Tuesday, November 13, 2012

John Quincy Marr: First Confederate Officer Killed in the Civil War

Fort Sumter fell on April 14, and on April 17 Virginia adopted an “Ordinance of Secession” in the form of a repeal of Virginia’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution, to take effect upon ratification by the vote of the people. This election took place on Thursday, May 23, 1861, and Virginia seceded from the Union.

Before dawn on Friday, May 24, Union troops invaded Virginia, seizing Alexandria and Arlington Heights across from Washington City. On Friday afternoon, miles away at Fox’s Mills, north of Fairfax Court House, seventeen year old Sally Summers was minding the afternoon recess in front of her schoolhouse when she saw a surrey coming down the road from the direction of Alexandria. The driver was her uncle, Amos Fox. As he passed he shouted, “You better dismiss your school right away and go home to your mother. The Union army is advancing!”

Three Virginia militia units (the Rappahannock Cavalry, the Prince William Cavalry, and the Warrenton Rifles) had taken up positions around the strategic village of Fairfax Courthouse. These units were still a part of the "Virginia Army," even though the secession of Virginia was ratified by a popular vote on May 23, 1861. Virginia’s forces were not transferred to the Confederacy until June 6, 1861.

Before dawn on June 1st, Lt. Charles Tompkins, 2nd U.S. Cavalry led a raid on Fairfax Courthouse. After charging through lines of the Virginians twice, the Union cavalry was finally driven off. In the morning, the body of Captain John Quincy Marr of the Warrenton Rifles was discovered. Marr had been hit by a spent round ball. He had a large bruise above his heart but his skin had not been penetrated.

Captain Marr's body arrived in Warrenton that evening and he was buried the next afternoon in the Warrenton Cemetery after a ceremony in the clerk's office yard before a large crowd of mourners. Marr became a Southern martyr.

Charles Henry Tompkins received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Fairfax Court House. His was the first action of a Union Army officer in the American Civil War for which a Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded, although it was not awarded until 1893. His citation reads: "Twice charged through the enemy's lines and, taking a carbine from an enlisted man, shot the enemy's captain."

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