One of my Civil War ancestors, my great-grandfather Jacob Oesch, of Auburn Township, Ohio volunteered for service in October 1864 at Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio. He was assigned to the 182nd Ohio Infantry Regiment. The family story reads “Jacob, now spelled his name Ash, as while in the army he could not read or write and when he said his name Oesch Lt. Charles Nichols spelled it Ash, and for government records it stayed that way.” Whether that story is fact, fiction or partially true it is a known fact that Jacob Ash and Charles Nichols, from that day, and until January 15, 1865, shared a defining moment in the history of our country. In November of 1864 they both were transferred to the 183rd Regiment as the last company, Co. K, to fill its ranks at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati. Charles was promoted to Captain of his new regiment. This is his story. The primary source is Michael Nichols in his http://rootsweb.com World Connect entry for Charles. Attempts to reach Michael to date have failed. I do hope to have the opportunity to share a greeting with him in the future.
Bob Werner – 2013
Captain Charles C. Nichols was born December 26, 1822 in Mill Farm on Wheeling Creek, Pease Township, Belmont County, Ohio near Martins Ferry on the Ohio River. Charles died January 1, 1865 in a hospital at Clifton, Tennessee of Dysentery. He was buried at the Nichols Family Cemetery on January 29, 1865 at “Wolf Pen Spring” above the waters of Owl Creek, Coshocton County, Ohio.
The following is from descendent Mary Staats recollections from “A Nichols Line from Thomas Nichols of Wolverhampton”; compiled May 2000 by Blanche Aubin Clarkson Hutchinson: It may be that Charles didn’t take education as seriously as his parents wished. He pioneered to Colorado, seeking gold “to alleviate the shortage of money in the banks.” In 1858 Charles camped at the mouth of Cherry Creek and laid out Charles’ City. Later it was renamed “Denver,” to honor the head of the territory, Gov. Denver, but Denver’s warehouse district is correctly listed in the telephone exchange as “Charles City.” Though Mary Staats’ claims he named it for himself, he himself refers to it as St. Charles. He is credited with helping make Kansas a “free state” at Lawrence before he went west, so he clearly had become an abolitionist like his parents. It would seem he wandered about, never marrying, but did return from the west to enter the Civil War.
Later Mary Staats repeats the naming of Denver story and goes on to say “he also named Fort Collins, Colorado. “Collins” was for his brother that was in the Civil War and was a commanding officer and doing very well in his military command. That was the place where our settlers going west would stop and rest their horses and let them graze. They would wash their clothes, repack their Conestoga wagons again, and move on from there. Charles named that spot Fort Collins. In the meantime, the WPA kind of spoiled that, because there was an officer in the army whose name was Collins and he said it was named for him. But actually it was named for Clarkson Collins Nichols.
In the fall of 1864 Charles returned to Ohio to enlist. His Volunteer Enlistment form states that Charles Nichols, born in Belmont Co, OH, now forty-one years of age and a gold miner, volunteered on 14 Oct 1864 at Newark Twp., Licking Co, OH, to serve as a soldier for one year in the 182nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, unless sooner discharged. It stated he had blue eyes, sandy hair, light complexion and was 5’8 and 1/2 in. His personal declaration said he was 41 years and 10 months, and his signature was well formed. Additional data on the statement indicated this was his first enlistment and “This man goes in place of George W. Norman, drafted in Keene Twp. of Coshocton Co, OH, September 22, 1864.”
Serving as a replacement for another who was able and willing to pay a bounty, usually to the community in which he lived, was a common practice during the war. Thus it is often referred to as “the poor man’s war.”
Mary Staats wrote of a childhood recollection when she and her father encountered an elderly man near Putnam Hill Park in Zanesville, OH. He had learned that they were from Coshocton and recalled to them his captain, Charles Nichols, with fond reverence. On learning that Mary and her father were actually grandniece and nephew of Charles, the old soldier grasped their hands in a brotherly greeting, saying “anyone related to so good a man as Capt. Nichols, who led me so ably in the war, would have to be good people.”
The Nichols family concerns itself with the fact that Charles’ short service in the war was “hardly enough time to establish a meritorious record.” Yet the actions of his regiment, particularly at the Battle of Franklin and then at Nashville, certainly supports why Coshocton County began to honor him with a meaningful custom that survives to this day. Beginning in 1867 the Grand Army of the Republic has annually held a Bean Dinner to honor Charles Nichols. Initially it was held at the Nichols farm (the Stone House) west of New Castle, but has now moved to another location.
The following is a letter written to Charles’ father Eli by his commanding officer, George Washington Hoge, after his death.
HE’D QR, 183rd O., VOLS 3D BRIG. 2D DIV. 23D A.C.
Washington, D. C. February 11, 1865.
Eli Nichols, Esq.
I presume you have heard of the death of you son, Capt. Charles Nichols. I however feel it a duty to write you upon the occasion of your bereavement, owing to the relation in which I stood to him as his commanding officer. He had been sick for some time, but was of a persevering spirit and kept up longer than he should have done. His death was within a very few days after he went to the hospital at Clifton, Tennessee, where we were encamped. He died of Dysentery 15th of January.
I take pleasure in giving you the consoling assurance that as an officer he tried to do his duty, and though inexperienced as a soldier, he was brave and patriotic. In the battle of Franklin where the battle raged most furiously, he behaved himself with great courage and gallantry, and his conduct in the Battle of Nashville, was that of a brave man. As to his spiritual condition, the Chaplain in his funeral sermon spoke hopefully from interviews he had with him shortly before his death.
I deeply regret that owing to a most unaccountable blunder, his remains did not reach Newark at the time you were no doubt lead to expect them. I was surprised to learn on inquiring at Columbus that his remains were left behind at the “Dry dock Landing” Cincinnati. The company in the confusion of loading the train at dark failed to get it on, no particular men having been designated in the company to take care of the body, as I supposed would have been the case. I have not yet learned whether the body has reached you. The Lieutenant commanding the company however telegraphed in relation to the body from Columbus. I wish to hear from you whether you have come into possession of the remain, and what disposition has been made of them, as where buried, when and such particulars as you may desire to communicate.
G. W. HOGE.
Col 183rd Ohio Vols
Captain Nichols has a G.A.R. Post named after him in New Castle, Coshocton County, Ohio. It is the C.C. Nichols Post #394.
Lt. George Foerster’s promotion; After chasing Hood south out of Nashville the 183rd camped at Columbia where their Tennessee service first began, then moved south to Clifton, Tennessee on the Tennessee River. It was here that Captain Nichols died. On January 16, 1865 the 23rd Corps and the 183rd were loaded onto steamboats and were ordered to Annapolis, Md. When they arrived in Cincinnati they were to be switched to rail cars and while there four officers and a number of enlisted men missed the trains headed for Washington, D.C. They were delayed in Ohio for several days in search of transportation.
“Col. Hoge preferred charges against all four officers for being absent without leave. The officers were Capt. John Lang, Lt. George Foerster, Lt. Frederic Lutz, and Capt. William Worth. The cases were heard in front of a general court martial and all but Capt. Lang pled guilty. The men had to pay stoppages put into effect which ranged from one month’s salary to $250.00” – source Eric Jacobson and Richard Rupp, Baptism of Fire.
Lt. George Foerster, Company C was promoted to Captain of Company K, 183rd Ohio to replace the deceased Charles Nichols.