Dayton, Dark Days in the Burnt District

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36 Main St.
Dayton, VA 22821
Region Shenandoah Valley
Locality Rockingham

Inscription reads: "In the fall of 1864, attacks by Confederate raiders and bushwhackers angered Federal officers in the Shenandoah Valley. On September 22, Union soldiers captured a hapless man named Davy Getz near Woodstock who was wearing civilian clothes and carrying a squirrel rifle. When Union Gen. George A. Custer ordered his execution as a bushwhacker, town elders pleaded with Custer for leniency, claiming that Getz had only the mind of a six-year-old. Custer ignored their pleas, and on October 1 or 2, Getz was made to dig his own grave in an orchard a hundred yards behind you and then was shot to death. Adolph Heller, a Woodstock man who had tried and failed to secure Getz's release, warned Custer, "You will sleep in a bloody grave for this."" On October 3, Union Lt. John R. Meigs, the son of U.S. Army Quartermaster Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs and a promising young officer on Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's staff, was killed in a brief fight with Confederate scouts north of Dayton. Believing that civilian bushwhackers had "murdered" Meigs, Sheridan ordered all of the houses in a three-mile radius of Dayton burned to the ground in retaliation. When soldiers of the 5th New York Cavalry came to burn the large two-story brick house in the distance, a 70-year-old woman confronted them in her doorway, saying, "You cannot burn this house. I am a first cousin of the president." Indeed, Abigail Lincoln Coffman was a first cousin once removed of Abraham Lincoln. Her bold statement, and perhaps because soldiers ransacking the dwelling found her husband's Masonic apron, saved her house while others burned nearby.

Last Updated: 7/20/2011 2:45 PM
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