The Camp Nelson Preservation and Education Foundation and the Jessamine County Fiscal Court will sponsor the Camp Nelson Civil War Days Living History Sept. 10-11. The event will be held on the grounds of the best preserved Union Army supply depot and African American recruitment site in the nation — the 525-acre Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park, which is a designated National Underground Network to Freedom site.
Reenactors from several states will converge on Camp Nelson to reenact life as it was at the original 4,000 acre site of the 1863-1866 Civil War Camp. Visitors can learn what life was like at this nationally significant site through living history experiences. Military reenactors will perform infantry and artillery demonstrations with cannon firing both days.
Camps will dot the rural landscape detailing the life of soldiers and civilians who helped maintain the military site. First person interpretations of soldiers and civilians, including African American refugees, will bring the experience to life.
The event starts at 9 a.m. Sept. 10 with the posting of colors and enlistment of African American soldiers. Children can sign-up for the School of the Soldier at 10 a.m., with school starting at 11 a.m. The school will train “recruits” performing drills in the infantry and artillery camps.
At noon each day, a ceremonial 9/11 tribute will be held. At 2 p.m. on both days, a re-enactment of a skirmish based on actual events around Camp Nelson dealing with John Hunt Morgan’s retreat from Cynthiana will be portrayed. As Morgan’s command retreated to Tennessee, several of his men came to the perimeter of Camp Nelson where several sharp skirmishes took place as they were escaping across the Kentucky River.
Along with the reenacting, Civil War artifacts uncovered from the site will be on display along with museum exhibits depicting Camp Nelson life. Various demonstrations will be held throughout both days.
The site will also be alive with music. The Kentucky First Brigade Brass Band from Bardstown will play 2:30 p.m. Sunday along with several other fiddle, banjo and mandolin musicians throughout both days. A workshop on playing the banjo will be held 1 p.m. Saturday. Participants are encouraged to bring a banjo. A workshop on the harmonica will be held 1 p.m. Sunday. Harmonicas will be available at the camp.
Tours will be provided both days of Camp Nelson’s restored “White House” which served as the officer’s quarters. The newly-constructed replica of a barracks will be available for tours. A special guided walking tour of a section of the northern line of fortification will be available both days. A Civil War period church service for reenactors and spectators will take place on the grounds Sunday morning.
General Ambrose Burnside with the Army of the Ohio and District of Kentucky established Camp Nelson in 1863 as a quartermaster and training camp. Camp Nelson served as a Union supply depot, recruitment center and hospital facility. Besides its more general significance, Camp Nelson performed a critical role as the supply center and rendezvous point for three major Union campaigns and battles — Knoxville, Tenn., Saltville, Va., and Southwestern, Va.
Camp Nelson is most significant as the nation’s third largest recruitment and training center for African American troops with 10,000 trained at the camp. A refugee camp was established to house the soldiers’ families and to provide schooling and medical care.
Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park is a cooperative public-private effort to preserve the historic resources and integrity of Camp Nelson, to restore and develop this nationally significant site for educational purposes and to encourage heritage tourism.
Camp Nelson Civil War Days Living History
Camp Nelson is located six miles south of Nicholasville on U.S. 27. Parking fee isf $5 per carload. For more information, call (859) 492-3115, (859) 881-5716 or visit www.campnelson.org.