Walking down Woodland Avenue in the spring of 1861, you would have come across a row of bayonet armed soldiers guarding Camp Taylor, a Civil War training facility for Union soldiers. It would have been hard to imagine judging from their stern faces and disciplined demeanors that these men had only been in training for a few weeks. Before they had answered Abraham Lincoln's call for volunteer soldiers, the men who occupied Camp Taylor had had occupations such as dry good clerks or blacksmiths.
Ohio Governor William Dennison ordered Camp Taylor to be formed in order to expedite soldier training and infantry organization. General J. W. Fitch took charge and Cleveland's old fairgrounds served as its location. There is some discrepancy as to the exact whereabouts of the camp. Secondary sources place Camp Taylor at Woodland Avenue and East 30th Street, whereas primary sources place it at Woodland and Forest Street. Forest Street no longer exists but can be located on nineteenth century maps. Cleveland Historical chooses to use the latter location.
On April 22, 1861, the new recruits began to arrive at the makeshift military camp. The new soldiers, ranging in age from 17 to 40, were from Sandusky, Toledo, Medina, Tiffin, and other northern Ohio regions. By May 2, sixty companies had marched to Cleveland, making the total number of soldiers who learned to perform company and squad drills on the Camp Taylor grounds about 5,000.
Despite the speed at which Camp Taylor was formed, it was so well organized and run with such a strict discipline that observers overlooked that many soldiers were without uniforms. The soldiers would practice drills for six hours a day, perform their duties with "dignity and respect by silence and soldierly bearing," and report to Headquarters for divine service at five each evening. Tents and two of the halls on the old fair grounds were used for soldiers' barracks. The other two halls were used for dining. The dining halls were equipped with a total of nine large stoves. One was a full thirteen feet long. One hundred seventy-five cooks and waiters and sixteen dishwashers worked in the dining halls to feed the thousands of soldiers. To make three meals a day, the cooks went through 6,000 pounds of bread, 3,500 pounds of fresh beef, 14 barrels of corned beef, 10 barrels of pork, 3,700 pounds of potatoes, and 4 barrels of coffee.
As quickly as Camp Taylor filled with new soldiers, it was emptied of trained infantrymen. On May 2, the 8th Ohio Infantry, which was formed at Camp Taylor and consisting of 10 companies and 837 men, left Cleveland for further training at Camp Dennison. Many of the three-month recruits that made up the 8th regiment re-enlisted for three years. In this manner, men who had trained at Camp Taylor fought at Gettysburg as a part of General George B. McClellan's army.
On May 5, the 7th Ohio Infantry followed their campmates toward Camp Dennison. Also like the 8th regiment, most of the 7th re-enlisted as three-year recruits. This regiment fought at such famous battles as Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga. The 13th, 14th, 19th, 21st, and 107th regiments were also formed at Camp Taylor, but by May 31 they had left and the camp only had 27 men including staff. On June 2, six weeks after it was formed, orders were given to discontinue Camp Taylor because it had efficiently served its purpose. The camp was revived in the late summer however, after it became apparent that the war was not going to be as short as expected. The camp was finally and permanently shut down in October, 1861.