Camp Nelson Civil War Site, (also known as the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park) five miles south of Nicholasville on US-27, was established in 1863 as a depot to supply Union troops. Originally covering 4,000 acres, the camp became the third largest recruitment center for black soldiers in the country. It was here that thousands of African-Americans gained their freedom. By the end of 1864, more than 25,000 black soldiers had enlisted in Kentucky, more than any other state except Louisiana. Many of the soldiers brought their families with them to Camp Nelson, and eventually the army established a refugee camp for these individuals. The families attracted the attention of the American Missionary Association, and abolitionist society founded prior to the civil War. The refugee camp was located near the present day community of Hall west of US 27. The site includes restored officers' quarters and the White House - which interprets the war years along with life of a family whose property was confiscated. (Phone 859-881-5716)
The quartermaster depot at Camp Nelson supplied Union efforts in eastern Tennessee, central and eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. It was especially instrumental in the Union victory at Knoxville in 1863 and at Saltville, Virginia in 1864.
Today, about 400 acres of the original site have been purchased for preservation. A living history weekend takes place in April, U.S. Colored Troops Training in September. A self-guided driving tour is available at Camp Nelson (606)887-4351.
Continue two miles south to Camp Nelson National Cemetery, standing as a silent sentinel over the 2,200 Civil War casualties buried here including 1,600 from Camp Nelson and others from Kentucky Civil War battles including Perryville, Richmond and Covington. The Cemetery is located at 6980 Danville Pike, Nicholasville, KY 40356. (859) 885-5727. It was designated a national cemetery in 1868.
South of Lexington on US-27 is Nicholasville, named for Colonel George Nicholas, "The Father of the Kentucky Constitution." The downtown historic district includes the Old Jail Museum (free, Th 2-4, 606/885-4500) and several antique malls. The visitor center at 611 N. Main has walking tour maps, M-F 8-5, (606)887-4351.
CIVIL WAR HISTORICAL MARKERS NEAR NICHOLASVILLE:
Camp Nelson (State Marker 1515, In park at Camp Nelson, US 27, Jessamine Co.) Mailing Address: 6612 Old Danville Rd., Nicholasville, KY 40356; Phone 859-881-5716 or visit www.campnelson.org
Camp Nelson National Cemetery (State Marker 1610, Camp Nelson, US 27, Jessamine Co.) Mailing Address: 6980 Danville Pike, Nicholasville, KY 40356; Phone 859-885-5727. Designated a national cemetery in 1868.