The Dayton National Cemetery was established as the permanent burial site for residents of the Central Branch of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1867. It is one of 11 federal cemeteries affiliated with the system of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Management of these facilities was transferred from the U.S. Army/National Home system to the newly created Veterans Administration in 1930.
The design of the cemetery is attributed to Chaplain (and Capt.) William B. Earnshaw, who was considered to have “judgment and taste” in these matters. Earnshaw served in the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Cumberland, from which he was named superintendent at Stones River and Nashville National Cemeteries. In September 1867, Earnshaw arrived at the Dayton Soldiers Home, as it became known, having been encouraged to seek the position by Gen. George Thomas.
The Soldiers Home cemeteries were to be “laid out and cared for, as far as practicable, in the manner prescribed for National Cemeteries.” The single-most visual cemetery construction is the lofty Soldiers’ Monument around which faceted, concentric rows of graves are arranged. Two features found here are common to many older national cemeteries. There are two ornamental 19th-century cannons located at the base of Soldiers’ Monument, and seven “Bivouac of the Dead” verse tablets.
The Dayton Soldiers’ Monument dominates the national cemetery from atop a mound at the center of the landscape. The cornerstone was laid in 1873, and it was completed in 1877. This dramatic structure is composed of a 30-foot marble column on a granite base with an ornamental cap and soldier posed at parade rest. The column was one of six that were salvaged from the Benjamin Henry Latrobe-designed Bank of Philadelphia when it was demolished in 1867-68. Latrobe worked on the White House and U.S. Capitol, and is credited with introducing Greek Revival architecture to America. The monument was designed by veterans at the soldiers’ home and the Philadelphia-firm of William Struthers and Sons, expert stonemasons, carved the base, capital and statue. President Rutherford B. Hayes, Ohioan and former Union general, delivered the dedication address for the monument on Sept. 12, 1877, to a crowd of about 22,000. Some years after the dedication, four figures representing the Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Navy were added at the corners of the base. Two ornamental artillery cannons now flank the Soldiers’ Monument.
The “Memorial to 33 soldiers of the War of 1812 Buried in this Cemetery…” is a bronze plaque affixed to a tall boulder. The text continues: “Honoring Josephine C. Diefenbach state president 1915-1932. Erected by the Ohio Society United States Daughters of 1812 on the anniversary of Perry’s Victory – September 10, 1936.”
Dayton National Cemetery
4400 West Third Street
Dayton, OH 45428
Visitation Hours: Open daily from dawn to dusk. Gates open every day.