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The murder of David Getz. [from the Richmond, Va., Dispatch, Feb. 18, 1900.]

An instance of the brutality of Custer. His Retributive fate.

[This account appears to contain every essential and authenticated detail given in the previous article referred to.—Ed.]

Woodstock, Va., February 10, 1900.
To the Editor of the Dispatch.
In last Sunday's Dispatch is published an article by Mr. R. D. Steuart, of Baltimore, giving an account of the horrible murder of Davy Getz, of this place, by the command of General George A. Custer.

While the article is generally correct, it differs in some of its details from the account which I have secured from persons who were present, and are still living in Woodstock. The writer personally knew the small family, consisting of Andrew Getz, Elizabeth his wife, and their simple-minded son, David. David was about thirty years of age. The family lived in a small house close to the Methodist church. For rent of this humble home they acted as sextons of the church. The fact that Davy was mentally deficient was doubted by no one. A single glance at his countenance would convince any one. Of him were required no duties of a civil or military character. He was simple and harmless. The boys loved to tease him, and many a Confederate soldier told Davy that he had come from the army to take him back with him. He was, in every respect, nothing more than a very timid child. He had no ambition to be a soldier, but, on the contrary, was always badly frightened when the suggestion was made that he should go into the army.

He had, in some way, become possessed of an old musket, and with it amused himself in hunting ground-squirrels and small birds. In the summer of 1864, he was engaged in his usual sport in the pines near his home, when a squad of Federal soldiers came upon him. To their question: ‘Are you a bushwhacker!’ ‘Why, yes,’ he replied. He had no more intelligent comprehension of the [373] term ‘bushwhacker’ than he had of the doctrine of transcendentalism. He was at once seized by a number of the Federal soldiers, dragged down High street to the 'pike, and then tied to a wagon. The poor fellow was almost frightened to death, and his heartrend-ing screams aroused the whole town.

Accustomed as were our people to the brutality of the Federal hordes that prowled through this valley, nothing aroused their sympathy and horror—not even the burning of their homes and churches by the fire fiends of the brutal Sheridan——as did this inhuman outrage. Tied behind a wagon and dragged through the streets, his plaintive cries and shrieks brought to their doors the ladies on either side of the street. Helpless, they stood and wept for the poor unfortunate.

Close behind him walked his aged father and mother, clasping each other's hands, while their cries of distress touched the hearts of all except the inhuman captors. They continued to follow their screaming child until they were driven back by the bayonets of the Federal soldiers.

Custer's camp was about one mile south of Woodstock. Here he was waited upon by Mrs. J. L. Campbell, Mrs. Murphy, and other ladies of the town, who gave him a truthful statement of the character of the man, and besought Custer to look at him, as one glance would have convinced him of the truth of their statements. He roughly repulsed them. He was afterwards visited by Moses Walton, a distinguished lawyer of Woodstock; by Dr. J. S. Irwin, a Union man, of this town; and by Mr. Adolph Heller, a prominent merchant and a strong Union man, at whose house both Custer and Torbert had occasionally made their headquarters. While Mr. Heller was at heart a Union man, he was not one of that kind who would give information that would injure his neighbors, but was always ready to protect the innocent, so far as it was in his power. He earnestly besought General Custer to release the poor idiot that was in his hands. When Custer intimated that he proposed to have him shot, Mr. Heller boldly exclaimed: ‘General Custer, you will have to sleep in a bloody grave for this. Surely, a just God will not permit such a crime to go unavenged.’ These gentlemen left his headquarters saddened by the exhibition of brutality upon the part of Custer. The words of Mr. Heller, we all now know, proved to be prophetic.

Poor Davy Getz was again tied behind a wagon, compelled to walk to Bridgewater, a distance of forty-five miles, there forced to dig his [374] own grave, and was then murdered like a dog. The father, several years later, committed suicide. The mother was taken to the home of her son, Mr. Levi Getz, of Rockingham county, where she died some years ago.

These are facts well established by a number of citizens of Woodstock. It is important that they should be placed where they will be preserved, for the day will come when the impartial historian will write a true history of the war. It will be important for him to have access to a correct and true statement of facts. The one-sided stories that have been imposed, even upon our own children, by careless school boards will be swept aside, and the truth will be given to coming generations.

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