CARLISLE, PA. - It’s only a three-hour car trip along beautiful roads especially at this time of year, but for historians who like to expand their knowledge of people whose names became known through Monmouth County connections, this is a neat little community with pleasant people, lots of great restaurants, and charming B&Bs at reasonable prices.
Carlisle, located in Cumberland County about 20 miles west of Harrisburg, the state capital, dates to the 1700s when John Armstrong laid out a plan for the city to accommodate the Scot-Irish who settled in the area to farm the land. It’s about five miles in size with just under 20,000 residents and is named for its sister city in England, also located in Cumberland.
For Monmouth Countians, probably the most famous name associated with Carlisle is Molly Pitcher, the legend of the Battle of Monmouth who carried water for the cannons and soldiers when her husband was injured during this turning point of the Revolution. She died in Carlisle in 1832 and is buried in the local cemetery, her monument large and imposing complete with cannon and surrounded by fencing. Almost adjacent to the cemetery is the Molly Pitcher Brewery where any number of brews with fascinating names like Cannonball Kolsch, Redcoat, Patriot Pale Ale, Black Powder Stout and The Minuteman remind visitors of Molly’s days of fame. There’s also the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion restaurant, highlighting the day when President George Washington himself led his troops to squash the insurrection of farmers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey who objected to the whiskey tax. The rebels left before any encounter with the troops, but the tax was not repealed until Thomas Jefferson became President.
Every Wednesday through December, there’s also a terrific Farmer’s Market set up in the heart of town, where you can purchase numerous products from the Amish, like pickled beets and Cole slaw, along with great cheeses; other booths offer unique varieties including Alpaca fur products, salmon from Alaska and fresh produce.
It’s also a great area for wineries, and the Castleriff in the heart of town offers daily wine tastings, and great company.
The city is also home to Dickinson College, named by Benjamin Rush after the Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress who declined to sign the Declaration of Independence. President James Buchanan, the nation’s only bachelor President, is also an alumnus of Dickinson, despite almost being kicked out for bad behavior before being given a second chance at finishing his education.
And it’s in the Museum at the college where there is a Medal of Honor which had been given to a Freehold resident for his service in the Civil War. The Medal of Honor received by the Freehold resident, Pvt. Thomas Fallon, doesn’t honor the Freehold tailor and father of three children, but rather is being used to show the type of Medal of Honor that a Dickinson College alumnus earned during the Civil War.
Nor is there any indication the Medal of Honor on display belongs to our local hero. Rather, the sign simply denotes it was given to Cornelius King to replace the one he had received, also during the Civil War. Of course, that isn’t true either. The Medal of Honor earned by Pvt. Fallon was given to Dickinson College, not General King, in 1957, long after both Civil War heroes had died. In making the presentation to the College named for a non-signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Army simply said they gave the College the honor at their archivist’s request because “among the few old medals on hand we have found one which is of the appropriate type.” The Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest and most esteemed honor for a military person, was ‘salvaged’ the Army said. But there is no indication from where, how, or when it was ‘salvaged,’ or whether in fact any effort had been taken to locate a descendant of the true recipient of this great national honor. It was just one of “a few old medals on hand.” The Congressional Medal of Honor!
Just outside of town is the U.S Army Heritage Education Center and Carlisle Barracks, where Washington went to review the troops for that Whiskey Rebellion. Today it is an outstanding museum with displays, information and artifacts from every war in which the Army has participated from the Civil War to the present. The Barracks is part of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command and the site of the Army’s War College. It’s also the second oldest still active military base in the nation and, had Washington had his way, would have been the site for the Military Academy now at West Point. The Archives has a wealth of information on another famous New Jerseyan, Civil War General Philip Kearny, the same general who recommended Pvt. Fallon for his Congressional Medal of Honor.
Hotels and B&Bs in town look inviting and charming, but even more so is an 18th century B&B set on 1,500 acres of land complete with a handful of horses and rolling hills. The Fallen Tree Farm B&B is minutes from the heart of Carlisle as well as the quaint village of Boiling Springs, a 19th century settlement complete with ironworks stables, an iron furnace, grist mill, and walking tours past great historic homes. B&B Hosts Kim and Brent Hanlin, along with their daughters, give you the privacy you want in a luxurious retreat but the warmth and friendliness of the community..to say nothing of terrific breakfasts including poached pears and caramelized Texas grapefruit before servings of homemade pastries and breads.