A couple of weekends ago, Civil War reenactors from the 7th and 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry from nearby Camp Taylor, presently E 30th St and Woodland Ave, set up camp at Lincoln Park in Tremont, a 2 mi march southwest traveling on modern streets.
A few blocks from Lincoln Park along W 7th St between University Rd and Jefferson Ave, Camp Cleveland was established in 1862 and closed in August 1865, 4 months after the end of the Civil War.
With over 15,000 men throughout Ohio trained at Camp Cleveland, it was the largest of 7 camps in Cleveland. Camp Taylor was the first.
The small 2-man tents could use branches as supports. Each soldier carried half of a tent and assembled it with identical pieces carried by another soldier. Pictured below are more elaborate tents.
We visited the encampment mid-morning. It was a crisp and clear, so the smell of smoke and flying ash filled the air from a campfire with a heated kettle.
When I saw the soldiers dressed in wool coats and hand-stitched long-sleeve shirts underneath, and women dressed in their long dresses, one of my first thoughts were of relief that temperatures were in the 60s.
One of the soldiers stopped and conversed with us for 30 minutes describing the conditions, Lincoln, weapons, and traveling to Kanawha Valley in present West Virginia prior to breaking away from Virginia.
Of the few moments he was not in character, he recounted one of the events where there were so many in attendance that when they marched, the procession was nearly a quarter mile long with more waiting to march behind him. He also allowed me to hold his rifle to illustrate how heavy one was. How tiring it must have been to hold 8-9 lb in one place.
We were informed that women would visit the encampments to deliver gifts and carry home-cooked food when the soldiers were camped nearby.
I have always envisioned these camps to be muddy and nowhere for a lady to drag her flowing dress, hoop and all. Muddy affair or not, I'm sure a little dirt and manure on a dress is trivial when visiting a loved one fighting a war.
As we left the 1860s, the smell of skewered hot dogs cooked over a campfire wafted throughout. I had hoped to see traditional food, but I can't imagine someone preparing embalmed beef (canned beef) for stew and hoecakes for the sake of authenticity.
When we drove by later, we caught the rifle firing demonstration from afar that played out like a silent film without the herky jerky movements. The soldiers were lined up, rifles were uniformly held up, then a plume of smoke appeared.
I had one nagging question the entire weekend that I should have asked - are they really camping out in the park overnight?
Ah well, perhaps next year.