George Hale Nichols papers  1853-1866
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Nichols, George Hale, 1843?-1864

Rank : Private

Regiment : 32nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Co. K (1862-1865)

Service : 1862 August 13-1864 March 27

Hailing from an upstanding family from Haverill, Mass., George Hale Nichols was a college student when the Civil War interrupted his plans to follow his siblings into life as an educator. One brother, Henry Franklin Clough Nichols (1833-1890) -- a graduate of Andover and Union Theological Seminary -- taught school in Canton, N.Y. between 1859 and 1861; another, Edward Payson Nichols (b. 1835), taught at Plattsburg in 1861 and later at Homer and Watertown, N.Y.; while a third brother, J.H. Nichols, worked in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China.

In August, 1862, Nichols enlisted as a private in the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry, an outfit organized out of reenlistees from the 1st Massachusetts Battalion. While Nichols was still green, his fellow soldiers had already seen service in the garrison at Fort Warren, Boston, and some malaria-soaked weeks in Virginia with V Corps, and perhaps for this reason, Nichols had little time to accustom himself to military life before being thrown into the breach: within a month of mustering into the service on August 13, the 32nd Infantry landed in the Antietam Campaign, assuming a role in the reserve. Although he had missed the brunt of the battle, this first taste was more than enough for Nichols. "I cannot tell you that I have yet been in any fight," he wrote, "though I have seen enough of fighting to satisfy my pugnacious disposition" (1862 September 23).

Following the Confederate Army slowly through the Blue Ridge, the regiment was next engaged at Fredericksburg during the assault on Marye's Heights, suffering 35 casualties. Despite these miserable first months in the service and the indignity of Burnside's "mud march" in January, Nichols remained upbeat, and his desire to serve, if not exactly his zeal, remained undiminished. At Chancellorsville, the 32nd Massachusetts were again engaged, though only lightly, but at Gettysburg, they were ordered to support III Corps at Devil's Den, losing 81 of 227 effectives, Nichols among them. Taken prisoner, he was sent to Richmond, where he became a casualty of disease on March 27, 1864.