A Republican bill to designate a new national monument in Kentucky would memorialize the spot of a Civil War-era Army camp that trained 10,000 African-American soldiers fighting for the Union.
GOP Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky authored the bill to create the Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument. It passed the House Natural Resources Committee Tuesday in a bipartisan vote, and the legislation now awaits a vote by the full House.
The bill authorizes the Interior secretary to acquire land for the federal government through purchase, land swaps or donation until either the monument’s area, defined by a map, is obtained or the secretary has determined that enough land has been acquired to make up a “manageable unit.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Camp Nelson be designated a national monument after concluding a review of the largest national monuments created under the Antiquities Act of 1906. After the review, President Donald Trump rolled back two national monuments in Utah by about half and 85 percent, prompting multiple lawsuits against the administration by environmental groups and the outdoor gear manufacturer Patagonia.
Camp Nelson was the site of a supply depot, hospital facility, and training and recruiting center for the Union Army throughout the Civil War. Nelson training facilities sent the third most African Americans, many freed slaves that had escaped from Confederate states, to fight for the North.
Many free African American’s escaped the South with their families and, without any other place to go, brought them to Camp Nelson. Union Brigadier General Speed S. Fry ordered the families to leave camp in November 1864. About a hundred people died during the winter as the refugees tried to survive outside the camp.
Fry was later ordered to construct a camp for the African-American families inside Camp Nelson after his act stoked the anger of African-American soldiers and undermined their commitment to fight.
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