All Things Civil War

The Confederates shelled Carlisle borough on July 1, 1863, during the Battle of Carlisle, part of the Civil War’s Gettysburg Campaign. On June 28, 1863, General Albert Jenkins marched his 700 or so cavalrymen through Mechanicsburg and demanded that the Burgess surrender the Union flag. He also demanded 1,500 rations. After the actions at Oyster Point and Sporting Hill, the Confederates cut down a few telegraph lines, tore up a few rails, and left town.

Main Attractions

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) [free admission] is the Army’s preeminent research and archive facility housing more than 15 million papers, books, artifacts and photographs; many of these cover the Civil War, including the world’s largest collection of Civil War photographs. The Army Heritage Trail at USAHEC [free admission] is a one-mile outdoor trail with interactive exhibits from the French and Indian War through the present, including recreations of Civil War Winter Cabins and a section of the Hagerstown Pike (Battle of Antietam).

The bold, newly redesigned museum at the Cumberland County Historical Society [free museum admission; charge for research] has 16 galleries filled with military weaponry, folk art, wood-carvings, quilts, Carlisle Indian School artifacts and Civil War items including African American military pieces and Captain Robert C. Lamberton’s Civil War diary. It is also a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom facility. The research library contains Civil War books and records.

Monuments, Buildings and Other
  • The Mechanicsburg Museum at the Passenger Station [free admission] has veterans burial lists for Mechanicsburg and Chestnut Hill Cemeteries, texts of diaries and letters written by local soldiers, discharge papers, newspapers clippings and some personal effects including Col. H.I. Zinn’s stirrups. The museum complex occupies the mid-nineteenth century Cumberland Valley Railroad passenger station, stationmaster’s house and freight station.

  • Explore various letters from Civil War soldiers and their families at the Shippensburg Historical Society.

  • The square in downtown Carlisle’s historic district is full of Civil War history. Buildings on the square include the First Presbyterian Church, where President George Washington worshiped in 1794; Saint John's Episcopal Church, Veterans’ Square Civil War Monument dedicated to the men of Cumberland who died in the Civil War, and the 1846 Old Courthouse, which shows damage on the pillars and windowsill caused by Confederate artillery fire on July 1, 1863. TIP: Download the self-guided walking tour of Carlisle’s Wayside Markers.

  • Joseph T. Simpson Public Library, once a grain warehouse, was raided for horse feed and used as a temporary hospital for Jenkins’ men.
     
  • Remains of Fort Couch outpost & Fort Couch Monument.   

  • The Historic Peace Church [June-September: free lawn concerts on Sunday 2-5 p.m.] was the site of the Confederate Artillery Positions that shelled Oyster Point on June 28-29, 1863.

  • The General Jenkins Monument at the Rupp House is dedicated to a Confederate General. 

  • The Carlisle Springs Monument [PA 34, .7 mile N of Carlisle Springs] marks the northernmost point the Confederates reached during the Gettysburg Campaign, but no action occurred due to militia atop Sterrett’s Gap preventing their advance.
    Cemeteries
    • Chestnut Hill Cemetery [319 W. Winding Hill Road, Mechanicsburg] was mistaken by Jenkins’ scouts for an entrenched military position. Civil War and later wars’ veterans are buried here.

    • Carlisle’s Old Public Graveyard [S. Bedford & E. South Sts, Carlisle] is the resting place of 750 veterans. About 550 are from the Civil War, including Charles Seebold, the drummer boy for the 1st U.S. Cavalry, who died at the age of fourteen. TIP: Download the self-guided walking tour for Carlisle’s Old Public Graveyard.

    • Lincoln Colored Cemetery, a.k.a. Chestnut Hill Cemetery [424 W. Winding Hill Rd, Mechanicsburg; .3 miles west of intersection of S. York St and W. Winding Hill Rd, Mechanicsburg] is the resting place of 14 African American Civil War veterans. Cemetery was restored and is maintained by Vietnam Veterans of Mechanicsburg PA Area.

    • Mechanicsburg Cemetery [137 W. Marble St, Mechanicsburg] is the burial location for Civil War and later wars’ veterans, and a monument dedicated to Colonel Henry Zinn (he is buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery).

    • Locust Grove Cemetery [N. Queen St, Shippensburg] – Shippensburg-area African Americans, including 26 Civil War veterans, three of whom served with the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiments, among the first combat units open to black men during the Civil War. TIP: Download the self-guided walking tour of Shippensburg’s Locust Grove Cemetery.

    • William Gorgas is buried in Camp Hill Cemetery [between N. 21st Street to the east and N. 23rd Street to the west with Walnut Street to the South and Logan Street on the north]. At the age of 14, Gorgas witnessed the Confederates reconnaissance mission during the Battle of Oyster Point.

    • Colonel Henry Zinn’s burial spot is marked with a white obelisk at Mount Zion Cemetery [Rte 174 & Rte 74 (York Rd), Boiling Springs].

    • Silver Spring Presbyterian Church [444 Silver Spring Rd, Mechanicsburg] – Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, French & Indian War, WW I, WW II and Civil War veterans.

    • Spring Hill Cemetery (Shippensburg) -  Civil War veterans including, James Kelso, who gathered men from Shippensburg to form Company D of the 130th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
    Events
    • May: Army Heritage Days - A living time-line of U.S. Army history from the French and Indian War, through the present. Events include military demonstrations, rifle pits and lectures.

    • June: Camp Curtin Civil War Days - Artillery firing demonstrations, original Civil War artifacts, Civil War dance & nighttime cannon firing.

    • June: March to Destiny Civil War Reenactment - Encampment, parade and a Victorian Ball.

    Day Trips - Cumberland Valley is an excellent hub for day trips to Hershey, Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Chambersburg and Lancaster.

    • Visit Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, [entry to the park is free; $6.50-$10.50 entry fee for museum exhibits, film and cyclorama], the historic battlefield that witnessed three of the bloodiest days of battle of the Civil War.

    • View the National Civil War Museum’s [$7-$9 admission] collection of more than 24,000 Civil War artifacts, manuscripts, documents and photographs from both the Union and Confederacy for a complete and balanced account of the war.

    • The State Museum of Pennsylvania [$2-$5 admission]: See uniforms, weapons and military equipment from the Civil War, like the Pennsylvania-made Kentucky Rifle, in the State Museum’s military history collection.

    • John Brown House: Often credited as the spark that ignited the Civil War, John Brown stayed in this Chambersburg house while he planned his raid on the Harper’s Ferry arsenal in an attempt to arm an uprising of slaves in the fight for abolition of slavery.
      Self-Guided Walking Tours
      Finding the Perfect Civil War Souvenir
      Places to Meet 
      • Harrisburg Civil War Round Table [Radisson Penn Harris, Camp Hill Bypass, Camp Hill; publicity@harrisburgcwrt.org] holds monthly dinner-meetings with Civil War presentations by historians, on ten Friday nights, September-June, every year. 
      • Shippensburg Civil War Round Table [Shippensburg Public Library Annex, 73 West King Street; 423-6961] holds quarterly meetings with Civil War presentations by historians on one Saturday afternoon each September, November, January, and March, every year.  
      Places to Eat (Civil War Related)
      Places to Stay (Civil War Related)
      • Book a Civil War overnight package at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg & Convention Center [package price is $132 + tax; Be sure to provide the promotion code, “CVLCVB” when making your reservation].
      • Over the 200-year history of the house, Pheasant Field Bed & Breakfast’s [from $151-$225] farmhouse may have served as a stop along the Underground Railroad, a dairy farm, and a horse-breeding facility. Jenkins’ Brigade probably bivouacked in this vicinity on the night of June 27-28.
      • On June 26, 1863, 4,000 Confederate troops camped overnight at the Dykeman Spring Bed & Breakfast's [from $76 - $150] spring-fed pond and the surrounding field before they began their invasion of Cumberland County.

      View a complete list of lodging in Cumberland Valley.