Dayton, Dark Days in the Burnt District

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.