The Civil War Soldiers' Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania 1864-1889

An Untold Story

Non-Fiction - Historical
298 Pages
Reviewed on 03/05/2016
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Review Exchange Program, which is open to all authors and is completely free. Simply put, you agree to provide an honest review an author's book in exchange for the author doing the same for you. What sites your reviews are posted on (B&N, Amazon, etc.) and whether you send digital (eBook, PDF, Word, etc.) or hard copies of your books to each other for review is up to you. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email, and be sure to describe your book or include a link to your Readers' Favorite review page or Amazon page.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

Meticulously researched and comprehensively annotated, this volume of neglected Americana history, The Civil War Soldiers’ Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania 1864-1899, heavily illustrated with fascinating photographs, drawings, and period documents, is particularly well-attended to by its author Dr. O. David Gold. In a somewhat disingenuous introduction to the subject of the orphan schools’ origins and their later functions, Dr. Gold first lauds the governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Gregg Curtin, for his role as Father of the Soldiers’ Orphan Schools, and whose interest supposedly came about because of a chance meeting on Thanksgiving when two orphaned children came begging him for food. Everyone involved with these institutions - intended to care for children made orphans by a soldier’s death or incapacitation - painted a pleasant portrait of the schools, even if their justifications also painted the children’s parents as brutes and the children as a social menace.

Digging deeper into his subject, Dr. Gold removes layer after layer of contemporary opinion to reveal a more sinister, disturbing, and certainly more accurately complex depiction of these supposedly safe havens for the children, beginning with a questionably unethical financial motivation for their existence, and certainly a later ruthless and greedy syndicate co-option of their operation, not to mention the intrinsic political graft and manipulation attending the continuance of their initial charters.

Dr. O. David Gold does a masterful job in The Civil War Soldiers’ Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania 1864-1899 of parsing through conflicting historical evidence in order to tell a balanced story that bears examination for its relevance today. What begins as an uncontested, popular issue of the heart often becomes distorted by the politics of self-interest, the stubbornness of inertia, and even the simple but profoundly unexpected flukes of history. Dr. Gold decisively covers each in this fascinating tale of a warm-hearted promise gone deathly cold.

Kayti Nika Raet

As the only modern text compiled on the little known Civil War orphan schools, The Civil War Soldiers' Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania 1864-1889 by Dr. O. David Gold provides a fascinating look into a unique humanitarian effort. Lasting twenty-five years, from just before the end of the Civil War to near the turn of the century, the orphan schools of Pennsylvania served as one of the first examples of a government attempting to care for the children whose lives were changed irrevocably due to the war.

Dr. O. David Gold meticulously documents the schools' existence from inception all the way to when they were rocked by scandal in 1886 and had their reputation further damaged through partisan fighting. With a bonus story on the tragic fate of the Gettysburg Orphanage, The Civil War Soldiers' Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania 1864-1889 by Dr. O. David Gold sheds light on a little known facet of American history, one that has eerie parallels to our own modern society.

My only complaint was that I wanted a more in depth look into the life of the students, but Gold provides the reader with such an intriguing amount of material, as well as enhancing his research with almost two hundred photos and drawings, that it was really only a minor quibble. And especially given the paucity of unbiased first person accounts. The Civil War Soldiers' Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania 1864-1889 by Dr. O. David Gold is great for anyone looking to learn more about the Civil War, its aftermath, or American history in general. Very informative read.

Melinda Hills

Amidst the horrors of the American Civil War, one of the most effective public service programs was born in the State of Pennsylvania. The Civil War Soldiers' Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania 1864-1889 by Dr. O. David Gold is the result of historical research and provides a tremendous description of the efforts of Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin to create homes and provide education for the children of the men who lost their lives defending the Union and its principles. Curtin’s story begins on Thanksgiving Day, 1863, when two children knocked on his door, begging for food. What followed is clearly related in this informative, well-researched text that looks at the original unselfish motives for the creation of special orphanages. With input and oversight from some of the leading educators of the time, the SOS (Soldiers’ Orphan Schools) were devoted to turning these homeless children into productive, respectable members of society, willing to work and become responsible citizens.

Unfortunately, the history continues with partisan squabbling that unearthed a scandal and brought about the end of the program. Gold provides a historical look back at this collapse and is able to explain how changes in American society, due to the Industrial Revolution and the need for skilled workers, caused the ineffectiveness of the orphanages.

Tremendous detail is presented clearly and concisely, supported with roughly 170 pictures and samples of letters, ledgers, and newspaper clippings. Although the book is rather specific to Pennsylvania, Dr. O. David Gold provides a look at an important point in American history that offers insights into the way education and social services have developed and changed over the past 150 years. An added bonus is the story of a private orphanage in Gettysburg that brought the horrors of the treatment of lower class homeless children to national attention. The Civil War Soldiers' Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania 1864-1889 by Dr. O. David Gold is well worth the time so you can appreciate where social services started and where the effort needs to grow.