One hundred fifty years ago today on July 3, 1864, Thomas A. Nichols commenced the day with his usual routine as the Regimental Adjutant. He was happy to be back in camp near Bowling Green, Kentucky. His regiment had returned June 20th from operations against Morgan’s Raiders. The next day was Independence Day and the regiment might have had an opportunity to celebrate in some small fashion. After three years of surviving so many confrontations with rebel forces, Thomas did not suspect that this particular morning in camp would not bode well for him.
Unexpectedly, a musket shot fired. Was it the enemy?  Was it his troops? Pension records for Thomas state, he “was accidentally wounded by a musket ball whilst in the line of his duty, on the morning of 3d of July 1864 in Camp near Bowling Green, Kentucky. He is unfit for duty and is hereby ordered to report himself for treatment, at Officer’s Hospital Louisville Kentucky” signed by S. Walker, Surgeon 9th PA Cavalry.
One can only speculate how Thomas was shot in the foot while in camp. His files note it was “accidental”, thus it seems that it was “friendly fire”. Perhaps a soldier was cleaning his gun and it misfired? Perhaps his gun misfired?

Musket balls

Musket balls

The musket ball passed through his left foot. It entered at the base of the second toe, passed through the metatarsal bones and exited at the sole. As a result of the injury, Thomas would experience pain and discomfort for the rest of his life and receive one-quarter disability pension. It would not be the only disability he would receive.

Musket ball wound, image courtesy of opinionator.blogs.nytimes

Musket ball wound, image courtesy of opinionator.blogs.nytimesF.A. Otis and D.L. Huntington, “Wounds and complications, Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion.”Paintings of wounds made by a conical bullet in a Civil War casualty: entrance wound at left, exit wound at right.

It was fortunate for Thomas that the officer’s hospital was nearby in Louisville, Kentucky. Once he arrived at the hospital, his wound was assessed by a doctor and some type of dressing was applied. The dressing was meant to protect the wound, but often it led to infection. Pain medication might have been offered to Thomas in the form of opium or morphine, either mixed with water or liquor and drunk, or it was placed as a powder in the wound itself.

Thomas A. Nichols Medical Certificate Image obtained from CW Pension files NARA

Thomas A. Nichols Medical Certificate Image obtained from CW Pension files NARA

Granted a leave of absence for 20 days, Thomas remained in the hospital. Every twenty days he submitted another request for a leave of absence.

Letter from Thomas A. Nichols requesting leave of absence. Image courtesy of CW Pension Files NARA

Letter from Thomas A. Nichols requesting leave of absence. Image obtained  CW Pension Files NARA

Officers Hospital, Louisville, KY, August 2nd, 1864
I have the honor respectfully to request that a leave of absence for twenty (20) days be granted me on account of reasons stated in the enclosed surgeons certificate.
I am Captain, Very Respectfully Your Obed Servt. Thos A. Nichols, Adjut 9th Penns Cavalry
Thomas’s wound did not heal quickly, which is not surprising given the methods of treatment for the time. Every twenty days he continued to submit a request for a continued leave of absence accompanied by a medical statement attesting to his inability to serve.  October 17th, Thomas was recuperating in Pottsville, PA where he remained until December.

Thomas A. Nichols letter dated October 1864 - request for leave of absence. Image obtained from CW Pension Files NARA

Thomas A. Nichols letter dated October 1864 – request for leave of absence. Image obtained from CW Pension Files NARA

After six months of recuperation, Thomas reported to duty in Louisville, KY in December. On December 19th, 1864 the Medical Examining Board determined that he was unable to return to his regiment and perform his regular duties. However, he was fit “to perform sedentary duties.” His new duty was to supervise the prison barracks guard-house. Meanwhile, the Ninth PA Volunteer Cavalry continued operations throughout the south, including Sherman’s march to the sea, and the siege of Savannah.Thomas may have thought that sedentary duties were less dangerous than being out on campaigns and welcomed the respite.
The Louisville prison compound, where Prison Barracks No. 1 was located, covered an entire city block.It consisted of two large two story wooden barracks, plus an attached prison hospital. The compound was surrounded by a high fence and housed political prisoners, Union deserters and Confederate prisoners. From October 1862 thru December 1863 the prisoner population ranged from 2000-3500.
The day after Christmas 1864, less than two weeks after returning to duty,Thomas was on duty in the two-story Prison Barracks house No. 1 when misfortune struck again.

© 2015 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.


Genealog Sketch

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

  1. Thomas Ackley Nichols
  2. John Mathews Nichols
  3. Mabel Elvina Nichols Hyde
  4. John Frederick Hyde Jr.
  5. Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn
  6. Kendra

About treeklimber

An interest in history and travel lends itself to a passion for genealogy. The more I research, the more I realize there is to discover. It is a never-ending puzzle.
This entry was posted in Biographies, Military Service, My Family Ancestry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Paul Ditchey says:

    I liked your latest installment. Have you ever thought of submitting the entire work to something like this publication?


    • treeklimber says:

      Thank you Paul, I appreciate your comments. No, I just started this blog, so publishing it is not something I even thought about. I did consider contacting the Schuylkill County Historical Society and asking if they would like a copy of the complete blog so that if anyone else is researching Thomas Nichols it would be available. When I visited the Historical Society they had very little information about Thomas, even though he was a member of the local GAR and the Anthracite Masonic lodge.


  2. It’s amazing how much information you’ve been able to find about Thomas Nichols, and you’ve done a great job incorporating it all into an interesting and compelling narrative. Thank you!


    • treeklimber says:

      Thank you Elizabeth for your comments. It is so intriguing to incorporate historical research and the ancestral research and create “their story”. The deeper I delve into it, the more interesting it becomes. Your blog is wonderful and I have enjoyed reading it.


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