The Battle of Hanover

June 30, 1863 in Hanover, Pennsylvania

Battle of Hanover
Union Forces Commanded by
Brig. Gen. H. Judson Kilpatrick
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
± 5,000 19 73 123
Confederate Forces Commanded by
Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
± 6,000 9 50 58
Conclusion: Inconclusive
Gettysburg Campaign

Shortly before 10:00 a.m. on June 30, the rear guard of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry encountered Confederate videttes about three miles southwest of Hanover at Gitt's Mill. In the ensuing exchange of small arms fire, a Confederate cavalryman died and several were wounded. Shortly afterwards, 25 men from Company G of the 18th Pennsylvania were captured by the 13th Virginia from John R. Chambliss’s brigade, the vanguard of Stuart's oncoming cavalry. Also that morning, a series of minor engagements occurred near Littlestown and elsewhere along Stuart's path.

Southwest of Hanover at a tiny hamlet now known as Pennville, the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry struck the 18th Pennsylvania’s main column and split it in two. Union survivors retired in disorder through the streets of Hanover just as Stuart's horse artillery arrived, unlimbered, and opened fire. As the Confederates occupied the town in the wake of the fleeing Pennsylvanians, General Farnsworth wheeled the 5th New York Cavalry into position near the town commons and attacked the Rebel flank in the streets, forcing the Tar Heels to abandon their brief hold on the town. The commander of the 2nd North Carolina, William Henry Fitzhugh Payne, was captured after his dying horse pitched him into a nearby tanning vat. A Union soldier pulled Payne out and took him prisoner.

As more of Chambliss's men (and General Stuart) arrived on the scene, they were met by additional Federals near the sprawling Karle Forney farm, just south of Hanover. Nearly surrounded in the confused fighting, Stuart and a staff officer made their escape cross-country through the hedges bordering the country lane, at one point leaping their horses over a 15-foot wide ditch. Hearing the unmistakable sound of distant gunfire, Judson Kilpatrick raced southward towards Hanover, with his horse dying in the town square from the severe ride. The young general began to deploy his men in and around Hanover, barricading some streets with barrels, farm wagons, dry goods boxes, and anything else that might provide cover. Shortly before noon, fighting at the Forney farm ceased as the Rebels broke off contact. Kilpatrick positioned Custer's newly arrived brigade on the farm and awaited developments.

When Fitzhugh Lee's Virginia brigade arrived, Stuart moved his and Chambliss's men into a new position on a ridge extending from the Keller Farm southwest of Hanover to Mount Olivet Cemetery southeast of town. Meantime, Kilpatrick repositioned the brigades of the newly promoted duo of Custer and Farnsworth to form a better defensive perimeter and then brought up his guns.

Leaving the captured wagons two miles south of town under heavy guard, Wade Hampton at 2 p.m. brought his brigade and Breathed's Battery into position near the Mount Olivet Cemetery on the extreme right of Stuart's line. An artillery duel ensued for the better part of two hours as opposing cannons hurtled shells over the town. Fragments blasted holes in several houses and narrowly missed killing Mrs. Henry Winebrenner and her daughter, who had just left their balcony when a projectile came hurtling through the upstairs.

During the prolonged artillery exchange, Custer's dismounted 6th Michigan moved forward to within 300 yards of Chambliss and the two guns supporting his line. Flanked and losing fifteen men as prisoners, the Wolverines tried again and succeeded in securing the Littlestown-Frederick Road, opening a line of communication with the Union XII Corps. Stuart and Kilpatrick made no further aggressive moves, and both sides initiated a series of skirmishes and minor probing actions.

Disengaging slowly and protecting his captured wagons, Stuart withdrew to the northeast through Jefferson towards York, known from recent newspapers to be the location of Early's division. En route, Stuart heard at New Salem that Early's Division had recently left York and marched northwestly through Dover. Stuart changed course and headed northward through the night on winding, hilly country roads, still trying to locate Early or Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, thinking the latter still to be towards the Susquehanna River.

The head of Stuart's seventeen-mile long column arrived in Dover at 2:00 a.m. on the morning of July 1, with the rear guard there by 8:00 a.m. Stuart learned that Early had passed through town and was heading westward towards Shippensburg as the army concentrated. Stuart paroled over 200 Union prisoners and gave his troopers a much needed six-hour rest (while, unknown to Stuart, Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's Confederate infantry division collided with Brig. Gen. John Buford's Union cavalry at Gettysburg). Stuart resumed his exhausting march through the afternoon and early evening, seizing over 1,000 fresh horses from York County farmers.

Leaving Hampton's Brigade and the wagons at Dillsburg, Stuart headed for Carlisle, hoping to find Ewell. Instead, Stuart found nearly 3,000 Pennsylvania and New York militia occupying the borough. After lobbing a few shells into town during the early evening and burning the Carlisle Barracks, Stuart withdrew after midnight to the south towards Gettysburg. The fighting at Hanover, the long march through York County with the captured wagons, and the brief encounter at Carlisle slowed Stuart considerably in his attempt to rejoin the main army and locate Lee. The "eyes and ears" of the Army of Northern Virginia had failed Lee.

Losses at Hanover were relatively light in terms of casualties, but the cost in time in delaying Stuart from linking with Lee proved to be even more costly. Estimates vary as to the number of men lost at Hanover; Union losses in one source are listed as 19 killed, 73 wounded, and 123 missing (for a total of 215). The 18th Pennsylvania had suffered the most, with three men killed, 24 wounded, and 57 missing. On the Confederate side, Stuart's losses are generally estimated as 9 dead, 50 wounded, and 58 missing, for a total of 117.

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