John Rodgers Meigs was born February 9th 1841 the son of Major General Montgomery C and Louisa (Rodgers) Meigs. He received an appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point in 1859. He took a short leave from the school following the First Battle of Bull Run to serve as aide-de-camp to Union General Philip Henry Sheridan. Meigs returned to West Point graduating at the top of the class of 1863.
Following the Battle of Gettysburg, Meigs became a staff officer for Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Kelly in West Virginia. He saw action at the Battle of New Market, and was with Sheridan during the actions in the Shenandoah Valley. Meigs received a brevet to Captain and then to Major for action in the Third Battle of Winchester and the Battle of Fisher’s Hill.
On the rainy night of October 3rd 1864 Meigs and two other Union soldiers were traveling to Union headquarters in Harrisonburg, Virginia. They came onto three Confederate cavalrymen riding on the same road. Both parties demanded the surrender of the other. There was an exchange of gunfire during which Meigs was killed, one of the men riding with him was taken prisoner, and the third man escaped. The man who escaped told Sheridan that Meigs was killed without the chance to defend himself. Thinking Meigs had been murdered; Sheridan ordered the town of Dayton, Virginia to be burned to the ground as retaliation.
Meigs’ father had him buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, DC, but would latter have him re-interred in Arlington National Cemetery.