Research The Early Fight - An interesting insight into the Skirmish at Fairfax Courthouse - July 17, 1861


Apr 9, 2018
Northfield, MN
On this date, a troop of the 2nd US Cavalry, under the command of Lt Charles H. Tompkins, accompanied by a small number of volunteers from Camp Union, fought in the Battle of Fairfax Courthouse. The courthouse was defended by a small Confederate company, the Warrenton Rifles, commanded by Captain John Q. Marr. In the ensuing skirmish, Captain Marr was killed, along with a Union private, and several men were wounded on each side. It is the first deadly battle of the Civil War. One of the Camp Union volunteers, Private Theodore Van Raden, NY 8th Infantry, Company E, was among the Union soldiers who briefly occupied the Courthouse. During this temporary occupation of the Courthouse, Theodore (my children's Great Great Great Uncle Teddy) captures the Great Seal of the County, used to officially seal county documents. This seal had been used by the county for over a century, and including by George Washington when he was a member of the county government before the Revolution. Uncle Teddy survived the war, and resumed life as a green grocer in New York City. Besides his membership in the GAR, Teddy rowed 4 man crew for the Atalanta Boat Club of New York, winning several US championships and competing for the United States against the best English crew teams in London in 1872. He was Commodore of the Atalanta Club and a member of the US Crew governing committee in his later years. Teddy brought the Great Seal home to New York and stored it until a year before his death in 1914, when he passed it to his grandson, soon to be a student at Harvard. This grandson, Captain Clifford West Henry, was mortally wounded in France (2 DSC, Croix de Guerre with Palm) in September 1918. The seal was kept by his parents until his mother returned it to Fairfax County representatives in a ceremony held in late 1941.

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