Battle of Hunterstown

The Battle of Hunterstown was a minor cavalry engagement in Adams County, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War.

In recent years, the engagement has been referred as the North Cavalry Field of the Battle of Gettysburg, although the historical context has been to place this as an independent fight.

At dawn, the Union Army of the Potomac had deployed near Gettysburg in the general shape of a fishhook, with elements of the VI Corps and the cavalry posted elsewhere to protect the flanks and to look for Rebel activity, particularly J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry. Stuart arrived at Robert E. Lee’s headquarters between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 that afternoon, and about an hour later Wade Hampton's exhausted brigade arrived. Stuart ordered Hampton to take a position to cover the left rear of the Confederate battle lines. Hampton moved into position astride the Hunterstown Road four miles northeast of Gettysburg, blocking access for any Union forces that might try to swing around behind Lee's lines.

Two brigades of Union cavalry from Judson Kilpatrick’s division under George Armstrong Custer and Elon J. Farnsworth were probing for the end of the Confederate left flank. Custer collided with Hampton on the road between Hunterstown and Gettysburg. In the swirling fighting, Custer fell under his wounded horse as Confederates approached. He was saved only by the timely intervention of his orderly, Norvell Churchill. Hampton wanted to escalate the action, positioning most of his brigade along a ridge in readiness to charge Custer’s position. At that stage, Elon Farnsworth arrived with his brigade. Hampton did not press his attack, and an artillery duel ensued until dark when Hampton withdrew towards Gettysburg.

The eastern portion of the battlefield has been lost through recent development of a power plant. The remainder lies in private hands. A small plaque in the village of Hunterstown commemorates the nearby fighting. On July 2, 2008, a marble monument honoring Custer was unveiled and dedicated.