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National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

Camp Nelson

Camp Nelson

Nicholasville, Kentucky

During the Civil War, Camp Nelson played a crucial role for African Americans living in Kentucky and for the United States. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to border states like Kentucky, where the only legal way that a slave could earn his freedom was to fight. Camp Nelson enlisted and trained more than 10,000 slaves to join the Union army in exchange for their freedom, and served as a refugee camp for their families. The camp also served as a major supply center, recruitment center, and hospital for the region. Although only a small part of the camp remains, it is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo: Camp Nelson "White House" circa 1865
– National Archives

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