Here’s the latest biography of Newton’s civil war veterans compiled by Katy Holmes of Newton’s Planning Department. He is one of the soldiers commemorated on the recently refurbished Civil War Soldier’s Monument in Newton Cementary.
George Hale Nichols
A prolific writer before and during his military service, George H. Nichols was 19 years old when he enlisted in the Mass. 32nd regiment Company K on August 13, 1862 with 22 other Newton men who appear with him on the Newton Soldiers’ Monument.
After reported missing on July 2, 1863, Nichols was taken prisoner during the Battle of Gettysburg and was held at Libby Prison in Belle Isle, VA. His brother, J.H. Nichols, later reported that George tried to escape and was shot and killed on March 27, 1864. Other sources state that he died of disease, and that he died on February 27th. His burial site is not known at this time.
Born in New Hampshire in 1842, Nichols lived in Haverhill, MA before enlisting with Company K in Newton. Nichols was a college student in a family of five sons and career educators when he decided to serve. One of his brothers was a graduate of the Newton Theological Seminary.
Company K was formed by Joseph Cushing Edmands, a Newton native who was a first sergeant in the Mass. 24th, and who, after recovering from illness at home in the spring of 1862, formed a new company comprised largely of Newton men.
In late summer of 1862, the Mass. 32nd was sent to Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia. By this time, Edmands had been promoted to Major. From Fort Monroe, they marched to Centreville and fought at the Battle of Bull Run on August 30th. The Mass. 32nd also fought at Antietam, MD from September 16-17th; Blackford’s Ford on the 19th; and was in Sharpsburg, MD until October 30th. From there the regiment moved to Falmouth, Virginia and fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, which lasted from December 11-15, 1862.
The regiment went on to fight in smaller skirmishes and was ultimately sent to fight at Devil’s Den in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, where Nichols was one of 81 Union soldiers either killed or taken prisoner.
George’s letters home are preserved at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. The City of Newton obtained copies of them and they have been transcribed where possible. The City is also in possession of a photo of George Hale Nichols.
Nichols appears on the monument but his name was added after the monument was dedicated in July 1864.