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. Click the image at the left to download a history of Carlisle Barracks.
Carlisle Barracks History
Early beginnings at Carlisle
Carlisle, established in 1751 at the intersection of Indian trails along the Letort Creek, became a jumping-off point for traders and settlers heading west over the Allegheny Mountains. In 1757, the British established a military post at Carlisle under Col. John Stanwix during the French and Indian War.
In late 1776, the Continental Congress authorized a laboratory and magazine at Carlisle, which soon expanded to a manufacturing center and an arsenal, known locally as Washingtonburg. 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. The Hessian Powder Magazine is said to have been constructed during the Revolutionary War by captured Hessian soldiers; the fieldstone gunpowder storehouse complemented the foundry work to fill artillery requirements of the new nation.
In addition to Flower’s Regiment of Artificers, there was an artillery school under Capt. Isaac Coren. Carlisle played an important role in supplying artillery material to Henry Knox, Washington’s Chief of Artillery.
In 1801, the 27 acres of Carlisle Barracks became federal property when purchased from the heirs of William Penn for $664.20.
Cavalry School gives way to Civil War Era
In 1836, the School of CavalryPractice was established by Capt. E.V. Sumner. This school would be theforerunner of the Armor School. It recruited and trained officers and soldiersfor frontier service with mounted units, and tested the equipment and tacticsthey would use. In time, cavalrymen trained at Carlisle would serve with boththe Union and Confederate armies in the Civil War.
As of September 1861, the Mounted Recruiting Service at CarlisleBarracks trained new Calvary officers.
At the height of the Civil War, in 1863, Confederate Brig. Gen. AlbertJenkins captured the post in a drive toward Harrisburg. It was occupied brieflyby Confederate Gen. Richard S. Ewell, and then by Confederate Maj. Gen. J. E.B. Stuart, whose troops burned much of the town of Carlisle and all but one ortwo buildings on post. The Confederate stay at Carlisle was cut short in Julyby orders to turn south to Gettysburg.
Carlisle Indian Industrial School
In the aftermath of the CivilWar, frontier support centers moved west. The post had been little used whenArmy Lt. Richard Pratt envisioned a vocational school for Native Americanchildren. In 1879, the post was transferred to the Department of the Interior’sBureau of Indian Affairs. Between 1879 and 1918, the Carlisle Indian IndustrialSchool educated more than 10,000 Native Americans, representing more than 70tribes. Early in the 20th century, annual enrollment reached 1,000 studentswho learned English and trades. The school’s athletes gained fame, but itsonce-progressive reputation diminished as cultural attitudes about the boardingschool changed. World War I triggered the closure of the 39-year-old CarlisleIndian Industrial School. On September 1, 1918, Carlisle Barracks reverted toWar Department control. Carlisle Barracks maintains the Army cemetery here,with honor and respect for the Indian children and the Soldiers who died here,far from home.
For more on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School https://www.armywarcollege.edu/ciis/index.cfm
Army Misson Returns
General Hospital 31 wasestablished here in 1919 for wounded Soldiers of World War I. During its brieftwo-year existence, the hospital provided medical treatment, mentalrehabilitation, and vocational training for more than 4,000 Soldiers returnedfrom service with the American Expeditionary Forces in France.
In 1920, a major expansion of Carlisle Barracks began in support of theMedical Field Service School. Established under the command of Col. Peter M.Ashburn, the school drew upon the lessons of World War I to develop medicalequipment and doctrine suitable for the battlefield. The school used classroominstruction and frequent field exercises to train the Army in the care andhandling of casualties, and in the prevention of disease. More than 30,000officers and noncommissioned officers passed through the school during its26-year tenure at Carlisle Barracks. In 1946 the Army Medical School moved toFt. Sam Houston, Texas.
From 1946 until 1951, the Army created six schools to develop skillsfor post-World War II requirements. The Army Information School arrived first,followed shortly by the School for Government of Occupied Areas and then theAdjutants General School. The next year introduced the Chaplains School andthe Military Police School. Finally, the Army Security Agency School began itstraining for classified operations in 1949. Carlisle Barracks was the Army’stest bed for new schools. These schools later moved to new locations to makeway for the next phase at Carlisle.
U.S. Army War College
When the Army War College arrived at Carlisle Barracks in 1951, it hadalready educated the senior military leaders responsible for the execution oftwo world wars. It had been established in 1901 by Secretary of War Elihu Rootas both a military leadership school and a catalyst for strategic ideas aboutthe “great problems of national defense, military science and responsiblecommand.” Since its first class graduated in 1904 at Washington Barracks (nowFort McNair) the college has evolved to meet the realities of theever-changing strategic environment, reflecting the Army’s commitment to professionaleducation. The USAWC doors shut for two years during World War I and again in1940, to be reopened in 1950 for one year at Fort Leavenworth before settlingpermanently at Carlisle Barracks.
Today, the Army War College develops the nation’s strategic leaders andthe strategic ideas to guide decision-making through its wargaming center, itsresearch and publications arm, its expert center in Peacekeeping and StabilityOperations, and the Army’s premier military history archives and publicmilitary education: the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. AHEC is locatedadjacent to the original Carlisle Barracks, at 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle,17013.
Students of all the Army War College educational programs are officersof the Army and Joint Force: Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard, activeand reserve, as well as senior civilians of the federal agencies associatedwith national security, e.g., the Department of State. As many as 80International Officers from allied and partner nations, live in the Carlislearea. Their impressions of the United States are shaped by friends, neighbors,schools, ballgames, picnics, and a host of other experiences of centralPennsylvania life as well their professional relationships with U.S. Officers.