Exploring Cumberland Valley History

To continue our spotlight on local tourism, we share with you a recent visit taken by one of our marketing personnel, Cheryl W., to the Cumberland Valley area.

The Cumberland Valley is centrally located in the middle of the most visited region in Pennsylvania.  A good place to start your journey is the Cumberland Valley Visitors Center.  Here you will find maps and brochures to plan your trip.  If you are a history buff, walk around the corner to the Cumberland County Historical Society.  This award winning museum contains 18 galleries including items from The Carlisle Indian School and military memorabilia from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War.  The Historical Society also houses the Hamilton Library and Photo Archives.  This is a great starting point to search your genealogy and ancestry, since the Cumberland Valley was a gateway for most settlers traveling through the area.

Heritage Trail Tank

The Carlisle Barracks is the second oldest Army post in the United States.  George Washington and 14,000 men stayed here on their way to western Pennsylvania to halt the Whiskey Rebellion of 1774.  The post was settled more than 250 years ago and has historical buildings dating back as far as 1777.  The oldest building was a storage facility for explosive material during the American Revolutionary War.  Construction of the Carlisle Iron Works Furnace and the Pine Grove Iron Furnace began during this time to produce cannons for the war. The Cumberland Valley was a major contributor of supplies, food, weapons and of course soldiers.  The Carlisle Barracks became the headquarters for these supplies.

Some buildings at the post had to be rebuilt, having been burned by the Confederates in 1863.   Confederate forces fought against the Pennsylvania militia as they tried to make their way to Harrisburg. Damage to the old courthouse in Carlisle was caused by artillery fire.  Confederate troops got as far north as Mechanicsburg before being called upon to go to Gettysburg.

Control of the Carlisle Barracks was passed from the War Department to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1879.  The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was founded as the first off reservation government boarding school for Native American children. The school provided an education of English, vocational skills, academics and physical fitness to more than 12,000 Native American students.  Its most famous graduate was gold medal Olympian, Jim Thorpe, the only athlete to ever win both the pentathlon and the decathlon.  Coached by Glenn “Pop” Warner, Jim Thorpe also excelled in professional football as well as baseball and basketball.  When the school closed 39 years later, the War Department regained control of the post.

Jim Thorpe

For the next 3 decades, the Carlisle Barracks served as a medical school and rehab hospital during World War I and World War II.  It has been home to the U S Army War College since 1951.

Take a short drive to continue on with your tour at the US Army Heritage and Education Center.  Upon entry into this interactive and interpretive facility, your first stop will be the information desk to pick up your “dog tag”.  You will use your dog tag, as you experience Army life as your soldier did, while walking throughout the Soldier Experience Gallery.  The gallery highlights the history of the US Army from the Spanish American War to current missions of the Global War on Terror.  As you make your way through the gallery, you can test your skills in marksmanship at the digital shooting range.

Travel on to exhibits of the Spanish American War, Philippine Insurrection, China Relief Expedition and World Wars I and II featuring a real tank.  Next you will try to parachute into Normandy as you participate in the D Day Invasion and then experience a night attack during the Korean War.  Move on to the Vietnam War as you learn about helicopter pilot missions and then on to Desert Storm and finally the Global War on Terror.

The library and archives research facility is located in Ridgeway Hall at the US Army Heritage & Education Center.  Over 14 million items, including a large collection of Civil War photos, are located here.  The archives are carefully cataloged and organized and kept in a state of the art temperature controlled, fire controlled, water controlled environment.

An exhibit on America’s last five-star General Omar Nelson Bradley is also on display.  Memorabilia of the General included in this collection is his invitation to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, duck call, sword and sheath, golf trophies, ice bucket and lighter.

Parachute Jump

The Army Heritage Trail is the outdoor portion of the museum covering one mile around the grounds.  The trail highlights various periods in US Army history with large full scale exhibits.  These interactive exhibits include a Civil War encampment, a World War I trench system, artillery, a Cobra helicopter and a Sherman tank.

General Bradley

The Cumberland Valley Visitors Center, The Cumberland County Historical Society, The Carlisle Barracks and The US Army Heritage and Education Center are all free to the public.

Have you recently been to any of these local destinations?  Where is your favorite place to visit in the Cumberland  Valley?