President Donald Trump designated his first national monument at the end of last month, selecting 373-acre Camp Nelson in Nicholasville, Kentucky, that honors African-American soldiers and refugees from the Civil War.
"Camp Nelson was one of the largest Union Army recruitment centers for African American Union soldiers, then known as United States Colored Troops," the president said in a proclamation. "During the war, thousands of enslaved African Americans risked their lives escaping to Camp Nelson, out of a deep desire for freedom and the right of self-determination. Today, the site is one of the best-preserved landscapes and archeological sites associated with United States Colored Troops recruitment and the refugee experiences of African American slaves seeking freedom during the Civil War."
The National Park Service notes that at Camp Nelson's peak use in 1865, the camp was nearly 4,000 acres in size and "was organized around an 800-acre core, included more than 300 buildings and tents that housed a quartermaster commissary depot, ordnance depot, recruitment center, prison, and a hospital."
"Camp Nelson reminds us of the courage and determination possessed by formerly enslaved African Americans as they fought for their freedom," the proclamation added. "The broader Camp Nelson archeological record also provides opportunities for research and scholarship related to military history, race, identity, and gender during the Civil War — a pivotal chapter of the Nation’s history."
The proclamation also noted that more than 10,000 African-American soldiers enlisted or were trained at Camp Nelson during the Civil War, bringing the total number of African-American soldiers who joined the Union Army in Kentucky to over 23,000.