Civil War Era Camp Nelson Named a National Monument

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Camp Nelson: In the Footsteps of Freedom

Established as a Union supply depot and hospital during the Civil War, Camp Nelson became a recruitment and training center for African American soldiers, and a refugee camp for their wives and children. Thousands of slaves risked their lives escaping to this site with the hope of securing their freedom and, ultimately, controlling their futures by aiding in the destruction of slavery.

Further info from National Parks Traveler:

“…Located in Jessamine County, Kentucky, Camp Nelson was one of the largest Union Army recruitment and training centers in the nation for African American soldiers, then known as U.S. Colored Troops. Thousands of enslaved African Americans risked their lives escaping to Camp Nelson with the hope of securing their freedom and controlling their own futures during and after the war.

Today, the site remains one of the best-preserved landscapes and archaeological sites associated with Civil War-era U.S. Colored Troops recruitment camps and the African American refugee experience. Camp Nelson will now be the 418th site that the National Park Service oversees.

“Camp Nelson, and all the patriots who have ties to it, holds an incredible place in America's history, and President Trump's action to designate Camp Nelson as a National Monument will ensure the ongoing protection of the site and the story,” Secretary Zinke said. “America's parks, battlefields and monuments tell the story of who we are as Americans. Camp Nelson was instrumental as a refuge for escaped and emancipated slaves. The camp tells the story about Americans who risked absolutely everything they have and everyone they love to fight for their freedom, the cause of liberty and to preserve the Union.

"I thank the President for using the Antiquities Act as it was truly intended and I can think of no better place for his use of the Act than to recognize African Americans for the sacrifices they made for this country and for the contributions they made for all Americans freedom than by elevating Camp Nelson to National Monument status," he added. 

Camp Nelson is the first national monument designation under President Trump. The designation was made with congressional and public input and involved extensive consultation with nearby private landowners, Interior staff said.

To provide a seamless transition from county to federal ownership and management, Jessamine County and the National Park Service have entered into an agreement to provide a cooperative framework for the protection, preservation, promotion, interpretation, and maintenance of the monument. During the transition, Jessamine County will provide continued assistance with operation and maintenance for an initial period.

President Trump designated the National Monument under the Antiquities Act, which gives the President the authority to “declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated on land owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments.”