George Washington's Cambridge Headquarters

Before he was the "father of his country," George Washington was a slaveholder, minor military figure, and delegate to the Contintental Congress from Virginia who first took command of the Continental Army at 105 Brattle Street (the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House). This was his Cambridge headquarters during the Siege of Boston. He spent nine months in Cambridge, ultimately driving the British occupying forces out of Boston.

Washington arrived in Cambridge in July of 1775 and remained here until April of 1776. Weeks before his arrival in Cambridge, he had written to his wife, Martha Washington, to express concerns about taking the command:

My Dearest—I am now sat down to write you on a subject which fills me with inexpressible concern—and this concern is greatly aggravated and Increased when I reflect on the uneasiness I know it will give you—It has been determined in Congress, that the whole Army raised for the defence of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me command of it.

Martha would uttimately join him in Cambridge in December of 1775. General Washington's time in Cambridge were characterized by both uncertainty and decisiveness, growth as a leader, and his early rise as a national figure. Today, we grapple with Washington's legacy as a slaveholder and "the asserter of liberty," and how both influenced his decision making during the Siege of Boston.

For more details on the nine months Washington spent in Cambridge, see our Historic Resource Study (PDF, 63. MB) detailing the period in 600+ pages.

 
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Ranger Anna discusses George Washington's development as a leader at his Cambridge Headquarters, as well as his shifting views on race, slavery, and freedom.

 
Manuscript letter with one page of writing signed by George Washington and one page of address

H.W.L. Dana Papers, Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site

Washington Collections Highlight

Harry Dana, grandson of famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, served as an important caretaker of the Longfellow House, preserving his grandfather’s Cambridge estate. As a part of his impressive collection efforts, Dana procured a unique assortment of letters from the American Revolution. Dana focused his research and collecting efforts on Longfellow’s literary network and Cambridge’s colonial and revolutionary history. Dana collected some of these letters for their content: intelligence reports, descriptions of the early conflicts of the war and their aftermath, and documents from Washington’s time in his Cambridge headquarters. Some letters, however, were collected primarily for their association with the heroes of the Revolution – General George Washington, General Nathanael Greene, and the Marquis de Lafayette. A new article explores these letters in depth.

 
Drawing of a minuteman of African descent stands ready with musket and equipment.

Patriots of Color

Among the thousands of local colonists who joined the patriot cause stood many men of African and Indigenous ancestries.

1775 map of Boston showing Dorchester Heights.

Dorchester Heights

The fortification of Dorchester Heights precipitated the first major victory for the Continental Army led by General George Washington.

 

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    Last updated: September 4, 2021

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