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Civil War Sesquicentennial

Camp Nelson, KY: African-American Service

Note to Readers: Some of this information is also contained in Betsa Marsh's story on our site about the Civil War in KY. But this is a new historically focused vignette submitted in March 2008 by the Kentucky Historical Society so we felt it has good value for readers.

Camp Nelson in KY Served As Union's

African-American Recruitment Site

Coutesy of the Kentucky Historical Society

The Camp Nelson Civil War site is located in Jessamine County about five miles south of Nicholasville. Constructed in 1863, Camp Nelson served as a Union military base and recruiting ground for African American soldiers. Camp Nelson was the largest African American recruitment camp in Kentucky and the third largest in the nation.

Photo of Oliver Perry House at Camp Nelson site goes here.The Oliver Perry House at Camp Nelson is shown at right.*

The original base encompassed four thousand acres and contained nearly three hundred buildings and fortifications. General Ambrose Burnside named the base in honor of General William "Bull" Nelson, who was killed in 1862. The location served as an important base of support for offensive campaigns into Tennessee and Virginia.

In February 1864, recruitment of African American slaves began at the site. In all, eight regiments of troops were founded at Camp Nelson, many of whom gained their freedom upon enlistment. The recruits often brought their families to the site as well, and Camp Nelson soon had a refugee crisis on its hands. After first turning the refugees away, the leaders at Camp Nelson were ordered to build proper shelters for the families of enlisted men.

Today, Camp Nelson features nearly four miles of trails with more than twenty wayside interpretive signs. The Oliver Perry House, also known as the "White House," has period furnishings and offers guided tours. "Civil War Days" is an annual event held each fall.

*Photo is owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy this photo. Thank you.

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