The Battle of Hanover, 1863

June 29, 1863

The Battle of Hanover, which took place on June 30, 1863, delayed the arrival of General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg until mid-afternoon of the second day of the pivotal conflict.

JEB Stuart, Civil War General

During the Battle of Hanover, Confederate Major General J. E. B. Stuart escaped being captured by pursuing Yankees by leaping his horse over a fifteen-foot-wide ravine. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Battle of Hanover Summary

The Battle of Hanover was fought on June 30, 1863. Confederate forces under the command of General J.E.B. Stuart clashed with Union forces led by General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick near Hanover, Pennsylvania. Stuart was on his way to join the Confederate Army as it moved into Pennsylvania when he attacked Kilpatrick’s men in Hanover on the morning of the 30th. A fierce cavalry battle took place, followed by a two-hour artillery duel. Stuart eventually withdrew and moved toward York, Pennsylvania. Although the battle was inconclusive, it did benefit the Union because it kept Stuart from arriving in Gettysburg until the second day of the battle.

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, Civil War General
General H. Judson Kilpatrick (USA). Image Source: Wikipedia.

Battle of Hanover Facts

  • Date Started: The Battle of Hanover started on June 30, 1863.
  • Date Ended: The battle ended on June 30, 1863.
  • Location: The Battle of Hanover took place in York County, in and around Hanover, Pennsylvania.
  • Campaign: The battle was part of the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863.
  • Who Won: The outcome of the battle is considered inconclusive.

Battle of Hanover History and Overview

Lee Plans to Invade the North

In early May 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia soundly defeated Major General Joseph Hooker and his Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Despite the Confederate victory, Lee’s army needed food, horses, and equipment after the battle. With northern Virginia ravaged by two years of combat, Lee took the war to the North.

Lee Consolidates near Culpeper, Virginia

Lee planned to disengage from Union forces near Fredericksburg, move the Army of Northern Virginia northwest across the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then push northeast through the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Lee began gathering his army near Culpeper, Virginia, and troop movements began on June 3, 1863. To mask his intentions and screen the assembly of his invasion force, Lee stationed his cavalry, commanded by Major General J. E. B. Stuart, at Brandy Station, a few miles northeast of Culpeper.

Robert E Lee, 1864, Portrait
General Robert E. Lee (CSA). Image Source: Wikipedia.

Battle of Brandy Station

To mask his intentions and screen the assembly of his invasion force, Lee stationed his cavalry, commanded by Major General J. E. B. Stuart, at Brandy Station, a few miles northeast of Culpeper. On June 9, Union Major General Alfred Pleasonton and his Cavalry Corps launched a surprise attack against Stuart’s Cavalry Division near Brandy Station. After an all-day fight at the Battle of Brandy Station, Pleasonton retired without discovering Lee’s main encampment at Culpeper, only six miles away.

Battle of Brandy Station, 1863, Cavalry Charge, LOC
This illustration depicts a cavalry charge at the Battle of Brandy Station. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Second Battle of Winchester

After the Battle of Brandy Station, Lee’s army continued its trek northwest toward Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley where roughly 6,900 troops were garrisoned under the command of Brigadier General Robert Milroy. On June 13, Lieutenant General Richard Ewell and his 2nd Army Corps reached Winchester. Ewell initiated a three-day engagement known as the Second Battle of Winchester that forced Milroy’s evacuation, clearing the upper Shenandoah Valley for Lee’s advancement.

Stuart’s Orders

As Lee continued to move north on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he ordered Stuart’s Cavalry to move in the same direction through the Loudoun Valley on the east side of the mountains, screening the Confederate invasion force. Lee instructed Stuart to prevent Federal reconnaissance forces from advancing through gaps in the mountains to gather information about the Army of Northern Virginia’s movements. Part of Stuart’s orders included holding the Ashby’s Gap Turnpike and the Snickersville Turnpike, two strategic roads leading through the mountains.

Cavalry Clashes

Between June 17 and June 19, the Union and Confederate cavalry forces engaged each other at the Battle of Aldie, the Battle of Upperville, and the Battle of Middleburg. Although the Federal cavalry performed well, forcing the Confederates to give ground, Stuart successfully blocked the mountain passes, frustrating Pleasonton’s efforts to ascertain Lee’s intentions.

Stuarts’ Ride

The next week, Lee approved Stuart’s plan to leave two brigades guarding the passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and to ride east with his remaining three brigades. Stuart intended to maneuver himself around the rear of the Union army and then ride north to join Ewell’s Corps in Southern Pennsylvania. Stuart’s objectives were to gather intelligence about the Army of the Potomac’s movements and to commandeer supplies if possible.

Departing on June 25, Stuart skirted south of Major General Winfield S. Hancock’s Federal 2nd Corps.  On June 28, his troopers plundered a Federal supply depot at Rockville, Maryland, capturing a train of 150 wagons. Sensing no urgency to return to the main army, Stuart’s progress was slowed by his decision to take his bounty with him, rather than destroy it.

What Happened at the Battle of Hanover?

On June 29, the Confederate cavalry stopped at Union Mills, Maryland, as it traveled north toward Pennsylvania. Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s 3rd Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac was just six miles northwest of there at Littlestown, Pennsylvania. Eager to join Ewell’s infantry, Stuart chose to avoid an engagement with Kilpatrick. Instead, on the next day, he headed toward Hanover, Pennsylvania, roughly ten miles to his north.

Kilpatrick Arrives at Hanover First

Unbeknownst to Stuart, Kilpatrick was also moving toward Hanover on June 30. Having a shorter distance to cover, Kilpatrick’s forces arrived at Hanover first.

George Armstrong Custer, Portrait, Civil War General
General George A. Custer (USA). Image Source: Library of Congress.

Confederates Attack Kilpatrick’s Rearguard at Hanover

The Union cavalry had nearly passed through the village by about 10 a.m. when the Confederates surprised their rearguard, sending them scurrying into town. Upon hearing the sounds of gunfire, Kilpatrick’s column reversed course and mounted a spirited counterattack, driving the Confederates back out of the village. The ensuing action quickly developed into a full-scale cavalry engagement in and around Hanover. At one point, Stuart barely escaped being captured by pursuing Federals by leaping his horse over a fifteen-foot-wide ravine.

Stuart Withdraws After Artillery Duel

Skirmishing continued in and around the town, as both commanders positioned their big guns, setting the stage for a two-hour artillery duel during the afternoon. As the day progressed, Stuart became convinced that Kilpatrick had gained the advantage and chose to withdraw in the direction of York, Pennsylvania with his captured wagon train, still planning to find Ewell.

Battle of Hanover Outcome

Although casualties were light on both sides (roughly 330 killed and wounded), the Battle of Hanover was a significant engagement because it delayed the arrival of Stuart’s cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg until mid-afternoon of the second day of that pivotal conflict. Stuart’s late arrival deprived Lee of vital information about Union troop deployments prior to the battle, and his absence also limited the effectiveness of the Army of Northern Virginia during the first two days of the engagement.

Battle of Hanover Significance

  • During the Battle of Hanover, Confederate Major General J. E. B. Stuart escaped being captured by pursuing Yankees by leaping his horse over a fifteen-foot-wide ravine.
  • The Battle of Hanover was a significant engagement because it delayed the arrival of Stuart’s cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg until mid-afternoon on the second day of the pivotal conflict.

Battle of Hanover Casualties, Generals, and Participants

Principal Union Commanders

Principal Confederate Commanders

Union Forces Engaged

  • 3rd Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac

Confederate Forces Engaged

  • Stuart’s Cavalry Division of the Army of Northern Virginia

Number of Union Soldiers Engaged

  • Roughly 5,000

Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged

  • Roughly 6,000

Estimated Union Casualties

  • 215

Estimated Confederate Casualties

  • 117

Result

  • Inconclusive

Battle of Hanover Dates and Timeline

These are the main battles and events of the Gettysburg Campaign in order.

Battle of Hanover Suggested Reading

Please note that this section contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. If you click the links and purchase anything, American History Central may earn a commission.

“If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania”: The Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac March to Gettysburg. Volume 1: June 3–21, 1863 by Scott L. Mingus Sr. and Eric J. Wittenberg

“If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania”: The Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac March to Gettysburg. Volume 2: June 22–30, 1863

Mingus and Wittenberg, the authors of more than 40 Civil War books, present a history of the opening moves of the Gettysburg Campaign in the 2-volume study. This compelling study is one of the first to integrate the military, media, political, social, economic, and civilian perspectives with rank-and-file accounts from the soldiers of both armies as they inexorably march toward their destiny at Gettysburg. This first volume covers June 3–21, 1863, while the second, covers June 22–30, completes the march, and carries the armies to the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title The Battle of Hanover, 1863
  • Date June 29, 1863
  • Author
  • Keywords Battle of Hanover, Gettysburg Campaign, Robert E. Lee
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 17, 2024

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