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Civil War artifacts up for auction

Written by Barb Krebs, for the York Daily Record | Apr 5, 2016 5:41 PM
james-nickel-civil-war.jpg

This is James Nickel, who served in the 165th Pennsylvania Militia, Company I, and the 99th Pennsylvania Volunteer regiment, Company C. It is in the collection of Civil War artifacts up for sale at Wehrly's Auction  Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record

(York) -- A collection of Civil War medals and other artifacts will be up for sale at Wehrly's Auction in Codorus Township on April 19.

The collection includes more than 100 Grand Army of the Republic and Son's of Union Veterans medals, dating from the 1890s through the 1940s according to auctioneer Shawn Carbaugh.

"They belonged to James Nickel who served in the 165th Pennsylvania Militia, Company I, and the 99th Pennsylvania Volunteer regiment, Company C," Carbaugh said.

The medals came from various towns including York, Lancaster, Johnstown, Sunbury, Williamsport, Bethlehem and more, he said.

"The collection also includes medals from the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913 and 10 officers' medals from the Grand Army of the Republic," Carbaugh said.

A photo of Nickel, a membership roll of the Grand Army of the Republic and a roll of Union ex-prisoners dating from the 1880's are also included in the collection.

Nickel originally volunteered for service and was later drafted twice, and during his service he participated in a number of battles including the siege of Richmond, Carbaugh said.

According to Scott L. Mingus, Sr. an award-winning Civil War author and lecturer, following the war, a number of veterans groups were organized. Some were small regional groups and others, like the Union-based Grand Army of the Republic, or the GAR, were more national.

"The GAR established posts or camps throughout the North, including several in York County. They typically had their own meeting halls or met in public places. The GAR Hall in Gettysburg, for example, still stands on High Street and is now used for a variety of functions, including the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table," Mingus wrote in an email.

These organizations held regional or national gatherings or reunions, and members would trade or collect commemorative badges and pins and would often wear the emblems in parades and other ceremonies, he added.

"Jim McClure and I used snippets from Nickel's letters in our book 'Civil War Voices from York County,'" Mangus said.

Letters reveal life at the time

June Lloyd, local historian and Librarian Emerita at York County Heritage Trust has studied Nickel's papers and letters and transcribed them for the York County Heritage Trust Library and Archives.

"There is a sizable collection of his Civil War letters in the library archives. I transcribed and annotated them into a 101 page paper when I was working on my American Studies MA at Penn State Harrisburg, There should be a copy in the library," Lloyd said.

Nickel's letters illustrate how he and many other young men felt about going off to war and leaving their families behind to fend for themselves.

"James Nickel's letters to his wife Barbara are filled with the concern he felt about how his young wife and children would survive, tending their small farm while he was away in the Union Army. He didn't want to be a soldier, not for lack of patriotism, but because of the worry about the family he left behind. Once the war was over, and James was back home to support and watch over his family, he proudly embraced his status as a veteran, as shown by his Grand Army of the Republic activity," Lloyd said.

The first two paragraphs of Lloyd's paper help make Nickel's feelings clear. The following words written by Nickel illustrate his concern about his family, Lloyd said:

"I will be glad of it to never to go anymore to war again," James Nickel (1828-1909) wrote to his wife Barbara Gardner Nickel (1842-1910) on June 14, 1863.

"It is through such Civil War era letters and diaries that we see the hardship of war through the lives of ordinary people.

The letters James wrote are typical of many of the letters written by the soldiers. They show the concern of the soldier for the well being of the family he left behind, and they describe the sickness, bad food, and discomforts of the field.

"Here is little of the romantic veneer that has been continually collecting on the memory of the most horrific happening of our history," Lloyd said.

"James was not happy the first time he was drafted, in 1862, about having to leave his wife and family in Adams County, Pennsylvania as he marched off to endure the discomforts of life in the Union Army in Virginia. Still, he felt it was his duty, and he was resigned to serving out his obligation. He was assigned to Company I of the 165th Regiment, Pennsylvania Drafted Militia," Lloyd added.

Learn more

For anyone interested in learning more about Nickel and others who fought in the Civil War, Nickel's uniform and other Civil War items, along with a sizable collection of local GAR material, are in the hands of the York County Heritage Trust.

For more information on the Civil War artifacts scheduled to be sold 2 p.m. April 19, go to  wehrlysauction.com or call 717-235-4146. The auction house is located in Codorus Township, at 4067 Snyder Road.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. For more photos visit the York Daily Record. 

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