Dayton National Cemetery: The final resting spot for soldiers ranging from the War of 1812 to present day

About 60,000 headstones line the grassy knolls of the Dayton National Cemetery, one of five National Veteran’s Administration cemeteries in Ohio.

The white marble markers — two feet high and 13 inches wide — stand as if in formation in uniform rows. Most simply list name, rank and dates of birth and death.

Originally, the cemetery occupied 52.8 acres, but it has expanded over the years and now covers nearly 119 acres, most of it more closely resembling a park instead of a cemetery.


Dayton National Cemetery was established as the burial site for residents of the Central Branch of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1867.

The first to be interred there was Cpl. Cornelius Solly of the 104th Pennsylvania Infantry on Sept. 11, 1867.

A tunnel was constructed from the Dayton Soldiers Home hospital basement morgue to the cemetery in 1870. The red brick barrel-shaped tunnel, which has been closed for many years, is 7 feet tall, 8 feet wide, with about 50 feet of the originally 300-foot long passage still intact.

Management of the cemetery was transferred from the U.S. Army/National Home system to the Veterans Administration in 1930.

The property became a national cemetery in 1973. The cemetery was administered as part of the medical center until that time, when it was then transferred to the National VA Cemetery Administration.

Soldiers Monument

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. The marble monument stands 70 feet high on a hill overlooking the grounds.

The monument was designed by veterans at the soldiers’ home and the Philadelphia firm of William Struthers and Sons.

The structure is composed of a 30-foot marble column on a granite base with an ornamental cap and soldier posed at parade rest.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

The column was one of six that were salvaged from the Benjamin Henry Latrobe-designed Bank of Philadelphia when it was demolished in 1867 and 1868.

President Rutherford B. Hayes, an Ohioan and former Union general, was there on Sept. 12, 1877 to deliver the dedication address for the monument.

A crowd of 20,000 were there to witness the event.

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.


Dayton and the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Seville are the only two national cemeteries in Ohio that continue to have open burial space. It has been estimated that the cemetery will not run out of burial space until at least 2060.

There are certain requirements that must be met to be eligible to be buried at the cemetery.

Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

A veteran’s spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they die before the veteran.

Medal of Honor recipients

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force for U.S. military memberss. Recipients receive the Medal of Honor from the president on behalf of Congress.

Here are the Medal of Honor recipients buried at Dayton National Cemetery.

• Lieutenant Henry W. Downs (Civil War). Downs received the Medal of Honor while serving in the U.S. Army, Company I, 8th Vermont Infantry, for actions at Winchester, Virginia on Sept. 19, 1864. Downs died in 1911.

• Private Oscar Wadsworth Field (Spanish-American War). Field received the Medal of Honor while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for actions on board the USS Nashville in Cuba on May 11, 1898. Field died in 1912.

• Sergeant George Geiger (Indian Wars). Geiger received the Medal of Honor while serving in the U.S. Army, Company H, 7th U.S. Cavalry, for actions at the Little Big Horn River in the Montana Territory on June 25, 1876. Geiger died in 1904.

• Seaman John H. James (Civil War). James received the Medal of Honor while serving in the U.S. Navy for actions on board the USS Richmond during the Battle of Mobile Bay in Alabama on Aug. 5, 1864. James died in 1914.

• Private Charles A. Taggart (Civil War). Taggart received the Medal of Honor while serving in the U.S. Army, Company B, 37th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry for actions at Sailor’s Creek, Virginia, on April 6, 1865. Taggart died in 1938.

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