America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Camp Nelson, Kentucky
In 2019, Camp Nelson was designated a national monument, but, of course, it had been an important national treasure and historic site prior to the designation by President Trump. In 1863, Camp Nelson had been established by the Union Army twenty miles south of Lexington, Kentucky. It would become a Civil War camp with a variety of purposes, including a depot for supplies, as well as recruitment center for Tennessee soldiers among the citizens and slaves of East Tennessee. And that last line is where Camp Nelson takes, for most, its most important historical place. Camp Nelson was the location enslaved people from the region escaped their living condition and became soldiers in the newly born United States Colored Troop. Photo above: Civilian employees at Camp Nelson, repairing military vehicles, 1864, unknown author. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument, Kentucky
Since the Camp Nelson interpretive park is still undergoing its transition to a national monument, there's so much known and unknown about its ranger programs and additional exhibits. Suffice it to say, there's a whole lot of history here to visit on its five hundred and twenty-five acres, both inside and outside the monuments designated boundaries. Yes, most of the original buildings are gone, sold after the war. But the single one that remains is the Oliver Perry Mansion, known as the White House after General Burnside confiscated it for Union use. The home was built in 1846 for Oliver Perry, not the New Englander, and wife Fannie Scott. It is now a museum.
There are five miles of walking trails on site, an interpretive center with exhibits and orientation, plus the Camp Nelson National Cemetery one mile down the road.
Image above: Oliver Perry House at Camp Nelson, used as Union headquarters during the Civil War encampment, 2008, C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Below: Lodge at the Camp Nelson National Cemetery, 2004, David W. Haas, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Where Is It
Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument is located twenty miles south of Lexington, Kentucky, in Jessamine County, Kentucky, near the town of Nicholasville. For those coming from the Lexington area, the address of the Visitor Center is 6614 Danville Road, Nicholasville, KY 40356. That's off US 27 if coming from Lexington, about six miles from Nicholasville.
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What is There Now
Five hundred and twenty-five acres of Camp Nelson history, three hundred and eighty technically within the monument, plus the Camp Nelson National Cemetery. Original Oliver Perry mansion, used as Union headquarters, as well as an Intepretive Center with exhibits, facilities, and orientation.
The site is split into several sections; Visitor Center, USCT Site, earthen fortifications, Oliver Perry house, prison site, and more in one. A second section includes the Ordnance Depot Site. A third section is off Hall Road, where a hospital and Home for Colored Refugees was located. The Camp Nelson National Cemetery, although technically not part of the park, is near the Ordnance Depot section.
When Open and How Much
Since Camp Nelson is a new National Park, it is still operating in partnership with Jessamine County. Traditionally, the interpretive center is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Grounds are open seven days a week from dawn to dusk. There is currently no fee to visit.
Fees subject to change.
Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument
From a national park standpoint, Kentucky is home to Mammoth Cave, the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Park, Fort Donelson, and more. For the Civil War buff, another great site is the state park for the Battle of Perryville. Other local Kentucky sites of interest to Civil War heritage fans include the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington and the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site in Fairview.