Sunday, March 11, 2012
Curiosity drew men into Fairfax village for a look around. What they saw was a “pretty place,” its streets lined with a number of “handsome houses” mostly of brick construction, the best of which had been appropriated for headquarters usage by generals. While most of “Rebeldom” had fled the Union army’s approach "six or seven families" still occupied an estimated fifty homes which comprised the town. Those soldiers respectful of property belonging to others simply peered in the windows and doorways of an abandoned iron factory, steam mill, tannery, courthouse, meeting house, and jail, while others, left unchecked, targeted stores. Dry goods and especially foodstuffs were stripped from shelves. Most valued though were the fences. Whole sections were seen being carried away to fuel fires.
Encamped with 60,000 other troops in a field about a quarter of a mile outside the village, Col. James Barnes was not content to have his men standing idly by. He ordered them to drill, in full view of thousands who gathered as spectators. Many in the admiring crowd admitted to mistaking the 18th for regular army troops.