Army Barracks (Gettysburg Campaign)

Captain Daniel H. Hasting took over command of the Carlisle Barracks in September 1861. As Thomas G. Tousey explains, “the Mounted Service Depot function… as a general depot receiving [cavalry] recruits from the entire northeastern section of the United States” and prepared them for combat. In addition, Tousey notes that “it also received entire units of the Regular Army that had been withdrawn from the front” and needed new men and equipment. Captain Hastings worked uninterrupted until Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army invaded Pennsylvania in June 1863 and advanced towards Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg. By June 25 the US Army had finished evacuating the barracks. “No means of defense” were available and, as Major Hastings reported, he moved “all munitions of war and movable Government property” to Harrisburg.

Two days later Confederate General Richard S. Ewell’s troops entered Carlisle. While Confederates seized supplies, they did not destroy any buildings at the barracks. Yet the Carlisle (PA) American Volunteer reported that after Confederates left on June 29, “a great many lewd and depraved men and women” had “immediately went to plundering” at the barracks. Not only had “clothing, blankets and apparel of every kind [been] carried away,” but they had “despoiled and ravaged the premises.” Union militia regiments from New York under Major General William F. Smith‘s command  reoccupied the town, but on July 1 General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry arrived and demanded that Union forces in Carlisle surrender. After they refused, Confederates shelled the town. As General Smith reported, Confederates fired “134 shots” and “set fire to a board yard…, to the gas works, and to the barracks.” Stuart’s cavalry left early the following day after they received news about the fight at Gettysburg.

On July 13 Major Hasting returned to reestablish his command at the barracks. While “the buildings [had been] burned,” Hastings reported that that “the brick walls are standing and many of them can be repaired and made available in reconstructing the Barracks.” Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs also sent an architect to the barracks, who concurred with Hastings’ assessment: While “the Officers’ Quarters, Barracks, and Stable … [were] destroyed,” Edward Clark explained that “the walls are standing and are but slightly injured.” Yet repairs did not start right away. In September 1861 a concerned Hasting warned the Quartermaster General that “repairs…progress so slowly that I have little hope of being able to put any portion of the troops under cover before the snow falls.” Carlisle Barracks had been put back in use right away, as Hastings noted that he “[had] nearly two hundred invalids and convalescents from the different Cavalry Regiments.” Hasting’s letter apparently had an effect as by November at least one of the buildings had been finished. After the Gettysburg campaign, the War Department continued to use the barracks as a location for new draftees to meet and a place for cavalrymen to recuperate after they were discharged from a hospital.

After the Confederates surrendered,the War Department stationed elements of the 6th Cavalry at the barracks. Yet as the conflict with Native Americans in the West intensified, the War Department ordered in December 1870 that the barracks’ role as “Principal Depot and station of the Superintendent of the Cavalry Recruiting Service” be transferred to the St. Louis Arsenal in Missouri. While at first the barracks remained open as a “sub-depot,” that too was closed in July 1871. Captain E. V. Summers, whose father opened the cavalry school in 1838, signed the last order at Carlisle Barracks on July 17, 1871 regarding the final instructions for closing the post.

Posted in Civil War (1861-1865), Our History

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