by Andy Mateja

On July 3rd 1863, just before the unsuccessful Confederate assault better known as Pickett’s Charge, JEB Stuart’s Southern cavalry moved around the right flank of the Union position with the intent getting behind them to capture and cause panic with the remnants of the Union line, expected to break under the pressure of Pickett’s onslaught.
Stuart expected to surprise his Union opponents with his four brigades of about 3500 horsemen plus artillery. Instead he was spotted by Union cavalry moving in position. 23 year old Brigadier General George A. Custer and his Michigan Cavalry Brigade – “Wolverines” as he affectionately called them, moved to the attack.
An artillery duel commenced which the Northern gunners quickly won. Stuart concentrated his four brigades on taking the Hanover road near the Rummel farm, which another Union brigade arrived to relieve Custer, who had been ordered to move to the Union left flank. Union Division commander Maj Gen David Gregg soon arrived with another brigade and ordered Custer to stay on the right with his troops
As Stuart sent dismounted cavalry forward, they were met at the Rummel barn by Union dismounted cavalry with carbines. Stuart knew he was in for a fight and the element of a surprise flank attack had vanished.
Stuart’s men however were making headway which had to be checked. Custer’s 5th Michigan regiment with their newly issued Spencer Carbines rose to the occasion. Custer himself led a valiant charge with his 7th Michigan regiment against dismounted Confederate cavalry. It was leading this charge were Custer uttered the immortal words “Come on you Wolverines!”
Stuart’s troopers counter charged the 7th Michigan with Chambliss’ brigade. Elements of the 5th Michigan joined in the melee as the cavalry battle expanded now to also include Confederate Gen Wade Hampton’s cavalry brigade. Hampton not only helped to rally Chambliss’ fellow Confederates, but determined to capture the Union cannons on the field. To prevent their capture, the 1st Michigan was ordered in with Custer leading the way.
Caught between the charging 1st Michigan and the Union artillery, Hampton’s men were cut to pieces. The encountered between Custer’s and Hampton’s mounted cavalry was lively to say the least. Sabers were slashing and pistols were firing at almost point blank range. Hampton himself was wounded several times in the engagement but still managed to remain in the saddle and lead his troopers.
More and more troopers continued to join in the fierce battle until it became a tangled mess, with JEB Stuart himself leading his 1st Virginia Cavalry. The fighting became desperate and casualties were high.
Finally, The Confederate cavalry began to fall back with their Union counterparts closely pursuing. Stuart’s men however did wind up holding most of the area around the Rummel farm while Gregg’s Union cavalry held the ground around the adjoining Lott farm.
Stuart’s surprise flank attack, motivated in part by the belief that Pickett’s Charge on the Union center at Cemetery Ridge would break their line, ultimately failed.
Historians tend to view this engagement as a tactical “draw” between both sides. However the more important STRATEGIC significance was clearly in favor of the North, as Gregg’s and Custer’s cavalry troopers fought tooth and nail to protect and preserve the Union right flank
Stuart was in the right place at the right time …………unfortunately for him, so were the Union defenders.