Action at Shuter’s Hill

The Action at Shuter’s (aka Shooter’s Hill) was fought on Sunday, June 30, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Lt. M. Robert McClennan and a Confederate scouting party in what is today part of Alexandria, Virginia. Its outcome was a Union tactical victory, with the Confederates withdrawing after sustaining casualties.

On June 18, 1861, the 4th Pennsylvania Infantry (3 months) crossed the Potomac River into northern Virginia and settled into Camp Hale, which was located about a quarter mile north of Fort Ellsworth on Shuter’s Hill west of Alexandria. They immediately assumed picket duty in the area.

In late June, the Goochland Cavalry and Governor’s Mounted Guard were engaged in mounted patrols around the Orange and Alexandria Railroad west of Union-occupied Alexandria. A few hours after midnight on June 30, a 14-man patrol from the Governor’s Mounted Guard ran into pickets from the 4th Pennsylvania along the Little River Turnpike leading to Fairfax Courthouse.

When confronted, the Confederates reportedly told the Union pickets to “Go to Hell,” before the Union pickets ran to the next post for help. Thus reinforced with a handful of men from Company E, they returned to confront the mounted patrol. The two sides exchanged fire, and one Union soldier was killed and another wounded. A Confederate sergeant was also killed.

The Confederate patrol reportedly fled in the face of further Union reinforcements, leaving behind several weapons. Though a tactical Union victory, the brief encounter had no effect on the strategic situation in that sector.

Opposing Forces


Capt. John Grattan Cabell, Commanding

Governor’s Mounted GuardUnknown141?0


Col. John F. Hartranft, Commanding

4th Pennsylvania Vol. Inf. (3 Months) Company B & ELt. M. Robert McClennan3-6110


Sgt. Henry C. HanesGovernor’s Mounted GuardX
Pvt. Thomas Murray4th PA, Co. EX
Pvt. Llewelyn Rhumer4th PA, Co. EX

Primary Sources


The following account of the skirmish in which Sergeant Hanes, of the Governor’s Guard, lost his life, was telegraphed North from Alexandria, on the 30th of June:
This morning, at daybreak, fourteen Confederate scouts attacked three picket guards of the 14th Pennsylvania Regiment, belonging to Company S, Capt. Amer, stationed on Shouter’s Hill, Virginia, four miles from Alexandria, wounding Lewellan Rumor, of Blue Bell, and killing Thomas Murray, of Norristown; the pickets returned the fire, killing two Confederates, and wounding a third. One of the slain was a sergeant of the Letcher Guard. The enemy beat a hasty retreat.
The firing having been heard by the Federal troops, a detachment of the Zouaves and another of the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment reinforced the pickets and followed in the trail of the enemy for some distance, finding four rifles and three revolvers, which the latter threw away in their hasty flight. One of the revolvers was a very valuable article, marked with the name of John Johnson, a farmer living in that vicinity, who is a noted Secessionist.
The Pennsylvanians behaved with great spirit and with the coolness of veterans, boldly holding their positions, though wounded, in the hope of being reinforced. The body of Murray was brought to Washington this afternoon, and will be forwarded to Norristown. The Federal troops express themselves sadly disappointed at not taking or killing Johnson, as he has been a very troublesome man to the Unionists by reason of his thorough knowledge of the localities thereabout.
Alexandria, July 1 — The Confederate killed by the Pennsylvania 4th picket, named Henry C. Hanes, is a well-known citizen of Richmond, and orderly sergeant of the Letcher Guards. He was buried today by the citizens there, his body having been transferred to their charge at their request. The two other Secessionists who were wounded have since died.
[It is positively known that Mr. Hanes was the only one of our men injured in the skirmish. However, we never expect truth from the Yankees.]

Richmond Dispatch (Richmond) 4 July 1861.


Bates, Samual P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Vol. 1. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

Updated: 19 May 2023
Created: 15 May 2023