Commission on Human Rights
Friends of Camp Nelson to announce proposed Restoration that could bring 270 jobs to Jessamine County
NICHOLASVILLE – Historic Camp Nelson in Nicholasville, Ky., is seeking funds for major restoration to the park that could bring 270 new jobs to Jessamine County plus 70 jobs through material supplier contracts.
Last week, Jessamine County Fiscal Court gave its approval to the Friends of Camp Nelson Committee to apply for funding from federal, state and private sources that will help stimulate new jobs in the county and result in a partial replication of the original camp. The site just south of Lexington was the training ground for Colored troops during the Civil War.
Members of the special committee that is helping the park push forward the multi-project plan will give details and ask for public support at a special meeting hosted by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday, May 20, from 3 to 5 pm at the park located at 6614 Danville Road. The commission will also hear testimony from panelists on other significant issues concerning the Camp Nelson Restoration and Preservation Foundation to facilitate the realization of the restoration projects. The public is invited.
When President Abraham Lincoln directed Congress to pass the Conscription Act of February 1864, the Union Army in Kentucky began enlisting African Americans, both slaves and freemen into the Union Army. Slaves in Kentucky began enlisting by the thousands and Camp Nelson became by the end of the Civil War the largest recruiting and training center in Kentucky and the third largest in the nation.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights supports the proposed partial replication of the original Camp Nelson site because of its historic significance in the country’s war that ended slavery and the camp’s history concerning the largest minority in the state. “The commission’s role is to ensure equal opportunity for all Kentuckians,” said John J. Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. “Therefore, we are proud to support this important undertaking that will help mark a major point in our state’s history and also highlight the stories of African Americans during troubled times that ultimately led to freedom,” he said.
The restoration includes five major projects, said Dr. Dean Richards, an author and Civil War historian and the Chairman of the Friends of Camp Nelson Committee. If successful, one project will result in rebuilding the Hickman Covered Bridge, which will be the world’s largest single span covered bridge.
Another project will be the horse and mule reclamation-rebuilding project. Camp Nelson concocted a system to replenish the strength of horses and mules that were used to transport ammunition and supplies, and was so successful that it was used all over the United States until the use of horses and mules by the Army ended in 1943 in Camp Carson, Colorado, Richards said. Tired horses and mules would become broken down and unserviceable very quickly, but using special feeding and exercise regimens, Camp Nelson found a way to recuperate the stock, he said. “We recently learned that this same system that originated in Camp Nelson is currently being used in the war in Afghanistan in the rough mountain areas,” he said.
Speaking about the project next week will be Richards and Dr. Stephen McBride, director of Interpretation and Archaeology at Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park, who will speak on Camp Nelson’s history. Michael Crutcher, a nationally known Frederick Douglass re-enactor, and Robert Bell and James Hunn, who are U.S. Colored Troops re-enactors, will join them for a presentation about the camp’s history. Other citizens have made requests to speak at this hearing and the public is invited to participate.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is the state agency that enforces the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and federal civil rights laws, which protect the equal opportunity of all Kentuckians.