A complication occurred here that was not anticipated by the commanders of either army, and in its result was alike complimentary to my own command and the force I encountered. In order not to distract the understanding of my own acts and those of my command, I will leave the explanation of the actual state of things, not then known to me, to the sequel.
As soon as Captain Bingham arrived with his instructions, and arrangements could be made, Lieutenant-Colonel Morgan immediately set out to put the head of column in motion, the road being then free from occupation by the Third Corps.
A glance at the map shows that after passing the Cedar Run at Auburn, our prescribed course turned us to the right down the valley of that stream, making a sharp angle in the route, the point toward the enemy. The whole of General Caldwell's division was accordingly placed in position facing toward Warrenton, with the batteries of Captains Ricketts, Arnold, and Ames.
The men of this division then made fires to prepare breakfast, and lighted up their new position on the hill-top with blazing camp fires. The morning had not yet fully dawned, and heavy mists in the valleys enveloped them in almost impenetrable obscurity. The Third Division had just begun the crossing after the First, when most unexpectedly a battery opened upon General Caldwell's position from his rear, and directly on the road which we were ordered to take. Undistinguishable as this enemy was to us in the valley in the mist and gray morning light, his view our camp fires on the hill was clear and defined and his fire told with fatal effect, killing 11 and wounding about 12. One shell killed 7 men. General Caldwell moved his brigade quickly around the hill under cover; at the same time Captain Rickett's battery changed front and fired rapidly upon the battery of the enemy. General Caldwell says:
Notwithstanding the unexpectedness of the fire in the rear and their unprepared state, the men showed but little confusion, and kept their ranks while moving around the hill, the conscripts moving nearly as steady as old soldiers.
About this time General Hays' division was moving toward the enemy's battery, and his report says:
The march opposed by the rebels in such force as to render precaution necessary. A slight skirmish line was thrown forward, but was soon repulsed by the rebel cavalry.
For details of this I refer you to the report of General Owen, commanding Third Brigade, Third Brigade, Third Division.
I was then near Colonel Carroll's brigade, which was protecting our train of ambulances and ammunition, and General Webb, who had, by my directions, allowed these to pass him before moving, was following on with his division.
The sound of the enemy's cannon had already informed me that our intended route was disputed, and Colonel Morgan, coming back from the head of the column, reported the substance of what I have just quoted from General Caldwell's and General Hays' reports. About the same time the dawning day disclosed General Gregg's cavalry division on my left, already engaged with the enemy.
A major of cavalry, whose name I did not know, came in great precipitation, and informed me that the enemy was advancing in three overwhelming columns of infantry from Warrenton. I rode rapidly toward Auburn, and here an affrighted man told me that