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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Richmond in Madison County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
 

General William "Bull" Nelson

Staunch Unionist and Friend of President Abraham Lincoln

 
 
General William "Bull" Nelson Marker image. Click for full size.
By Brandon Fletcher, March 30, 2012
1. General William "Bull" Nelson Marker
Inscription.  
Son of an Influential Kentucky Family
The Nelson family counted among its friends some of the most important families in Kentucky. William Nelson, born in 1824, near Maysville, Kentucky, grew up in an atmosphere of influence and wealth. After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1846, he attained the rank of lieutenant. At the beginning of the Civil War, Nelson personally offered his help to Abraham Lincoln.

William Nelson established a recruiting camp in Kentucky at President Abraham Lincoln's request. His success earned him the rank of general. "Bull" Nelson died at the hands of a fellow officer, just weeks after his defeat at the Battle of Richmond.

Established Camp Dick Robinson
Lincoln, fully aware of his friend's influence and stature, charged Nelson with establishing a recruiting camp in Kentucky. Men eager to serve the Union flocked to Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County. Nelson's success earned him the rank of general.

Suffered Defeat at the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky
In April 1862, Nelson commanded part of the relief force that helped save the Union army at
General William "Bull" Nelson Marker image. Click for full size.
By Brandon Fletcher, March 30, 2012
2. General William "Bull" Nelson Marker
Marker sits on the far right at the Battle of Richmond Visitor Center
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Shiloh, Tennessee. In August, he commanded an army at the Battle of Richmond. In a last stand at Richmond Cemetery, as he desperately tried to rally his defeated men, he was shot barely escaped capture.

Murdered by a Fellow Officer
Nelson arrived in Louisville with orders to hold the city. Soon afterward, he publicly insulted Union General Jefferson C. Davis. On September 29, 1862, Nelson slapped Davis after a second heated exchange. Davis immediately borrowed a pistol and shot Nelson in the chest, killing him.

(captions)
Background: Camp Dick Robinson as depicted in Harper's Weekly Magazine, November 1, 1862.

(top left) William Nelson was the only naval officer on either side to achieve the rank of major general. His size and belligerent attitude earned him the nickname "Bull." Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

(top center) Camp Nelson, a Union supply depot and recruiting camp, and Camp Nelson National Cemetery, both in Jessamine County, Kentucky, were named for General William Nelson. Above: Camp Nelson. Left: The ambulance yard. Right: Soldiers in front of a barracks building. National Archives and Records Administration

(bottom right) General Jefferson C. Davis never stood trial for killing William Nelson. New York Illustrated News, October 18, 1862
General
Battle of Richmond Visitor Center General William "Bull" Nelson Bust image. Click for full size.
By Brandon Fletcher, March 31, 2012
3. Battle of Richmond Visitor Center General William "Bull" Nelson Bust
Jefferson C. Davis

A Part of the Civil War Discovery Trail.
Support generously provided by Madison County Fiscal Court and Battle of Richmond Association.

 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln series list. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1862.
 
Location. 37° 41.068′ N, 84° 15.469′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Kentucky, in Madison County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Battlefield Memorial Highway (U.S. 421) and Berea Road (U.S. 25), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 101 Battlefield Memorial Hwy, Richmond KY 40475, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. General Edmund Kirby Smith (here, next to this marker); General Mahlon Manson (here, next to this marker); Patrick Ronayne Cleburne (a few steps from this marker); Battle of Richmond (within shouting distance of this marker); Battle of Richmond Masonic Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Sturdy, Accurate and Reliable (within shouting distance of this marker); Fight at Rogersville (within shouting distance of this marker); Route of Advance (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
 
Major-General William Nelson. image. Click for full size.
Internet Archive
4. Major-General William Nelson.
On the morning of Sept. 29th, 1862, General Nelson had an altercation with General Jefferson C. Davis in the Galt House, Louisville. General Davis shot General Nelson, who died almost instantly.--Editors.

From Battles and Leaders of the Civil War by Robert Underwood Johnson & Clarence Clough Buel, 1887, Vol. 1, Page 376.
Camp Dick Robinson image. Click for full size.
Internet Archive
5. Camp Dick Robinson
Drawn by W.T.B. Brown, Harper's Weekly, Vol. VI, No. 305, Saturday November 1 1862, Page 694.
Jefferson C. Davis image. Click for full size.
Library of Congress
6. Jefferson C. Davis
The Shooting of William "Bull" Nelson<br>by Jefferson C. Davis. image. Click for full size.
Wikipedia
7. The Shooting of William "Bull" Nelson
by Jefferson C. Davis.
General Jefferson C. Davis never stood trial for killing William Nelson. From the New York Illustrated News, Vol VI, No 154, Saturday October 16 1862.
Battle of Richmond Visitor Center image. Click for full size.
By Brandon Fletcher, March 30, 2012
8. Battle of Richmond Visitor Center
Battle of Richmond Visitor Center image. Click for full size.
By Brandon Fletcher, March 31, 2012
9. Battle of Richmond Visitor Center
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on March 1, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 27, 2015, by Brandon Fletcher of Chattanooga, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 302 times since then and 39 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 27, 2015, by Brandon Fletcher of Chattanooga, Tennessee.   4, 5, 6. submitted on February 28, 2021, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   7. submitted on March 1, 2021, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   8, 9. submitted on July 27, 2015, by Brandon Fletcher of Chattanooga, Tennessee. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Jul. 24, 2021