Hunterstown ...Then and Now

Noted Stories

This area will be used for information about specific members.
We may list a member's family history as it relates to
Hunterstown or to "the Battle of Hunterstown. 

Norvell Churchill
Photo Curtesy of the Churchill Family

The Man Who Once Saved Custer’s Life at Gettysburg

Pat Hedgecoth Stephens

Great Granddaughter of Norvell Churchill

Norvell Francis Churchill was born on June 11, 1840, in Berlin Township, Michigan. In August
1861, Churchill joined Company L of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, and on September 6, 1861 he took the muster oath.
After rugged training, he was assigned to the Army of the Potomac.

The First Michigan Cavalry saw quite a bit of action, and my greatgrandfather had been present in all of the early campaigns prior to Gettysburg.
In fact, he had been an orderly to
General Banks for several months and an orderly with General Mansfield when the general was mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam September 17, 1862, Churchill caught him as he was falling from his horse. In June 1863, Churchill became an an orderly to a newly promoted Brigadier General George Custer just before the Battle of Gettysburg. Custer, whose brigade was made up entirely of soldiers from Michigan, led 50 men of Company A in his first mounted charge down Hunterstown Road, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863. During an attack down Hunterstown Road against General Wade Hampton’s Confederate Cavalry, Custer’s horse was shot.
An enemy officer spied Custer’s predicament and rode down

on the unhorsed general, swinging his sabre. A second or two before the imminent fatality, Norvell Churchill charged in with his sabre and caught a blow meant for General Custer. He then shot the enemy horseman with his Colt pistol, held out a hand and Custer swung up behind him as they galloped off looking for another horse. That evening, General Custer visited Company L and made my greatgrandfather his Special Orderly. After the war, General Custer came to visit my greatgrandfather at his Romeo, Michigan farm and stayed for three days before going off to the Indian campaigns, and according to my grandfather,
Hugh Norvell Churchill, Custer asked his father to go West with him, but he

declined. In August 1864, Norvell’s enlistment elapsed and in February 1865
he was honorably
discharged. In April 1892, at age 52, he applied for and received a pension of $12.00 a month. He passed away on June 25, 1905 at age 65 in Echo Township, Michigan. Norvell Churchill had three older brothers who also served in the Civil War: Peter, the eldest at age 34 was on provost duty with Company H, 4th Michigan Infantry; Cyrus served in Company G,
th Michigan Infantry, along with brother Judson.

The sword my great grandfather used to saved Custer’s life has remained in the Churchill family, having been passed down to my cousin, Hugh E. Churchill.
On July 7, 2007, in Central
Lake, Michigan, a Churchill family reunion is planned where our family will get together to honor my greatgrandfather’s heroism at Gettysburg and to view the actual sword.

Posted May 22, 2007      lh

The Michigan Wolverines
Fundraisers for Churchill/Custer Monument

Here are some of the members of the
Grand Rapids and Holland-Zeeland Civil War Roundtables
at the July 2nd, 2005
Anniversary Walk in Hunterstown.

All rights reserved 2008. No use of content without written permission of Hunterstown1863.

Patricia Hedgecoth Stephens with Steven Alexander
Holding Norvell Churchill's Sword!

NPS Ranger and Historian Troy Harman in Monroe, Michigan 9/07

The Churchill Family held their family reunion in Michigan on 07-07-07.
In July of 2008, they will travel to Gettysburg/Hunterstown
to witness the dedication of a monument honoring their
family member, Norvell Churchill, saving the life of
General George Armstrong Custer.
Funds are now being raised to purchase this monument.
The Michigan Wolverines...their Roundtables...
Grand Rapids and Holland/Zeeland,
Actor Stephen Alexander and The Churchill Family
are working together to see this goal achieved.
If anyone would like to make a donation
to their monument fund, please contact

The Sword that saved General Custer's life...
in HUNTERSTOWN, PA. July 2nd, 1863

What an AMAZING parallel on the Confederate side of the battle....
                   Colonel DeLoney's story.....

"The day before this happened, when we returned to the vicinity of Gettysburg, near a place called Hunterstown, I think, our command had a thrilling experience and while charging a body of cavalry down a lane leading by a barn, ran into an ambuscade of men posted in the (Felty) barn who dealt death and destruction upon us. Within five minutes some four or five officers were killed and wounded and about fifteen men were slain or wounded. Col. DeLoney leading the charge on his prancing bay Marion was unhorsed, his charger being shot, fell upon him so that with great difficultty he extricated himself from his prostrate position. Our men had passed him meantime, driving and routing the force in front, when three Yankees seeing his almost helpless position and that he was an officer of note, dashed upon him to subdue, capture him or kill him, shooting and cutting him from their horses. But this superb fighter, with his Hugunot blood boiling, raised himself on one knee and with his dexterous and wiry arm fenced and parried their blows, Charley Harris who was helping him, being wounded, until Bugler H. E. Jackson of Company C, Cobb Legion, who was coming up from the rear, spurred his horse to the fray and to DeLoney's aid, fencing with these darring assailants, at last by a dexterous movement successfully thrust one man through the side, the others escaping with saber wounds from DeLoney's shimmering blade as he rose to his feet. Jackson's bugle, coat and shirt were cut through with saber blows and his sword, which I brought home for him from the surrender at Greensboro, N. C., has four or five distinct gashes along its edge made there by these valiant foes in that desperate rencounter. Jackson, now living near Bogart, Ga., still has this treasured blade and exhibited it to us at the Cobb Legion re-union held at Hoke Smith's at the time of our general re-union here. DeLoney that night sent for Jackson and publicly thanked him for his timely and courageous defense, complimenting him highly, which he will prize to the day of his death."

Sketch of Cobb Legion Cavalry
And Some Incidents and Scenes Remembered.


        Prepared and Read under appointment of Atlanta Camp 159,
U. C. V., August 19, 1901."

Colonel DeLoney
Photo Curtesy of the Topinka-Neville collection.

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