SOLDIERS’ & AIRMENS’ CEMETERY
21 Harewood Road NW
Washington, DC 20011
Directly across the street from Rock Creek Cemetery stands the Armed Forces Retirement Home and, adjacent to the home, the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s National Cemetery. Alternately known as the Military Asylum Cemetery and Soldiers' Home National Cemetery, we think a more fitting name might be “Little Arlington.” Indeed, with its 16 acres of identical white stones aligned with military precision, it is difficult not to associate the graveyard with nearby Arlington National.
From its inception in 1861, the cemetery began accepting the remains of Civil War military casualties. Within three years of its establishment, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s National Cemetery’s mere six acres were filled to capacity, having given final refuge to the bodies of the Union dead from 17 states. By 1874, the grounds encompassed 5,600 burials, including 125 Confederate prisoners of war, 278 unknown soldiers, and 117 civilians who were either relatives of the military men interred there or employees of the Soldier’s Home. The addition of approximately ten acres in 1883, along with the 1900 relocation of all Confederate remains to Arlington National, allowed the grounds to expand and become the final resting place of more than 14,000 soldiers.
A distinguishing feature of the cemetery is the Norman-style Logan mausoleum. Located just inside the Harwood Road gate, this mausoleum is all the more prominent for being the only such structure on the grounds. General John Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, is credited with authoring the 1868 General Order to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers at Arlington. This Order eventually led to the establishment of the national Memorial Day holiday.
Also of note at the cemetery is the stone entry arch at the main gate featuring eight Doric columns, four of which are inscribed with the last names of American Generals Ulysses Grant, Andrew Jackson, George Washington and Winfield Scott.
After visiting Rock Creek Cemetery, make it a point to stop by Soldiers’ and Airmen’s to reflect for a while on the sacrifices made by those honoured there. And, if you are so inclined, keep an eye out for the shade of Abraham Lincoln. He maintained a cottage on the grounds of the Soldier’s Home and is said to have wandered the cemetery’s sixteen acres as he sought refuge from the pressures of Washington politics.