Cover of the book related to the history of Fort Cumberland, Maryland.
The two-volume book "Fort Cumberland" focuses on the history of the Cumberland region in the decades before and after the French and Indian war — periods that Lowdermilk's classic 1878 book "History of Cumberland (Maryland)" largely avoids.

How I came to write the "Fort Cumberland" book

The research that led to writing the 2019 book "Fort Cumberland" began with an internet-based group discussion of William Harrison Lowdermilk's 1878 book "History of Cumberland (Maryland)..." At the time, Lowdermilk's book was the latest word on the history of Cumberland. I casually posted my impression that the inhabited place known as Fort Cumberland was "a supply center for the surrounding region, long before the first decade of the 19th century." Someone responded by asking if the place was so lightly settled, then "...who was doing the supplying and where did they live?" I had no answer.

Thinking about the question, I gradually came to realize that as good as it is, Lowdermilk's book has significant gaps. These gaps leave the impression that other than Braddock's campaign, very little happened in the region before the founding of the town. I knew from previous research that Fort Cumberland had been a busy supply center during the Revolutionary War and felt there had to be more to the history of the region than people realized.

How Lowdermilk described the period between Pontiac's War and the founding of the town
Lowdermilk's book has long been regarded as the seminal work on the history of Cumberland, Maryland. It provides excellent coverage of the history of the town and a good description of regional events that occurred during the French and Indian War. Aside from the material on the French and Indian War, however, it provides very little local history prior to the establishment of the town. There is a brief mention of Pontiac's War, and then this:

The cessation of Indian hostilities rendered a garrison at Fort Cumberland longer unnecessary, and after the abandonment of the place by the English soldiers, the provincial stores were removed, and the post was never again occupied, save for a few days, in 1794, when the troops engaged in suppressing the whiskey insurrection were gathered here.

The restoration of peace, and the feeling of security resulting therefrom, led many persons from the Eastern counties to settle in this section of the country. From what is now Frederick county came most of the early settlers about Fort Cumberland, nearly all of them being emigrants from Germany and England. Settlements sprung up at Fort Cumberland, Oldtown, on George's Creek, and at points further west. Frederick county then embraced all of the Western part of Maryland, and it was not until 1776 that Washington county was taken from it. In 1789 Allegany county was organized. ...

The various settlements west of Sideling Hill continued to grow in numbers, until the population became sufficiently great to justify the general desire for the erection of a new county, in order that the public business might be more readily transacted. The great distance which the people in the neighborhood of Fort Cumberland were compelled to travel in order to attend court, and to look after the records of their lands, &c., also proved of great inconvenience.

The first steps towards furnishing greater conveniences were in the direction of incorporating a town, and at the meeting of the Legislature in 1787 a petition was read in the House praying that the town of Cumberland might be established, the town having already been laid off in 1785, by Thomas Beal, of Samuel, who was the owner of the land.

The town was located upon a tract of land called "Walnut Bottom"...

Immediately after purchasing this land, Beall went to work clearing that part of "Walnut Bottom" lying west of Will's Creek, and erected several buildings. In 1785 he laid out a town, which was commonly called Washington Town, and sold a number of lots to settlers. Two years later, the inhabitants of the place petitioned the Legislature for authority to establish a town, which they wished to name after the old Fort, as being more appropriate and distinct than any other title that could be given it.

Lowdermilk specifically mentions settlements springing up at Fort Cumberland, Oldtown, George's Creek, and points farther west. Unfortunately, these paragraphs are often overlooked — being overshadowed by the rich detail Lowdermilk presents about other time periods. As a result, some individuals erroneously viewed the 1759 to 1785 period as an uneventful time in Cumberland area history, substantially devoid of human habitation.

A western Maryland history book that began as a white paper
The 2016 book "Fort Cumberland: The Missing Years" began as a white paper I wrote to add detail to Lowdermilk's brief description of the 1759 to 1785 period of Wills Creek area history. As I continued my research, I felt that I might be able to discover enough material to write a 100-page book. I started expanding the white paper with that goal in mind, and ended up with a 556-page book.

After completing "Fort Cumberland: The Missing Years", ongoing discussions, feedback from readers, and personal curiosity led me to continue researching the history of the environs of Cumberland, Maryland. The result is the two-volume 982-page book "Fort Cumberland", which builds on the foundation established by the 2016 book.

"Fort Cumberland" provides significantly more coverage of the period before 1766, including the 1755 to 1758 period that was intentionally glossed over in the earlier book. The result is a much more comprehensive understanding of the region. In brief, the book explores the local settlement that existed prior to the French and Indian war and its war-related devastation and post-war recovery and expansion, while also exploring the complex factors leading to war, and the military and legislative history of the region.

While I was in the process of writing "Fort Cumberland", an anonymous reader provided the following written review of "Fort Cumberland: The Missing Years":

There are a lot of jokes about the diligence of engineers. Nobody though, denies the value of such diligence to make sure the job is done right. Mr. Dietle's background in getting it right is beneficial to everyone wishing to know more about this critical period of American history and of Cumberland Maryland's invaluable place in that saga. The employment of actual documents, not as citations but as most of the text of this book, assures you are reading history rather than interpretation. His ability to sort though such voluminous data and put it into chronological order is amazing. This is a big book and it is crammed full of oft repeated along with obscure primary source information to put this whole subject into proper context. Native Americans, Frontiersmen, Soldiers – American, British & French, political intrigue and commercial challenges all before Ft. Cumberland became just plain CUMBERLAND! Mr. Dietle's use of GPS identifiers for every known landmark discussed, while an innovative 21st century addition, is an amazing contribution whether you are a local historian wishing to stand where it happened, or a researcher from the other side of the world trying to trace these events, people and times.

That review expressed what I had been trying to accomplish with "Fort Cumberland: The Missing Years" (and what I hoped "Fort Cumberland" would accomplish) better than any of my dry prose ever could. It inspired me to greater effort and helped to provide the necessary motivation to complete the most monumental writing project I have ever attempted.

A companion to Lowdermilk's "History of Cumberland..."
I view Lowdermilk's "History of Cumberland..." book and my "Fort Cumberland" book as complementing one another. My book provides a detailed look at the environs of Cumberland before the town was formally established, and Lowdermilk's book provides a detailed history of the town from its founding to the 1870s. Together, they provide an extensive look at the early history of Cumberland and the surrounding region.

Lannie Dietle, author of the 'Fort Cumberland' history book.
In writing the "Fort Cumberland" book, Lannie Dietle established a much deeper understanding of the history of Allegany County and western Maryland during the period before the founding of Cumberland.

Ordering information for the 'Fort Cumberland' two-volume book set.

Book ordering information

Order Volume 1 of the print edition

Order Volume 2 of the print edition

Order the Kindle edition (Two volumes in one, pictured above.)
Individuals with Kindle accounts can read the Kindle edition of "Fort Cumberland" using the Kindle Cloud Reader website, using the Kindle app on a phone, tablet, or computer, or using a Kindle e-reader device.

All proceeds benefit the Allegany County Historical Society, which sells the book through Amazon. Learn more about the fort on Wills Creek and the early settlers who lived near it — order today!