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Camp Nelson National Monument to observe 160th anniversary this weekend

Formerly enslaved African American refugees lived in wooden cottages, tents, and makeshift huts at Camp Nelson, which is in Jessamine County, during the Civil War.
National Archives and Records Administration
Formerly enslaved African American refugees lived in wooden cottages, tents, and makeshift huts at Camp Nelson, which is in Jessamine County, during the Civil War.

One-hundred-sixty years ago, some of the first African Americans to fight in the Civil War were trained at what is now a national park: Camp Nelson National Monument. This weekend, the park in Jessamine County will host a variety of free activities to celebrate that history. Steve Phan is the park’s chief of interpretation.

“This is where you'll see the enlistment of African American men into the U.S. Army at Camp Nelson, which becomes the third largest recruiting station for African American soldiers in the entire country, over 10,000 men, and it becomes a refugee site for their families escaping slavery.”

Phan said what happened there was the beginning of the end of slavery in America.

“We've got noted historians coming from across the country that will be presenting on a variety of different topics related to Camp Nelson and the African American experience, including descendant members as well.”

Phan said there’ll be guided ranger programs, including a “history at sunset” program starting at 7 p.m. Friday.

Camp Nelson National Monument 160th anniversary

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John McGary is a Lexington native and Navy veteran with three decades of radio, television and newspaper experience.
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