Although the Confederate army never made it to Harrisburg, they came very close in two skirmishes in the days before the Battle of Gettysburg.
On June 29, 1863, three miles west of Harrisburg in what is now Camp Hill, Union soldiers awaited a Confederate attack at a place called Oyster's Point.
“Back in 1863, the Carlisle Pike and the Trindle Road met, or intersected, and formed a road fork or road point called Oyster's Point, not because of any oysters, but because there was a family named Oyster who owned a tavern,” Civil War author Copper Wingert said.
Confederate troops commanded by Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins advanced and opened fire. The Confederates were hardened veterans, but while the defenders wore Union blue, they were green.
“Some of the men never fired a gun before,” Wingert said.
So why didn't the experienced Confederates just roll right over the Union defenders? Well, it seems the whole attack was really a diversion.
“General Jenkins himself is riding south on St. John's Church Road, to what we know as Slate Hill,” Wingert said. “From there, he observes the Union defenses here on Bridgepoint Heights opposite Harrisburg.”
In Carlisle General Richard Ewell, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia's Second Corps, is waiting with 15,000 soldiers to attack Harrisburg; waiting for Jenkins's report.
“And he reports back to Ewell that Harrisburg is takeable,” Wingert said.
But by the time the report arrives, the situation had changed.
“As General Jenkins is riding down, observing the defenses of Harrisburg, Ewell is almost simultaneously receiving word from Robert E, Lee, who's down in Chambersburg, to concentrate in the Gettysburg-Cashtown area,” Wingert said.
So Ewell's men prepared to move south, and the skirmish at Oyster's Point is the closest the Confederates would ever come to Harrisburg.