Closing of the Military Depot

SOON AFTER THE WAR ENDED in April - May 1865, military officials began preparing to close down Camp Nelson. Inventories of serviceable and unserviceable equipment and supplies were made between the spring of 1865 and the winter of 1866. Buildings were also described and inventoried, and decisions were made whether to keep, sell, or dispose of the various items and buildings.

As was stated above, the U.S. Army continued to enlist African-American soldiers in order to free them until December 1865. By the summer of 1865, nearly all soldiers at Camp Nelson were African-Americans, primarily of the 123rd and 134th U.S.C.I. By this time many of the soldiers were living in the central and southern part of the camp, in the hospital wards and the Recruiting Rendezvous, as well as in the barracks. The northeastern part of the camp, where most of the warehouses, sheds, stables and corrals were located was abandoned earlier. In June 1866, the army finally abandoned Camp Nelson, ending the military occupation of the area. By this time most buildings were quickly dismantled. The buildings in the refugee camp and the cemeteries remained, however. The school and other administrative buildings were purchased by Abisha Scofield, John G. Fee and Gabriel Burdett of the American Missionary Association and the cottages continued to be lived in by the African-American families.

John G. Fee later [1868] bought 130 acres, including the refugee camp land plus additional farmland and sold or leased lots back to the African-American residents. The refugee camp became the community of Ariel, later renamed Hall after Captain Theron Hall. The Hall community is still in existence today, although it began to decline in around 1945. In its heyday, the community contained numerous residences, the school [Ariel Academy], a post office, two stores and two churches. One of the leaders of the community was the minister, teacher and ex-soldier, the Rev. Gabriel Burdett.

In the first few years after the army left, Hall experienced a number of raids by night raiders. These raids scared one of the missionaries, Abisha Scofield, away but the African-American citizens remained. By 1891, Hall contained 42 families.

In 1866, the main Camp Nelson cemetery was designated a National Cemetery. The present sections A to D are the original cemetery and contain the remains of 1,615 soldiers, including 837 U.S.C.T., and even some civilian employees who died at Camp Nelson.

In the summer of 1868, 2,203 Union dead from Perryville, Richmond, Frankfort, London and Covington were reinterred at the Camp Nelson National Cemetery. Since that time veterans continue to be buried at the cemetery.

The remainder of Camp Nelson except for the cemetery returned to its residential and agricultural use. The military -constructed buildings that remained after June 1866 were quickly dismantled. The civilian houses used by the army were reoccupied, generally by the original owners, and the land returned to pasture or cropland.

Today the site of the camp maintains this primarily pastoral appearance although more houses and a few businesses have been built. Surviving remains of the camp include the circa 1855 Oliver Perry house, which was used as officers' quarters during the camp's existence, remnants of earth and stone fortifications and connecting entrenchments, some of the original refugee camp streets, and rich archaeological deposits which can greatly assist in telling the story of Camp Nelson and the many thousands of men, women, and children who passed through its gates.

More Than a Depot: Introduction

Origin and Location

Supply Depot and Encampment

Recruitment and Training Center

African-American Refugee Camp

Closing of the Military Depot

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