madness, stench, heroism, and weariness of war. Readers watch Charley as he endures the monotony of waiting; expends fruitless efforts to keep himself, his food, and his weapon clean and dry; retreats into himself as a defense against the agony of losing friends; and is seriously wounded at Gettysburg. A "good" soldier in battle, no better or worse than others, Charley believes he has no control over his own life or death. Every part of soldiering--camp life, food, relationships, killing, and questioning--comes alive as Charley survives and grows old far too quickly. In the compelling final chapter Charley remembers what he wants to remember; "pretty things," he calls them: dew on a leaf, pretty girls, a black and shining Confederate revolver. The real Charley Goddard volunteered, trained, and fought with the First Minnesota and was wounded at Gettysburg. He returned to Minnesota but died within a few years from his Gettysburg wounds and soldier's heart. This is a spare and lucid document of war and of one of its memorable participants, child-man Charley Goddard. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Broad general YA appeal, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
To quote from KLIATT's July 1998 review of the hardcover edition: "Soldier's heart" is another euphemism for the horrible effects of war on a soldier—we've also heard of shell shock, battle fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder, all terms used to describe the indescribable from later wars. Charlie is from an isolated farm in Minnesota, who at 15 has little understanding of why the Civil War is being fought, or about the wider world. He wants experience, adventure, and to prove himself a man, so he enlists, lying about his age. The details of what follows for Charlie are sparse, but powerful. He takes part in several crucial battles and endures months of camp life until Gettysburg, where multiple wounds nearly kill him. This brief book gets to the reality of brutal warfare quickly. It delivers an emotional impact that even reluctant readers will experience, and so would be a good book to choose for such students in history or social studies classes. (Editor's note: This book is an ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1998, Random House/Dell/Laurel-Leaf, 106p, map, bibliog, 18cm, $5.50. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-"Nothing about war is good," says author Gary Paulsen in the interview that opens this recording of Soldier's Heart (Delacorte, 1998). This short novel is an honest look at the actual Civil War experiences of Charley Goddard, a 15-year-old who served in the Union Army. Without sentimentality, Paulsen presents all the elements of 19th century warfare, from the boredom to the brutality. The story chronicles the adolescent's transition from an eager youth to a dissipated young man. Charley survives several major battles, but he goes home spiritually and physically crushed, destined to die before his 24th birthday. George Wendt (Norm on Cheers) provides an unemotional reading of the text. Though it may sound laconic, it does convey the young soldier's internal shutdown as he moves between rage and fear. There is an author's note at the end of the narration that adds more information about Charley and the period. The lightweight cassette box, not like Listening Library's usual audiobook case, is not suitable for circulation. The quality and brevity of this recording make it an excellent supplement to middle and high school classes studying the Civil War. For school and public libraries.-Barbara S. Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Henry Mayer
. . .[A] stark, utterly persuasive novel of combat life in the Civil War. . . -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
The nightmare of the Civil War comes to the page in this novel from Paulsen (The Transall Saga), based on the real-life experiences of a young enlistee. Charley Goddard, a hard-working, sweet-tempered Minnesota farm boy, can't wait to sign up when the call comes for men to defend the Union. But the devoted son and brother who looks forward to sending home the $11 a month he earns for his soldiering is not prepared for the inedible food, ill-fitting uniform, or the dysentery he experiences just while training. The passages on the battles of Bull Run and Gettysburg are—as they should be—disconcerting, even upsetting, in the unflinching portrayal of the bloodshed and savagery of war. What is truly remarkable is Paulsen's portrayal of Charley, who is transformed from an innocent boy into a seasoned—but not hardened or embittered—soldier. Most haunting of all, more than the fiery skirmishes themselves, is the final picture of Charley, so shaken and drained from the experience that the only peace he can envision lies within suicide. An author's note tells of Charley's true fate; dead at 23 from the psychological and physical ravages of war.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Reprinted Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.86(w) x 4.08(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

            He heard it all, Charley did; heard the drums and songs and slogans
            and knew what everybody and his rooster was crowing.

            There was going to be a shooting war. They were having town meetings
            and nailing up posters all over Minnesota and the excitement was so
            high Charley had seen girls faint at the meetings, just faint from
            the noise and hullabaloo. It was better than a circus. Or what he
            thought a circus must be like. He'd never seen one. He'd never seen
            anything but Winona, Minnesota, and the river five miles each way
            from town.

            There would be a shooting war. There were rebels who had violated
            the law and fired on Fort Sumter and the only thing they'd respect
            was steel, it was said, and he knew they were right, and the Union
            was right, and one other thing they said as well—if a man didn't
            hurry he'd miss it. The only shooting war to come in a man's life
            and if a man didn't step right along he'd miss the whole thing.

            Charley didn't figure to miss it. The only problem was that Charley
            wasn't rightly a man yet, at least not to the army. He was fifteen
            and while he worked as a man worked, in the fields all of a day and
            into night, and looked like a man standing tall and just a bit thin
            with hands so big they covered a stove lid, he didn't make a beard
            yet and his voice had only just dropped enough so he could talk with
            If they knew, he thought, if they knew he was but fifteen they wouldn't
            take him at all.

            But Charley watched and Charley listened and Charley learned.




Meet the Author

Gary Paulsen is the author of more than 100 books.

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Soldier's Heart (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the few books ive ever read because I don't find reading very fun, but this book was amazing and since I'm very intrested in history this book was easy for me to understand. The author did a great job of showing the setting and didn't use too much or too little dialog. The book kept my attention the whole way through. Even tho the ending was a happy one. It kept me thinking. I deff. recommend this to everyone because its easy to read and gets your attention.
ErinElaine More than 1 year ago
As an avid reader, I've scarcely ever hated a book. I consider myself to be good at seeing the light in even the dimmest of stories. I read this book because it was on the list for The Assembly of Literature Among Adolescents, an English festival I will be attending come March. I tried very hard to find heart in this novel. The book is played up to be very heartfelt, touching, and emotional; the story of a young boy and the struggle of his heart. However, I saw none of that in the story. I felt that Paulsen wrote in a rather mediocre style, more as a sort of bland documentary of a war already too glamorized in the media. I saw no emotion whatsoever in this utterly forgettable story, a story that, mind you, SHOULD have been quite meaningful. I recommend this book to the most naive of readers, looking for information and simplicity, nothing more. Do not pick up this book if you are looking for an inspiring, well written story that will TRULY illustrate the cruelties of war. This book will not do that for you.
D1-Luke More than 1 year ago
Soldier’s Heart By:Gary Paulsen Choosing to read historical fiction as opposed to reading just facts of battles and important date helps you understand people’s feelings and can even interest you more. Soldier's Heart does both while, also giving important facts and telling about battle. Charley is set out on the adventure of a lifetime that he’s determined not to miss out on. He leaves home to join the First Minnesota Volunteers and gets shocked by the brutalness of a “shooting war.” Not knowing when or if he will die, he has to fight to survive.  Soldier’s Heart is enjoyable to read but also a good way to learn about the  Civil War. It shows how hard life was. Also, it shows what a soldier thought. For instance, in the book, the main character Charley didn’t even know what he was actually fighting for. It as well shows time of battle. During those times, Charley would see lots of men falling and even some he knew but he would always have to go on or he himself would be shot.  Lastly, it tells you what you need to know about the Civil War like the facts, dates, and battles. In conclusion, this book is a great way to learn the story of a soldier’s daily life and what time of war was like. Sometimes history, about wars, is not just about the battles themselves, but the new life people are forced toget accustomed to because of the fighting.
Ninap123 More than 1 year ago
After reading Soldiers Heart by Gary Paulsen, I give it a 3.5 out of 5.  I must say that I didn’t enjoy it very much.  I typically prefer a more action packed novel.  This story was interesting and educational, but hardly captivating.  I couldn’t relate to the main character because I felt like he didn’t give a second thought to his decisions and when he felt the consequences of his mistakes, he goes about it in a weak and defeated way.  Although, despite that I did enjoy the educational aspect.  It seemed like the events were accurate and there were very nice details about the main character’s  surroundings.  The book is about a boy named Charley Goddard.  He left his home and family in Minnesota to volunteer as a Union soldier.  He wasn’t sure what he would find on the battlefield, but he sought “adventure”.  Once he leaves Minnesota and begins his journey South and deeper into the war, he starts to understand what he got himself into.  Now, Charley must continue to fight even when others must fall.  In the end, he learns the true meaning of courage in the face of danger. Though this book was not my favorite novel, this book was an ideal quick read for both those who want to learn and those who want to teach.  This book gives you a clear idea of the lifestyle of a union soldier.  For example, it teaches us about how some of the drafted soldiers did not know what they were getting into because they had no means of comparison.  Another example would be how the soldiers were often unable to recover from the trauma they experienced in the war. The trauma followed them back into their lives after the war and cause mental difficulties.  I thought that this book provided me with a great opportunity to learn more about the emotional effects on the soldiers in the Civil War.   Overall, Soldiers Heart was a good book that would suit the interest of learners and teachers of the Civil War.
Linda Cook More than 1 year ago
I read this book for school and i loved it by the end. It actually goes by very fast. His facts are accurate too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Soldiers Heart by Gary Paulsen is a historic fiction book. If you are interested in history about the civil war then this is a good book for you. Charley is a 16 year old who wants to join the army, but he needs to be 18 to join. He lies about his age and he knows that his voice is getting deep enough to trick the guards. After he got enlisted he fought in three very brutal battles and bloody battles. He sent the money he earned back home to his mom and his brother.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is soooo good i even did a book report on it. Great book!!
tldew More than 1 year ago
Paulsen's books are great! My sons are dyslexic, these books have been such motivation encouragement my youngest has gone from the lower 5% to the upper 97% in reading in just 1 semester, Thanks Gary!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, I simply loathe history. It's a subject I can't stand learning or reading about a boring past that has nothing to do with me here. Even though I do get straigh A's in ALL subjects, I can't seem to do much for history. However, this amazing book has put a turn in my view of the civil war. I though the civil war was a boring subject to learn about, but this book is so attractive, I finally understand some part of history! I really wish there were more interesting books explaining history for those who are troubled.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gary Paulsen has a great way of telling a story of a young man named Charley who was in a war in which he had to fight. He saw his officer, lieutenant, fellow soldiers and friends. There was a lack of food for the soldiers. Most food was given to the sick. Charley and the others were usually hungry. At the slight chance that he would be able to eat he would get nauseous. When he had filled his canteen one dark night he found out that there were dead bodies in the stream and that his canteen had a pinkish color in it. Charley has a way of not dying and he is very lucky. Every day he hears bullets and gunshots and people screaming and dying but yet he still has the strength to move on and live through it. Charley has a hard time getting through the hardships and the fact that all of his friends are desperate to get home and are hungry. The doctor of the camp told him to find meat for the sick and injured. The camp had already eaten through the cattle. All that was left were the eleven rebel horses¿ Charley and three other men killed the eleven horses. Charley was sad to do it because he liked horses and grew up with them. They killed and skinned the horses. Charley and the men fed the horse meat to the sick and told them it was cattle. They knew it wasn¿t but ate it anyway. After feeding the sick, Charley and the others set off for battle. He can tell that he is getting close to battle. As Charley rode to battle he discovered that he had gotten a lot better when he tried to figure out how big the battles were. If there were a lot of sounds that meant it was a big battle, a few shots meant that it was small. This battle was big. As the battle continues, Charley thinks he gets shot in the shoulder. It turns out to be another mans blood. After this battle the troops march to Gettysburg. Charley survives the battle of Gettysburg. He was twenty-one and was happy in Minnesota. I would recommend this book to the people who like war stories and historical fiction. Children under the age of thirteen should not read this book because of the gore and violence. Gary Paulsen is a good author and he works are great to read
Guest More than 1 year ago
What would you do if you were fifteen and war broke out? Would you lie about your age and join the army? I wouldn¿t. That is exactly what Charley did in this realistic fiction book, Soldier¿s Heart, by Gary Paulsen. Charley was in a time of extreme racism and prejudice. Charley joined the army to see more of the country and to become a man. Little did he know that this experience would change his life forever. Many of his friends that he made, he lost in the war. . Paulsen writes Soldier¿s Heart based on a true story. Charley actually was a real person. He actually suffered these wounds. The timeline of Charley is true except for some added details. Paulsen hooked me on this masterpiece, I could hardly put it down. It is full of excellent details. I thought I was actually in the Civil War right there next to Charley. I recommend Soldier¿s Heart to anyone who loves to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Soldiers Heart, a book writen by Gary Paulsen, is about a 15 year old boy named Charley who joins the war because he wants to become a man. Charley fights in many battles. He goes from Winona, Minnesota to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Charley was a changing boy -- in some of the battles he was a good fighter but, in other battles he was a worried boy. My opinion is i thought charley was going to die in all the battles that he got hit with all the bullets.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book 'Soldiers Heart' was an ok book . Gary Paulsen made this book an anti war book. He used many good description words. He also used many diferent actions to make you fell like you are there. Charliey was the main character. He lives in Winona, Minnesota. He went away from he small town tp sign up for the army. He was only 15 years old and lied about his age to he can sign up for the war. He signed up because he thought it would make him a man. He went though many mounths of tranning. Then he went to go fight in his first battle. The Rebels killed many of the people in the first battle. They called this battle the Battle of Bull Run. This book makes you fell like you were there. This is a good book by Gary Paulsen.
ConnorW More than 1 year ago
I read Soldier’s Heart a historical fiction novel last year but I did not have any historical knowledge of what the Civil War was about, I thought it was a great book then, I couldn’t put it down it was chalk full of action and a new battle every chapter.  It always kept me on the edge of my seat not knowing what characters may die since we get attached to many of them throughout the book it really allowed me the reader to put myself in the main characters’ shoes (Charley Goddard).  The big struggle for Charley was to adjust to the environment of war, Charley would always get sick from the food they gave him, he was also very apprehensive about the whole idea of the war and if it was reasonable, his indecisiveness to stand up and fight when others are dying all around him who were doing the same was messing with his head throughout the book questioning if he should be there or if anyone should have to go through this. The different themes of pride, to never give up, and to believe in something was hidden behind every sentence always leading to the same lesson, if you believe in something go for it.  This year since we are studying U.S. history and now on the Civil War I thought now would be an appropriate time to re-read this novel and just like the first time I read it I was surprised with every chapter and the horrific events that took place I seem to understand the novel more and it had a much greater impact on me since I know what the reasons were and the purpose of fighting.  Overall, this is one of the best books that I have ever read a surprise behind every corner and a book I truly couldn’t put down.  I definitely would recommend this book to a friend.  But I do also recommend you have prior knowledge about the Civil War to get the general idea so it makes more sense and means more to you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To church
MMH72 More than 1 year ago
I have read quite a few books about the civil war and this one fell very short.  While it was short and to the point there were details that could have been brought to the story that were omitted.  For me it just wasn't what I was looking for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was really interesting i think that if someones really interested in history this is the book for you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Luved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ww777 More than 1 year ago
He was a young boy from Minnesota that wanted to enroll into the army but his mom wasnt so for him going but he stood up to his mom and said he is old enough to make his own decisions. He ate some salted pork and some bread and then he had to get ready for war. Then when charley was reforming and he saw his buddy nelson laying there with a tummy wound and he said the ambulance will come get you but nelson new that they just let people with tummy wounds to  die slowly because there was no way to fix it. There was many people dying because of diarrhea and measles.  The house wives Made a lot of meals for the soldiers. Charley and the Union army walk 26 miles to the next battle and charley could hear the war from miles. When he was fighting at gettysburg they made the whole unit charge including Charley. The author does good identifying the people characteristics of the people, war and there setting in the story. Gary Paulsen did a good job identifying Charley with his characteristics. in the middle of the wars he would put every detail about it. When they were walking places he would he would put every detail about where they are. There could be so much more of a story because he missed a lot of parts in the story. He could've put more to the battles and explained them better like it seemed like the wars were only 3 hours long but in real life they were all day from dawn to dusk. He could've put so much more details to the wars and the people. Yes the book was very good overall. There could be more to the book but great book. The reason I liked the book was because it was interested to me. I don't really like reading but I picked this book and I liked very much. The author made this book so interesting that it catches peoples attention very fast. I would recommend this book to kids that like learning about wars and don't like to read much because it will catch their attention very fast. I think you should read it because its a easy read. The other reasons is because when you read this it feels like you're in the war. I would recommend this book young men, boys, and maybe some girls. Many people I think will enjoy the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago