Nichols, James

165th New York Volunteers
Company C
Middle Island

James R. Nichols
165th New York State Volunteers, Company C
Middle Island

James Nichols was born September 29, 1844 to Martha (Ward) Nichols and James Nichols. His mother died from an illness when he was six, in 1850. He continued to live in Middle Island and grew up to be a farmer.

Nichols enlisted with Captain Stephenson and the 165th New York Volunteers on September 10, 1862, for three years. He was eighteen years old, stood five feet eight inches tall, had blue eyes and light hair.

The regiment left Camp Washington on Staten Island on December 15, 1862. From the foot of Canal Street in New York City, they embarked on the troop transport, Merrimac, destined for New Orleans, Louisiana. On December 20, an engine onboard the Merrimac broke and they were forced to put into Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, for repairs. They stayed at Hilton Head for several days while the boat was repaired. On December 28, they were underway again, and arrived at New Orleans on January 4, 1863.

Nichols, James

Members of the 165th New York Zouaves, wearing their distinctive uniforms.

Nichols was stationed at Camp Parapet in Louisiana for January and February of 1863. He was ill in Charity Hospital in New Orleans for most of March and April. He returned to his unit in May, but fell sick again and was sent to a hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The 165th was part of a Union force attempting to capture key cities on the southern part of the Mississippi. This strategy was coordinated with General Grant, who was attempting to capture Vicksburg up north. If the Union controlled the Mississippi River, they would prevent supplies from reaching the Confederate forces, including much-needed cattle and grain from Texas.

Nichols was well enough to be with the regiment during the siege at Port Hudson, which was located on a key bend on the Mississippi River. His company made a series of attacks against Confederate rifle pits on June 29, losing one man. The city was under siege from May 25 until July 8, 1863, when Confederate General Gardner surrendered. Nichols and the 165th were doing picket duty near the rebel works when Gardner surrendered. On the morning of July 9, the 165th was among the forces that entered and took possession of Port Hudson. Although this was a triumphant event, the 165th had lost 117 men during the siege.

Confederate fortifications at Port Hudson. Union line is right behind, in the foreground.

Nichols fell sick again, suffering from malarial fever. Many camps were positioned next to swamps where malaria-carrying mosquitoes bred in the stagnant water. The soldiers referred to malaria as "the shakes," because of the intense shaking caused when the high fever broke. Epidemics of malaria spread rapidly through the camps. More than a million men came down with malaria during the war.

Malaria put James Nichols in a hospital in Port Hudson in August. He remained there, with his condition continuing to deteriorate, until his death on September 27, 1863. 

James Nichols

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