General Rodes, who had marched by Zoar Church into the Raccoon Ford road, came up soon afterward and took position on the left of Hays. Sharp skirmishing ensued; but, as the enemy had an advantageous position, and the density of the woods rendered it impossible to ascertain his strength, it was deemed best to defer the attack until the arrival of General Johnson's division. General Johnson marched on the Raccoon Ford road by Bartlett's Mill, and the head of his column had nearly reached General Rodes when, at a point less than 2 miles from the mill, his ambulance train moving in advance of the rear brigade, under General G. H. Stuart, was fired into from the left of the road.
General Steuart immediately formed his command and took measures to protect the train. Upon advancing his skirmishers it was discovered that the attacking party consisted of infantry, apparently in considerable force. General Johnson countermarched the other brigades of his division and formed them on the right of General Steuart. After skirmishing for some time, about 4 p. m. he ordered a general advance, and after a sharp engagement the enemy was driven back through the woods and pursued into an open field beyond. The density of the forest rendered it impossible for the troops to preserve their line unbroken int he advance and prevented the proper concert of action. General Johnson was therefore unable to follow up his success, the numbers of the enemy greatly exceeding his own, and reformed his troops on the edge of the open ground, which position they continued to hold until dark.
The force of the enemy encountered by General Johnson, consisting, as was afterward ascertained, of one army corps and part of another, crossed the Rapidan at Jacobs' Ford, and marched thence by a road which enters the Raccoon Ford road near Payne's Farm, where the action took place. The usual precaution had been taken by General Johnson to guard against a flank attack; but, owing to the character of the country, the presence of the enemy was not discovered until his skirmishers fired upon the ambulance train. The ground was unfavorable for the use of artillery, but sections of Carpenter's and Dement's batteries participated in the engagement and rendered efficient and valuable service.
Our total loss in killed, wounded, and missing was 545.
Lieutenant-Colonel Walton, commanding Twenty-third Virginia Regiment, was killed, and Colonel Raleigh T. Colston, commanding Second Virginia Regiment, severely wounded, while leading their respective commands with conspicuous gallantry. Colonel Colston has since died. General Johnson mentions, with well-merited praise, the conduct of those brave and lamented officers.
The promptness with which this unexpected attack was met and repulsed reflects great credit upon General Johnson and the officers and men of his division.
While these events were transpiring, information was received from Brigadier-General Rosser, whose brigade of cavalry was guarding the roads leading from Ely's and Germanna Fords to Fredericksburg, that the whole Federal Army, after crossing the Rapidan, had moved up the river in the direction of Orange Court-House. General Rosser had attacked a train of wagons near Wilderness Tavern and captured a large number, some of which he brought off, and destroyed the remainder. He also secured 280 mules and 150 prisoners.
Preparations were made to meet the attack which this information led us to expect, but as the enemy did not advance, the army was