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Skirmish of Sporting Hill
Part of the American Civil War
Date June 30, 1863
Location Hampden Township, Pennsylvania
Result Inconclusive (Confederates withdrew)
United States of America Confederate States of America
Darius N. Couch Albert G. Jenkins
Elements of Pennsylvania and New York state militia Elements of the 16th Virginia Cavalry Regiment
Casualties and losses
11 wounded 16 dead
20-30 wounded

The Skirmish of Sporting Hill was a relatively small skirmish during the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War, taking place on June 30, 1863, in present day Hampden Township, Pennsylvania. It is known as the northernmost engagement of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War.



Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell had led two full divisions and a cavalry brigade through Maryland into central Pennsylvania in late June 1863, with the intention of seizing the state capital of Harrisburg. However, he had been significantly delayed in crossing the rain-swollen Potomac River, which allowed time for the Union to respond. Pausing another day at Chambersburg, Ewell finally marched northwards through the Cumberland Valley towards Harrisburg.

In response, Union Maj. Gen. Darius N. Couch, commanding the Department of the Susquehanna, dispatched troops to the present day borough of Camp Hill, located in the Cumberland Valley approximately 2 miles west of Harrisburg. Laborers hired by Couch quickly erected earthworks and fortifications along the western portion of Bridgeport, adjacent to Camp Hill. The two largest of these became known as "Fort Couch" and "Fort Washington."


Ewell's cavalry, a brigade under the command of Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins, raided nearby Mechanicsburg on June 28. That same evening, receiving the unexpected news that the Federal Army of the Potomac was rapidly advancing through Maryland, Gen. Robert E. Lee was forced to consolidate his Army of Northern Virginia towards Gettysburg to counter this new threat. As a result, Ewell began to withdraw, and would never realize the objective of taking Harrisburg.

However, Jenkins briefly skirmished with the 22nd and 37th New York Militia at Sporting Hill on the west side of Camp Hill on June 29, 1863. The Confederates used the barn of the McCormick House as cover while engaging the Union soldiers positioned along the Carlisle Pike. The Confederates attempted to cross the Carlisle Pike and outflank the Union soldiers but the Union soldiers saw their maneuvering and stymied their efforts. The Confederate soldiers began artillery fire upon the Union position with shot and shell around 5 PM. Just then, Lieutenant Perkins of the Federal Army arrived with two cannon and began firing upon the McCormick barn. The Federals' very first shot at the barn smashed through the upper wooden structure and sent approximately 50 Confederate soldiers running outside to their horses. The Confederates withdrew in the direction of Carlisle to rejoin Ewell's infantry for the march southward towards Heidlersburg and Gettysburg.


At least 16 Confederates from the 16th and 36th Virginia Cavalry were killed during the fighting and an additional 20 to 30 were wounded. Union losses were listed at 11 men wounded.

Preservation Efforts

Some of the battlefield was lost to development and the construction of Interstate 581. The site of the Union position is marked by a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historical marker in the parking lot of what is now a strip mall. The wooden part of the McCormick barn, where the Confederate soldiers were positioned, was destroyed by a tornado in the 1920s (date uncertain) but the barn's limestone foundation still remains. Both the McCormick barn foundation and the McCormick House itself are still standing as they were preserved by the developer who built the nearby Brambles apartment complex.




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