Historic Carlisle Barracks
Nestled in the beautiful Susquehanna Valley, Carlisle Barracks is one of our nation's oldest military installations. Since 1757, Carlisle Barracks has witnessed pioneering concepts in military training and education, and innovative measures to prepare for a changing world. This page explores the Army War College history and the colorful history of the military installation, Carlisle Barracks.
The Army War College - the primary mission at Carlisle Barracks today â€“ is defined by its legacy of evolution in response to a changing environment.
The Army War College was created as a solution to the military failings uncovered during the Spanish-American War. On 27 November 1901, Secretary of War, Elihu Root established the Army General Staff and the Army War College to train staff officers by General Order 155. As an adjunct to the staff, the college would advise the President, devise plans, acquire information, and direct the intellectual exercise of the Army.
The first War College class of six captains and three majors of the Army and Marine Corps convened November 1st, 1904, as the first professional education beyond West Point. The students worked military issues of the day that were of interest to the General Staff while studying national defense, military science, and command.
In 1916, the official relationship between the General Staff and the college ended with the passage of the National Defense Act. Engagement in World War I followed and the school closed for two years.
Reopening in the fall of 1919, the focus shifted from preparing and mentoring the General Staff to the academic studies of war. The curriculum included historical studies, responsible command, and the effects of political, social and economic factors on national defense. During this period, the nation's key World War II leaders including Generals Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Omar Bradley and Admiral William Halsey further developed their knowledge and skills as Army War College students.
As trained and experienced officers were needed during World War II, the college closed its doors in the 1940's. In 1950, the school opened again to address the growing Army's need for more officers with an advanced education. The Chief of Staff, General J. Lawton Collins reestablished the Army War College at Fort Leavenworth for a single class year before moving to its new home at Carlisle Barracks in October, 1951. The college refocused to understand the lessons from World War II and prepare students for the bipolar environment of the Cold War.
New security challenges emerged with the fall of the Soviet Union and the information revolution of the 1990s. The Army War College curriculum evolved to focus on the strategic level of war. The college transformed from a military school preparing officers to work on the Army staff to a graduate-level college, accredited to award a master's degree in strategic studies to students.
Today, the Army War College prepares the next generation of senior leaders.
The Susquehanna Valley was home to native Americans, to the early pioneers like the French trapper named Letort, and later, to an expanding population of English, Scots and Germans. The Indians retreated into the mountains, waiting for an opportunity to recover their lost valley. The French, in competition for the new land's resources, allied with the natives and encouraged them in their grievances against the English.
Pennsylvania was originally a colony of Quakers who attempted to avoid bloodshed, but political pressure from the newer, more combative, more endangered Scots convinced the colonial government of the need to secure the frontier.
In 1753 and 1754, the Quaker officials sent delegates to Carlisle. Benjamin Franklin was one of the negotiators. The agreements did not hold, crumbling beneath the weight of white land hunger. Despite the Quaker determination to avoid bloodshed, the more recent arrivals felt endangered and convinced the colonial government of the need to secure the frontier. An army was needed, it was decided, to create a buffer at the frontier gateway. Carlisle, at the intersection of Indian trails along Letort Creek, had become the jumping-off point for traders and settlers heading over the Alleghenies.
A brief 1756 encampment at Carlisle preceded the more permanent settlement in May 1757, when Col. John Stanwix marched up the stream with British regulars and provincials.
With the defeat of British Gen. Braddock along the Monongahela two years earlier, the embodied Indians had conducted raids into the Cumberland (also known as Great) Valley. The townsfolk had established a civilian Fort Lowther near the center of Carlisle, but with Stanwix's arrival a sense of relief probably swept through the community.
The encampment at Carlisle was probably alive with color - buckskin woodsmen, Indian guides, and the green uniforms of provincials, the red and blue of the regulars.
Revolutionary War Post
As early as June 1775, local citizens who favored independence had organized a militia. They sent troops under Col. William Thompson to Boston, where the Virginia militia officer who had experienced defeat with Braddock 20 years earlier in western Pennsylvania was forming the Continental Army. As the war broadened and Washington's Army captured British soldiers, places of confinement for the enemy parolees were sought away from centers of mischief and intrigue. Carlisle was one of those sites. Among the prisoners was Major John Andre, a key figure in Benedict Arnold's plot to betray the Continentals.
According to popular though unsubstantiated accounts, Hessian prisoners were at Carlisle. These German mercenaries had been captured when the Americans surprised the British force at Trenton the day after Christmas, 1776. The prisoners erected a fieldstone gunpowder magazine to complement the plan to cast cannon and ammunition at Carlisle. There would be an artillery school under Capt. Isaac Coren. Carlisle played an important role in supplying artillery materiel to Henry Knox, Washington's chief of artillery. The rugged building still stands, seemingly impervious to the elements.
John Davis of Carlisle was very active in raising supplies, including transportation equipment, for the Army. His records have become an important source of information about Washingtonburg.
In December 1776 the Continental Congress authorized establishment of an ordnance center at Carlisle, and a few months later a factory was under construction. Washington wrote a detailed letter to Col. Benjamin Flower about his expectations at the "laboratory." Furnaces would be erected to cast cannon and ammunition. Carriages would be constructed. And, in addition to Flower's Regiment of Artificers, there would be an artillery school under Capt. Isaac Coren. Carlisle played an important role in supplying artillery materiel to Henry Knox, Washington's Chief of Artillery.
In 1779, renewed threats from the Indian allies of the British reduced the flow of raw materials into Carlisle from the west. By 1780 conditions at the Barracks, as throughout the Army, were in desperate straits -- unpaid, poorly clothed soldiers, some in open mutiny (for example, the Pennsylvania Line at Morristown). Col. Samuel Lyon brandished inflated Continental currency as he scoured the countryside for supplies to maintain the Barracks' own troops, a work force that was being reduced in size because of the crisis. Fortunately, assistance from France revived morale and within a year Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, followed in two years by the Peace of Paris, which recognized American independence.
Between 1783 and 1791, 40 sites in the U.S. competed to be the location of the new federal capital. Carlisle was one of six in the Susquehanna River basin. The president of Dickinson College, Charles Nisbet, insisted that the young nation's hopes rested upon the open lands to the west and that gateway Carlisle was well situated to wrest the frontier from Indians and foreign powers. An area along the Potomac near President Washington's home won this battle of local boomers.
Illustrating Carlisle's importance in the opening of the West, the Barracks was the center of intense military activity in 1794. Farmers in Southwestern Pennsylvania refused to pay a tax on the commercial whiskey they distilled from their corn crops. Corn as alcohol was more easily transported east over the Alleghenies than was corn as a grain.
In 1794, Carlisle became the center of intense military activity. Washington journeyed to the Barracks to review the troops - perhaps as many as 10,000 - gathered to face the "whiskey rebellion." Farmers in southwestern Pennsylvania who refused to pay a tax on the commercial whiskey they distilled from their corn crops posed the crisis. Corn as alcohol was more easily transported east over the Alleghenies than was corn as a grain.
Alexander Hamilton, the president's close advisor, realized the fledgling government needed a standing army with which to intimidate those independent citizens who refused to acknowledge federal powers of taxation. In the fall, militia troops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey were called to rendezvous as a federal force at Carlisle.
Washington journeyed to the Barracks to review the troops, perhaps as many as 10,000. On October 12, they marched west, Washington traveled to Fort Cumberland to meet the Virginia and Maryland militia and then on to Bedford, site of a rendezvous of the consolidated army. From there the army headed west, while Washington returned to the capital in Philadelphia. Against the weight of such a force the rebellion quickly dissipated, to be resolved in the courts.
Perhaps because of his reception at Carlisle in 1794, President Washington later recommended the Barracks as the site for a federal military academy, but Pennsylvania lost that political battle to the state of New York and its West Point location. The Academy was finally legally established in 1802 during the Jefferson Administration, which had reluctantly agreed to the need for a strengthened standing army.
The government evidently was sufficiently impressed by Carlisle's case that it decided the actual ownership of the post should be clarified. In 1801, the government purchased the 27 acres for $664.20 that it had been renting for a number of years from William Penn's heirs.
The artificers moved west to Pittsburgh in 1802, since the Indian Wars themselves had moved west. Later, during the War of 1812, the Barracks served as a recruiting and training depot, but after the war it again fell into inactivity. In 1827, it was proposed as the site for the Army Asylum for the Military Insane and in 1828 served briefly as a naval recruiting depot. Perhaps the Navy had lost its recruiting touch among the young men of the port cities to such an extent that a net was cast among farm boys.
Calvary School Days (1838-1861)
As in the Revolutionary War, Carlisle Barracks hosted a major training facility when the School of Cavalry Practice was established in 1838. Arriving to take charge of his new command, Capt. E.V. Sumner found most of the buildings in disrepair, the maneuver area less than adequate, and even horses in short supply. Overcoming these problems included drilling his recruits at the double time on foot to simulate the trotting of the missing horses. Nonetheless, Carlisle Barracks soon became an outstanding Army post, home of the Army's small but elite mounted force. This was the forerunner of the Armor School, which eventually settled at Fort Knox, KY.
Another mounted organization, horse-drawn light artillery, established its school at Carlisle Barracks at this time. In 1839, Capt. Samuel Ringgold arrived to begin training recruits and testing equipment for the "flying artillery," as it was sometimes called. He would later die a hero in Mexico at the Battle of Palo Alto in 1846.
Except for a brief period during the Mexican War, 1846-48, when the post was practically emptied of its garrison, the Cavalry School tested equipment and technique for the mounted arm, but most of all it recruited and trained officers and men for frontier service with the mounted units. As it would turn out, cavalrymen were well trained at Carlisle for service with both the Northern and Southern armies in the coming Civil War. This service to both sides is illustrated by the family of Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke, a highly regarded cavalryman, author of a noted cavalry manual, and commander of the post and school from 1849 to 1852. His son-in-law was none other than J.E.B. Stuart, whose brigadier, Fitzhugh Lee, had trained at Carlisle. Stuart and Lee would capture and burn the post for the Confederate cause.
Civil War Era
Every corner of the United States would be impacted by the Civil War, and Carlisle Barracks was no exception. While the function of the Cavalry School had diminished, limited training continued through the late 1850s. The bustle of activity at Carlisle as a training center and recruiting depot progressed as the storm clouds of war loomed over the country. During the "Secession Winter" following the election of Abraham Lincoln, orders to the Barracks changed the destination of the incoming recruits.
Founded rumors of invasion reached Carlisle in early summer of 1863. This time "the Rebels are coming" was a cry with substance, as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had begun an invasion of the North on June 3rd. As his 75,000-man army left Fredericksburg, Virginia, and headed northward through the Shenandoah Valley, Lee had no clear-cut march order agenda. Its location made Carlisle a likely and easy target as no serious opposition lay between Lee's advance and the Barracks.
Unaware that Carlisle had already been "visited" by his provision-gathering comrades, Stuart hoped to levy supply demands on the inhabitants. When he became aware that the town was occupied by two Federal militia brigades (under the command of Brig. Gen. William F. Smith), he sent a subordinate under a flag of truce with an offer of surrender to avoid bombardment. When his demand was refused, he took possession of the main streets and placed artillery on so-called heights commanding the town. A short bombardment ensued. Smith refused a repeated demand, whereupon Stuart ordered the town shelled. About 10 p.m., he ordered the barracks torched. In Stuart's own words, "Although the houses were used by their sharpshooters while firing on our men, not a building was fired except the United States cavalry barracks, which were burned by my order, the place having resisted my advance instead of peaceful surrender, as in the case of Gen. Ewell."
Carlisle Indian School (1879-1918)
The story of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School began in the waning days of the Frontier Wars. Army Lt. Richard Pratt had commanded units of Indian scouts and former slaves at Fort Gibson [now Oklahoma] from 1867 to 1875. In 1875 he was given the mission of transporting 72 Indian prisoners from Ft. Sill to prison at Ft. Marion in St. Augustine, Florida, where he provided opportunities for them to learn English and vocations. His Florida experience inspired his interest in off-reservation education for Native Americans as a way for them to assimilate into 'mainstream' American culture.
By 1879, Pratt successfully lobbied the Department of the Interior and the War Department for the establishment of an Indian school at the abandoned cavalry barracks at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The Carlisle site was selected for its distance from the reservations, access to established transportation and proximity to business and political centers.
Students were recruited directly from the western reservations. Superintendent Pratt, assisted by Miss Sarah Mather, a former teacher in St. Augustine, travelled to the Dakota and Indian Territories where they recruited students from the Sioux, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, and Arapaho reservations. The first students arrived at Carlisle at midnight October 6, 1879, with others following three weeks later. After overcoming shortages of food, clothing and other supplies, Pratt made modifications to existing buildings on Carlisle Barracks. By February 1880, the school had an enrollment of 147.
The school was financed through two primary sources--government funds and private donations--under the control of a Board of Trustees. Eventually, the athletic fund contributed to the operating budget of the school. In 1883, Congress authorized support for off-reservation schools through a national fund dedicated to Native American education.
The Growth of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School
The curriculum of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School combined an academic program that emphasized English language skills with vocational training. The school sought to prepare Native American students for life in American society and for skilled jobs in numerous industries. Once the student mastered English, pre-vocational courses were introduced, as were more advanced academic subjects, including chemistry, physics, government, history, advanced mathematics, and biology. The daily schedules combined hands-on work experience, academic classes, a study hour, and extracurricular activities.
The first students were enrolled for a minimum of three years. The curriculum requirements changed over the years and the minimum stay later was extended to five years. The full course of study at Carlisle required ten years to complete.
The first class graduated in 1889. The faculty encouraged students interested in furthering their academic education to enroll in college preparatory schools and colleges. The majority of the students pursued vocational training. Vocational training offered to students included shoemaking, tinsmithing, carpentry, blacksmithing, wagon-making, bricklaying telegraphy and domestic arts, such as dressmaking, sewing, laundering, cooking, child care and nursing.
Carlisle also offered agricultural training and eventually, the school operated three farms. The school approached self-sufficiency with the production of food and the manufacture of clothing, kitchen utensils, rugs, furniture, leather goods and wagons. Under the supervision of craftsmen, students constructed numerous wood frame and masonry buildings on the school campus, many of which are included in the National Historic Landmark District.
Military uniforms and drill were the order of the day. Additionally, The school sponsored newspapers and a literary magazine, known by several titles during their existence, such as School News and The Redman. The band was in demand at celebrations in major cities. The 'gazebo' on Carlisle Barracks' parade ground stands where the Indian School bandstand once stood; it's named Carlisle Indian School bandmaster Dennis Wheelock.
An outing system was coordinated by Miss Anne Ely, for whom Anne Ely Hall is named. Through this program, students lived and worked with host families for extended periods of time, usually during the summer months. Students were eligible to participate in this program after completing two years at the school and demonstrating proficiency in English. The students received wages that were deposited in interest-bearing bank accounts maintained by the school. These accounts were turned over to the students when they left the school.
Sports and the Indian School
The Carlisle Indian School first played collegiate football against Yale in 1896. Soon its teams were regularly playing Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Lehigh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Princeton. By 1897, Carlisle football was known throughout the country, a fame that garnered financial support. Baseball, track, and lacrosse teams were also well known. Some athletes were celebrated by the popular media, including Jim Thorpe, Charles 'Chief' Bender and Louis Tewanima -- and coaches and trainers, "Pop" Warner, Vance McCormick, and Wallace Denny.
Jim Thorpe, the school's greatest football and track and field athlete, won the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Because of the accomplishments of Thorpe and long-distance runner Tewanima, the Indian School accumulated more points at the1912 Olympics than any college or university in the United States.
The Later Years and Decline of the School
Pratt's intent to create an alternative to the "blanket dependency" encouraged by the reservation system celebrated the Native American's potential for independence and economic well-being. The school's focus on acculturation came at the expense of the native cultures and languages. When officials in the Bureau of Indian Affairs pressed Pratt to modify his system to include non-white cultures, he resisted and on May 25, 1904, was placed on the retired list as a brigadier general.
His successor, Captain William G. Mercer, gave students more freedom. Native arts and crafts were encouraged and evening moral lectures ceased, as the spirit of Richard Henry Pratt faded. In October 1914, the school celebrated its 35th anniversary.
Under his successor, Captain William G. Mercer, the emphasis was on the practical, not the ideal. The School became more open to the currents of opinion throughout society. Students were given more freedom; lax discipline was noticeable. Native arts and crafts were encouraged and evening moral lectures ceased, as the spirit of Richard Henry Pratt faded. In October 1914, the School celebrated its 35th anniversary.
Native Americans served in 'the Great War,' but the 1st World War triggered closure of the 39-year-old Carlisle Indian Industrial School. On September 1, 1918, Carlisle Barracks reverted to War Department control.
Army Service Schools Return
Medical, Information, Adjutant Generals and Chaplain Schools 1918-1950
With the ending of the Indian School experiment, Carlisle Barracks returned to Army control for another experiment, General Hospital No. 31. This was a pioneering rehabilitation center established at the end of the First World War..
In the fall of 1920, the post became home to the Medical Field Service School. Established under the command of Col. Percy M. Ashburn, the school drew upon the lessons of World War I and began its mission to develop medical equipment and doctrine suitable for the battlefield.
At the same time, the school used classroom instruction and frequent field exercises to train the Army in the care and handling of casualties, as well as in the prevention of disease newly commissioned Medical Service officers underwent a rigorous five-month basic course, while National Guard and Reserve officers attended six-week courses. Selected noncommissioned officers from all the components received eight weeks of training. In all, over 30,000 officers and NCOs passed through the school during its 26-year tenure at Carlisle Barracks.
When the Medical Field Service School departed for Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, in 1946, it left behind a legacy of educational development that continued in other forms during the immediate post-World War II years.
From 1946 until 1951, no less than six Army schools were located briefly at Carlisle Barracks. The Army Information School arrived first, followed shortly by the School for Government of Occupied Areas and then the Adjutant General's School. The next year brought the Chaplain School and the Military Police School. Finally, the last of the six, the Army Security Agency School, began its highly classified operations in 1949 and stayed for two years before being displaced by yet another school, the Army's highest.
War College Relocates and Reopens (1951)
The U.S. Army War College, senior educational institution of the U.S. Army, arrived in the spring of 1951 to begin the latest stage of the post's history.
Established in 1903 and located in Washington, D.C., the college had functioned as part of the General Staff during its early years, but chiefly had prepared selected officers for high command. The U.S. Army War College was conceived by Secretary of War Elihu Root -- "Not to promote war but to preserve peace by intelligent and adequate preparation to repel aggression." Distinguished graduates of that period included John J. Pershing (Class of 1905), Dwight D. Eisenhower (1927),
There were no classes in 1918 and 1919 due to W.W.I. In 1940, classes were suspended during the preparedness mobilization for World War II. In 1946, the properties previously used by the institution at Fort McNair were turned over to the newly established National War College in Washington D.C. The new commandant, Lt. Gen. Joseph M. Swing, relocated with the college to Pennsylvania and turned over command to his successor, Lt. Gen. Edward M. Almond, on July 1, 1951 just in time for the arrival of the first Carlisle-based class.
At Carlisle, the Army War College grew steadily as it performed its mission of preparing officers for leadership at the highest levels. The Class of 1952 numbered 152 officers; the resident Class of 1995 graduated 321 officers and civilians. The 44 classes that have undertaken the intensive 10-month resident course also increased in diversity. Army officers predominate, but there are representatives from all Services and selected government agencies. The military students are colonels, lieutenant colonels, or Navy captains and commanders with 17 to 23 years' service.
Meanwhile, the two-year non-resident course, which produced its first class of 122 graduates in 1970, had 644 students enrolled in 1995. Staff and faculty size kept apace, growing from an initial 67 to the present 222.
The college soon outgrew its main academic building and transferred to the present building, Root Hall, in 1967. Adding scope and dimension to the educational effort were two specialized agencies that evolved into integral parts of the Army War College: the Strategic Studies Institute, first formed in 1954, and the Military History Institute, established in 1967. The Center for Strategic Leadership, a state-of-the-art war gaming complex that opened in 1994, adds yet another unique dimension to the college and to Carlisle Barracks' history as a distinctive U.S. Army campus.
The main post area of Carlisle Barracks is approximately 4/5 of a mile long and 1/2 mile wide, containing 217 acres. Other areas detached but adjacent or nearby are owned by the government and the post is responsible for them. They are the Stanwix area, containing family housing; the Army Heritage Education Center complex; and the Farm 2 area, containing principally a golf course, heliport and stables. The total acreage of the reservation is 456 acres, on which are located approximately 300 government-owned buildings.