Serving the Army and the Nation for over 250 Years

By Jessica J. Sheets, U.S. Army Military History InstituteMay 26, 2010

Medical Training:
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Horse troops!
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Forgotten Passages.
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Football Stars:
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The history of Carlisle Barracks, Pa., reaches back to May 30, 1757, when British Col. John Stanwix established a Royal Army camp there during the French and Indian War. The story of Carlisle Barracks from its earliest days also offers glimpses at various Army schools. Woven into those glimpses are lives of individual Soldiers who commanded, studied, and trained there.

In 1777, Captain Isaac Coren was appointed by Gen. George Washington to command an artillery laboratory at Carlisle Barracks, and then known as Washingtonburg. Soldiers and workmen made cannon and ammunition to support the Continental Army. In February 1778, it was noted "that Captain Isaac Coren receive monthly, twenty five dollars additional pay, besides his present appointments; In consideration of his teaching the Labaratory [sic] Art to such Officers of Artillery as shall be sent to him for that purpose." Coren was an instructor at what may have been the Army's first school.

The School of Cavalry Practice was another major school at the barracks. It occupied the post from 1838 to 1871 and withstood the burning of the post by Confederates during the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863. One Soldier of the time left his mark. Capt. Henry P. Wade etched "H. P. Wade, 8th Cavalry, Feb 12th 1868," on a window in his barracks, which is now Coren Apartments.

One particular school, at the post from 1879-1918, was not an Army school. It was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, founded by cavalry lieutenant, later Brig. Gen. Richard Henry Pratt. The post had been vacant since the School of Cavalry Practice moved west. With Pratt's idea and direction, many of the students for the Indian School came from the west. One of the most famous students was athlete Jim Thorpe, who attended the school in the early 1900s. He is known for his football, baseball, and track skills and competed in track in the 1912 Olympics.

The Indian School closed to make way for General Hospital No. 31, which cared for wounded World War I Soldiers. The hospital closed and was followed by the Medical Field Service School in 1920. The 1944 Medical Field Service School "Handbook of Information" stated that "the most extensive and important effort in the training of medical officers for field duty in the present war is being made at the Medical Field Service School." Soldiers at the school were trained to prevent disease and to treat wounded Soldiers.

That school was moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1946. Schools that spent brief stints at Carlisle Barracks following the Medical Field Service School include the Armed Forces Information School, the School for Government of Occupied Areas, the Adjutant General's School, the Chaplain School, the Military Police School, and the Army Security Agency School. In 1951, the Army War College arrived, the Army's highest educational institution. Graduates of the War College since it came to Carlisle include Generals Creighton Abrams (1953), H. Norman Schwarzkopf (1973), Richard Myers (1981), and Tommy Franks (1985).

Still at the post today, the Army War College continues its mission as "the Army's ultimate professional development institution that prepares selected military, civilian, and international leaders for the responsibilities of strategic leadership in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational environment." Carlisle Barracks has provided crucial training to Soldiers throughout its history. Not all, but many, Army roads lead back to or through Carlisle - artillery, cavalry, medical - and now many officers planning their careers look toward Carlisle. Each Soldier and each branch of the Army that has passed through the post has a story to tell. Soldiers of all installations have a story as well.

The Military History Institute at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC), Carlisle Barracks, is a place that acquires, preserves, and makes available records related to Army history. That facility is a place where Soldiers can send original materials or where anyone can come to do research. AHEC is committed to "Telling the Army Story . . . One Soldier at a Time." Currently on display at AHEC are two exhibits: "Carlisle Barracks Then and Now: A Photographic Retrospective" and "America's Last Five Star General: Omar Nelson Bradley."

Related Links:

A Working Bibliography of MHI Sources: Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania

A Working Bibliography of MHI Sources: Carlisle Indian Industrial School

A Working Bibliography of MHI Sources: Army War College Overview

Audio/Video: Carlisle Barracks