Friday, September 28, 2001
Carlisle's Home Front: Our history of coping with wartime
This is not the first time residents of Carlisle have confronted the threat of war; not the first time we've hoisted American flags and rallied together in the name of freedom. We were there during that first season of American patriotism, when Carlisle Minutemen marched to Concord for the first uprising of the Revolutionary War. Carlisleans served in the War of 1812, the Civil War (where we lost more residents than in any other war) and both World Wars, as well as Korea and Vietnam. At least one local man has already been called up for the war on terrorism. On the home front, Carlisle residents have always been counted on to fly the colors, collect supplies for the war effort, hold bean suppers, knit blankets, sew quilts, pray, cry and find strength in one another. There is solace in the knowledge that we've been here before, and if the need arises we will persevere again. History can serve as our comfort and our guide.
First heroes: the Minutemen
Although we have the advantage (and disadvantage) of viewing recent horrific events on television, in the days of the Revolutionary War, the main medium of information was word of mouth. Rumors of war were likely discussed over a toddy or a mug of hard cider in gathering places like the Revolutionary Tavern, which once stood on Stearns Street. When British soldiers began their march from Boston to Concord, men on horseback rushed the word to Carlisle, where sounding a horn and beating on a drum apparently served as the call to action. Sixteen men (some sources claim twenty-one) answered the call and began the march down Estabrook Road toward the Old North Bridge in Concord. The rest is (literally) American history.
At that time, records state that 102 families lived in Carlisle. Some of these residents may have furnished powder for Revolutionary War guns from a powder mill said to have existed on Judy Farm Road. But life for many Carlisleans was difficult during the war period, according to the book Carlisle: Its History and Heritage, by Ruth Chamberlin Wilkins. Food, blankets and horses were sent to those fighting the war, resulting in shortages at home, and with so many men away from their farms, it was difficult to maintain the crops. But with the end of the war and the stabilization of the government came a period of peace and prosperity.
Carlisleans in the War of 1812
The peace would be disturbed again during the war of 1812. The government called for men to fight against England and its interference with America's shipping trade and two Carlisle soldiersThomas Green and Thomas Healdheeded the call. When the war ended in 1814, Wilkins writes that in Carlisle "school children were given a holiday, bells rang in church steeples, flags were flown, and there was general rejoicing." Soldiers Green and Heald returned to Carlisle unharmed and were rewarded by the government with substantial tracts of land in the Midwest, which both men ultimately sold.
A call for Union troops
During the Carlisle Town Meeting on May 11, 1861, it was voted that any person enlisting "to the credit of the town" for service in the Civil War would be paid "nine dollars per month in addition to the amount allowed by the Government", Sidney A. Bull reports in his book History of the Town of Carlisle Massachusetts. Later, the town also voted in favor of raising money to aid Carlisle soldiers' families who were suffering hardships at home.
Records state that 55 Carlisle residents served in the Civil War, although books by Wilkins and Bull assert that the actual number could be as high as 103. (Any of these numbers is impressive, considering that the population of Carlisle was approximately 550 people.) One of those who returned, John Blood, lost a leg at the Battle of Gettysburg, and "in the very early 1900's he was a familiar sight in Carlisle center," writes Wilkins.
As for those who lost their lives, sources seem to agree that 13 Carlisle men died or were killed during the Civil War. To honor them, the Soldier's Monument of the "Goddess of Liberty" was erected on the common (now the center of the rotary) in Carlisle. This was dedicated to the town during an elaborate ceremony on August 29, 1885. In a show of patriotism for the occasion, houses in Carlisle were decorated with red-white-and-blue flags, streamers and bunting.
The world wars
In 1914 the nation faced World War I, and once again Carlisleans did their part. Twenty men from Carlisle joined the service, with about half of them seeing action in foreign lands. All of them survived. (Although the Honor Roll in the center of town lists 40 names, Douglas Stevenson of the Celebrations Committee suggests that it may include the names of subsequent Carlisle residents who also served in World War I.)
The people of Carlisle were supporting the war effort with various activities at home. Wilkins writes that members of the Carlisle Red Cross and Junior Red Cross raised money and collected numerous items (such as nutswhich were used to make gas masks, crutch pads, boots and tin foil). She adds that "The women's groups in both churches knitted and sewed constantly as a group, and individually, often meeting together."
When the Armistice was signed in 1918, Carlisleans joined the country in unbridled celebration. Church bells rang incessantly, noisy impromptu parades snaked through the center of town, flags were hung, patriotic songs were sung and a huge bonfire was lit.
Two decades later, however, hostilities in Europe escalated again. Nine months before Pearl Harbor, Carlisle had set up its own Civil Defense Service. First aid workers were appointed and trained, water holes were dug, firearms were inventoried and a system of signals for blackouts was adopted. An article in the Boston Globe dated March 24, 1941, stated that "Carlisle, second smallest town in Middlesex County, population 746, is probably the first community in the state to have worked out a complete and well-rounded civilian defense organization, as recommended by Gov. Saltonstall's executive Committee on Public Safety."
As World War II continued, so did activities on the home front, such as Red Cross work, buying stamps and bonds and adjusting to food and gas rationing. Even Carlisle school children were actively engaged in the war effort, collecting scrap metal.
The names of 71 Carlisle men are listed on the Honor Roll as participating in World War II. There was only one fatality: a man named Louis A. Rivard. Rivard, who spent his childhood in a Lowell orphanage, lived with families in Carlisle from age 15 until he joined the service. On Armistice Day, 1942, the navy patrol bomber on which Rivard was flying disappeared while on a training flight along the east coast. The crew and bomber were never recovered.
Men lost in Vietnam war
Oddly enough, the names of soldiers from the Korean War and Vietnam War are listed together on Carlisle's Honor Roll, and number 87. Two of these men were killed in action, both in Vietnam. Douglas Allen Cann, a lifelong Carlisle resident and 1966 graduate of Concord-Carlisle High School, died near Saigon on July 2, 1968 while checking enemy bunkers. Captain John Francis Kazanowski died on October 7, 1969 during a combat mission operation from Dak Pek, Vietnam.
At the time, Carlisleans were as conflicted about Vietnam as the rest of the country. Long-time resident Bonnie Miskolczy recalls that frequent discussion groups were organized around town, during which people wrestled with questions of what should be done to support or protest the war, and what kinds of aid could be provided for Vietnamese civilians who were suffering. When (now Senator) John Kerry returned from service in the Vietnam War, a group of concerned citizens arranged for him to speak at the Carlisle School's Spalding Auditorium about his involvement inand opposition tothe war. "There was a big turnout," Miskolczy remembers. "It was very impressive, very moving."
War in the Middle East
The Persian Gulf War of January 16 to February 28, 1991, is remembered by many Carlisleans as a conflict that unfolded on TV before our very eyes. Yellow ribbons were nearly as prolific as American flags in decorating mailboxes, trees and doorways around town. Various pieces written in the Carlisle Mosquito reflected the unsettled emotions of the time.
"War is not the answer!" stated one woman in a letter to the editor, a sentiment echoed in several essays.
In an editorial piece on February 8, however, writer Sal Borello pointed out that "there are wars that are worth fighting," asserting that the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have fought Communism and evil in the past "are the real peacemakers."
In an astute response written on March 8, writer Susan Workum stated, "It's over, but I am not proudOur victory hasn't solved any of the long-term problems in the Middle East, and it surely has not guaranteed lasting peace."
But in spite of the uneasiness in the face of this brief war, support in Carlisle was unflagging. The First Religious Society, for example, was listed in the paper as collecting funds and non-perishable food items for families of soldiers serving in the gulf.
On Memorial Day, 1991, the keynote speaker for the traditional Memorial Day observances was Major Joseph O'Connell of Newton, who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia. Although hometown veterans of the Gulf War were invited to participate in Memorial Day activities, nothing was found during the research of this article to provide the names or numbers of Carlisle residents who may have served in the conflict.
A new war
And now we find ourselves in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, a sad, frightening time that we will surely remember for the rest of our lives. Although this war has no precedent and we are uncertain of what's ahead, we can be certain that Carlisleans will once again step up to the plate.
Earlier this week in fact, one of Carlisle's sons was called to duty. Neil Fantasia, 22, son of Frank and Linda Fantasia, (Linda works for the Board of Health in Carlisle Town Hall) was called to report to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. A lifelong Carlisle resident and member of the Carlisle Fire Department, Neil had made plans to join the Army National Guard and specialize in chemical engineeringsomething he thought would come in handy in his chosen field of firefighting. In light of recent events, he was called to begin basic training sooner than expected.
"We had a party on Sunday to make sure Neil knew he had friends and family behind him and that we were proud of him. I have never had so many people in my house at one time. People wanted to be there and support him, and also needed to reach out to one another," says Linda. And although the familyincluding ninth grader Jennifer and sixth grader Patrickare concerned about what the future will hold, Linda adds that "We are very proud of him. And he is more than happy to do his part. He's glad he has something to contribute."
On the home front, we are rallying, gathering for candlelight vigils and offering generous donations of money, supplies and even our blood. Our policemen and firemen are on alert and ready to serve as needed. More young men and women will likely be called up for service, and as courageous Carlisleans have done in the past, they will answer the call.
Bad things may happen, but so will the good things. If we stick together and support one another, as we have been called to do numerous times within the past 226 years of our proud history, we will survive, and we will prevail.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito