Sunday, November 8, 2015

52 Ancestors #45: First KIA of the Civil War

Name: John Quincy Marr (1825-1861)

This post has nothing to do with a known ancestor but is rather about a Civil War trivia question I was able to answer to my own satisfaction.

It all started as I began photographing war memorials for Heather Wilkinson Rojo's Honor Roll project. Last year, I could not get a good photograph of one memorial marker on the grounds of the historic Fairfax County, Virginia, courthouse in Fairfax City because of the afternoon sun. So we went back a few weeks ago to photograph it.

Memorial commemorating the first casualty killed in action during the Civil War;
personal collection

This stone marks
the scene of the
opening conflict
of the War of
1861-1865, when
John Q. Marr,
Capt. of the Warrenton
Rifles, who was the
first soldier killed
in action, fell 800 ft.
S 46 degrees W of this
spot, June 1st, 1861.

Erected by Marr Camp, C.V.
June 1, 1904

John Quincy Marr in 1846; courtesy of Wikipedia

I struggled to believe the first casualty of the war did not occur for a month and half after the war started. That puzzlement sent me researching the timeline of the beginning of the war. Some important dates:

12 April 1861: Confederates open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor

15 April 1861: President Lincoln declared an insurrection existed and called for 75,000 men

17 April 1861: Virginia Secession Convention voted to secede from the United States

19 April 1861: President Lincoln ordered the blockade of southern ports

23 May 1861: Virginia's ordinance of secession ratified by referendum

24 May 1861: Union Col. Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth killed by Marshall House Inn owner, James W. Jackson, in Alexandria, Virginia, after cutting down the Confederate flag flying from the inn

1 June 1861: Confederate Capt. John Quincy Marr killed in action during the Battle of Fairfax Court House, the first land engagement of the war

Fairfax Courthouse during the Civil War; photograph by Matthew Brady and
held by the National Archives and Records Administration; courtesy of

It turned out "killed in action" was the key phrase as Col. Ellsworth was not killed during battle, but rather by an irate, avid secessionist.

Ellsworth was a good friend of President Lincoln, who ordered an honor guard to bring his body to the White House where it was laid in state in the East Room. The county seat of Pierce County, Wisconsin, was named Ellsworth in his honor.

Capt. Marr's body was returned to Warrenton and was buried in the Warrenton Cemetery after a ceremony in the clerk's yard before a large crowd of mourners.

Private Henry L. Wyatt of the 1st North Carolina Volunteers (later the 11th North Carolina Infantry) is thought by most historians to be the first enlisted man killed in action at the Battle of Big Bethel on 10 June 1861.

A Supreme Court decision after the war ended set the beginning date of the war as 19 April 1861, when President Lincoln ordered the blockading of Southern ports as blockading was long considered an act of war. Therefore, Lincoln is legally considered the belligerent who started the war.

The first Battle of Fort Sumter occurred on 11 April 1861. One Confederate soldier bled to death after being wounded by a misfiring cannon. Two Union soldiers died during the 47th shot of a 100-shot salute allowed by the Confederates after the fort surrendered. Since these deaths occurred before the official start of the war, they are not counted by historians.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Pick Your Own Theme.

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