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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.”

General Early, 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:

Affidavit of G. W. Martin.

Warrenton, October 6, 1865.
On the 3d of October, 1864, I was scouting, in company with F. M. Campbell of the same company and regiment as myself (Black-Horse Troop, Fourth Virginia cavalry), and----Shaver, of the First [78] Virginia cavalry, inside the lines of the Federal army in the county of Rockingham, near the village of Dayton. It was near dark, the sun having about gone down, and the evening cloudy and rainy. We were wearing oil-cloths over our uniforms, so that it was difficult to ascertain to which army we belonged. We discovered riding in the same direction, but behind us, three soldiers, whom we supposed belonged to the Federal army. We were in such a position — so near the camp of the enemy — and they on the only road by which we could escape, and between us and our own troops, that it was a matter of necessity that we should either elude them by passing ourselves as Federal soldiers, or capture or kill them. Holding a hasty consultation with each other we determined to make the attempt to capture them. The three Federal soldiers were riding by file and we abreast. Riding slowly along until the foremost man came up by my side I immediately presented my pistol, which I had drawn under my oil-cloth; each of my companions did the same, dropping back to the side of the man they selected. I ordered my man to surrender; his response, which was an immediate one, was the discharge of his pistol, which he must have had drawn and under his overcoat cape, wounding me severely through the body. I fired almost simultaneously, killing my adversary dead. One of the other men surrendered without resistance, the other sprang from his horse and, under cover of the woods on the right of the road, escaped. I succeeded in avoiding capture with a great deal of difficulty, owing to my wounded condition and the proximity of the enemy.

We had ridden a mile or two before I ascertained whom it was I had shot; I was told by the prisoner whom we captured that it was Lieutenant Meigs, of General Sheridan's staff.

My wound was so severe that I could not be moved from the first place of safety taken for six weeks, and did not return to the service for three or four months--the course of the ball having been diverted by a bone, I was told by my surgeon, alone saved my life.


G. W. Martin. October 6th, 1865.
Personally appeared before me, a justice of the peace, for the county of Fauquier, and State of Virginia, G. W. Martin, whose name is signed above, and made oath that the above statement is true.


Statement of Captain Payne.

G. W. Martin was an enlisted man in my company during the whole period of the war. The high character he always bore, and for which my knowledge of him enables me to vouch, together with the corroborating account of the two men who were with him, and which I have heard from them, assures me of the truth of his statement.

A. D. Payne, Captain Company H (or Black-Horse Troop), Fourth Virginia Cavalry, Wickham's Brigade, Fitz Lee's Division, A. N. V.

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