The Union Drummer Boy
During the last days of June 1863, one-third of General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army was in Cumberland County preparing to lay siege to the Pennsylvania Capital City.
Already having occupied Chambersburg, Carlisle and Mechanicsburg, Lee's forces began to probe Union Army defenses of Harrisburg. Confederate artillery set up on the highpoint of the Peace Church on Trindle Springs Road and shelled the area of the Oyster Point Tavern where the Trindle Springs Road met the Carlisle-Harrisburg Pike at what is now 28th and Market Streets in Camp Hill.
Under the command of Confederate Cavalry General Albert Gallatin Jenkins, "Johnny Rebs" had crossed the fields of the Samuel Bowman farm (now the West Shore Country Club) and captured a Union Soldier as he rested on the porch of the farm home of his brother-in-law George Oyster (on what is now Country Club Road). Earlier, a Union Army soldier had attempted to "liberate" a horse from the Bowman farm - later to become the first Club House of the West Shore Country Club. The West Shore area was the Confederate Army's furthest penetration of northern territory during the Civil War.
On the afternoon of June 29, 1863, General Robert E. Lee – headquartered in Chambersburg – sent orders to General Jenkins and his troops to abandon the planned capture of the lightly defended northern transportation and communications center of Harrisburg and head to a small town to the south and east. Lee had received word that the tens of thousands of troops of the Union Army – now under the command of General George Gordon Meade – were marching north out of Maryland into the farmlands of Pennsylvania.
On June 30, 1863, Union Army troops - following the Confederates down the Carlisle-Harrisburg Pike - encountered a force of rebels holed up in a stone barn. The resulting "Skirmish at Sporting Hill" left at least sixteen Confederates dead. The last Union Army soldier wounded in the military encounters on the West Shore of Harrisburg was Morris Gerrits – A Drummer Boy with the New York State National Guard, 22nd Infantry Regiment.
The great drama at Gettysburg began the next day.