Skirmish of Sporting Hill

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.

Background

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."

Skirmish

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. The Confederates then pressed on to the outer defenses of Fort Couch, where they exchanged fire with the outer picket line for well over an hour. They later withdrew in the direction of Carlisle to rejoin Ewell's infantry for the march southward towards Heidlersburg and Gettysburg.

Aftermath

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.

The last remnants of the battlefield were recently lost to development. Today, it is marked by a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historical marker in a parking lot.