From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Nichols, John and Lucy A. Higgs

Lucy A. Higgs Nichols was the only female to serve with the Twenty-third Indiana Regiment during the Civil War. According to information from the New Albany, IN, Carnegie Center, Lucy Nichols was born in North Carolina, April 10, 1838. In the U.S. Federal Census, her birth location has also been given as Kentucky and several other states, and also listed are various birth dates from 1843-1850.

In 1898, Lucy Nichols began receiving a pension of $12 per month for her nursing services during the Civil War; the veterans of 23rd Regiment had advocated on Lucy's behalf, and her pension was approved by a special act of the U.S. Congress [HB4741, Congressional Serial Set, v.74, pt.3, p.6107- 1898]. She was one of the few honorary female members of the Grand Army of the Republic Post. According to an article in the Janesville Daily Gazette newspaper, Nichols fought in 28 battles, and she was a nurse, and a cook and servant to the officers. She joined the 23 Regiment in 1862 in Bolivar, TN; Lucy Nichols was a runaway slave. She was a slave in Tennessee when she learned that her owner's slaves were to be confiscated and sold south, Lucy left her husband behind, took her baby daughter and ran.

Intending to go north, she arrived at the camp of the Twenty-third Regiment in Bolivar, TN. She was bleeding from the cuts and scratches received from the bushes and brambles she had made her way through during the night. She suffered from exhaustion. When her owner arrived at the camp to retrieve Lucy and the baby, Lucy refused to go with him and the soldiers of the Twenty-third came to her rescue. When the regiment marched south, Lucy and her baby went with them. Her baby died in Vicksburg, MS. According to the Janesville Daily Gazette article, Lucy remained with the regiment in Thompson Hill, Raymond, Champion Hill, the capture of Jackson, MS, she marched in Sherman's raid, the pursuit of Confederate General Hood in Georgia and Alabama, and she fought in the regiment's last battle in Bentonville, NC in 1865.

She was with the regiment when it was mustered out in Washington, D.C. and she went with the men when they returned to the New Albany, Indiana area. On April 13, 1870, Lucy married John Nichols [source: Floyd County, Indiana, Index to Marriage Record 1845-1920, Inclusive Volume, W.P.A. Book Number Indicates Location of Record, Book 6, p.572]. He and Lucy lived in the 5th Ward of New Albany, IN, with John's father Leander Nichols (b.1812 in NC) [source: 1870 U.S. Federal Census]. John Nichols (b.1845 in TN) was the son of Leander and Sena Nichols (b.1812 in TN), according to the 1850 Census when the family of ten were listed as free and living in Washington County, TN. As early as 1840, Leander Nichols and his family had been listed as free in the U.S. Census, and Leander was last listed in the 1870 Census as living in New Albany, IN with John and Lucy Nichols.

In 1880, John and Lucy were living on Washington Street in New Albany, and nine years later, according to the Janesville Daily Gazette article, the couple lived near Floyd's Knobs. John Nichols is listed in Caron's Directory of the City of New Albany 1888-9 as a fireman at a mill owned by the W. C. Depauw Co., and he lived on Nag[h]el Street. John and Lucy were still living in the home they owned on Nagel Street when the 1900 Census and 1910 Census were taken. John Nichols was a Civil War veteran, he enlisted in Paducah, KY, October 18, 1864, and served with the 8th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery [source: U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records].

Lucy Nichols is not listed in the military records as a veteran, but having served with the 23rd Indiana Regiment, she participated in all the 23 Regiment reunions, participated in the State Encampments and the Decoration Day Programs, and marched with the veterans in parades. Lucy Nichols died January 29, 1915. [The U.S. Federal Census gives Lucy Higgs Nichols birth location as Tennessee (1870 Census), Kentucky (1880 Census), Virginia (1900 Census), and Tennessee (1910 Census). Her birth year is given as 1843, 1845, 1847, and 1850.] [John Nichol's birth location is also given as Tennessee (1850-1870 Census), Kentucky (1880 Census), Virginia (1900 Census), and Tennessee (1910 Census)].

For more see "Pension for Lucy Nichols," New York Times, 12/14/1898; "Daughter of the regiment," Janesville Daily Gazette, 03/14/1889, p.1; "Colored nurse's pension," Logansport Journal, 07/15/1898, p.5; and see Lucy Nichols in "Obituary Notes," New York Times, 01/31/1915. See a photo of Lucy Higgs Nichols on Facebook. For additional information about Lucy A. Higgs Nichols, contact the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, IN.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about McCracken County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Paducah, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: United States congressional serial set (serial)
NKAA Source: Index to marriage records, Floyd County, Indiana, 1845-1920, inclusive
NKAA Source: Caron's directory of the city of New Albany (serial)
NKAA Source: The New York times (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Daily gazette (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Logansport journal (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Nichols, John and Lucy A. Higgs,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 26, 2020,

Last modified: 2018-01-18 01:43:16