Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
George C. Nichols Papers, 1861-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: George C. Nichols papers
Creator: Nichols, Clara A.
Inclusive dates: 1861-1865
Bulk dates: 1862-1863
Extent: 36 items
The George C. Nichols papers document Nichols' service with the 25th Massachusetts Infantry, including participation at the battles of Roanoke Island and New Bern, stays in hospitals, and changing attitudes toward the war.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1996. M-3219.4.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Alternate Format:


Preferred Citation:

George C. Nichols Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The George C. Nichols papers are arranged chronologically, with undated items at the end.


George C. Nichols was born August 10, 1841, in Westminster, Massachusetts, the son of farmer Edmund Nichols and Mary Derby. He was one of at least eight children, including Clara Nichols, his younger sister and frequent correspondent, and Lyman, Francis, and Frederick Nichols, who served with the 15th Massachusetts Infantry. George Nichols enlisted on September 27, 1861, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, with Company F, 25th Massachusetts Infantry. He participated in the battles of Roanoke Island and New Bern, but experienced frequent illnesses, and was in and out of hospitals beginning in August 1862. Nichols was reportedly captured at the siege of Petersburg in May 1864, but his correspondence does not confirm this. Nichols survived the war, and died of illness on May 15, 1867.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The George C. Nichols papers consist of 36 letters written by Nichols to family members during his service with the 25th Massachusetts Infantry. His letters span October 5, 1861, to February 21, 1865. The tone of Nichols' correspondence changes drastically over the three years that it represents. Early letters describe the "fun" and "good times" that he had while occupied as a guard (October 5, 1861) and as a sailor on the steamer New York (January 10, 1862). However, by the summer of 1862, news of bad food and illness dominates the correspondence, as Nichols had begun a series of hospital stays. On August 10, 1862, Nichols wrote, "I wish I was out of this damd hot place & out of this war[.] don't you tell aney one for it would go al over the street that I was sick of it…" (August 10, 1862). In letters from this point on, Nichols wrote about such topics as his treatment at Beaufort Hospital, including care by nuns (September 21, 1862), his thoughts on the progress of the war (June 21, 1863 -- "The Rebs are making a raid up into Pennsylvania. I am glad of it the North are a sleep and hav [sic] been for the last six months they dont seem to care much about the War…"), and his desire to return home. Although Nichols barely mentioned the action that he saw as a soldier, his letters clearly document his morale and medical treatment. Several sources state that George C. Nichols of the 25th Massachusetts Infantry was captured at the siege of Petersburg on May 16, 1864; unfortunately, his letters, which are concentrated around 1862-1863, never address his capture or time in prison.

Subject Terms

    • Annapolis (Md.)
    • Ball's Bluff, Battle of, Va., 1861.
    • Beauregard, G. T. (Gustave Toutant), 1818-1893.
    • Boston (Mass.)
    • Burnside, Ambrose Everett, 1824-1881.
    • Hooker, Joseph, 1814-1879.
    • Jackson, Stonewall, 1824-1863.
    • Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870.
    • Military life.
    • New Bern, Battle of, New Bern, N.C., 1862.
    • Soldiers--Massachusetts.
    • United States. Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 25th (1861-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Hospitals.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Medical care.
    • Westminster (Mass.)
    • Nichols, George C., 1841-1867.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   89, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    George C. Nichols papers [series]
    Folder   31  
     October 5, 1861-June 1, 1862
    Folder   32  
     June 12, 1862-September 21, 1862
    Folder   33  
     May 19, 1863-February 21, 1864
    Folder   34  
     Undated correspondence
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Related Materials

    The Amos E. Stearns memoir mentions George C. Nichols as a fellow captive at Libby and Andersonville prisons.

    The Charles F. Tew papers document the experiences of another member of the 25th Massachusetts Infantry.


    Denny, J. W. Wearing the blue in the Twenty-fifth Mass. volunteer infantry: With Burnside's coast division, 18th army corps, and Army of the James . Salem, Massachusetts: Higginson Book Company, 1998.

    Putnam, S. Henry. The story of Company A, Twenty-fifth regiment, Mass. vols. in war of the rebellion. Worcester: Putnam, Davis and co., 1886.

    Stearns, A. Edward., Basile, L. The Civil War diary of Amos E. Stearns, a prisoner at Andersonville. Rutherford [N.J.]: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1981.