In the first three days of July 1863, 165,000 soldiers converged on Gettysburg, leaving their mark forever on its land, buildings, and people. Like sparks from a bonfire, fights strayed far outside the town. One encounter took place in Hunterstown. On the afternoon of July 2, Brigadier General Wade Hampton's Cavalry Brigade was ordered to protect the Confederate Army's left flank. Hampton's Brigade followed the Hunterstown Road, which put it in a perfect position to guard against attacks from the east. At 4:30 P.M., however, Union cavalry under Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer attacked the rear of Hampton's Brigade. When the Federals retreated, Hampton chased them into an ambush. Union troops, hidden behind barns and high wheat, opened fire as the Rebels galloped by.
The action robbed the Confederate left flank of protection. While Hampton fended off Custer, another brigade stepped in to shield against the threat from other Union cavalry. If not for the Battle of Hunterstown, approximately 2,000 more Confederate infantry may have fought in the evening's battles for Culp's Hill and East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg.