William B. Gould's Civil War diary chronicles his daily life in the United States Navy from September 27, 1862, to his discharge three years later, on September 29, 1865. One of the only known diaries of an African American sailor in the Civil War, this document describes his service and life as a sailor on the U.S.S. Cambridge and later on the U.S.S. Niagara, which took him from the northeastern U.S. to Great Britain, Holland, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal.
      This site is intended to complement William B. Gould IV's book about his great-grandfather, Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor. Here the reader can view the diary itself, and see aspects of it that cannot be replicated in a typescript or book. The reader can also view a photo gallery of images related to the diary, William B. Gould, and his family.
      The diary consists of two books plus some forty unbound pages that appear to have once been part of another book. All of the extant material is provided here in chronological order. There are only two significant hiatuses, one for the period May-October 1863, when he is hospitalized with the measles, and the other for the late September 1864-early February 1865 period, which appears to be a section that was somehow lost.

      Although WBG kept his entries chronologically on a day to day basis, the order that some of the sections of the diary appear in the original books can be somewhat confusing. WBG's first entries from Sept. 27, 1862 to May 3, 1863 are written in the final pages of the first book, with the May 3 entry falling on the last page of the book. At this point, WBG becomes ill with the measles and presumably stops keeping daily entries. The diary resumes on Oct. 13, 1863, the day he is transferred from the Chelsea Naval Hospital to the receiving ship Ohio and then to the U.S.S. Niagara. On this day, WBG begins a second book, which runs uninterrupted from Oct. 13, 1863 through Sept. 4, 1864. Opposite the Sept. 4, 1864 entry, on the last page of the book is WBG's drawing of the C.S.S. Stonewall. The next surviving entry is an apparent continuation of a February 4, 1865 entry. The first part of the Feb. 4 entry, as well as the preceding entries (from Sept. 4, 1864 onward) have been lost. The partial entry begins the first of about forty loose pages that were probably once part another book whose binding was destroyed. As is clear from the scans provided here, these pages are in the most fragile condition and have deteriorated significantly around the edges so that some of the text has been lost. The last of these unbound pages contains WBG's May 26, 1865 entry. At this point, WBG returns to the first book (the book whose last 50-odd pages contain the beginning of his service from Sept. 27, 1862 - May 3, 1863). He writes his May 27, 1865 on the first page of the book, and continues through Sept. 29, 1865, the date of his discharge from the Navy at the Charlestown Naval Shipyard. Thus, the 45 or so pages at the beginning of the first book contain the entries for the very end of his service, while the last 50 or so pages contain his entries for the very beginning of his service.
      To complicate matters further, between the two sections at the beginning and the end of the first book, are a large number of blank pages and a few pages of notes. Immediately following last diary entry on Sept. 29, 1865, are two pages of trade notes detailing formulas for mixing different types of cement, clay, etc, which were undoubtedly written after the war. In the middle of the book, surrounded on both sides by a number of blank pages, are a two undated entries, "Notes by WBG" and "The Negro his Friends and Foes." These items are written from the bottom line of the diary to the top, or upside down. Although their placement in the diary makes dating them difficult, they may well have been written by WBG before the war.


Selected Images of William B. Gould's Diary

William B. Gould's Early Life in Wilmington, North Carolina

William B. Gould's Life in the Navy

War Memorabilia Belonging to WBG and His Sons

William B. Gould's Published Articles

William B. Gould's Life After the War

William B. Gould's Descendents