The Marr Monument, erected in 1904
On June 1st, 1861 a small Union detachment of cavalry was sent to a small village in Virginia (present day West Virginia) to scout the Confederate forces in that area. The result was a skirmish between unprepared forces called “The Battle of Fairfax Court House” and was the first land battle of the Civil War between Union and Confederate land forces after the surrender of Fort Sumter. The battle was precipitated when the small Union cavalry force on a mission to gather information about the strength and disposition of Confederate forces in Fairfax County loudly road into the village of Fairfax Court House, taking a few prisoners and firing at random. It was early on the morning of June 1, 1861. Part of a Virginia (Confederate) infantry company resisted the incursion and forced the Union force to retreat with a few casualties.
The Union force took five prisoners, killed Captain Marr (the first Confederate soldier to die in the Civil War) and wounded at least two others, including Lt. Col. Ewell the Confederate Commander. Lt. Col. Richard Ewell would later serve as a Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army. The intelligence gained was not helpful as the Union commander's estimate of the number of Confederates at Fairfax Court House was wildly inflated "to upwards of 1,000 men," rather than the approximately 210, plus a few civilians, who were actually there. This gave Union generals reason to pause efforts to scout in or occupy additional areas of northern Virginia until over two weeks later and may have delayed the Manassas campaign, ultimately giving the Confederates more time to organize and concentrate their forces for the Battle of First Bull Run (Battle of First Manassas). The Union generals did not learn the number and disposition of Confederate forces beyond Fairfax Court House, most importantly those gathering at Manassas Junction, Virginia, from this operation. After their initial surprise, the Confederate infantry held a position in the middle of town, inflicted one killed and four wounded on the Union riders and took three prisoners. Their stand forced the Union cavalrymen to retreat from the town to their base near Falls Church, Virginia by a longer route. The engagement has been characterized as inconclusive or indecisive but was seen at the time as a small victory or the still organizing Confederate Army.
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