The ground occupied by the Confederate cavalry during the Battle of Hanover was the rich, rolling farmland found in much of southern Pennsylvania. On the eastern side of the Westminster Road there was a field of timothy, a grass widely grown for hay. A stream described as being "ten to fifteen feet wide and three to four feet deep" flowed through the field.
After the initial Confederate attack on Hanover, Major General Stuart and his staff had ridden into the timothy field on the side of the stream toward the town to observe the action, unaware that a Union counterattack was underway and headed toward their position.
H. B. McClellan, Stuart's assistant adjutant-general, describes what happened next. "When the 2nd North Carolina broke and retreated under Farnsworth's charge, this party maintained its position for some moments, firing with pistols at the flank of the enemy, who pursued the North Carolina regiment on the road. The position soon became one of extreme personal peril to Stuart, whose retreat by the road was cut off. Nothing remained but to leap the ditch. Splendidly mounted on his favorite mare Virginia, Stuart took the ditch at a running leap, and landed safely on the other side with several feet to spare."
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