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 Carlisle Barracks Story - British Beginnings

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 continued expansion. 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 commander himself apparently felt little threat, for he reported in June, "I am throwing up earthworks round our camp, and if it may have no other use, it keeps soldiers properly employed."

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.

Gen. John Forbes commanded the force mobilized for action against the French and Indians. Included in Forbes' army were the Royal Americans, a regiment of regulars raised within the American colonies. Col. Henri Bouquet, a Swiss mercenary, trained the Royal Americans in counter-guerrilla tactics. Their preparations for warfare against the Indians included lighter firearms with "browned" barrels, snipped-off coattails, short hair, and frontier footgear.

In 1758 the British Army left Carlisle and hacked its way west along the Raystown Indian path. This difficult route, named for the commander Forbes, would become a major avenue for late 18th century settlement - and in the 20th century, sections of the road were incorporated into "The Lincoln Highway," US Route 30. By November, the army reached Ft. Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio River, only to discover the French had blown up the fort and moved on. A stockade, renamed Ft. Pitt, was constructed for the troops remaining behind when the major force returned to Carlisle, arriving January 7, 1759.

The provincial troops saw little reason to remain in the army, now that the frontier was quiet. Col. John Armstrong was sent with replacement regulars and with cash to pay off the restless colonials.

In the early 1760's, the Ottawa chief, Pontiac, was spokesman for the frustrations Indians were experiencing as the French and English took turns laying claim to his peoples' land. He formed an alliance with other tribes, determined to drive the English into the sea.

Forts at Detroit, Niagara and Pitt soon fell. In panic, white settlers in the Carlisle area took revenge on local Indians, only serving to focus Pontiac's attention on Central Pennsylvania. His warriors moved as far east as Sherman's Valley, which was separated by only one mountain ridge from Bouquet's encampment.

Though a flood of refugees complicated his efforts, Bouquet energetically trained his force for an expedition to relieve Ft. Pitt. On July 18, 1763 a force of 460 headed west. At Bushy Run a large number of warriors engaged the expedition in battle and Pitt was occupied August 10th. A second British expedition under John Armstrong moved from Carlisle up the Susquehanna and destroyed numerous Indian villages.

Bouquet had hoped to move farther west from Ft. Pitt, so as to break Pontiac's resistance once and for all, but he lacked reinforcements and so returned to Carlisle. Regarded as a great Indian fighter, Armstrong, in an act of irony, came to the aid of the enemy when settlers in Central Pennsylvania committed outrages against peaceful Indians.

By the fall of 1764, Bouquet's troops were able to move into the wilderness beyond Ft. Pitt. The chiefs then sued for peace. Bouquet returned to Carlisle, bringing back with him a long column of rescued whites who had been captured during Pontiac's War.

There was little activity at the Carlisle encampment after 1765, and by 1769 occupying British troops had moved to Philadelphia. Buildings that had been used by the 42nd Black Watch Highlanders and 60th Royal American Regiment of Foot fell quickly to the ravishing of nature and local scavengers.

In December 1776 the Continental Congress authorized establishment of an ordnance center at Washingtonburg, as the Barracks was known during the Revolutionary War.

Skilled arms makers and artisans had been attracted to Carlisle during the years of the British Army activity. Iron furnaces flourished along nearby South Mountain. It was, therefore, natural that the site, well to the interior of the besieged seaboard, should be of use to the colonies when they broke from the Crown and rushed to build an army of their own.

 
 

  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.

 
 

  Frontier Gateway (1783-1837)

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.

No longer exclusively destined for the Western frontier to garrison forts or replace units fighting Indians, new soldiers were now sent to eastern locations as a precautionary measure against possible Confederate insurgency. Baltimore and Washington received new troops from the central Pennsylvania post. Lt. Roger Jones led a company to Baltimore, only to have his small command ordered westward to protect the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Inadequate to its tasking, his force set fire to and abandoned the arsenal on April 19, 1861 before returning to Carlisle.

From the outset of declared war in April 1861, South-Central Pennsylvania was rife with rumors of an impending Confederate invasion. While there was little fact to substantiate most rumors, they were understandable considering the relative location of Carlisle and the Barracks. The Blue Ridge Mountains actually provided a formidable barrier to any enemy incursion from the west towards commercial and transportation centers in the tidewater, but the Shenandoah Valley was a natural invasion corridor from Virginia to Pennsylvania.

To support large troop movements, there were only three viable passages through the mountains from the Shenandoah Valley into the plain where Harrisburg, Washington, Baltimore and other population centers were located. (Note that in Pennsylvania, these features are commonly known as South Mountain and the Cumberland Valley). In Virginia the pass at Harper's Ferry and in Pennsylvania, passes at Cashtown and Papertown ( Mt. Holly Springs). Strategically located near the Holly Springs Pass, Carlisle laid at the northern end of any planned Confederate invasion route.

Capt. Daniel H. Hastings assumed command of the "Headquarters, Mounted Recruiting Service" at Carlisle Barracks in September 1861. Under his capable leadership, the post efficiently operated as a supply center. As the Northern war effort increased in momentum, the garrison at Carlisle became a central supply center. Ordnance stores, horses, and quartermaster supplies were gathered at the Barracks and sent south to supply the huge Federal Army forming around the nation's capitol.

Personnel from northeastern United States were received here and sent to replace casualties in Regular Army units. Entire units were sent to the Barracks to refit before specific deployment. Although many miles from the combat front, the post had first-hand knowledge of the war from the thousands of recruits and tons of supplies which passed through the facility.

 
 

  Battle of Gettysburg

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.

Leading the advance was the 25,000-man corps of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell. His three divisions would eventually occupy a wide arch through south central Pennsylvania from Shippensburg to Carlisle to York.

Refugees from points south poured into Carlisle. Because the post had "no means of defense," Captain Hastings ordered the garrison and all movable government property relocated to Harrisburg. Despite a small Pennsylvania militia and home guard force, Brig. Gen. Albert Jenkins' Confederate cavalry entered Carlisle at 10 a.m. on June 27th. They were met by a group of town residents led by Burgess William N. Penrose and Assistant Burgess Robert Allison. Both men assured Jenkins that he would meet no resistance from the citizens of Carlisle.

Satisfied that the town contained no armed troops, Jenkins immediately levied a demand for food for 1,500 men and forage for their horses. The citizenry complied as best they could, storing the goods in the market house. Jenkins led his mounted brigade east along the Trindle Road, where they bivouacked while the rations were hauled forward from town in wagons.

Jenkins' cavalry had been the vanguard of a larger force, a large division of Ewell's corps commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes. Rodes approached Carlisle on the Walnut Bottom Road, entered the town on what is today High Street, and began taking up positions in the borough. Alabama troops (Col. E.A. O'Neal's brigade) guarded the eastern edge of town on Trindle Road and Georgia troops (Brig. Gen. George Doles' Brigade) bivouacked on the campus of Dickinson College and guarded the western entrance of the town.

Three other brigades (all North Carolinians under Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur, Alfred Iverson, and Junius Daniel) headed north through the town and occupied Carlisle Barracks. Mild weather permitted the troops the luxury of camping on the Barracks' parade ground.

Gen. Ewell, who had accompanied Rodes' Division into Pennsylvania, established his headquarters in the Post Commanders' quarters. His and Rodes' staffs occupied other officers quarters. Early in his career, Ewell had been stationed at the Barracks, and during this second stay received visits from many friends he had made during that duty. Social pleasantries aside, the Confederate General commenced with his primary mission, that of gathering supplies. Once his headquarters were established, he sent forth a requisition for 1,500 barrels of flour, 5,000 pounds of coffee, medicine, surgical instruments and other stores. The citizenry's unsatisfactory response forced him to order a house-to-house search through the town for provisions.

Although he sent Jenkins' Cavalry on a probing mission toward Harrisburg on Sunday, June 28th, Gen. Ewell proclaimed the day as one of rest. B. Tucker Lacy, a chaplain accompanying the corps, conducted two church services at the Barracks. At least one of his sermons concerned his recently deceased commander, Gen. "Stonewall Jackson." A committee of town clergymen asked Ewell for permission to include their usual prayer for President Lincoln, to which the gruff Confederate replied, "Pray for him. I'm sure he needs it."

That Sunday, officers of Rodes' command enjoyed what would for many be their last real dinner, courtesy of stores left when the Federal garrison abandoned the post. General Ramseur wrote his wife that one morning during his stay, he had breakfasted on iced salmon. Enlisted personnel throughout the town made do . . . a soldier of the 12th Alabama Infantry sought his Sunday dinner at the National Hotel, recalling later that he "registered in the midst of an unfriendly and rough looking crowd of rough looking men. Had a poor dinner rather ungraciously served by a Dutchy looking young waitress..."

Ewell ordered a flag-raising ceremony at the Barracks on Sunday afternoon. Witnessed by most of the troops at the post, the 32d North Carolina Infantry Regiment raised the new Confederate national flag, the "Stars and Bars," as a band played. The Confederate presence at Carlisle and Carlisle Barracks was brief. The post was fair game for the invader, but strict instructions from General Lee forbade willful destruction of citizens' property. Four of Rodes' soldiers, caught disregarding this edict, were tied together and marched about the town to the tune of the "Rogue's March," with signs on their backs reading, "These men have disgraced themselves by pillaging women's gardens." The band noted that the onlookers were enjoying the spectacle entirely too much and changed their tune to "Yankee Doodle."

Ewell was certain he could successfully move his entire force to Harrisburg to capture the state capitol, and readied Rodes' Division to this end. But orders from General Lee soon changed his plan. Lee sent two recall messages to Ewell at Carlisle, but it is unclear exactly when they were either sent or received. One read, "If you have not already progressed on the road, and if you have no good reason against it, I desire you to move in the direction of Gettysburg...and you can thus join your other division to Early's, which is east of the mountains."

Giving his men a night's rest, Ewell began to move his men southward on the morning of June 30th. They were to remain east of the mountains and concentrate at a point north of Gettysburg, ultimately allowing themselves the flexibility of movement on either side of the Blue Ridge. Within a day and a half, nearly half of Rodes' command would lie dead or wounded on the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Union militia units arrived at Carlisle shortly after the departure of Ewell/Rodes. Assuming that they were now safe from the southern invader, citizens received the militia with gratitude and breathed a sigh of relief. The elation would not long endure, as another Confederate force was on the way.

A cavalry division commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart approached Carlisle from the east on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1st. Depleted of his rations and forage by a sweeping march around the Union Army, Stuart hoped to find desperately needed provisions as well as part of his own Army with which he could link-up.

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."

Stuart failed to mention that a lumberyard, a gas works and two nearby houses in the town fell as well victim to his fires. One structure at the Barracks, however, may have been intentionally spared. According to legend, the home of a longtime Post resident and employee, Michael "Pop" Sanno was not burned at the express insistence of Gen. Fitzhugh Lee.

Meanwhile, the Battle of Gettysburg had begun. Lee had learned of Stuart's whereabouts through an aide. A signal flashed from South Mountain summoned the gadabout cavalryman southward on July 2nd, and Carlisle was once again free of Confederates. Gen. Smith's militia force occupied the Barracks grounds on the 2nd, where it remained until July 14th, awaiting supply trains from Harrisburg. On that day, Capt. Hastings returned to the Barracks and re-established the depot. He found the facility in a massive state of disrepair, and immediately set about the task of rebuilding.

Depot activities resumed and the reconstruction of the post continued at a rapid pace through the next year. Maj. Hastings (he was promoted in November) was relieved of post command in April 1864. His aggressive rebuilding program had come under much scrutiny. Charges of favoritism in awarding contracts to local businessmen had prompted a War Department investigation and ultimately Hastings was court-martialed.

Also in April 1864, land northeast of the Post was leased to establish a reception center for substitutes and draftees. Known as Camp Biddle, this facility was the source of much local consternation. Late war recruits did not possess the high degree of discipline as those who had passed through the Barracks early in the war, and a fence to keep them in was proposed. Records do not show if the fence was ever constructed, but its need ceased when, on April 9, 1865, the Civil War ended and the pace of activity at Carlisle Barracks greatly diminished.

The Post returned to its pre-war mission of receiving, training and forwarding recruits destined for the Indian-fighting Army. The wisdom of relocating that mission to a site closer to the destination of the men and animals was not lost on the War Department. On December 15, 1870, the Department officially transferred the function to St. Louis Arsenal, Missouri, and 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 step in its varied history.

 
 

  Army Service Schools Return

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.

During its brief, two-year existence, the hospital provided medical treatment, mental reconditioning and even vocational training for over 4,000 afflicted soldiers returned from service with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. The unique hospital complex paved the way for the next cycle of Carlisle Barracks' evolution into a major educational center of the U.S. Army.

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.

 
 

  Army War College 1951-Present

The Army War College - the primary mission at Carlisle Barracks today 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 College was conceived by Root -- "Not to promote war but to preserve peace by intelligent and adequate preparation to repel aggression."

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 (1927), George Patton (1932), Omar Bradley (1934 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.

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.

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.

The Army War College continues to adapt to the needs of the nation for strategic leaders. As demands increase, so has the class size. The Class of 1952 numbered 152 officers; the resident Class of 2017 includes 381 students, including 279 military officers from all branches of the Armed Forces, 28 government civilians and 74 International Fellows. Meanwhile, the two-year non-resident course, which produced its first class of 122 graduates in 1970, has 395 students in the Class of 2017.

Army War College Schools, Centers and Institutes include: The Center for Strategic Leadership - the Collins Center, Strategic Studies Institute, Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, and The Army Heritage and Education Center.