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Soldier's Heart  
File:Paulsen - Soldier's Heart Coverart.jpg
Author Gary Paulsen
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Historical War novel
Publisher Dell Publishing
Publication date September 8, 1998
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 128 pp
ISBN 0385324987
OCLC Number 38249375
LC Classification PZ7.P2843 So 1998

Soldier's Heart (Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers) is a historical war novella by Gary Paulsen aimed at the teenage market. It is a fictionalisation of the true story of the farmboy Charley Goddard, who at the age of 15 enlisted in the Union Army in the American Civil War, was involved in combat at Bull Run and Gettysburg, and returned traumatised and suffering from "soldier's heart" (Da Costa's syndrome).[1]

Soldier's Heart is based on a true story about a fifteen-year-old boy in Minnesota named Charley Goddard who lies about his age to join the First Volunteers of Minnesota to fight in the Civil War. Some of the events and time sequences are not completely factual, but the essential elements of the book's story are true.


Charley is an example of a dynamic character. He goes through phases before, during, and after the war. Before the war, he joins because he wants to be a man. He also wants to send money to his mother. When he gets to Fort Snelling, he realizes conditions are very bad. His uniform doesn't fit, they have bad rifles, and they live on beans. During the war, we see he is more mature. He now regrets joining the war. He is scared of dying, and has been traumatized. He is not picky about the beans anymore, and profanity doesn't bother him. He thinks death is unavoidable, and is terrified of it. After the war, he says he has seen too much for his age. Emotionally, he feels old. War haunts him and he tries to think of pretty things. He now welcomes death, because it would put him out of his misery. At the end of the book, he lives all alone in a shack, which he calls home.


  • Charley Goddard (main character)
  • Mrs. Goddard (Charley's mother)
  • Orren (Charley's brother)
  • Massey
  • Nelson
  • Swenson
  • Lieutenant Olafason
  • General McClellan
  • President Abraham Lincoln
  • Slaves
  • Southern slave owner


  • Winona, Minnesota
  • Fort Snelling
  • St. Paul
  • Chicago
  • Pittsburgh
  • Harrisburg
  • Washington
  • 1st Battle (Battle of Bull Run)
  • 2nd Battle
  • 3rd Battle
  • Battle of Gettysburg


  1. The Boys of War, Henry Mayer, The New York Times, November 15, 1998.