Guide to the James Nichols Papers, 1851-1914

Collection number: MC 308
Size: (1 box) (0.33 cu.ft.)

About James Nichols

James Nichols was born in Ossipee, New Hampshire on February 14, 1821, the son of Amos Nichols and Eliza Titcomb Nichols. He was the first of eleven children. Sometime around 1843, James married Abigail Harmon Milliken, born Dec 14, 1819. The couple settled in Saco, Maine and had their first child, Ellen, in 1843. In 1847 their second daughter Abby Amanda Nichols was born, followed by a third daughter, Georgeanna in November 1849. On December 18, 1851, their only son, James Edwin Nichols, was born in Saco, Maine. By 1860, the Nichols family had moved to Rochester, New Hampshire and operated a family farm there.

James enlisted in in the Union Army on November 25, 1861, and was mustered in as a private on December 23. He was assigned to Company G of the Eighth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry Regiment. For most of 1862, James served as a cook for the various camps and hospitals, eventually being assigned as the cook for Captain Henry Huse of Company G. In early 1863, James sustained a minor injury during battle.

The 8th New Hampshire participated in several battles in the deep South in 1863. In December of 1863, the unit’s designation was changed to the 2nd New Hampshire Cavalry. In 1864, the unit participated in the Red River Campaign. After being stationed for a time in Natchez, Mississippi late in 1864, James mustered out and returned home in January, 1865.

During the war, Abby remained at the Nichols’ farm in Rochester where she continued to raise their children and help with farm work when she could. Her letters to James often mention a number of Rochester locals who helped the farm remain operational during James’ absence.

After the war, James and Abby remained in Rochester. Abigail died on July 26, 1887 and was buried in Rochester (Northside) Cemetery. James died two years later on December 30, 1889 at the age of 68, and was also buried in Rochester Cemetery.

    Timeline of the 8th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry/2nd New Hampshire Cavalry

  • 1861, December 23rd: 8th Regiment Volunteer Infantry mustered at Camp Currier, Manchester, New Hampshire.
  • 1862, January 25th: Moved to Fort Independence, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • 1862, February 15th: Set sail for Ship Island, Mississippi, arriving March 15th.
  • 1862, May 5th: Occupation of Ports Wood and Pike, Lake Pontchartrain. Moved to New Orleans until October, 1862.
  • 1862, October 24th: Stationed in District of LaFourche through November 6th.
  • 1862, October 27th: Participation in the Battle at Georgia Landing near Labadieville, Louisiana
  • 1863, April 12th-13th: Participation in the Battle of Fort Bisland.
  • 1863, April 14th: Participation in the Battle of Irish Bend.
  • 1863, May 24th - July 5th: Participation in the Siege of Port Hudson.
  • 1863, December: Designation changed to 2nd New Hampshire Cavalry.
  • 1864, January 4th: Regiment re-enlisted. Ordered back to New Orleans.
  • 1864, March 10th-May 22nd: Participation in the Red River Campaign.
  • 1864, July 11th: Veterans on furlough through August 31. Non-veterans at Camp Parapet.
  • 1864, September: Ordered to Natchez, Mississippi, remaining based there through December.
  • 1864, December 23rd: Non-veterans ordered home.
  • 1865, January 18th: Non-veterans mustered out.
  • 1865, October 29th-November 6th: Veterans moved to Concord, New Hampshire.
  • 1865, November 9th: Veterans discharged.

About the James Nichols Papers (1851-1914)

This collection consists of personal correspondence, envelopes, and various paper ephemera. Personal correspondence between James and Abby Nichols during the time James was serving with the 8th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry comprises the majority of the collection. Other correspondence includes letters between James and his daughter Amanda, letters to James from his son James Edwin (Eddie) and brother Amos R. Nichols, Jr., letters to Abby from Amanda, and other various letters sent to James. Paper ephemera include newspaper clippings, 1864 election materials and a wedding invitation.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [Folder Number], Box 1, James Nichols Papers, 1851-1914, MC 308, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Bequest of Arabella Tuttle, 2017.

Separated Material

No material was separated from the original acquistion.

Collection Arrangement

Arrangement is chronological.

Collection Contents

Box 1
Box 1, Folder 1Amos R. Nichols to James: Jan. 1851 - Nov. 1852/Undated

Six letters from Amos R. Nichols, Jr. to James Nichols who was living in Saco, Maine at the time. Most of the letters describe Amos living in San Francisco, California and sending money home to James.

Box 1, Folder 2Nichols Family/James Nichols Correspondence: Apr. 1859 - Jan. 1886.

Various correspondence between members of the Nichols family or from miscellaneous senders to James.

Box 1, Folder 3James to Abby/Daughter: Dec. 1861 - Feb. 1862

Letters from James to his wife and an unnamed daughter from his early days in the 8th New Hampshire. Includes 2 letters from Camp Currier in Manchester, New Hampshire, 2 letters from Fort Independence in Boston, Massachusetts, and a letter from the ship E. Wilder Farley.

Box 1, Folder 4James to Abby: Feb. - Apr. 1862

Letters from James to Abby from the ship E. Wilder Farley and his early days at Ship Island, Mississippi. 4 letters have been threaded together, suggesting they may have been sent or received at the same time.

Box 1, Folder 5James to Abby: May - Jul. 1862

Letters from James to Abby describing his post in the South with the 8th New Hampshire. Includes scenic descriptions of the journey to Lake Pontchartrain. Also details James being assigned to cooking duty for the camp hospital.

Box 1, Folder 6James to Abby: Aug. - Sep. 1862

Letters from James to Abby checking on the health of the family at home. James reports on the health of the “Rochester boys.” One letter mentions the possibility of a “Gen. Sherman” taking control of the division in New Orleans.

Box 1, Folder 7James to Abby: Oct. - Dec. 1862

Letters from James to Abby. Letters mention Company G movements from Camp Parapet to Jefferson, Louisiana, then to Camp Stevens in District LaFourche, Louisiana. James remains a hospital cook through this time.

Box 1, Folder 8James to/from Abby: Jan. - Mar. 1863

James is moved to Baton Rouge, describing the city as being like a New England city. He is assigned to become cook for Captain Huse of Company G, which results in a pay raise. Abby asks James in one letter if his view on slavery has changed, or if the rumor is a “copperhead lie.”

Box 1, Folder 9James to/from Abby: Apr. 1863

Abby asks how James defends himself after giving up his gun for cooking utensils. On April 13, James was wounded during the Battle of Fort Bisland, as he writes about in a letter dated April 18th. In another letter, James blames Democrats for keeping the war going and tells Abby he should hold them responsible if he is killed.

Box 1, Folder 10James to/from Abby: May - Jul. 1863

There is a significant delay in Abby receiving letters from James. Abby continued to write and describes her attempts to remain hopeful about James coming home alive. Abby also encourages James not to re-enlist. James writes to Abby about the recent siege at Port Hudson.

Box 1, Folder 11James to/from Abby, to/from Amanda: Aug. 1863

Letters between James and Abby, and James and his daughter, Amanda. Abby mentions her trouble dealing with the summer heat in Rochester. James writes about life at Port Hudson, before returning to Baton Rouge later in the month.

Box 1, Folder 12James to/from Abby: Sep. - Oct. 1863

In the first letter, Abby mentions to James a rush on newspapers due to the Second Battle of Fort Sumter. James writes about his regiment preparing for a move to Texas, which is eventually abandoned. Several aspects of life on the Nichols farm are mentioned in letters in this folder as well.

Box 1, Folder 13James to/from Abby: Nov. - Dec. 1863

In letters to Abby, James describes his idea of re-enlisting, though only after visiting home on leave and discussing the matter with her. He also writes of the designation of the unit being changed to 2nd New Hampshire Cavalry. In a Christmastime letter, Abby describes Christmas dinner at the Nichols home.

Box 1, Folder 14James to/from Abby: Jan. 1864

James promises in a letter to Abby that he will not make a final decision on re-enlisting until after he returns home to discuss, even though several other Rochester men had already done so. Abby is “surprised and grieved” to learn James is interested in re-enlisting. Other topics of mention include the contents of a care package sent from Abby to James and the postage rate for packages recently passed by Congress.

Box 1, Folder 15James to/from Abby, Eddie to James: Feb. - Jun. 1864

Several topics of interest are mentioned in letters between James and Abby. Abby describes a typical winter dinner, being asked by neighbors to collect money for their oxen while they are away, Fast Day sports, and her realization that night is “darkest just before the day” during a long delay in letters from James. James details his participation in the Red River Campaign, and the situation upon the death of a comrade.

Box 1, Folder 16James to/from Abby: Jul. - Sep. 1864

James describes in a letter to Abby his participation in July 4th celebrations in New Orleans. He also writes about the upcoming 1864 election and his choice for President. He hopes an Abraham Lincoln re-election will “strike terror” in the hearts of the Rebels, allowing the Union to simply march in and take the “Babalon of Slavery.” James also becomes ill for a time, but recovers and moves with the regiment to Natchez, Mississippi.

Box 1, Folder 17James to/from Abby: Oct. - Nov. 1864

Abby writes of preparations for the upcoming winter, including harvesting corn and apples and storing them. James mentions his vote for Lincoln in the election and his time in the service being up shortly.

Box 1, Folder 18James to/from Abby: Dec. 1864 - Jan. 1865

The last of the letters from the war between James and Abby. Describe James being eager to go home and the process of his mustering out and trip home.

Box 1, Folder 19James to/from Abby: Undated

Three letter fragments or undated letters between James and Abby. One letter is likely from November, 1864 as it mentions a torch-lit procession being held in honor of Lincoln’s re-election.

Box 1, Folder 20Amanda to Abby: Mar. 1886/Undated

Four letters from Amanda to mother Abby after she has left the family household, 1886.

Box 1, Folder 21Envelopes to Abby: 1862

16 Envelopes to Abby, postmarked in 1862.

Box 1, Folder 22Envelopes to Abby: 1863

9 Envelopes to Abby, postmarked in 1863

Box 1, Folder 23Envelopes to Abby: 1864

15 Envelopes to Abby, postmarked in 1864.

Box 1, Folder 24Envelopes to Abby: Undated

23 Envelopes to Abby with incomplete or unrecognizable postmarks.

Box 1, Folder 25Envelopes to James: 1887/Undated

5 Envelopes to James, postmarked 1887 or with unrecognizable postmarks.

Box 1, Folder 26Miscellaneous Papers: 1864/Undated

8 miscellaneous paper items. Includes the April 1st, 1864 edition of the Natchitoches Union newspaper, 1864 election ephemera, newspaper clippings and various other items.