Camp Nelson Celebrates 160th Anniversary – The Interior Journal

Camp Nelson Celebrates 160th Anniversary – The Interior Journal

Camp Nelson Celebrates 160th Anniversary

Posted 16:15 on Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Camp Nelson, originally built as a supply depot during the Civil War, transformed into a freedom center as thousands of black men sought emancipation by enlisting in the military during the protracted war.

Camp Nelson National Monument will commemorate the 160th anniversary of Camp Nelson with a free public event on Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14.

“We’re excited about this event and are using the anniversary as a way to connect with the public,” said Steve Phan, director of interpretation at Camp Nelson National Monument. “1864 was a pivotal year for Camp Nelson, when it went from a supply depot to a center of freedom.”

“The enlistment of black soldiers at Camp Nelson was the spark that led to the end of slavery in Kentucky,” Phan said. “We have historians and presenters from across the country coming to this event, tracing the dramatic and evolutionary transformation of the camp.”

In 1864, the U.S. Army authorized the recruitment, enlistment, and training of African-American soldiers at eight sites in Kentucky. Camp Nelson became the largest U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) recruiting center in the state and the third largest in the nation, as well as a haven for freedom seekers fleeing slavery. The enlistment of blacks began Camp Nelson’s dramatic evolution from a supply depot to the “Birthplace of Freedom in Kentucky.”

The American Awakening Symposium: “Conflict, Courage, and Contradictions” celebrates the 160th anniversary of the founding of Camp Nelson in 1864. Special celebrations include historical presentations by scientists, NPS staff, and descendants, and a focus on the Slave Dwelling Project; guided tours; engaging living history displays; and children’s activities. All programs are free and open to the public.

“We want to thank the Camp Nelson Education & Preservation Foundation, which has cared for the Camp Nelson area since the 1990s, long before it became Camp Nelson National Monument,” said NPS Superintendent Ernie Price. “Having the local Camp Nelson Foundation as our partner allows us to ground ourselves in the park’s origins and its ongoing history.”

Camp Nelson National Monument is located 15 miles south of Lexington on Highway 27 and directly north of Camp Nelson National Cemetery. The Camp Nelson National Monument Visitor Center is currently open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The grounds and trails are open from sunrise to sunset.

The schedule of events can be found on the park website at or on the park’s Facebook page at