Historically known for being ONE of the largest recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers during the Civil War, Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument is a must-visit destination for RV lovers interested in Civil War history. Located in Kentucky, specifically in Jessamine County, Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument (previously known as Camp Nelson National Monument) was renamed in March of 2019 and encompasses the national monument, historical museum and park.
The history of the area dates back to before it was a training center, as it was a Union army supply depot and hospital. The camp was first established in 1863 when General Ambrose Burnside was tasked with capturing and holding eastern Tennessee and eventually taking Knoxville, which was a Confederate rail hub. At its peak in 1865 Camp Nelson was around roughly 4,000 acres in size and had more than 300 buildings and tents. These buildings housed a quartermaster commissary depot, ordnance depot, recruitment center, prison, and a hospital.
Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument is also culturally significant to African Americans as it was the largest of the eight African American recruitment centers in Kentucky and the third largest U.S. Colored Troops recruiting center in the country. By joining the army, these people were emancipated and once the 13th Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865 roughly 10,000 African American men had enlisted and claimed their freedom at Camp Nelson.
In present day there are multiple buildings available for visitors to explore, museum exhibits to check out and a very informative visitor center. There are also more than five miles of hiking trails so you will have many chances to explore in and around the area. While you are at the monument we recommend that you also check out the Camp Nelson National Cemetery which is located adjacent to the national monument.
While there are no RV camping sites at Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument there is one available only five miles from the entrance to the monument. Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument is located in southern Jessamine County, Kentucky and is around seven miles from Nicholasville. The park is easily accessible thanks to the park being located just off Danville Road. Once you turn off you just need to take Danville Road Loop two and it will take you to the entrance of the monument.
Thanks to a handy location in central Kentucky there are plenty of places located nearby that will the have supplies and amenities needed for you to enjoy your trip. These include Nicholasville (around seven miles away), Bryantsville (around seven miles away) and Shakertown (around 17 and a half miles away). The closest major city to the monument is Lexington, which is located around 20 miles to the north.
You shouldn't encounter any problems when driving to the monument as the roads are well maintained and are relatively flat. If you are planning on visiting the park during the winter time we recommend that you call ahead to the park office to confirm the road into the park will be open.
There is plenty of parking available at Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument.
There are no public transportation options that will take you to Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument.
Located in the town of Lancaster near Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument there is an RV park that you can call home for the night. The campground has multiple back-in sites that are known for being level and they are available on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis.
The RV-friendly campground has some good amenities, including some full and partial hook up sites, primitive sites, laundry facilities, swimming pool, boat ramp, playground and camp store. The park also has WiFi available for a fee and the campground is pet friendly. You should also be able to get cell phone reception on all of the major networks when inside the campground.
As this campground is the closest one to Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument we recommend that you reserve a campsite in advance before your trip to the area. The campground is open all year round for you to enjoy.
The first stop on your visit to Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument should be the fantastic Visitor Center. The center is open Tuesday through Saturday and features some great historical information and artifacts from the Civil War era. Some of these include things that were used when Camp Nelson was a supply depot, hospital, recruitment center, and refugee camp. There is also a great short film available for you to enjoy that details the historic events that unfolded at Camp Nelson.
Along with the Visitor Center there are also some unique guided tours available throughout the year for you to enjoy. When you are at the Visitor Center check out when the tours are available. The tours will take you to a reconstructed barracks that depicts camp life for the Union soldiers stationed here. There's also the Oliver Perry House “White House”. This place tells the story of civilian experiences before, during, and after the Civil War.
One of the most popular recreational activities at Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument is to explore the monument's many trails. In total there are over five miles of hiking trails that will allow you to experience the classic rolling pastoral landscape that the area is known for. The trail system also features numerous interpretive markers that provide you an opportunity to explore the old earthworks and fortifications that protected Camp Nelson. By following these trails you can walk in the footsteps of soldiers in order to gain an understanding of the sites' significant role during the Civil War.
Located adjacent to the national monument is the Camp Nelson National Cemetery. Open daily from dawn to dusk, Camp Nelson National Cemetery is a must-see after you have explored Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument. The graveyard originally contained the bodies of those who died at Camp Nelson and after the war there were 2,023 remains removed from areas in Kentucky (such as Frankfort, Richmond and London) and reinterred at Camp Nelson National Cemetery. You are allowed to wander the grounds and burial is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and have been discharged honorably.
Since you are only around 20 miles away from Lexington we recommend that you check out the Mary Todd Lincoln House if you are looking for more Civil War history. The Mary Todd Lincoln House was the family home of the wife of 16th president Abraham Lincoln and was first opened to the public in 1977. The house was the first to become a house museum in the United States to honor a First Lady. Within the house there are many photographs and artifacts from the life of Mary Todd Lincoln.
If you do go to the Mary Todd Lincoln House while you are in Lexington you should make the most of it and also check out the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary. This is a 734-acre nature sanctuary bordering the Kentucky River that many different trails and wildlife viewing opportunities for you to enjoy. The nature sanctuary also features a yoga program that is very popular. For more information on the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary check out their park website.