CAMP CLEVELAND was one of a number of CIVIL WAR CAMPS operated in the Cleveland area, but the only one to remain in operation throughout the conflict. Located in what is now northeast TREMONT, Camp Cleveland also was the only camp from which soldiers were de-mustered (released from service) at the conclusion of the war, as well as the only area camp connected to a major Army hospital: the United States General Hospital Cleveland (USGHC). From 1862 to 1865, more than 15,000 northeast Ohio soldiers convened, enlisted, trained, caroused, recuperated, died and/or were discharged at Camp Cleveland.
When war broke out in Apr. 1861 five Cleveland-area military-training facilities were hurriedly created:
Camp Taylor at what is now E. 30th St. and Kinsman Ave.
Camp Tod, also located along Woodland Ave.
Camp Wood at what is now E. 37th St. near Woodland Ave.
Camp Brown, located at what is now E. 46 th St. and Euclid Ave.
Camp Wade in the northeast corner of Tremont (then known as University Hts.). Camp Wade’s borders were W. 7th St. on the west (then known as University St.), W. 5th St. on the east (then known as Herschal St.), Literary Rd. on the north and Jefferson St. (then known as Franklin St.) on the south. This is part of the site that, in 1862, became Camp Cleveland. Silas Stone, a real estate dealer, leased the property to the State of Ohio for one dollar.
By Dec. 1861, all five camps closed, having enlisted and trained enough troops to meet initial requirements. By mid 1862, however, Union casualties were rising, war fervor was cooling and the Union was having difficulty recruiting men. On 4 Aug. 1862 President Lincoln called for 300,000 more troops under the Militia Act of 1862.
Barely a week before the Militia Act was announced, Camp Cleveland came into being. Its footprint mirrored that of Camp Wade, although the new facility extended Camp Wade’s borders north from what is now Literary Rd. to University Rd. (then known as Railway St.) and south from Jefferson (then Franklin) St. to what is now Marquardt Ave. By early Aug. 1862 barracks construction was underway and a headquarters area was established with five buildings for camp staff (two for the commandant and three for quartermaster’s stores) and a stable. An arsenal was located in the center of the camp. Other structures included a guardhouse and a chapel. A well and natural springs supplied drinking water.
Recruits (average age: 26) started arriving at Camp Cleveland in mid-Aug. 1862. Enlisted men’s attire were traded for trousers of blue wool and dark blue frock coats, with dark-blue caps called “kepis.” Men of all ranks wore a type of shoe that extended an inch or two above the ankle, tied with a single lace. Shirts were made of a cotton/wool combination called “domet flannel.” Soldiers were housed in barracks 20 ft. wide and 60 ft. long. Each held 32 men and had a stove for heating. Men slept on un-planed wooden bunks, using straw for mattresses and knapsacks for pillows. When government supplies arrived, each soldier received a grey wool blanket. Meals were brought into the barracks and dished out to each man.
By Dec. 1862 Camp Cleveland housed almost 4,200 soldiers. This number was the highest of the war. For the next few years, the Camp’s population fluctuated wildly as companies departed and new recruits arrived.
In Nov. 1862 construction began on a hospital complex at the southeast corner of Herschal and Franklin Sts., now W. 5th and Jefferson. Unaffiliated with Camp Cleveland, but solely extant to serve Union soldiers, it was called the United States General Hospital Cleveland (USGHC). With 320 beds, USGHC was one of 204 such facilities erected nationwide during the Civil War—a total of 136,984 beds. The 3.76-acre complex consisted of a main building (300 feet long, oriented north to south along Herschal St.), a half dozen wards and myriad detached buildings. At the crest of the ridge overlooking the Flats was Ward I: the Pest-House (contagious disease ward). Close by was the morgue. Other structures included an office and forage house; a stable and stable sheds; and a mess house. Wards comprised double rows of iron beds with a central passage. Small tables were located between each bed. Each ward was heated with large stoves and lit by hanging lamps. Plank walkways were laid between each ward.
Ill and wounded soldiers headed for the Camp Cleveland hospital would generally arrive by train at Cleveland’s Union Depot on the lakefront, where they would be transported by various means—private citizens, omnibus hacks (carriages), volunteers from the SOLDIERS' AID SOCIETY—to the USGHC. Some may already have spent months in hospitals down south. All told, 3,028 soldiers received care for gunshot wounds, illnesses and diseases before the facility closed in the summer of 1865. Roughly 90 patients died at USGHC. Most deaths were due to disease, primarily malaria, typhoid, diarrhea and measles. One man died of liquor poisoning and another slit his throat rather than undergo an amputation without anesthesia. Only six died from wounds received in battle.
At War’s end Union troops returning to northeast Ohio traveled mostly by rail, arriving at Union Depot and marching through downtown and on to Camp Cleveland where they received their pay and relinquished regimental colors, flags and arms. They then received furloughs, along with orders to return at a specified date for “de-mustering.” Between June and Aug. 1865, some 11,000 returning soldiers were mustered out through Camp Cleveland.
By late summer Camp Cleveland was closed and disassembled, with the property returned to its lessor, Silas Stone, who sold it to a group of investors. The land subsequently was surveyed and divided into the small building lots that typify Tremont to this day.