William B. Gould was born into slavery in Wilmington, N.C. in 1837. During the Civil War, Gould escaped with seven others on September 21, 1862 by sailing 28 miles down the Cape Fear River where he was picked up by the USS Cambridge. He served for the rest of the war in the United States Navy, chasing Confederate ships to shores as far away as the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and England.
While in the Navy, Gould kept a diary that is today one of only three known diaries kept by slaves during the Civil War. After the war, Gould settled on Milton Street in East Dedham with his wife, Cornelia. There they raised two daughters and six sons while he worked as a building contractor and plasterer. Among his notable works are the plaster work of the Bellamy Mansion in North Carolina and St. Mary's Church in Dedham.
While living in Dedham, Gould became a pillar of the community, including as one of the founding members of the Church of the Good Shepard in Oakdale Square and serving as commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. When he died in 1923, the Dedham Transcript reported his death under the headline "East Dedham Mourns Faithful Soldier and Always Loyal Citizen: Death Came Very Suddenly to William B. Gould, Veteran of the Civil War." He is buried in Brookdale Cemetery.
Prof. William B. Gould IV's presentation to the Friends of the Wilmington, NC Public Library
See Prof. Gould throw out the first pitch and talk about his great-grandfather
In the Navy Mr. Gould was a Petty Officer on the Fleet Engaged in the European Blockade. One Son Served in the Spanish American War and Three Sons in the World War, All of Whom Won By Faithful Service the Rank of First Lieutenant.
William B. Gould, one of Dedham’s best known citizens, died of heart trouble at his home on Milton Street, May 23, 1923. He was the son of Alexander and Elizabeth (Moore) Gould and was born in Wilmington, N.C. Nov 18, 1837. He came to Dedham in 1871 and established himself in business as a brick mason and contractor, a business from which he retired several years ago. He was a naval veteran of the Civil War and served as a petty officer on the USS Cambridge, Ohio, and Niagara of the fleet engaged in the European blockade. The deceased was a member of the Norfolk County Grand Army of the Republic Association, the US Naval Veterans Association and of Charles W. Carroll Post 144 G.A.R. Of the last named organization he was a past commander and had served it for many years as its adjutant.
He is survived by six sons, William B. Gould Jr. of Hyde Park, a veteran of the Spanish American War, first lieutenants Dr. Ernest M. Gould of Washington D.C., James E. Gould of Dedham and Herbert R. Gould, all overseas veterans of the World War and the last named a state inspector of buildings, Massachusetts Board of Labor and Industries: Lawrence W. and Frederic C. Gould, both Dedham, and two daughters, the Misses Mabella and Loretta Gould, both of Dedham.
The funeral was held Friday afternoon from the home. Rev. Walton H. Doggett, rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, officiated, and there was also a service by his comrades in the Post, who gave the rites of the G.A.R. There was a very beautiful floral tribute. Interment was in Brookdale Cemetery.
The heart of this book is the remarkable Civil War diary of the author’s great-grandfather, William Benjamin Gould, an escaped slave who served in the United States Navy from 1862 until the end of the war. The diary vividly records Gould’s activity as part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron off the coast of North Carolina and Virginia; his visits to New York and Boston; the pursuit to Nova Scotia of a hijacked Confederate cruiser; and service in European waters pursuing Confederate ships constructed in Great Britain and France.
Gould’s diary is one of only three known diaries of African American sailors in the Civil War. It is distinguished not only by its details and eloquent tone (often deliberately understated and sardonic), but also by its reflections on war, on race, on race relations in the Navy, and on what African Americans might expect after the war.
The book includes introductory chapters that establish the context of the diary narrative, an annotated version of the diary, a brief account of Gould’s life in Massachusetts after the war, and William B. Gould IV’s thoughts about the legacy of his great-grandfather and his own journey of discovery in learning about this remarkable man.
For a briefer read, check out WBGI's Wikipedia biography
More information about the book can be found at the Stanford Law School's website.