September 3, 1864: The 1st D.C. Cavalry Continues to Struggle Against Hit and Run Attacks at Sycamore Church
On September 3, 1864, 150 years ago today, Major J. Stannard Baker’s small 1st District of Columbia Cavalry had a small fight with Confederates, presumably dismounted cavalrymen looking for remounts. Baker had established a picket line near Sycamore Church shortly after 6 a.m. on September 3, when two supply wagons escorted by 7 soldiers of the 1st D.C. Cavalry was attacked by Confederates. Three men and six mules were captured in the attack. Once Baker learned of the attack from those who escaped capture, he took his command and pursued. A small firefight ensued in which the 1st D. C. Cavalry lost one man killed and three wounded, but they were unable to recover the wagons or the prisoners.
Map Showing the Area Near Sycamore Church
Baker filed a fairly vague report of the action from which I pulled the summary above (Number 343. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Major J. Stannard Baker, First District of Columbia Cavalry, of operations August 9 and September 3, OR XLII, P1, p. 842):
I have the honor to state, in reply to your communication of this date just received, that pursuant to instructions from you, through my acting adjutant, about midnight, I immediately took up line of march, and arrived at Sycamore Church some time after 6 a.m. this date, and immediately had the necessary details made for the immediate re-establishing of the picket-line here. It was during this time that an attack was made upon two Government wagons, for which Quartermaster Baker is accountable. The drivers having positive orders to return with them immediately, I therefore sent a guard of one non-commissioned officer and six privates with them. On learning that they were attacked, I took all the available men of the regiment and started in pursuit. This occasioned some delay in establishing the picket-line as the attack was made while the guard was forming. Three of the men and six of the mules were captured, which I am sorry to say were not recovered. In my endeavors to recapture the property Captain Hamilton, in charge of a detachment, met with a large force of the enemy, and after a severe engagement had to fall back with the loss of 1 man killed and 3 men wounded. Captain Hamilton is wounded slightly.
Division commander August V. Kautz passed Baker’s report along to AAG Captain Weir of Gregg’s Cavalry division with some comment of his own (OR XLII, P2, p. 681 Kautz to Gregg’s AAG Captain Weir, 8 p.m. September 3, 1864)
A report has just come in from Major Baker from Sycamore Church1. He reports that a train of two wagons, escorted by a non-commissioned officer and six men, was attacked whilst returning from his camp to these headquarters; three of the men and six of the mules were captured. A force was sent in pursuit that came upon the enemy in superior force and there was a severe fight. Captain Hamilton was slightly wounded. The report does not state either time or place, and is rather indefinite. Major Baker does not ask for assistance. I infer that it occurred early this morning as the regiment was taking up its position at Sycamore Church. I have sent for further particulars.
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- See OR XLII P1, p. 842 above ↩