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Curious Cbus: Where Was Camp Thomas?

black and white photo of camp thomas military barracks
R. Burgoon
Courtesy of Doreen Uhas Sauer
Photo of Camp Thomas barracks taken sometime in the 1950s.

Ohio played an important role in Union efforts during the Civil War. Over 300,000 Ohioans served in the Union Army and over 35,000 died during the war. 

While no major battles were ever fought in the state, Ohio was home to many military sites. In Central Ohio, Camp Chase is perhaps best known because it contained a prison camp for Confederate soldiers and a cemetery that can be seen today on the city’s west side.

But Columbus was home to another Union army camp as well. This led one resident to write into WOSU’s Curious Cbus to ask, "Where was Camp Thomas?"

According to local historian Doreen Uhas Sauer, Camp Thomas ran along North High Street, near the corner of Arcadia Avenue. It was part of the Old North neighborhood.

During the war, the federal government rented the land from the Beers family to build a Union training camp.

At one point, the camp had a very famous commander, General Lew Wallace, an author who would later write the best-selling biblical epic Ben-Hur.

Camp Thomas was a place where former prisoners of war from Confederate prison camps were brought back north, to retrain them and convince them to return to the battlefield.

“They often did not want to go back into battle, and they ran into the neighborhoods and escaped,” Uhas Sauer said.

According to the Ohio History Connection, data shows that about 4% of Ohio’s soldiers deserted their posts during the war, giving Ohio one of the lowest desertion rates in the Union army.

Do you have a question about Central Ohio for Curious Cbus? Submit your idea below._

Michael De Bonis develops and produces digital content including podcasts, videos, and news stories. He is also the editor of WOSU's award-winning Curious Cbus project. He moved to Columbus in 2012 to work as the producer of All Sides with Ann Fisher, the live news talk show on 89.7 NPR News.