John Nicholas was born in 1843 in Ohio, probably the son of John (b. 1813) and Susannah (b. 1817).
Maine or Vermont native John married New York-born Susannah and by 1840 had settled in Ohio. John (elder) eventually brought his family to Michigan from Ohio sometime between 1843 and 1846 and by 1850 had settled in Locke, Ingham County. In 1860 John was attending school with five of his younger siblings and living on the family farm in Locke.
John stood 5’9” with black eyes and hair and a dark complexion and was 21 years old and working as a farmer probably in Ionia County when he enlisted in Company D on May 13, 1861. (Company D was composed in large part of men who came from western Ionia County and Eaton County.) He was reported missing on July 21, 1861, during the retreat from Bull Run, or on July 24, 1861 at Hunter’s farm, Virginia.
In fact, John had deserted, and apparently returned to Michigan where he may have reentered the service as a substitute for one William Duglish in Company B, Fourth Michigan cavalry on August 3, 1864, at Jackson, Jackson County for 3 years, crediting Locke, and was mustered the same day.
On August 12, 1864, R. L. Barry, the provost marshal at Jackson wrote to Lieutenant Colonel G. S. Horner, commanding the Draft Rendezvous in Jackson, that he had arrested Nicholas, believing he was a deserter from the Third infantry. “I have the honor,” he wrote, “to request for to deliver into the custody of my Special Agent H. Angell of Lansing, Mich. as sent to this office in the charge of an orderly private John Nicholas of the 4th Mich Inf [cavalry] who I am satisfactorily advised is a deserter from the 3d Mich Infty was at the time of his enlistment. I wish to investigate this case and to that end make the above request which I hope you will see attended to as soon as convenient.”
No further information is available regarding those allegations, and there is no “John Nicholas” listed in the Fourth Michigan infantry. However, according to the Fourth Michigan cavalry records, a John Nicholas enlisted as a Private in Company B, on August 3, 1864 and was mustered in the same day. He was mustered out of that Regiment on July 1, 1865, at Nashville, Tennessee.
John eventually returned to Michigan after the war.
He married Michigan native Frances (b. 1849) and they had at least two children: Claude (b. 1873) and Clara (b. 1875).
By 1880 John was working as a farm hand and living with his wife and two children in Locke, Ingham County.
(“John Nicholas” who had served in the Fourth cavalry was living in Muir, Ionia County in 1894, and he received a pension, no. 973942.)
(There was another civil war veteran named John Nicholas living in Maple River, Emmet County in 1894.)
Curiously, in 1915 the Grand Army of the Republic reported that one John Nicholson, who had served as a private in Company A, Third Michigan infantry and who was a member of the GAR Wells Post No. 218 in Luther, Lake County, Michigan died at his home in Luther on December 13, 1914, and was preumably buried in Luther.