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Carlisle Barracks
Carlisle, Pennsylvania
USA War College Device.png
US Army War College Device
Type School Post
Built May, 1757
In use Currently
Controlled by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command

Carlisle Barracks is a United States Army facility located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It is part of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command and is the site of the U.S. Army War College. It is the nation’s second oldest active military base.[1]


Early history

Carlisle, at the intersection of Indian trails along Letort Creek, had become the jumping-off point for traders and settlers heading over the Alleghenies on their way west. 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. From 1783 - 1837, Carlisle's significance was as frontier gateway to the west.

In 1794, Carlisle Barracks became the center of intense military activity. President George Washington journeyed to the Barracks to review the troops—perhaps as many as 10,000—gathered to face the Whiskey Rebellion. The crisis was posed by farmers in southwestern Pennsylvania who 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.

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 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 paid $664.20 for the 27 acres (110,000 m²) that it had been renting from William Penn's heirs.

Carlisle Barracks hosted the Army's small but elite mounted force, the forerunner of the Armor School now at Fort Knox, Kentucky, when the School of Cavalry Practice was established in 1838. Capt. E. V. Sumner found most of the Barracks buildings in disrepair, the maneuver area less than adequate, and the 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.

Another mounted organization, horse-drawn light artillery, also 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.

Civil War

From the early Civil War days, south-central Pennsylvania was rife with rumors of a Confederate invasion up the Shenandoah-Cumberland Valley from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Although many miles from the combat front, the garrison at Carlisle became a central supply center for ordnance stores, horses, and quartermaster supplies under Capt. Daniel H. Hastings. Recruits, once destined for Indian-fighting units on the western frontier, were prepared to replace casualties in Regular Army units. Entire units were sent to the Barracks to refit before specific deployment.

In June 1863, 'the Rebels are coming!' was a cry with substance. In spite of a small Pennsylvania militia and home guard force, Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins' Confederate cavalry entered Carlisle at 10 a.m. on June 27. Jenkins led his mounted brigade east along the Trindle Road, where they bivouacked while rations were hauled from town in wagons. He had levied a demand for food for his 1,500 men and forage for their horses. Three North Carolina brigades occupied Carlisle Barracks; the troops camped on the parade grounds.

Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry division approached Carlisle from the east on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1. Depleted of rations and forage by a sweeping march around the Union Army, Stuart hoped to find desperately needed provisions—unaware that other Confederate units had already sought the same Carlisle provisions. Stuart sent a demand for surrender of the Federal forces under the command of Brig. Gen. William Farrar Smith. When his demand was refused, Stuart initiated a short bombardment. When a second demand was refused, Stuart ordered his troops to shell the town and, later, to torch the barracks. See Battle of Carlisle.

Postbellum era

After the Civil War ended the Barracks returned to its pre-war mission of receiving, training and forwarding recruits destined for the Indian-fighting Army. But, as Army operations moved west, the War Department saw the wisdom of moving the function to the St. Louis Arsenal in Missouri. On April 20, 1871, Carlisle Barracks was officially "discontinued as a sub-Depot for the Mounted Recruit Service." The installation was now available for the next use in its history.

In 1879, the War Department passed control of the post to the Department of the Interior for the 39-year Indian School program. Commanding General of the Army William T. Sherman had acceded to the petitions of Richard Pratt for an Indian School where they could receive an education apart from the reservations, and live among white men and women. Pratt became the Carlisle Indian Industrial School's founder and first superintendent.

20th Century

On September 1, 1918, Carlisle Barracks reverted back to the War Department, ushering in an era of inventive responses to the changing Army and security environment. General Hospital No. 31 was a pioneering rehabilitation center established at the end of World War I. During its brief two-year existence, the hospital provided medical treatment, mental reconditioning and even vocational training for more than 4,000 afflicted soldiers returned from service with the American Expeditionary Forces in France.

In the fall of 1920, the Medical Field Service School was established under Col. Percy M. Ashburn's command. Drawing on the lessons of World War I, the school developed medical equipment and doctrine suitable for the battlefield. More than 30,000 officers and NCOs passed through the school during its 26-year tenure at Carlisle Barracks, applying classroom instruction and field exercises to train in care and handling of casualties and disease prevention.

When the Medical Field Service School departed for Fort Sam Houston at San Antonio, Texas, in 1946, educational innovation continued. 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.

The U.S. Army War College, senior educational institution of the U.S. Army, relocated to Carlisle Barracks 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. Distinguished graduates of that period included John J. Pershing (Class of 1905), Dwight D. Eisenhower (1927), and Omar N. Bradley (1934). Classes were suspended in 1940 during the preparedness mobilization for World War II, and not resumed until a decade later at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for the 1950-51 academic year. The new commandant, Lt. Gen. Joseph M. Swing, relocated with the college to Pennsylvania in July 1951 and turned over command to his successor, Lt. Gen. Edward M. Almond, 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 college soon outgrew its main academic building (the current Upton Hall) and transferred to the newly constructed Root Hall in 1967. Two specialized agencies 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, contributed another unique dimension to the college and to Carlisle Barracks' history as a distinctive U.S. Army campus.


The installation was originally listed as a candidate for closure and realignment, as part of the most recent round of BRAC hearings. On August 15, 2005, BRAC 2005 was approved, and Carlisle Barracks will remain open. In 2006, Carlisle Barracks broke ground on a significant project to construct new military housing, which was previously delayed by BRAC.[2]


  1. ^ "Military Installations in Cumberland County". Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation. 2005. Retrieved 2007-01-28.  
  2. ^ "Ground breaks for new military housing". The Sentinel. 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-28.  

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