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Camp Chase to get a makeover
|Messenger photos by Whitney Wilson Coy
|Camp Chase Confederate cemetery is undergoing an enhancement to include the cleaning, spacing and realigning of headstones, as well as other maintenance on the property.
|Graffiti on the stage area and the rear wall will be removed.
One of the most well-known historic sites on the Hilltop is getting a makeover.
Work has already begun on the renovation and enhancement of Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery, according to Bernard Blizzard, director of Dayton National Cemetery, the organization which serves as custodians of Camp Chase.
“The cemetery really needs attention,” said Monty Chase, a member of the Hilltop Historical Society and descendant of Camp Chase’s namesake, Salmon P. Chase.
As part of the renovation, each headstone will be removed, cleaned and replaced.
“All of the headstones will be raised to the same height and aligned in rows,” said Blizzard.
According to Blizzard’s assistant, Dan Barford, contractors will work one row at a time and will be careful that stones are replaced in their original order. The cleaning of the stones will be done at the cemetery, with only those stones in need of major repair or replacement leaving the premises.
Barford added that over time, stones have settled in an irregular pattern, forming jagged rows and leaving places where stones are within inches of each other, while other sections boast large gaps between markers.
“The headstones will be evenly spaced, and if you stand at the end of a row and look down, they will all be in a nice, straight line,” he said.
Any missing stones will also be replaced.
“Time has caused the stones to lean,” said Chase, who added that falling branches from trees in the cemetery have also contributed to some of the damage.
Barford confirmed that some trees on poor condition will be removed, while others will be pruned, as a way to prevent further damage.
The problem of graffiti in the cemetery will also be addressed, according to Barford.
“I’m not sure how, but they’ll take care of it, both on the stage area and on the back wall,” said Barford.
Workers will also kill out the turf grass currently in place, till and grade the ground, and establish new turf grass.
“We’ve been trying to get this together for some time now. It’s going to be really nice when it’s done,” said Chase.
The renovations are expected to take 240 days to complete.
Camp Chase was a civil war camp established in May 1861. Boundaries of the camp were what are now Broad Street, Hague Avenue, Sullivant Avenue, and Westgate. Named for former Ohio governor and Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, it was a training camp for Union troops, a parole camp, a muster-out post, and a prison for Confederate captives.
As many as 150,000 Union soldiers and 25,000 Confederate prisoners passed through the camp by 1865. More than 2,000 Confederates are buried in the cemetery, many of those in mass graves.
The present headstones were set in 1936 in numerical order starting from the west. It is unknown if there is a body to match each headstone, or if headstones are in close proximity to the deceased soldiers they represent.
Dayton National Cemeteries allows only two ceremonies to take place at the cemetery each year, one being the Annual Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery Memorial Service, hosted on the second Sunday in June by the Hilltop Historical Society. The other ceremony is hosted near Memorial Day each year by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery is the third largest Confederate cemetery north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
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