Fort Couch was built as part of the emergency fortifications erected to defend Harrisburg and nearby bridges across the Susquehanna River during the 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania by Confederate forces. Fort Couch was built as an advance position to ensure the defense of Fort Washington located on a slightly lower hilltop to the east. Construction started on June 20th, 1863, by command of Major General Couch and on the advice of Federal Army engineer officers Fort Couch was mainly built by local African-American railroad workers. Artillery pieces were mounted on wooden platforms behind the earthworks and pointed west. Fort Couch was manned by New York National Guard, Pennsylvania militia, and Federal troops evacuated from the U.S. Army barracks at Carlisle that included members of the 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment. The Federal Calvary instructed the new York and Pennsylvania troops in the use of artillery. Several forward infantry picket lines were established between Fort Couch and Oyster Point located a mile an a half to the west.
Major General Darius Nash Couch was born 1822 in Putnam County, New York, graduated U.S. Military Academy in 1846. Served in the Mexican War, and became Brigadier General in 1861 and Major General in 1862. During the Civil War he led divisions in the peninsula and Antietam campaigns, and commanded the 2nd Army Corps at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. General Couch was head of the Department of the Susquehanna 1863-64, and led divisions in Tennessee and North Carolina 1864-65. He held several political and military posts in Massachusetts and Connecticut after the war, and died 1897 in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Fort Washington was constructed primarily between June 14-19, 1863, as part of the emergency response to the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania that culminated in the historic Battle of Gettysburg. Fort Washington was located 800 yards east of this site and consisted of entrenchments and earthen redoubts with wooden platforms for 25 pieces of artillery. The fort occupied about 60 acres and was manned by New York national Guard and Pennsylvania militia under the overall command of General couch. Hastily built for the defense of Harrisburg and regions east of the Susquehanna River. These earthen fortifications were constructed by more than 600 local citizen volunteers and African-American railroad construction crews drinking water was pumped up the hill from the Susquehanna River using hose laid by volunteer firemen. Tents of some soldiers were erected on wooden platforms on the forts steep hill slope. On June 29-30, 1863, troops from the fort engaged Confederate forces at Oyster Point and Sporting Hill located several miles to the west.