THOMAS ACKLEY NICHOLS
Civil War Years- Infantry
When Fort Sumter was fired upon on April 12, 1861, news spread quickly across the nation, and patriotic men rallied to defend their country. Thomas A. Nichols was no exception; he hastened to Harrisburg where on 26 April he volunteered for three months of service in the Fifteenth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Co G as a First Lieutenant. Like many of his fellow soldiers, Thomas likely thought that he would soon return home to his family. At age 37, Thomas was not a young man, but he was loyal and determined to do his duty. He did not realize how much he would sacrifice in the coming years.
The Fifteen Regiment formed at Camp Curtain, Pennsylvania, on the 1st day of May 1861. Camp Curtain was the largest Federal camp during the Civil War and was strategically located near a railroad to facilitate moving the troops. Thomas was one of 300,000 men who would be processed at Camp Curtain. After arrival, Thomas was issued his uniform, a musket, percussion cap box, cartridge box, a canteen, and a knapsack.
Next he moved with his regiment to Camp Johnston near the city of Lancaster. Here the men were fortunate to sleep in barracks since tents were not yet issued. It may have been the last comfortable bed Thomas was to sleep in for some time. Drill practice ensued, and the men were soon marched to Camp Patterson near Chambersburg, Maryland.
Their first encounter with rebel forces was on the 2nd day of July near Camp Porter, Virginia. Union skirmishers were sent out in advance of the column of soldiers. They encountered a battalion of cavalry men dressed in blue blouses who appeared to be fellow Union soldiers, but in reality were Confederates. The skirmishers were soon captured, rounded up, and hurried away; the rebels fled on horseback. Thomas escaped capture, but the predicament of the foot soldier who was unable to flee, nor pursue the enemy left an impression upon him.
When the Fifteenth Regiment was mustered out at Camp Carlisle on August 7, 1861 after three months of service, Thomas returned home, albeit briefly. He had come through his first exposure to war unscathed, but was convinced that there was a better way to serve, and it was not on foot as an infantryman.
© 2014 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.
Name: Thomas Ackley Nichols
Parents: Matthias Nichols and Sarah Ackley?
Spouse: Helena Knerr and Lillian Watson Bull
Children: John, Bertha, Charles and Mary, Florence, Howard
Relationship to Kendra: 3rd great grandfather
- Thomas Ackley Nichols
- John Mathews Nichols
- Mabel Elvina Nichols Hyde
- John Frederick Hyde Jr.
- Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn