GEORGE LEWIS NICOLLS
He was born November 1, 1843 in Kentucky, to Reverend George W. and Charlotte R. Nicolls. Both George W. and Charlotte R. were born in New York. The family had moved to Michigan by 1861.
George L. Nicolls enlisted in Company D, Eleventh Michigan Cavalry, September 11, 1863 in Hudson, Michigan. His enlistment papers list him as 19 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, blue eyes, black hair, of light complexion and an artist by trade.
The Eleventh Michigan left Kalamazoo for Kentucky December 17, 1863, with an enrollment of 920 officers and men. It arrived in Lexington December 22 and the headquarters of the regiment remained there until April, 1864.
During these months the different companies of the regiment were not idle, but took part in many scouts and skirmishes and the regiment made a reconnaissance to Pound Gap and met the confederate General Clay's forces at West Liberty.
During the month of April the Eleventh moved to Louisa, Kentucky, where it was placed in the First Brigade, First Division, Army of the Ohio, and did active service in expelling the lawless guerillas and bandits from the eastern part of the state.
The confederate raider, John Morgan, entered the state in May and the Eleventh, with the balance of the brigade, started in pursuit. Morgan was overtaken at Mt. Sterling, KY, June 9, and was driven in confusion from the town. He was again overtaken at Cynthiana, KY, June 12, where a severe engagement was fought, completely routing Morgan's forces and driving them into the mountains.
In September the regiment participated in the raid into Western Virginia under General Burbridge for the purpose of destroying the extensive salt works located in Saltville, VA. These works were the largest in the confederacy and the confederate government took ample means to guard and protect them (General Breckinridge, former Vice-President of the United States, was assigned this task), for their destruction would mean a severe loss to the southern armies.
George L. Nicolls was with the Eleventh until October, 13 1864 when he mustered into Company D, 5th United States Colored Cavalry. George was a white 2nd Lieutenant with a black cavalry regiment. On at least two occasions he was in command of special detachments. He was stationed out of Camp Nelson, Kentucky. Camp Nelson was the largest African American recruitment camp in Kentucky and the third largest in the nation. While with the 5th he was in the second battle of Saltville (he was in both battles). The regiment subsequently served under the Military District of Kentucky and the Dept. of Arkansas. While in Arkansas after the war, the regiment reportedly hunted down rebel renegades. The unit was mustered out in Helena, Arkansas on March 20, 1866. Some members (officers and enlisted) of the 5th USCC were assigned to the 10th Cavalry (better known as the "Buffalo Soldiers)
While on a 20-day leave from Company D, 5th USCC in October 1865, George met Lillie Frances Dowdrick. Born April 21, 1840 to Eben Alpheus and Ann Barney, Lillie was a widow. Her first husband was William Dowdrick; he died April 24, 1863 from wounds received at the Battle of Shiloh, leaving Lillie a widow with two small children (Ada B. and William H. Dowdrick). George must have been quite taken by Lillie for he applied for and received a 10-day extension on his leave.
To the union of George L. and Lillie Frances Nicolls came six children; Charlotte Ann, Frances Eulois, George Alpheus, Ellen B., Una, and Lula Amelia Nicolls. Between 1874 and 1880 the family moved to Greenup, Illinois. In the 1880 Census George's occupation was listed as an artist.
On May 26, 1883 George L. Nicolls was a charter member of Grand Army of the Republic Smeidell Post 257, Greenup, Illinois. He is listed as being their first Post Chaplain.
George died in Greenup, Illinois October 10, 1887 at the age of 43 years, 11 months and 9 days old. He died of Typhoid Fever. He is buried in Greenup Cemetery, Greenup, Cumberland County, Illinois.
Gone but not forgotten.
Lieut. Company D, 5th U.S.C.C.
Lilly Frances Barney Nicolls
1840–1918 (m. 1865)