1794: The Whiskey Rebellion

The Whiskey Rebellion

Washington in Carlisle

1794 The Whiskey Rebellion Washington

President George Washington left Philadelphia, then the capital of the United States, for Carlisle on September 30, 1794. On Saturday, October 4, he forded the Susquehanna River in a coach driven by himself and on reaching the Cumberland County side, found a detachment of the Philadelphia Light Horse, which was his escort to Carlisle. The presidential party proceeded toward Carlisle via New Kingstown on the road now known as the Harrisburg Pike. Two miles before reaching Carlisle, Washington met the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the troops raised in their states, and they escorted him into town. The inhabitants of the town lined the streets, and at the courthouse, banners were displayed which read, “Washington is ever Triumphant,” “The Reign of the Laws,” and “Woe to Anarchists.” Washington visited the army’s camp, reviewed the troops, and then proceeded to his headquarters in town.  The president lodged and had his headquarters in two houses obtained for him by General Ephraim Blaine, a personal friend. These houses stood on the southeast corner of Liberty Avenue and South Hanover Street (now 1-3, 5-7 South Hanover Street). President Washington gave a dinner that Saturday night at John Montgomery’s residence, which was located at present-day 1 West High Street.

On Sunday morning, October 5, 1794, Washington attended the service at First Presbyterian Church on the invitation of Ephraim Blaine and General John Armstrong, both prominent members of the church.  Dr. Robert Davidson preached “A Sermon on the Freedom and Happiness of the United States of America.” Washington noted the occasion in his diary, writing that he “Went to the Presbyterian meeting and heard Dr. Davidson preach a political sermon, recommendations of order and good government and the excellence of that of the United States.” At noon of that day, Washington was introduced to the officers of the various state militia units and reviewed their troops. He remained in Carlisle until the following Sunday morning, occupied with meetings and planning for the imminent move to Western Pennsylvania to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. In his diary, the president noted that from the 6th of October until the 12th, he was “Employed in Organizing the several detachments, which had come in from different Counties of this State, in a very disjointed and loose manner; or rather I ought to have said in urging and assisting Genl. Mifflin to do it; as I no otherwise took the command of the Troops than to press them forward, and to provide them with necessaries for their March, as well, and as far, as our means would admit…” On October 12, at 7:00 in the morning, he left Carlisle via the Walnut Bottom Road on his way to Shippensburg and then continued as far as Bedford. The Whiskey Rebellion proved to be the first, and only, time in American history during which the constitutional Commander-in-Chief accompanied the Army in the field as it prepared to move against the enemy.

The Whiskey Rebellion Timeline

  • Feb 5, 2019

    March 1791

    The first Congress of the United States passed a tax on distilled spirits – “Whiskey”.  It was the first tax ever enacted on a domestic product.

    Rural farmers, struggling for survival on the frontier, were opposed to the tax, while people who lived in the cities along the seaboard supported it.

  • Feb 5, 2019

    July 1791

    The first formal meeting of those opposed to the tax took place at Fort Redstone in Brownsville, Pennsylvania

  • Feb 5, 2019

    September 1791

    Formal elections were held in Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties, Pennsylvania to choose delegates. According to Hugh Breckenridge, these meetings “adopted . . . a violent nature with regard to the law. . .”

    The chosen delegates met at the Sign of the Green Tree Tavern on Water Street in Pittsburgh. The assembly lasted for three days and adopted a petition declaring the tax and those that sought to enforce it  “. . .contrary to the interests . . .” of the area.

  • Feb 5, 2019

    October 1791

    A mob attacked tax collector Robin Johnson near Pigeon Creek in Washington County. Johnson was robbed, tarred, and feathered.

    Another mob attacked John Connor, who was trying to arrest Robin Johnson’s attackers. Connor received the same treatment as Johnson.

    Tax collectors continued to be intimidated until shots were fired at Bower Hill in Scott Township, Allegheny County on July 16, 1794. The battle of Bower Hill continued the next day, when Revolutionary War veteran Jame McFarlane was killed.

  • Feb 5, 2019

    August 14, 1794

    The Rebels mustered about 7,000 men to march on Pittsburgh. While some damage was done, the march was the end of the violence.

  • Feb 5, 2019

    October 1794

    President George Washington takes command of an army of 12,000 at Carlisle and leads them into Western Pennsylvania. 150 Rebels were arrested, of which 20 were convicted of treason. All were subsequently pardoned by President Washington.

  • Feb 5, 2019


    1794 The Whiskey Rebellion Washington

    The Whiskey Tax was repealed after it had become impossible to collect.

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1794 The Whiskey Rebellion set up encampment on the premises of the Comfort Suites Hotel in downtown Carlisle, PA. We are located in the front of the Comfort Suites. Diners have the opportunity to taste, touch and experience history in a new and exciting way at 1794. Enjoy fresh, locally sourced ingredients and the finest craft beers, whiskey, and spirits.



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