TwHP Lessons

A Nation Repays Its Debt:
The National Soldiers' Home and Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio

[Photo] Dayton National Cemetery.
(U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)


ore than 3000 of the disabled veterans who were residents of the Central Home since its establishment have died and been buried with military honors in the grove west of the Hospital, which had been tastefully laid out for a cemetery. "Their comrades, officers and men have erected there a beautiful monument of Peru white marble, fifty feet high, and surmounted with a splendid figure of a private soldier. It was unveiled on the 12th of September, 1887, [The year in this quote is incorrect. The monument was actually dedicated in 1877.] by the President of the United States, with grand ceremonies and in the presence of 25,000 people. On the pedestal are the words 'To our fallen Comrades' and 'These were honorable men in their generation.'…"¹

Upon entering Dayton National Cemetery, the hilly landscape is dotted with uniform marble headstones, all in neat rows with the Dayton Soldiers Memorial standing tall and proud in the center. The more than 100 acres of cemetery landscape is bathed with sunshine today, as there are few trees to shade visitors and mourners. Except for the sounds of birds, there is a solemn quiet. Beyond the gentle hills and headstones and over the horizon, you might glimpse a large old brick soldiers' home building which was built to house disabled Union veterans from the Civil War. One visitor noted the inhabitants and the atmosphere of the home when visiting in 1878:

THE HOSPITAL Was visited in the afternoon at 3 o'clock. The men who were able to walk gathered in the beautiful and spacious reading-room, adorned with flower-plants, and decorated with pictures. Service was held here to the profound satisfaction of the sick and wounded, and it was a delightful little meeting, one that I shall ever remember.

THE OFFICERS Of the Home are sick or disabled soldiers of the late war. They have all seen hard service…²

The cemetery and soldiers' home are part of the Central Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Today's visitors to the facility that once housed the soldiers' home will notice the same attention to care and comfort of veterans. One can pass through the same ornate Anderson Gate onto 348 acres of well-maintained grounds that preserve the same layout as the original campus. The historic campus and cemetery today tells the story of how our nation recognizes the sacrifice of veterans - in life and death.

¹ Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio in two volumes (Cincinnati, Ohio: C.J. Krehbiel & Co., 1888), 287.
² George Washington Williams, "The Soldiers' Home: Its Officers and Men,"
The Cincinnati Commercial, 24 November 1878.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer

 2. Site plan for Dayton National Cemetery

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Soldiers' Home
 2. Dayton National Cemetery
 3. Union Soldiers & Burial Practices
 4. "Bivouac of the Dead"

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Letter regarding permanent grave markers
 2. Historic image of grave marker, c. 1870
 3. Present-day photo of grave marker
 4. Dayton Soldiers Memorial
 5. Dayton Soldiers Memorial detail
 6. Aerial view of Dayton National Cemetery

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. African Americans in the Civil War
 2. Explore Your Community for Memorials
 3. Local Cemeteries

Supplementary Resources

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The lesson is based on the Central Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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