Camp Nelson

Two historical markers--#1515 and #2222---commemorate Camp Nelson in Jessamine County, where most of the state's United States Colored Troops were recruited during the Civil War.

Established near Nicholasville in 1863, Camp Nelson was named for Union General William "Bull" Nelson, who was murdered by another Union general in 1862.

Initially a large supply depot, Camp Nelson included 4,000 acres, fortifications, and 300 buildings. The camp supplied several Union military campaigns. In early 1864, when the Union army was finally able to recruit African American soldiers from Kentucky, Camp Nelson became the state's largest recruiting ground for Black soldiers. Eventually, it became one of the largest in the nation. Several regiments of African American Union soldiers were trained there.

As enslaved and free men converged on Camp Nelson to enlist in the Union army, many of their families joined them and a large refugee camp grew up around the camp. When these refugees were forced out and hundreds died from exposure, the Federal government freed the family members of former slaves who enlisted in the Union army.

Today, Camp Nelson remains a well-preserved site of national significance.

The marker reads:


Founded in 1863 as a Union supply depot, hospital, and encampment, in 1864 Camp Nelson became Kentucky's largest, and nation's third largest, recruitment center for African-American soldiers, the U.S.Colored Troops (USCT). Eight USCT regiments were organized here and saw action in Kentucky and Virginia. Over.


(Reverse) The USCT were emancipated from slavery upon enlistment and many brought their wives and children into camp, who were freed after a March 1865 Congressional Act. 23,300 slaves were freed here. Camp Nelson included 4,000 acres and 300 buildings and provided men and supplies for Knoxville, Atlanta, and Saltville- Marion, Va., campaigns. Over.

Marker #2222 was dedicated on May 28, 2007.



Isaac Johnson, 102nd United States Colored Troops
Although his regiment was not organized at Camp Nelson, the words of Isaac Johnson, 102nd United States Colored Troops, describe how this African American soldier and former slave felt about his former master after the Civil War. Recreated audio...
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