The Civil War Passage Of A Black Sailor Book Cover

Celebrating Black History Month

In 1862, William Benjamin Gould (1837-1923) escaped slavery in North Carolina, traveling down the Cape Fear River with seven other slaves to the ocean, where they were taken aboard the USS Cambridge as “contraband” and fought against the confederacy. After serving in the Navy he moved to Boston and became a master plasterer, joined a community of free blacks, and met and married escaped slave Cornelia William Reed (1937-1906) in 1865, settling in Dedham, Mass, by 1871. Gould was responsible for the plasterwork on the interior of St. Mary’s Church in East Dedham (1880). The document shown here is from the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic), in which Gould was a Commander of the post in 1900-1901. This biographical record, in the collection of the Dedham Historical Society, charts his service from his entrance to the offices he held; the DHSM holds hundreds of other GAR records as well. Gould was not the only member of his family to serve in the military; five of his sons served in WWI and one fought in the Spanish American War. We have two copies of “Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor,” written by Gould’s great grandson, in DHSM’s collection. Gould and his wife are buried in Brookdale Cemetery. Thank you to our DHSM archivist for this posting.