previous next

Doc. 221.-skirmish at Fairfax Court-House.

The following is the official report of General McDowell to General Scott, of the fight at Fairfax Court-House. Lieutenant Tompkins, who commanded the company, was severely wounded, so much so that he was unable to make his report:--

Headquarters, Department of Eastern Virginia, Arlington, June 1, 1861.
Colonel E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters of the Army, Washington:--
Sir: The following facts have just been reported to me by the Orderly Sergeant of Company B, of the Second cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Tompkins, the commanding officer being too unwell to report in person.

It appears that a company of the Second cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Tompkins, aggregate number seventy-five, left their camp at half-past 10 o'clock last night on a scouting expedition. They reached Fairfax Court-House about three in the morning, where they found several hundred men stationed--Captain Ewell, late of the United States Dragoons, said to be in command. A skirmish then took place, in which a number of the enemy were killed, how many the Sergeant does not know. Many bodies were seen on the ground, and several were taken into the Court-House, and seen there by one of our cavalry, who was a prisoner in the Court-House for a short time, and afterwards made his escape.

The following is the report by the Sergeant of our loss:--

Private Saintilair1
Corporal Max, ball through the hip1
Corporal Turner, ball in the ankle1
Private Lynch, ball in the hand1
Private Baggs, ball in the foot1
Private Sullivan1
Total casualties6

Five prisoners were captured by our troop, their names being as follows:--John W. Ryan, private of the Old Guard; H. F. Lynn, Prince William Cavalry; John A. Dunnington, Prince William Cavalry; F. W. Worders, Prince William Cavalry; W. F. Washington, son of the late Col. Washington, of the United States Army. Having no good means of keeping prisoners here, they are sent to Headquarters for further disposition.

As soon as Lieut. Tompkins recovers, a less hurried report than this will be submitted by Col. Hunter commanding the brigade.

Irwin McDowell, Brigadier-General Commanding.

A file of soldiers who captured the prisoners brought them to Gen. Mansfield's quarters, who immediately remanded four of them to the Navy Yard, to be placed with those heretofore captured. Young Washington was still in custody of Gen. Mansfield. I have not heard what disposition is to be made of him. He is a fine-looking fellow, well dressed, and exceedingly intelligent. The other four are not very prepossessing in their appearance. One of them informed me that there were only about three hundred soldiers at Fairfax--three companies of cavalry, and one of infantry.--National Intelligencer, June 8.

Lieut. Tompkins' report.

The following is the report of Lieutenant Tompkins to Colonel Hunter, his superior officer:

Sir: I have the honor to report that, pursuant to verbal instructions from the colonel, commanding, I left on the evening of the 31st, in command of Co. B Cavalry, to reconnoitre the vicinity of Fairfax Court-House. Approaching the town, the enemy's picket was surprised and captured. Several documents were found upon them, which I enclose. On entering the town of Fairfax, my command was fired upon by rebel troops from windows and housetops. I charged and drove the mounted rifles from the town. Immediately two or three companies came to their relief and fired upon us, which I returned. Perceiving I was outnumbered, I deemed it advisable to retreat, which I did in good order, with five prisoners fully armed and equipped, and two horses.

My loss is three men missing, three slightly wounded, and twelve horses lost. The loss of the rebels is from twenty to twenty-five in killed and wounded. From observations I should judge that the rebels at that point numbered fully 1,500 men. Captains Carey, Fearing, and Adjutant Frank of the New York 5th regiment accompanied me, and I regret to state that Captain Carey was wounded in the foot. Lieut. Gordon of the 2d Dragoons rendered valuable services. The prisoners, horses, and equipments have been sent to General Mansfield.

Yours respectfully,


Rebel account of the Fairfax fight.

The following account of the attack at Fairfax Court-House, is from The Richmond Enquirer of the 3d inst. It carefully refrains from mentioning the Virginia cavalry, who occupied the place; but the reason of this neglect is discovered in a private letter from the brother of Capt. Marr, (the secession officer killed by our troops,) which states that “the Virginia cavalry who first encountered the enemy, ingloriously fled:”

The enemy, on Friday morning, about 3 o'clock, in numbers about 80 strong, entered the town of Fairfax Court-House, under command of Lieut. Tompkins. The company was the United States regulars from Texas. The enemy dashed into town so unexpectedly that the Warrenton Rifles, Capt. John Q. Marr, had only some ten minutes to prepare for them. The enemy fired at the quarters of the troops, killing Capt. Marr instantly, and though near to his command, his death was not known untill after 9 o'clock, when his body was found. The enemy pushed on through the town. The Warrenton Rifles then formed, under Col. Ewell and Gov. Smith, into two platoons, and proceeded down the road after the enemy, and taking position on the side of the road, waited the return of the enemy. Very soon the enemy returned in disorder, when a volley from the rifles scattered them, and caused a retreat up the road. They reformed into “fours,” and came up in good order, when another fire from the rifles again scattered them, and they returned by a cross road to Alexandria. Our troops took four horses, branded “U. S.” “B,” and killed three horses. The retreating detachment were seen near Anandals, with fifteen led horses and a wagon containing wounded men. Four prisoners were taken during the fight, and nine others are reported as having been found in the neighborhood during the next day, (Saturday.) Five United States soldiers were killed. Several carbines, dragoon swords, officers' swords, a double-barrel shot-gun, and eight dragoon revolvers, were picked up by our troops. Our loss was Capt. Marr, killed — a brave and efficient officer, the support of a widowed mother, and a most useful citizen. He was a member of the Virginia Convention, and had filled many responsible positions. Col. Ewell was slightly wounded in the shoulder. A member of the Rappahannock company was also severely wounded. Capt. Marr's company were badly armed, having only rifles without bayonets, and had to encounter United States regulars, armed with sabres, carbines, and revolvers. They nobly performed their duty, notwithstanding there was no officer of the company to command them. Captain Marr was killed before the company was formed, and Lieutenant Shackelford was absent. Captain Marr's death was caused by a random shot, while selecting ground upon which to form his company. The darkness prevented any one seeing him fall, and his death was not known until late the next morning.

The Nashville Union has the following notice of Capt. Marr:

The telegraphic wires bring us the sad intelligence that Capt. John Marr, brother to our respected friend and associate, Mr. Thomas S. Marr of The Union and American office, has been the first soldier of the South to baptize the soil of the Old Dominion with his patriotic blood, in an engagement with the enemy. Earnest and sincere as is our sympathy with the friends and relatives of this noble martyr to Southern independence, deeply as we condole with them in the decree of Providence which has singled him out as the only victim to Black Republican vengeance at Fairfax, yet we cannot but console them with the inspiring and manly thought that his name now stands side by side, on the roll, with the great and good of earth, who have died for their country and its sacred altars. He has found the grave a pathway to glory, and the libation which he has offered up to the independence of the South will moisten a plant that will bloom in eternal beauty, and give forth immortal fragrance. The heart-stricken grief that must needs follow the announcement of his death, will be assuaged by the glorious sentiment of a Latin poet, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. The sweetest flowers of Spring will bloom in their brightest hues, and the most enchanting minstrels of the forests of Virginia will warble forth their most thrilling notes over the grave of that young soldier, who gave up his young and promising life to shield his proud old Commonwealth from sacrilege and disgrace, her fields and homes from desolation, her smiling plains from the ravages of a ruthless foe, her men from slavery, and her fair daughters from pollution. He had but one life to lose. That he has given to the nursing mother that gave it to him, to the good old Commonwealth, who has drawn her sword to defend her stainless escutcheon, and who will never drop it from her grasp until the tyrants are beneath her feet. Surely a soldier and a soldier's friends can never repine at death when it comes in such a form. Capt. Marr was a member of the late Convention which dissolved the relations of Virginia to the old Federal Union. He was a gentleman of the highest position, social and political, in his native State, and rushed with the first summons to the field to drive back its invaders. We are not sufficiently posted as to his history, to enter minutely into details. Suffice that he has lived a life of honor and usefulness, and died a glorious death. Peace to his ashes; glory to his name!--N. Y. Tribune.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 1st, 1861 AD (1)
June 8th (1)
31st (1)
3rd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: