for Lucy Higgs Nichols.
I came across the story of Lucy Nichols while doing genealogy research on family who lived in New Albany, Indiana. My Great-Great-Great-Great Uncle Andrew served in the 66th Indiana Infantry and worked following the war to establish the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) in Indiana.
I stumbled upon a letter written by a New Albany GAR Commander informing the Commissioner of Pensions that one, Lucy Nichols, an honorary member of the Sanderson Post of the GAR, had recently died. The letter’s first line, is the fist line of my sonnet, “Sir: I wish to inform you that the Colored Nurse, Lucy Nichols,…[has] died.”
The accompanying photograph, taken at a reunion in 1898, shows Lucy Nichols surrounded by veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. [Incidentally, I optimistically suspect that my Great-Great-Great-Great Uncle, John S. Fite (brother of Andrew mentioned above) is on the first row, second from the left.]
Read the story of Lucy Nichols; it is quite remarkable.
Sir: I wish to inform you that the Colored
Nurse and Pensioner, Lucy Nichols, has died,
And she now lies with her husband, John, covered
In earth by the hands of those whom she walked beside.
Among the Twenty-third, Lucy and daughter walked
Having run from Grey’s Creek cross the Hatchie River;
At twenty-four years she’d been handled and locked
And now the one taken gave, became our caregiver.
You handed over Mona*, buried ‘neath Vicksburg’s flowers
Even as hands nursed, carrying more than one should bear.
You sang, sewed, and smiled and we sensed in those hours
A bond greater had escaped—is War all we have to share?
Aunt Lucy, are you now standing, hands raised, midst the surrounding
Of the multitude of color, free, in joyful peace abounding?
*Mona was Lucy’s daughter.
© Randy Edwards 2016
The photo credit: Stuart B. Wrege History Room, New Albany – Floyd County Public Library.