The Camp Chase cemetery is a lonely place.

It is the final home of hundreds of men -- young and old -- who died far away and never made it home.

But it also is a testimony to extraordinary tenacity and the resilience of the human spirit.

Most of the men buried at Camp Chase -- off Sullivant Avenue in the Hilltop -- were not there because someone persuaded them to be there. They were there because of choices made and the fortunes of war.

It was a war like the United States had never seen before or hasn't since.

By the time the American Civil War was over, more than 600,000 soldiers had died, and at least a million more were permanently disabled by wounds. All this happened in a nation -- North and South -- of about 30 million people.

Ohio found itself squarely in the conflict and was called on to provide men, money and supplies to meet the challenge of the war.

As the state capital, Columbus became a military center.

The transition was not smooth. Prior to the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Columbus had been a regional location of transportation and trade. Several major railroad lines linked the city to the rest of the country.

Columbus was a center of trade in goods and commodities, including shoes and tools, horses and cattle and the widest variety of agricultural products. The town also was an institutional center since Ohio decided to keep in Columbus the facilities for the care of the blind, the deaf, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled and the imprisoned.

What Columbus did not have were military facilities. An armory had been built where the Ohio and Erie Canal emptied into the Scioto River, and a few local militia companies had small homes of their own -- but that was about it.

In April 1861, newly elected President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to deal with "combinations too powerful to suppress" by normal means. This was a diplomatic way of saying the several states that had seceded from the Union and were forming armies probably would not disband at the request of the local sheriff.

Ohio was asked to provide several thousand men to help meet the national need. The young men of the state promptly replied. In short order, Columbus found itself the temporary home of thousands of young men who rushed from the countryside to enlist.

Initially, the young recruits -- brash, bold and wearing red-ribbon sashes in lieu of uniforms -- were housed in local inns and hotels. That approach soon proved unworkable as more and more men arrived to volunteer.

Some men were housed temporarily in the Statehouse. Others camped at the state prison. Some were even placed at the lunatic asylum. But clearly, a permanent camp had to be found.

That place was Goodale Park, which soon became known as Camp Jackson. Some residents were appalled as old-growth trees were chopped own and the forested site partially leveled to make way for a camp.

Soon, even that camp proved to be too small and a larger place was needed. That place was found on open farmland in west Columbus near where West Broad Street became the National Road. The facility opened in 1861 and ran from Broad Street to Sullivant Avenue and from Hague Avenue to Westgate Avenue. Over the course of the next few years, it was home to more than 26,000 troops -- one of the largest mobilization and training centers in the United States.

Because of its size, it seemed to be a good place for a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. Opened in 1862, the Camp Chase Confederate prison camp was built to hold about 2,000 prisoners. By 1864, it housed more than 10,000. Plagued by shortages of food, clothing and medicine, the prisoners also were attacked by epidemics of smallpox, cholera and chronic dysentery.

Hundreds of prisoners died.

By the end of the war, several thousand prisoners -- mostly military, with a few civilians -- had been buried in the Camp Chase Confederate cemetery. Surrounded by a stone wall, the cemetery is all that is left of Camp Chase. It remains at the corner of Hague and Sullivant avenues and is the final resting place of 2,260 people.

Largely ignored for years, the cemetery was protected and restored in the 1890s by William Knauss, a Union Army veteran. In the center of the cemetery is a large monument carrying a single word: Americans.

Some say the Camp Chase cemetery is haunted. If it is, the ghosts are as quiet as the men who rest there. It is a lonely place, but a meaningful one.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.