Posted February 15th, 2012
by Richard Savage
This afternoon I went in search of another notable Bridgwater naval man, one who fought in the American Civil War from 1861 to1865 for the abolition of slavery, William Jolley Nicholls (1843-1921). He emigrated to America in 1853 when he was 11 years old and was one of the early pioneers.
He served with the Union forces in the American Civil War, fighting for the abolition of negro slavery. He served in the Union navy on board the USS North Carolina and the Potomac from 1861-1865, including the famous battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 when William was a seaman on the Stockdale under Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. The ships had to run the gauntlet between two shore batteries on Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan at the entrance to the bay, and the USS Tecumseh hit a mine and sank immediately. On the order from Farragut “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” (torpedoes was the name given to mines then) the fleet broke through into the bay, and attacked the forts for 3 weeks until they surrendered.
He subsequently joined the army of the Republic, and on retirement became a stonemason.
Around 1911 he returned to the “Old Country” and lived in Devonshire, before moving to Bridgwater for the last two years of his life. His home was 151 St. John Street and he was buried in August 1921 in the Bristol Road cemetery. His daughter was the headmistress of the village school in Chedzoy.
William Nicholls' grave in Bristol Road cemetery
If you want to see his grave, it is to the left hand side of the tarmacked road leading northwards from the car park, four plots along on the north side of the grass track between Sections 3 and 4. Sadly it is quite broken down. But the inscription can be clearly read: “Veteran of the American Civil War for the Abolition of Slavery 1861-1865.”
William Jolley Nicholls' grave
Tribute to a Civil War Veteran
Another connection between Bridgwater and the naval battles of the American Civil War can be seen in the Blake Museum, the name plate of the CSS Alabama, which was sunk off Cherbourg. You can read about this in http://www.experiencesomerset.co.uk/the-bridgwater-connection-with-the-css-alabama
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