Lannie Dietle is one of a group of individuals who performed research about George Washington's Headquarters, Allegany County, Maryland. The results of the research are documented in his 2019 book "Fort Cumberland". In this photograph, he is standing in front of the log cabin headquarters building in Riverside Park.
The cabin in the photo included above is located at the Riverside Park in Cumberland, Allegany County, Maryland. A plaque affixed to the cabin includes the following statement:
"Headquarters of George Washington as colonel under General Braddock at Fort Cumberland during the French and Indian War 1755 - 1758 and as Commander-in-Chief of the American Army in 1794 — Presented to the City of Cumberland by James Walter Thomas, L.L.D.; Litt.D. Dedicated April 21, 1921 ... These headquarters, built by General Braddock's men for George Washington, antedate all similar headquarters in the United States. Here Washington acquired the military training, which distinguished him as the preeminently great American Soldier."
The James Walter Thomas who donated the building to the city of Cumberland was the author of the 1882 book "History of Western Maryland" and a co-author of the 1923 book "History of Allegany County Maryland". Shortly before the cabin was dedicated, its authenticity was questioned in a very public way in the "Baltimore Sun " newspaper. Shortly thereafter, the newspaper published a lengthy article by Mr. Thomas that was intended to defend the authenticity of the cabin. Unfortunately, Mr. Thomas's article provides no hard evidence that the cabin was ever George Washington's headquarters during the French and Indian War.
In the opening paragraph he mentions, "...the community where the history of this building is so well known..." In the second paragraph, again without citing evidence, he states, "It was first erected by General Braddock's men..." The subtitle to Mr. Thomas's next-to-last paragraph is "Early Records Quoted", but the only quotes are from Will H. Lowdermilk's 1878 book "History of Cumberland (Maryland) " and from a letter written Mr. H.D. Black — i.e.; secondary sources, rather than actual early records.
The quote from Mr. Black is simply this: "It was an imitation of a Swiss chalet and famous as Washington's Headquarters." After asserting that the veracity of Mr. Lowdermilk was not in question, Mr. Thomas provided the following quote from Mr. Lowdermilk's book regarding older Cumberland buildings:
"Certainly the most venerable of them all was that known as Washington's Headquarters, which occupied the ground on which the old Gephart residence now stands, and which is well remembered by hundreds of citizens, as it was not removed until 1844. It was contemporary with Fort Cumberland, and stood but a short distance from the parade grounds. In 1844 it was bought by George Blocher, who moved it to a lot on the Bedford road, where it was repaired and occupied for 22 years by John Baker, and where it still stands."
Neither Mr. Lowdermilk's statement nor Mr. Black's statement are actual evidence of anything except documenting how the cabin was thought of locally: George Washington's headquarters.
In the last paragraph of his article, Mr. Thomas states that the cabin was "...Washington's headquarters during the French and Indian war, 1755 to 1758, and again his headquarters in 1794, when in Cumberland as Commander-in-Chief of the American Army..."
Returning now to the next-to-last paragraph of Mr. Thomas's article, information from older Cumberland residents who knew of the Washington's headquarters tradition is referenced but not quoted. It appears that only one of those residents — Nancy Miller — would have been alive and actually living in Cumberland when the militia camped there during the Whiskey Rebellion. Mr. Thomas states that her father "had the distinction of furnishing the little building the last time it was used by Washington".
Although a direct quote from Nancy Miller would have been preferable, Mr. Thomas's statement about Nancy Miller and her father seems like adequate proof that George Washington did indeed use the little cabin when he visited Fort Cumberland with the militia during the Whiskey Rebellion. Nevertheless, Mr. Thomas provides no evidence to support his statements that the cabin was "erected by General Braddock's men..." and served as "...Washington's headquarters during the French and Indian war..."
Mr. Thomas may have inferred that the cabin was built during the French and Indian war from a statement in Mr. Lowdermilk's book that says it was "contemporary with Fort Cumberland, and stood but a short distance from the parade grounds." Mr. Lowdermilk's statement is certainly true, since an October 16, 1794 letter by a companion of George Washington states that Washington's headquarters was located near the fort. Just because the cabin was near the 1754 fort in 1794, however, does not imply that the cabin dates back to the French and Indian War or was built by Braddock's soldiers.
Pages 953-958 of the 2019 book "Fort Cumberland" (Volume 2) provide an in-depth examination of the George Washington's Headquarters tradition using documentary evidence collected by a team of motivated Allegany County historians. The evidence they considered includes the ownership history of the property the cabin was originally located on, and the proximity of that property to Fort Cumberland and to the home of the early Cumberland resident who hosted George Washington in 1794. The earliest secondary source the historians could find that referenced the Washington's Headquarters tradition was an 1857 magazine article.
Beginning on page 953, Volume 2 of Lannie Dietle's 2019 book "Fort Cumberland" provides an in-depth examination of the George Washington's headquarters tradition at Cumberland, in Allegany County, Maryland. Although the book was primarily written to cover the history of the Wills Creek-area before the founding of the town of Cumberland, it also includes 41 pages of material about the area after the founding of the town.
This is the dovetailed end of a piece of a log that was salvaged from the Washington's headquarters cabin in Cumberland, Maryland during a 1921 restoration. It was presented to Mr. Dietle after he gave a talk about the history and construction of Fort Cumberland at a popular Allegany County venue in 2019.
The history of George Washington's headquarters at Cumberland in Allegany County, Maryland is discussed in detail in the "Fort Cumberland" book. The main focus of the book is the pre-1785 military and civilian history of the portions of western Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania that were near and influenced by Fort Cumberland.