Dayton in Rockingham County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Death of Lt. Meigs
The Heavy Hand of War
— 1864 Valley Campaigns —
The death of Union Lt. John R. Meigs, near the granite marker on the hill in front of you, unleashed a firestorm of retaliation. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, erroneously told that civilian “bushwhackers” had killed Meigs, reported to Gen. U.S. Grant four days later that “for this atrocious act all the houses within an area of five miles were burned.” The affected area initially was to include “Tunkerville, Bridgewater and Dayton.”
On October 4-5, the 5th New York Cavalry of Gen. George A. Custer’s division began displacing local families and burning their homes to the ground. Some residents went to live with more fortunate family members and friends. Others joined a 400-wagon-long train of refugees that left Harrisonburg on October 5 for the North. The Northern press noted that “the general devastation of the country has obliged the people to remove.”
Ironically, most of the refugees were pacifist and antislavery Mennonites and Brethren, commonly called Dunkards or Tunkers. Union soldiers here wrote of the inhabitants’ productive farms and of how well they treated the Federals.
Thirty-year-old Samuel Coffman had just been called to be the bishop of the Middle District of the Mennonite Church when the war began. He adhered to the strict principles of his church: adult baptism, opposition to slavery, and pacifism. In front of Confederate enrolling officers, he told his men to hide or flee rather than be conscripted into military service. His life was later threatened because he was true to his conscience.
Erected 2007 by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #18 Ulysses S. Grant, and the Virginia Civil War Trails series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is October 1878.
Location. 38° 25.441′ N, 78° 55.32′ W. Marker is in Dayton, Virginia, in Rockingham County. Marker is on Meigs Lane 0.1 miles east of John Wayland Highway (Virginia Route 42), on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Dayton VA 22821, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named Death of Lt. Meigs (here, next to this marker); Site Where Lt. John Rodgers Meigs Was Killed (a few steps from this marker); Fort Harrison (approx. 0.9 miles away); Shenandoah College and Shenandoah Conservatory of Music (approx. one mile away); Lt. Col. Thomas F. Wildes (approx. one mile away); Daniel Bowman Mill at Silver Lake (approx. one mile away); First Church in Rockingham County (approx. 1.1 miles away); Dayton (approx. 1.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Dayton.
Regarding Death of Lt. Meigs. In the lower left is a sketch of “Sheridan Being Cheered”, courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society. In the upper center is a portrait of Gen. George A. Custer, Courtesy Library of Congress. In the lower center is a map of the “Burnt District”, courtesy John L Heatwole. In the sidebar is a photo of Bishop Samuel Coffman, courtesy John L Heatwole.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 2, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 8, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,368 times since then and 9 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 8, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.