Saturday, April 21, 2001

Black soldiers honored at park


Camp Nelson monument to be dedicated to Civil War heroes

The Associated Press

        CAMP NELSON, Ky. — Two regiments of black soldiers trained at Camp Nelson marched in a Virginia battle during the Civil War. Fifty-six of those men died during the battle and its aftermath.

        This weekend, Jessamine County officials will dedicate Camp Nelson Heritage Park by unveiling a monument for the two regiments.

        “We just want to keep adding to it and make it into a national attraction,” said Kathy Clark, president of the Camp Nelson Restoration and Preservation Association.

        Local officials also hope to educate people about the historical importance of the camp, which is a restored Civil War supply depot and recruitment camp.

        Officials are trying to raise an estimated $4 million for a museum and improvements on the 4,000 acres.

        Camp Nelson, about six miles south of Nicholasville, was the third largest recruiting and training base for black Union troops in the country.

        At the height of its Civil War activity, the camp had 300 buildings, a hospital with 10 wards and a bakery capable of producing 10,000 rations of bread per day.

        The park's main attraction now is the Oliver Perry House. The Union Army seized the Greek Revival-style home for use as officers quarters. Since late 1999 it has been open as a meeting place for local groups and wedding receptions.

        Representatives of the Camp Nelson Foundation said although no major battles were fought at the camp, it's still unique because of its size, employing several thousand civilians during the war. Its rural setting high on the bluffs of the Kentucky River palisades is why Camp Nelson is regarded as a well-preserved site, Ms. Clark said.

        Kim McBride, a University of Kentucky archaeologist, and her husband, Stephen, have recovered 87 boxes of artifacts from the site, including glassware, uniform buttons and eating utensils.

        Next week, Gov. Paul Patton is expected to announce a $50,000 state grant to assist with the design of the museum and visitor's center.

        Camp Nelson will hold its annual “living history” event the weekend of April 28-29. The activities will include Civil War demonstrations.

       



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