Saturday, July 11, 2009

Democratic Visions Bus Trip Day 5

Frederick Douglass (Michael Crutcher, Sr.) and me at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. Below - The Oliver Perry House, also know as the White House, which served as an officers' quarters at Camp Nelson and now has been restored to interpret both military occupation and a civilian residence.

For our final day of touring we left Shaker Village after have a hearty Southern breakfast that included what is fast becoming one of my favorites; cheese grits. Before breakfast I took an early morning stroll through the Shaker Village. It was almost like walking back in time (other than the grounds crew mowing that is). The numerous period buildings, stone walls, and white painted fences, all make for a very special atmosphere.

Upon arriving at Camp Nelson (I won't give a history of this location as it is discussed in two other previous posts) we were directed to the newly constructed reproduction barracks for a talk by Alison Hart, an author that specializes in young adult historical fiction. She has recently completed a trilogy about the Civil War that incorporates African American horse racing and training in Kentucky in the mid 19th century and weaves Camp Nelson into the story as well. She discussed the positives of including historical fiction into class assignments; for reading comprehension, for better understanding history, and in building a better vocabulary for students.

Camp Nelson park manager Steve McBride next spoke to us about the history of Camp Nelson, the creation of the park and its mission and purpose. Not surprisingly the African American story was largly ignored after the Civil War. The highway makers that were placed at the location years ago gave no mention of Camp Nelson being the third largest USCT recruiting and training camp during the Civil War. It wasn't until Highway 27 was constructed close to the grounds, that efforts were made and appeals were presented to keep the area perserved and as develpment-free as possible.

We enjoyed a catered lunch in the barracks and then we received a special treat; a visit from Frederick Douglass as portrayed by actor Michael Crutcher, Sr., who lives in nearby Nicholasville, Kentucky. The performance was outstanding to say the least. As Douglass, Mr. Crutcher recounted his life history from being born into slavery, to running away, to his start in abolition oration, and on to his later life. His character portrayal is truly believable, and his visual appearance is about as close as one could come to Douglass as you can see from the top picture.

Above - an exhibit of a refugee shanty at Camp Nelson in the park's interpretive center. Many women and children family members followed the enlisting men to Camp Nelson. Later, 16' X 16' cottage style duplex dwellings were built to house many of these refugees.

Above - an exhibit of a hospital ward at Camp Nelson.

Above - a quartermaster office exhibit. Camp Nelson was largely a supply depot and quartermaster distribution center for many of the western theater campaigns after mid-1863.
So, this ends the around Kentucky summer bus trip. I had a great time and got to see and experience many of the places I have wanted to see of a long time. I have certainly learned a lot and have met some great people along the way. I encourage you to take time to explore Kentucky's rich antebellum and Civil War history as well. A good source for information is the Kentucky Civil War Heritage Trail. You can find more of that information at the following link:

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