Rare USN Civil War Campaign Medal of Lt. Smith W. Nichols USS Shenandoah Fort Fisher
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Rare USN Civil War Campaign Medal of Lt. Smith W. Nichols USS Shenandoah Fort Fisher

Code: usnm01908swn


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Product Description

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ARTIFACT: This is Rare USN Civil War Campaign Medal of Lt. Smith W. Nichols USS Shenandoah Fort Fisher

US Civil War Campaign Medals are rare. US Navy Versions are even More so. And US Navy Civil War Campaign Medals named to Officers are Very Rare. 

So this very low numbered, 49, example, awarded to Lieutenant Smith W. Nichols, USN, would be a hard to top addition to any US Campaign Medal collection. 

The medal was issued in 1908 and has remained in excellent condition, appearing to have never been polished. Only the original silk ribbon shows some signs of age and wear. 

Nichols had a long career in the US Navy, his biography is below, and the highlight of his long Civil War Service would be as Second in Command of the USS Shenandoah during the capture of Fort Fisher in Wilmington North Carolina. 
Biographical Chronology  COMMANDER SMITH WOODWARD NICHOLS:

1843: Is born in Cohasset, Massachusetts.

1859: On September 27, is appointed to the United States Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1862.

1861: In May, the Class of 1862 is ordered to active duty. Attached to U.S.S. Wabash (Steam frigate) of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

1862: On July 16, is commissioned as a Lieutenant.

1863: Attached to the school ship U.S.S. Macedonian. Attached to the U.S.S. Shenandoah (Screw sloop) of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

1864: In December, takes part in the bombardment of Fort Fisher.

1865: In January, takes part in the capture of Fort Fisher, including leading a naval land assault company. In January, is attached to U.S.S. Passaic (Monitor) of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In July, is detached from U.S.S. Passaic. Attached to U.S.S. Shenandoah, serving in the Asiatic Squadron.

The Battle of Fort Fisher

Shenandoah reached Green Bay in the Bahamas on 13 December 1864 to investigate reports that Confederate privateers were being fitted out there to prey on Union commerce. Finding no trace of such activity, she hurried north to join the great Federal Fleet poised on the coast of North Carolina for the attack on Fort Fisher which protected Wilmington, North Carolina. On Christmas Eve, she closed to within 1,500 yards of the shore to bombard the works of Fort Fisher with all guns that could be brought to bear. In little more than an hour, the Confederate fort had been silenced, two of its magazines had been blown up, and the fort set afire in several places. The bombardment was kept up with good effect until after nightfall.

One shot from the Confederates carried away Shenandoah's stern ladder. She renewed the action with other ships of the fleet on Christmas morning to cover the landing of about 3,000 Army troops. Her deliberate and well directed fire silenced a four-gun battery to the west of Fort Fisher. She then turned her attention to a two-gun casemated battery. One shell from this battery fell a few yards short, and another passed over Shenandoah which retaliated by exploding a 150-pounder rifle shell near the top of the mound.

Nevertheless, the amphibious assault failed to capture the fort and the Union troops re-embarked during the night, save for about 1,000 soldiers who found themselves stranded on the beach by heavy surf. These were safely returned to their transports during the following two days as Shenandoah patrolled off New Inlet.

The amphibious assault on Fort Fisher was renewed on 13 January 1865. Shenandoah's boats assisted in the landing of about 8,000 Army troops under cover of a severe bombardment. The next day, she joined the fleet in a quick fire on the face of the works which lasted from 1300 till well after dark. That day, 1,600 sailors and 400 marines were detached from various shins to join the Army troops in the assault.

Fifty-four sailors and fourteen marines under Lieutenant Smith W. Nichols, armed with cutlasses and revolvers, were landed from Shenandoah. The furious bombardment support continued until 1500 on 15 January 1865. By this time, the sailors and marines were entrenched within 200 yards of the fort and ready for the final assault. The ships now shifted their fire to the upper batteries as troops and sailors dashed toward the top of the parapet.
The advancing sailors and marines were swept by concentrated Confederate gunfire; but Army troops, who had gained the highest parapet to the rear, opened with a volley of musketry to save them. Now the fighting progressed through seventeen immense bomb-proof traverses until the Confederates were finally forced to the end of Federal Point. Finding themselves hopelessly surrounded, the Confederate remnants surrendered, and Fort Fisher fell to the largest amphibious operation in American history prior to World War II.

Shenandoah's landing force returned with six wounded and five missing in action. Lt. Nichols reported: "Each and all deserve the highest commendation for their coolness and courage under the most trying circumstances, and fully sustained the hard earned reputation of the American sailor..."
After Fort Fisher was captured, Shenandoah spent a few days carrying wounded men from transports to shore hospitals. She then joined in the final days of the Union siege of Charleston which fell on 17 February. She returned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 15 March and was decommissioned there on 15 April.

Officers of Shenandoah, Civil War

Captain, Daniel B. Ridgely
Lieutenant, Smith W. Nichols
Surgeon, James McMaster
Acting Assistant Paymaster, C. M. Guild
Acting Master, John S. Watson
Acting Master, W. H. Brice
Acting Master, Joseph A. Bullard
Ensign, Yates Sterling
Ensign, J. H. Sands
Acting Master's Mate, L. H. White
Acting Master's Mate, Thomas H. Wheeler
Acting Master's Mate, T. D. Wendell
Engineers: Acting Chief; Nelson Winans
Second Assistant, E. A. Magee
Acting Second Assistant, James S. Kelleper
Third Assistant, D. M. Fulmer
Third Assistant, F. W. Towner
Third Assistant, Wm. Bond
Boatswain, James H. Polly
Gunner, George Edmond

1866: On July 25, is commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander.

1869: Detached from U.S.S. Shenandoah. Assigned to special duty in Boston.

1870: Attached to U.S.S. Terror (Monitor).

1871: Assigned to the Boston Navy Yard.

1872: In May, is attached to U.S.S. Omaha (Screw sloop) of the South Pacific Station upon her commissioning.

1874: Detached from U.S.S. Omaha.

1876: Assigned to ordnance duty in Boston. On April 26, is commissioned as a Commander. Assigned to duty as Light-House Inspector.

1879: Detached from duty as Light-House Inspector.

1882: In April, is transferred to the Retired List.

1915: On November 18, dies at Ashmont, Massachusetts.

VINTAGE: Circa US Civil War Period.

SIZE: Approximately Total Size: 2-13/16" height x 1-7/16" in width. Robbon: 1-3/8" in height x 1-7/16" in width. Medal: 1-1/4" in diameter.

MATERIALS / CONSTRUCTION: Bronze with silk ribbon, and brass and nickel affixment.

ATTACHMENT: Horizontal pin with 'C' catch.

MARKINGS: "49 S. W. NICHOLS LIEUT. U.S.N."

ITEM NOTES:  This is from a Civil War collection which we will be listing more of over the next few months. MAAGEX20 LBBGEX11/18/20 SBBGEX12/23/20

CONDITION: 7+ (Very Fine - Excellent): The medal shows wonderful condition, it has only small damage on the left side in near the middle section of the ribbon, overall very fine condition.

GUARANTEE: As with all my artifacts, this piece is guaranteed to be original, as described.