By Rep. Andy Barr
Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District is most often recognized as the horse capital of the world, as the home of world-famous bourbon distilleries and for having the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball.
Though not as well known, the 6th District is also home to a national treasure — the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park — located in scenic Jessamine County. Throughout my time in Congress, I have fought to bring national attention to Camp Nelson, a site that has the ability to unite the community and inspire a greater understanding and appreciation for this period in our nation’s history.
Camp Nelson was founded in 1863 as a Union Army supply depot, training center and hospital for the Federal Armies in Kentucky and Tennessee.
The most significant aspect of Camp Nelson was its role as the third-largest recruitment and training center for U.S. African-American troops and a home to many of their families. Because of its proximity to the Confederate States of America, African-American men fled to Camp Nelson to enlist and escape slavery. By the time the 13th Amendment was ratified and ended slavery in 1865, 70 percent of Kentucky’s slaves had already been emancipated, largely in part to the efforts made at Camp Nelson.
Over the past few years, I have met with stakeholders and descendants of those who lived and worked at Camp Nelson, and it was apparent that this site is important to not only the history of the commonwealth but also to the history of the nation.
For these reasons, in both the 114th and 115th Congresses, I introduced the Camp Nelson Heritage Park Study Act, which would direct the Department of the Interior to conduct a special resource survey of the site to evaluate its national significance and the feasibility of incorporating it into the National Park System.
After learning of the Department’s plans to review National Monument designations, I brought this historic site to the attention of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke as a possible addition for monument status.
This week, we learned that Secretary Zinke recommended in a report to President Donald Trump that Camp Nelson receive a National Monument designation.
I greatly appreciate the consideration Secretary Zinke and the Department of Interior have given this request and the process they have undertaken to ensure that sites given this designation have national historic significance and local support, unlike the abuses of this designation undertaken by the previous administration.
I would like to thank the local stakeholders who shared their stories and assisted me and my staff in educating the department’s staff about the significant contributions of this historical site. Their advocacy and support effectively demonstrated the positive local sentiment about Camp Nelson, which contributed greatly to our efforts.
I applaud Secretary Zinke for recognizing this site’s potential to convey nationally significant information about the survival and persistence of African-American soldiers and their families as they fought for their freedom.
I strongly encourage President Trump to follow through on the secretary’s recommendation so that, like the 6th District of Kentucky, the entire nation can experience the rich history Camp Nelson has to offer.
Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican, represents Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District. Contact Barr’s Lexington office at 859-219-1366 or his Washington, D.C., office at 202-225-4706FacebookTwitterGoogle +