From April to June 1861, the park was used as a staging area for new recruits for the Union Army. The camp started in April when Governor William Dennison, at the urging of President Lincoln, called on Ohio communities to revive their militias and send them to Columbus.
A high picket fence is erected around the camp, and the curious public mills around all day. Few visitors are allowed in. There are reports that the troops eat very well while in the camp.
The Governor’s Guards, a corps of soldiers stationed at the camp, marched through Columbus on a Saturday morning to urge the local people to show their patriotism and enlist in the cause. A Captain Morrow was so successful that his company grew so large with new recruits that he had to start a second company of troops and that one was nearly full. “Any young man interested in enlisting in this company, “B” of the 3rd Regiment, is told to call at Camp Jackson at an early hour.”
In June, Camp Jackson’s military operations are transferred to Camp Chase, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Columbus, and Camp Jackson reverts to being a public park. During its peak, about 8000 troops were stationed at the camp. Among the officers stationed at the camp were two future presidents: Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley.