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

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This is the only modern, published account of the Soldier's Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania. A bureaucrat of the system wrote a so-called history in 1873 but it is very self-serving and devoid of any critical analysis. Also included, a bonus feature on the Ill-Fated Gettsyburg Orphanage. The Soldier's Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania, 1864- 1889 were unique to the history of the nation. They were the first historical example of a government attempting to nurture and educate the children of soldiers killed in war. During the 25 years of its existence, over ten thousand children passed through the Soldiers' Orphan Schools of Pennsylvania. Established largely through the efforts of Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin, they were not orphanages but privately owned boarding schools funded by the state which took in soldiers' orphans between the ages of eight and sixteen. While they designed a rigid academic plan of studies, the well-known professional educators who supervised the system for the state were mainly interested in the moral development of these children from the lower strata of society. Discipline, hard work, and obedience were the principal aims of those who ran the schools. Intellectual development was always secondary. Located mainly in the rural and agricultural areas of the state, the Soldier's Orphan Schools were challenged by the new economic and social forces of the latter nineteenth century. In a state renowned for its savage partisan politics, the Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphan Schools got emeshed in a so-called scandal which involved the Democratic governor and the GOP opposition. Charges of neglect and fraud dominated the political press for months. This episode of 1886 soured the public on the system of relief established during the Civil War. An add-on chapter concludes the book - The Ill-Fated Gettysburg Orphanage. This institution was like a counterpoint to the S.O.S. The latter was a government sponsored creation. The orphanage in Gettysburg for soldiers' orphans was a private endeavor with no government supervision or financial involvement. This is truly an amazing story beginning with the battle of Gettysburg, the discovery of a dead soldier clutching the picture of his three children, the search for his identity, the sale of the picture was used to raise funds for an orphanage, its life from 1866-1877, and its closing largely because of a "cruel headmistress" who among many "evil acts" kept her charges in an underground torture chamber. This section features the Lunden Family Letters, printed for the first time. The three Lunden children corresponded with their mother while under the care of the notorious headmistress, Rosa Carmichael. The book is enhanced by 170 photographs and drawings. To request a review copy, please e-mail [email protected]

"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 ... Digging deeper into his subject, (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... a masterful job 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.... (Gold) decisively covers each in this fascinating tale of a warm-hearted promise gone deathly cold." By Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite - FIVE STARS "As the only modern text compiled on the little known Civil War orphan schools... provides a fascinating look into a unique humanitarian effort.... (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 book) sheds light on a little known facet of American history, one that has eerie parallels to our own modern society... Gold provides the reader with such an intriguing amount of material, as well as enhancing his research with almost two hundred photos and drawings... great for anyone looking to learn more about the Civil War, its aftermath, or American history in general." By Kayti Nika Raet for Readers' Favorite - FIVE STARS ".... 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 ... 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 a spectacular 170 pictures, samples of letters, ledgers, and newspaper clippings... (this book ) 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 unforgettable story of a private orphanage in Gettysburg that brought the horrors of the treatment of lower class homeless children to national attention." - Reviewed By Melinda Hills

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Book details

  • PDF | 298 pages
  • Pendragon Publishers (April 7, 2016)
  • English
  • 8
  • History

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Review Text

  • By Jen L. on April 24, 2016

    An excellent masterpiece of a heavily researched topic. An original subject, that you can clearly tell Dr. O. David Gold is extremely passionate about. Hours and hours have been spent to bring this topic to light. Outlining the stark realities of the civil war orphans, in a society where no one seems to care...or is it society’s system that runs on monetary principles that make it difficult for the people to care. Gold compiles a wonderful collection of old photos from this era, and breaks down the layers of hidden greed and corruption.I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up with no love or nurturing. As communal animals, our health and well being depends on love and nurturing. Not only were these orphans unloved ,and unnurtured, some were extremely neglected of basic human needs. The reasoning behind how anyone, or any system can neglect an entire mass of vulnerable children is hinted upon in Gold's research. Money can drive many to do evil things. Always with a monetary system, there will be neglect and exploitation of the vulnerable... you see it in third world countries, street kids are everywhere. This emphasizes the importance of small communities, a community that relies on each other, and supports each other. The larger the system, the more alone people become.The neglect of the vulnerable reminds me how we to this day treat other species. Pigs, commercial farmers shove them into a pen that should normally have 1 or 2, he puts 30. He feeds them the cheapest meal he can find, as long as they are satisfied and don’t get sick... borderline health. Even worse, they just pump them with antibiotics so they can malnourish them even more of their basic health needs. All in the name of saving money. You want a pack of pig meat for $5 dollars, you will get a pack of pig meat for $5 dollars at the expense of this neglect. The farmer needs to do all he can to save money. I feel like this is very similar the way society treats these civil war orphans. I’m a firm believer that all living things are equal, no matter human or a different species, we all deserve a place on this earth.I'm not religious in anyway, but I believe in proper moral and values. Respect yourself, and respect all living things around you. Love unconditionally. There’s never too much love you can give. IF every single human followed these morals and values you wouldn’t have 1000s of neglected orphans. In a perfect society, people as a whole would love and take these kids as their own. People feared taking in children…just as people fear taking in refugees.Wonderful piece of work, research, and I hope this develops into a lesson for mankind, or at least a reminder of how dark our society has become. I’d like to see these school systems compared to the more recent indigenous (or Indian) residential school systems.This was set in the late 1800s, in the late 1900s we had the residential school system for indigenous. History repeated itself and most don’t even know…. Looking at native communities today, they still carry deep scars from the past. Children need love and nurturing. Thank you Dr. Gold.

  • By gandyd on June 18, 2016

    Congratulations to David and Martha Gold on their exhaustively researched account of this little known facet of American history - the Pennsylvania boarding schools that were charged with the care and education of thousands of children orphaned by the Civil War.What started out as a well intentioned program by then Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Gregg Curtin, became corrupted by greed, fraud and neglect. The primary mistake was in allowing private contractors to run the schools rather than the state, so that, all too often, making a profit took precedence over providing for the orphans.This study of the Pennsylvania schools is engrossing. As a history buff, I was fascinated with the details, the tidbits of information about the daily life, not only of the children, but of the larger society at that time. A more callous time to be sure. There are few indications of these unfortunate children receiving the love and affection that nurtures us all. Discipline, obedience and moral development was always the focus. I found this distressing.I wound up concluding, however, that in most cases these children were better off in the institutions than left to their own devices. Many of the accompanying photographs illustrate this...ragged waifs sleeping on the streets.Carefully annotated, and supported throughout with letters and illustrations and photographs (many of them haunting), this work is an amazing story. A bonus chapter deals with the doomed Gettysburg Orphanage.Dr. and Martha Gold have done a superb job here. Anyone with an interest in American history, the Civil War and its aftermath, should read this book.

  • By booksncoffee on May 24, 2016

    In 1863, Pennsylvania Governor Curtin promised to aid the children of his state’s soldiers lost in Civil War battles. While that promise could be construed as a recruitment tool by the staunch patriot, his reputation as ”The Soldier’s Friend” in terms of logistical and humanitarian support lends credibility to his words. Unfortunately, the state’s decision to allow the schools to be privatized, allowed corruption and greed to fester and grow. Government funds destined for charitable aid to the devastated families wound up in the pockets of the owners of the schools while the children received only the bare minimum of care and, in some cases, were tortured and abused. Twenty five years later, as the scandal surfaced and the schools finally closed, a call arose to document the travesty. At last, the Golds have done so.My particular interest in the Civil War era stems from researching my Pennsylvania family tree. In my research into the lives of my faceless ancestors, I’ve found that most texts of this era deal with politics, battle strategies, or the courage and fortitude of the participants. But Dr. and Martha Gold present a unique view on the other “casualties” of the war – the surviving widows and orphans. From the poignant story of the children’s photo found with the dead soldier that initiated the establishment of the schools, to the historically meticulous account of the plight of the subsequent students, this book has been especially informative and I highly recommend it to all students of history.

  • By Tasha Colgan on March 12, 2018

    Loved this book! Fantastic historical facts, very interesting read!


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