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

ISBN: 0440228387
ISBN 13: 9780440228387
By: Gary Paulsen

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Civil War Currently Reading Favorites Fiction Historical Historical Fiction History To Read War Young Adult

About this book

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."

Reader's Thoughts


Pre-ReadWhen I first read this over two years ago, prior to teaching it to 7th graders, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I heard Gary Paulsen was a good young adult author but up until this point, I had never read any of his work. I remember hearing about it from coworkers who said it was good and gave me a brief description of the book. During Soldier’s Heart is a quick read. As I am re-reading this for the second time, I am find the pages are flying by. Paulsen does a great job of vividly describing how a confident 15 year old enlists in the Army, only to find out how insecure he really is. Post ReadI enjoyed this book. And the bigger surprise for me was how captivated my seventh graders were when I taught this book two years ago. This book is very graphic and this was addressed with my seventh graders before we began to read. Once we got into the book, the students wanted to keep going. It was the most focused I saw my students all semester. On the surface, most people see this as a book about a 15 year old boy sneaking into the Army and going through all of the experiences of war. Going a little deeper, we see a 15 year old who thinks he knows it all and has all of the confidence in the world and quickly realizes life is not as easy as it seems. His fears and insecurities are exposed as he is quickly thrown into the realities of war.

William Barton

Soldiers Heart is a candid depiction of the barbarity involved with the civil war. The book depicts a series of famous battles in which the characters are faced with unreasonable odds and terrors. The book follows one character in particular, Charley Goddard, who was an actual young man who served in the war. The novel is a horrific telling of what soldiers had to deal with physically and emotionally during that time in history.I loved this book, but it is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of violence, a lot of gore, and some very disturbing images. But if you can look past those moments and see the book as a historical depiction of some of the most influential moments in our history, the book can be quite illuminating regardless of it’s dark content.

Brittney Johnson

In 1861 Charley is a fifteen-years-old, living on a farm in Minnesota with his mother and little brother. Everyone has heard the rumor that there is to be a war, with those in the North fighting to stop the Southern rebels from doing damage to the country. No one is quite sure if the war is really going to happen, but Charley is determined to be a part of it if it is. This decision leads to a boy having to quickly become a man when faced with harrowing death and destruction that only a war can bring. Really the only fault I found with this novel was that I personally did not find it interesting or engaging enough, and that the writing seemed a bit lacking. But I know that it was written for a younger audience so this would be perfect for middle schoolers, especially boys. Paulsen does do a good job though of creating the civil war world, and makes prominent points about the affects of war and how brutal they can be. It was well done, considering, for what Paulsen was trying to accomplish. Warnings: War violence.

Adrienne Morgan

Soldier's Heart is a blunt depiction of Civil War combat. Based on the real-life experiences of Charley Goddard, the novel is an account of Charley's experiences from the time he enlists in the Union army at age fifteen to a couple of years after the Civil War when he is twenty-one and his life is a shambles. The title of the book is a phrase used by Americans to label Civil War veterans who seemed mentally lost because of the war. The atmosphere at the town meetings discussing the possibility is festive, with flags and drums and patriotic speeches. I read this book in grade school and felt a little overwhelmed with the story line and language. My older brother convinced me to read it and I am happy I did. This is a well written book by Gary Paulsen. It shows a 15 year old who thinks he knows it all and has all of the confidence in the world and quickly realizes life is not as easy as it seems. His fears and insecurities are exposed as he is quickly thrown into the realities of war.This book could definitely be used in the classroom when reviewing world history or how we got our independence. There are so many references to real life soldiers and their stories it almost seems like you are there.

Scott Vondebur

A soldiers heart is an amazing book, its very suspenseful and its one of those books that you just cant put down. "Gary Paulsen the author of a soldiers heart is one of my favorite authors it always seems that every book he writes its just as good or even better than the last book". The book a soldier's heart Based on the life of a real boy, it tells the story of Charley Goddard, who lies his way into the Union Army at the age of 15. Charley has never been anyplace beyond Winona, Minnesota, and thinks war would be a great adventure. his regiment marches off through cheering crowds and pretty, flag-waving girls. But then comes the battle. Charley screams, "Make it stop now!" In this book gary paulsen is trying to exspress the ideas of what it was like as young soldier fighting in a war that i full of death. This book is full of tons of chilling and suspenseful moments, and it will keep you on your toes all throughout the book. I would advise this book to anyone who likes books that are filled with suspenseful and chilling moments with alot of adventure.

Joseph Law

Soldier's Heart, a piece of historical fiction based on an actual soldier, is a powerful read that shows the violence, pathos, terror, and boredom of combat in a way that even eludes many historical accounts. Told in the first person, it follows the underage soldier, Charley Goddard, from his premature enlistment in the Union army through the Civil War from Manassas to Gettysburg. Goddard survives the war but the war has taken a toll on him.I have read many historical works on the Civil War from both sides. Although, this is a short book, I am impressed at the way it reveals little known details about what it must have been like for the individual infantryman. It also has universal messages about the tragedy of war that will be applicable to any conflict. Certainly in a book about a war, there is violence and, therefore, the book is best for mature teens. Although the book has been in print for awhile, I believe it still has something important to say to young people, especially in conjunction with other study about the Civil War.

Carson Ball

Soldiers heart is an interesting and emotional historical fiction novel. Its based of the real life of Charlie Goddard, who you first meet as a 15 year old boy from Minnesota. Who is determined to lie about his age and enlist in the first Minnesota regiment. This book will keep you interested throughout by making you feel so emotionally close to the characters. The only down side of this book was its lack of details in some areas. Even considering those factors I would suggest this book to history lovers and people who want a good read.


Charley Goddard is just fifteen years old when he enlists to fight in the Civil War, obviously lying about his age. Throughout the book, the author describes how Charley's eyes are opened as he witnesses the hardship and devastation that results from war. This is a coming of age story about a boy becoming a man. I have a really hard time with Paulsen's books, I often find them extremely boring. This one was only one hundred pages, and so there were pros and cons to this story being so short. The pros are that the subject matter of this book is not really my thing and so it was good that this wasn't a rigorous read I had to work through. It also helped give the book a nice, fast pacing, not dwelling too long on detail, so I was rarely bored. The cons are that there was hardly any character development. I feel like I barely scratched the surface of understanding Charley's character. This may or may not have been intentional, but regardless it was hard for me become fully engaged in this book because I couldn't forma an attachment with the characters. Content:Sexuality/nudity: NoneViolence/gore: There are some graphic and disturbing images in this book, some even that caused me to make loud and horrified exclamations. Some scenes caused me to feel physically sick. But like I said, this is not my thing. I have a weak stomach, and so some of the stuff that disturbed me would probably be no big deal to someone else. Language: This is a war novel, so of course there is some language, though nothing too graphic. Alcohol/drugs: NoneFrightening/intense scenes: There are several intense battle scenes.


I have always had a certain respect for Gary Paulsen, and have enjoyed several of his books. However, I found this one to be surprisingly lack-luster. It’s short, which makes it attractive to readers, but I think it could have been fleshed out a lot more. There were points at which it felt more like an outline than a full story and didn’t seem to be following the all-important “show, don’t tell” rule as much as it could have.I think there is value to this book, and it could easily be enjoyed by fans of non-fiction or war stories, particularly middle school boys. I just personally would have preferred more character depth. I didn’t feel like I got enough of a feel for Charley’s pre-war life to be able to appreciate the change when he left for war. I also didn’t feel like I knew the character very well in general, and certainly didn’t know any of the other characters. Very few of them are ever named and even those few are little more than shadows on a battlefield. After the first battle, Charley is devastated because of all the men who died, many of whom he knew and was friends with, but since I didn’t know a single one of them, I had trouble sharing his pain. I can see the usefulness of this book, but I think that it could have been better.

April Helms

15-year-old Charley Goddard lied about his age so he could join the First Minnesota Volunteers in 1861, and fought for virtually the entire Civil War. A fictionalized account of a real soldier and real events. Charley enlists so he can see more of the world, and it seems like easy money. But from his first battle, he realizes that there is nothing romantic or exciting about war.Teens with family in the military will probably be able to relate to an extent what Charley is going through. It boggles the mind that a 15-year-old, someone not even old enough to drive, someone who would be a freshman or sophomore in school, would know the horror of battle. This book illustrates the psychological toll of war, the horrors seen – once, when Charley goes to fill his canteen, the stream is red with blood. In other scene, Charley is asked to stack dead bodies near a medical tent to serve as a windbreaker. My one nit is there is a very abrupt shift from when Charley is on the train, still innocent, and then the midst of his first battle. That may throw a lot of teens. I was a bit surprised to find this in the Children’s section of my local library. I really don’t think this is an appropriate book for anyone under 11. It is better for the YA shelves.


I really enjoyed this book due to the fact the author added a lot of things that a soldier would used to carry in their bag. I love the parts when fighting and killing would be going on to show what kind of things happened during the civil war. I loved the part when the guy said I am a man, so does that techniqually he is not a baby who lives at home or a person who fights without crying about it? That sentenced really took out to me. I liked where the setting took place, it took place in Winona Minnesota which reminds me of my sister living their with her friends. If you like battles and a happy ending, then this book I would reccomend this to up this book involves a lot of terms the civil war used back then like brigade, and exc.Thanks!


Charlie lies about his age to enlist in the American Civil War. He wants to prove to his family that he can provide for them. However, he gets much more than he bargained for. Charlie experiences the harshness and cruelties of war, sees friends die, and he himself gets injured. At the end of the book, he is suffering from PTSD, another name for it is Soldier's Heart.I liked the book. It was short, sweet, and full of action. The descriptions in this book were also well written, and as this is a Paulsen novel, it is mostly the protagonist's inner monologue.As for warnings, there is death and violence. This is a war novel after all.

Charles Kim

Grade/interest level: 7th-8thReading level: Lexile, 1000LGenre: Historical FictionMain Characters: Charlie GoddardSetting: Minnesota during the Civil WarPOV: from CharlieSoldier's Heart is a Civil War novel based on the real life of Charlie Goddard. He is a 15 year old boy who is determined to join the ranks of the First Minnesota Regiment. He has a naive outlook on the war and sees the war more as an adventure than anything else. He is worried that this will be his only chance to be in a "shooting war", but soon, Charlie's romanticized view of war is broken by the true nature of war. The Battle of Bull Run introduces him to the true horrors of war. With bullets whizzing past him, he sees his fellow soldiers (many of whom are just a couple years older than him) fall, eventually ending up underneath a dead soldier to feign his own death. No fifteen year-old boy is equipped in any way to see and experience what Charlie experienced during that battle. In fact, no fifteen year-old boy could have avoided mental scars. The book ends with Charlie as a man who has been ravaged by the war. Today, we call what he had, post-traumatic stress disorder, but during the civil war, they called it, a soldier's heart.I would use this text in my classroom to provide a more personal perspective to the Civil War. This book is good because it helps students see how expectations and reality don't align many times, but a more dominant theme is how Charlie deals with shock and hardship (especially as a young child). Since the story is told from a boy not too much older than the intended audience, the students should be able to relate to Charlie and put themselves in his shoes while reading Soldier's Heart.

Colin Hughes

"Soldier's Heart," is the story of a young 15 year old boy who hears rumors about a war brewing against the seceding "Rebels," and wants to fight for the Union. After months of training, Charlie is finally thrown into his first battle, the Battle of Bull Run, where he is forever changed. Once the plot got going, it never slowed down, and it had me hooked right until the very end. The Civil War setting seemed very authentic, and the battlefield scenes were horrifyingly realistic; I felt like I was seeing it right through the eyes of this young boy. Charlie is nicely described and well-developed, although other characters seemed a little half-baked, and Paulsen could've done a better job building them up. This book relates to the American Dream because it shows that people are willing to fight for freedom and equality, even if it isn't there own. It describes the pivotal point in American history where blacks finally gained freedom from slavery. People interested in the Civil War time period, or simply anyone looking for a quick, exhilarating read should give this book a try.

Shana Loven

Shana LovenAPA Citation: Paulsen, Gary. (1998). Soldier's heart : a novel of the Civil War. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.Genre: Historical FictionFormat: PrintSelection Process: Kirkus ReviewsGary Paulsen’s A Soldier’s Heart tells the tale of Charley Goddard, a fifteen-year-old boy, in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Charley, eager to squash the rebels, lies about his age to head to war. What follows is the heartbreaking horror reality of war: the harsh living conditions for troops, horrible sicknesses, allies killed in front of him, rebel deaths at his own hand, and horrific battles. A work of fiction telling the truth of the war that split America, Charley’s tale is one of PTSD or, as it was known then, a soldier’s heart and the tragedies of war to the bodies and souls of men. Highly Recommend.

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