A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Congressman Andy Barr bringing representatives in bid to designate Camp Nelson a national monument

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Sixth District Congressman Andy Barr will be bringing officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior to central Kentucky this weekend in his ongoing effort to have Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park designated a national monument.

National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith will join Barr and local leaders on Saturday at the southern Jessamine County site for a community forum.

Congressman Andy Barr is bidding to make Camp Nelson in Jessamine County a national park. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

The Lexington Republican has been working to give national recognition to Camp Nelson and in the process garnered significant community support for this site to be included as a unit of the National Park System. The Community Forum on the Future of Camp Nelson will be an opportunity for the community to express their support for the national monument designation to the Department of the Interior.

During a press conference in Frankfort last September, Barr told reporters that he and Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, are co-sponsoring legislation to have the U.S. Department of the Interior include the site as part of the National Parks System.

Barr explained why a Democrat from Greater Cleveland is part of his effort. “The Army of The Ohio played an important role in the emancipation of Kentucky slaves, who joined the Army of the Ohio at Camp Nelson,” he said. “Marcia joined me in this effort to elevate African-American history in Jessamine County, Kentucky.”

Barr says after introducing the measure, he took it up with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former House colleague, as part of the Underground Railroad and the Interior Department’s Public Lands Program.

“The Secretary talked about the National Monument possibility, so we went forward from there and accumulated the support of a lot of local stakeholders in supporting that effort.”

“We don’t know what the results of those efforts will be,” Barr added. “But we’re heartened to see that Secretary Zinke has recommended that Camp Nelson be incorporated into the Department of the Interior’s system as a national monument, which it deserves to be.”

According to their website, Camp Nelson provided the Union Army with more than 10,000 African-American soldiers, making it the third-largest recruiting and training depot for African Americans in the nation. Many of them 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.

Camp Nelson is located on US 27, six miles south of Nicholasville, and overlooks the Kentucky River Palisades.

The community forum takes place Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Camp Nelson Barracks, located near the interpretive center.

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