The killing of Lieutenant Meigs, of General Sheridan's staff-proof that it was done in fair combat.
The killing of Lieutenant Meigs
, of General Sheridan
's staff, and the harsh “retaliatory” measures adopted, excited a good deal of discussion at the time.
We are enabled to give the following conclusive proofs that Lieutenant Meigs
met the fate of legitimate war, and that General Sheridan
's burning of private houses in “retaliation” was cruel, and utterly unjustifiable by any law of civilized warfare, though in perfect keeping with the character of the man who afterwards boasted that he had “made the Shenandoah Valley such a waste that even a crow flying over it would be obliged to carry his rations.”
, in his Memoir of the last year of the war,
makes this notice of the affair on facts well known to him:
While Sheridan's forces were near Harrisonburg, and mine were watching them, three of our cavalry scouts, in their uniforms and with arms, got around his lines near a little town called Dayton, and encountered Lieutenant Meigs, a Federal engineer officer, with two soldiers.
These parties came upon each other suddenly, and Lieutenant Meigs was ordered to surrender by one of our scouts, to which he replied by shooting and wounding the scout, who in his turn fired and killed the lieutenant.
One of the men with Lieutenant Meigs was captured, and the other escaped.
For this act Sheridan ordered the town of Dayton to be burned, but for some reason that order was countermanded, and another substituted for burning a large number of private houses in the neighborhood, which was executed, thus inflicting on non-combatants and women and children a most wanton and cruel punishment for a justifiable act of war.
The statement of General Early
will be sufficient with all who know his careful accuracy in narrating facts.
But as settling the matter beyond dispute, we are enabled to give the following sworn affidavit of Mr. G. W. Martin
, the scout who shot Lieutenant Meigs
, together with the statement of Captain A. D. Payne
of the testimony of the other two scouts who were with him: