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Civil War Sites Tell Kentucky’s Story

As a key border state between North and South, Kentucky features many historically significant sites connected with the American Civil War. Two of the most fascinating and important of these are Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park and Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site.  


Recently designated a National Historic Landmark, Camp Nelson near Nicholasville in Jessamine County was established 150 years ago on a directive from President Abraham Lincoln to play a critical role in the Union war effort as a supply depot, recruitment center and hospital facility.  Besides serving as the supply center for three major Union campaigns, Camp Nelson is most significant as the nation’s largest recruitment and training center for African American troops open today for visitation and interpretation.


More than 10,000 African Americans trained at Camp Nelson, making it the third largest recruitment center for black troops in the nation. A refugee camp was established to house the soldiers’ families and to provide schooling and medical care. Many thousands of formerly enslaved African Americans attained their freedom here.  


Central Kentucky’s beautiful landscapes form a backdrop for learning about Camp Nelson’s role in the Civil War. Explore more than five miles of trails, open nearly every day from dawn to dusk, at your own pace.
 
The Camp Nelson Education & Preservation Foundation, a public-private effort, is planning the 150th commemoration of the site with the anniversary of the enlistment and training of the first African American men. The event will be held Sept. 6-7, 2014.
 
Camp Nelson is located six miles south of Nicholasville on U.S. 27. For more information call 859-492-3115 or visit www.campnelson.org


Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site near Danville in Boyle County is generally included in lists of the country’s most important Civil War battlefields. Fought in early October, 1862, the Battle of Perryville was the most destructive Civil War conflict in Kentucky and left more than 7,600 killed, wounded or missing. The bloody battle was the South’s last serious attempt to gain control of pivotal Kentucky. 


Follow a self-guided walking tour that interprets events on that October day and view vistas that are virtually the same as the ones soldiers saw. Each year, scores of costumed “soldiers” on horseback and on foot stage a vivid reenactment, and many spectators gather on surrounding hillsides and fields to watch the battle unfold. This year’s commemoration of the 152nd anniversary of the battle is scheduled for Oct. 4-5. 


The park grounds are open year round. A museum and gift shop are open year round, but by appointment only December through March. For more information call 859-332-8631 or visit www.parks.ky.gov

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