Numbers 230. Report of Brigadier General Henry E. Davies, Jr., U. S. Army, commanding Second Cavalry Division, of operations September 16-17.1
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, September 19, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to forward the following report of the operations of the cavalry under my command in the attempt made to recapture the cattle driven off by the enemy on the morning of the 16th instant:
Early that morning the enemy’s cavalry, moving down the Powhatan road, made a strong demonstration on General Kautz’s picket-line, driving in a number of his posts and capturing a large portion of the First District of Columbia Cavalry, in scamp on that road. This force, as I subsequently learned, was the cavalry division of General W. H. F. Lee, and this demonstration was made to cover the movement of Hampton, who with three brigades marched to Coggins’ Point and drove off the herd of cattle at that place in charge of a detachment of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, many of whom were made prisoners. Upon hearing of this attack General Kautz was immediately ordered to pursue the enemy on his retreat, via Sycamore Church, with his available force, while with the Second Division an effort was made to intercept him on the Jerusalem plank road. The advance of the Second Division first me the enemy on the Jerusalem plank road at 2 a. [p.] m., and, skirmishing with his outposts, drove him back about three miles, and advanced as far as Belches’ farm on the plank road, distant some three miles from Freeman’s Bridge, over the Nottoway, and in advance of a road leading from Sycamore?Church across the plank road to Stony Creek. The enemy were in large force, and occupied a position too strong to be taken by the force under my command, being protected by earth-works, and having in their front a stream and mill-pond impassable except by the road, and the road bridge over the stream was destroyed.
I engaged the enemy and held them in their position until 8 p. m., hoping that General Kautz might come up and attack them in rear. Hearing nothing from him, and having learned by a dispatch from army headquarters that the cattle passed Sycamore Church at sunrise that morning, I concluded that the only chance left of intercepting them was by sending a force across the railroad between Stony Creek and Reams’ Station, and then breaking their column if they should move in that direction. I therefore moved back on the plank road to Proctor’s Tavern and sent a brigade toward the railroad. The advance of this force reached the railroad about 5 a. m. of the 17th instant, having driven in the enemy’s pickets. About this time I learned through a contraband that the cattle had been taken over the Nottoway River the previous night, and as they were beyond my reach with the force at my disposal I returned to camp.
I learned from prisoners and my reconnaissance that the enemy had their whole cavalry force engaged in this operation, amounting to about 6,000 men. The force encountered on the Jerusalem plank road by the Second Division consisted of W. H. F. Lee’s division, which, after attacking General Kautz’s outposts, fell back to that point and there protected the crossing of the cattle over the Nottoway. Brigadier-General Kautz followed the track of the force that drove off the cattle through Sycamore Church and down to Belches’ farm, which he reached
about 10.30 p. m. of the 16th instant, where he encountered the enemy and halted until daylight, before which time Lee withdrew.
Being obliged to keep my picket-line established I was able to take but 2,100 men of the Second Division and 700 of Kautz’s. General Kautz recovered some fifty head of cattle left on the road.
As soon as received I will forward nominal lists of casualties, which have been called for.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. E. DAVIES, JR.,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Second Division.
Major General A. A. HUMPHREYS,
Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 614-615 ↩