Camp Nelson Civil War Days
Scanned, reprinted and posted from the Camp Nelson Dispatch -- Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park -- Vol. 5, Issue 3 - Summer 2004
CAMP NELSON PROVIDED THE UNION ARMY WITH over 10,000 African-American soldiers, making it the third largest recruiting and training depot for African Americans in the nation. Many of the black soldiers brought their families with them to Camp Nelson and eventually the army established a refugee camp for these individuals. Thousands of African-Americans came to Camp Nelson and it was here that they gained their freedom. In addition to the African-Americans, several regiments of white troops from Kentucky and Tennessee were formed at Camp Nelson and many others from the Midwest and New England spent a good deal of time at the Bluegrass base..
The families of the African American Soldiers attracted the attention of the American Missionary Association, an abolitionist society founded prior to the Civil War.
Reverend John Fee, the founder of Berea College, came to Camp Nelson in 1864 to teach and minister to the refugees at Camp Nelson. His efforts eventually led to the founding of Ariel College and church and finally the settlement of Hall. Fee believed passionately in the equality of the races and he sought to educate the freedmen to become independent, self-reliant members of an integrated American society. The refugee camp for the families of the African-American soldiers was located near the present day community of Hall west of US 27. This was also the site of Ariel College.
TODAY THE MEMORY OF THE PLIGHT OF THE African-American Soldier is kept alive by people like Bennie McRae of Trotwood, Ohio. He explains the agenda for his well-researched and informative LEST WE FORGET website. "The contributors and I offer you the history, culture, preservation efforts, and current events of African-Americans, other ethnic, non-ethnic groups and individuals. We focus on and emphasize their sacrifices, relationships, interactions, patriotism as well as their contributions to the growth and development of this great nation. Let us never forget them."
Another way the past is kept alive is by the men of the reactivated 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery, a unit originally formed at Camp Nelson in 1865. "I'm in the USCHA to educate young people about the role, the fight and the struggle of African-American during the Civil War," explains reenactor James Hunn of the 12th USCHA. "When I started researching Kentucky's Civil War history, I learned many things that weren't taught in school. For example, the story of Elijah Marrs at Camp Nelson is one thing that really opened my eyes. It's a story that needs to be told."
PLAN TO ATTEND
Camp Nelson Civil War Days
This event is open to the public. Learn what life was like at the Camp Nelson Civil War Army Depot and Refugee Camp. Re-enactors will conduct artillery, cavalry and infantry training. Shop period vendors, and explore Civil War artifacts and archaeology. For more information and travel directions see www.campnelson.org or call 859-881-9126 for more information.