Kentucky Field Trip Diaries: Camp Nelson
The Debut of our Field Trip Diaries: Camp Nelson, Nicholasville KY
In light of my new goal to make sure we’re getting our field trips, I’m going to share them. This was the first field trip of our new term. The Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park is a huge 500+ acre park and museum. The camp was created in 1863 and originally covered more than 4000 acres and sprawled from the Kentucky palisades and Hickman Bridge (the only bridge across the Kentucky River in the area at that time) up to the Heritage Park currently stands.
It was created to be a supply depot for the Union Army in Kentucky. However, while the camp was very defensible, it’s efficiency was hampered by the lack of railroads. Even though it’s purpose was to get supplies to different contingents of the army in Kentucky, it was difficult to do so in a timely manner. The camp served another purpose though and became the largest recruiting station for African Americans in Kentucky, and the third largest in the union. Many former slaves received their emancipation by joining the army and working at Camp Nelson. Many of them brought their wives and children along as well, and the camp also became a refugee camp.
That’s the history in a nutshell–a seriously limited nutshell. There is so much more to it! For further reading, check out this history by Dr. Stephen McBride.
Admission to the heritage park is free, and tours are available to go through the white house. Volunteers do the majority of the tours and I would dearly love to volunteer some time! Maybe when the kids are older… There are trails all through the acreage, and signs explaining where different elements of the camp would have been. There is so much history and natural beauty here that I feel perfectly justified in my regular visits.
Camp Nelson is one of my very favorite places to take the kids locally. There are wide open fields, lanes lined with trees, signs to read, a brook, a spring and hills to climb! And that’s all outside. There’s also a museum set up with scenes from camp life and archeological finds from the area. We do go to the museum, but the main appeal is in the grounds for us right now. Last time we went, Eva was terrified of the wax figures in the museum. It’s slightly more difficult to read all the signs and see all the things when there’s a 19 month old clinging to your neck and whimpering any time you go close to the exhibits.
There are so many wonderful opportunities for learning, all tied up in this beautiful, (FREE) heritage park! I love Camp Nelson, and if you’re in the area you should definitely check it out!