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New Albany Bicentennial

March 20, 2013

NA BICENTENNIAL: The Civil War: Lucy Higgs Nichols



“She chose to go back into battle with them and I think that combination of her helping them when they were in ill health or injured and the fact that she voted herself to come back to the foray with them…. They just thought the world of her,” Peters said.  

After the war ended, the men appreciated Nichols unselfish service so much that they made her an honorary member of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization. Several reports indicated that she rode at the front of celebratory parades throughout the years. 

“To meetings and reunions, she is escorted by the officers of the regiment as if she was a queen and there is just as much respect and deference shown her,” Hooper said. “She is welcome in every house and at every fireside left to the 23rd Indiana as an honored friend and guest, and the prayer of us all is that the years may deal gently with the loving old woman!”

Nichols became accustomed to life in the river town following the war, settling in as a servant to some of the veterans’ families. In 1870, she married John Nichols, a former soldier of the U.S. Colored Troops. They’d have no children.

In 1892, Congress approved legislation that would begin to offer pensions for Civil War nurses. The following year, the former 23rd veterans Nichols had taken care of for so long finally got the opportunity to return her generosity. The men petitioned the government for Nichols to receive a stipend and six years later she managed to secure a $12-a-month pension.  

Even with this monetary assistance, she died nearly penniless at the “Poor Farm” in 1915. Although proof of a military burial next to her husband at West Haven Cemetery exists, no graveside marker has been found to date. 

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