The Day that Dayton was Saved
In the fall of 1864, during a thirteen-day period to destroy what is now known as The Breadbasket of the Confederacy, Union soldiers descended upon the Shenandoah Valley in an effort to destroy the resources of the Confederates and end the Civil War. General Philip H. Sheridan, ordered all barns and mills containing grain or forage to be reduced to ashes and anything else of use to the Confederacy to be put out of commission. Private homes were to be left untouched. On day eight, October 3, 1864, Sheridan’s favorite officer, Lt. John Meigs, was killed outside the Town of Dayton. Sheridan, assuming an act of murder by bushwhackers, retaliated with an order to burn everything, including homes, within a five mile radius of the Town. Upon receiving the destruction order, Union officer Thomas F. Wildes, 116th Ohio Regiment, interceded on behalf of the residents of Dayton. Sheridan rescinded the order and the Town was saved.
Commemoration Day Events
2 pm: Ceremony at the Wildes marker, corner of Mill and Main Streets in Dayton, proclaiming Colonel Thomas F. Wildes Day and with remarks by descendants in attendance.
5:30 – 8:30 pm: Lantern Stories at Silver Lake Mill, Dayton, providing first-hand accounts of mill owner Daniel Bowman and his family of the burning and his family’s suffering during the War.
6 pm: Reception at The Heritage Museum, 382 High Street, Dayton and grand opening of new featured exhibit: The Burning of the Breadbasket: Harvest of Flames for 13 Days.
7 pm: Presentation on The Burning, by Dr. Irvin Hess, Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society Trustee and Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation Chairman Emeritus.
All events are free and open to the public, but donations are encouraged!