History27 Aug 2007 11:18 am
Wilmer McLean, who died almost two decades after the American Civil War ended, used to tell people that, “the war began in my dining room and ended in my parlor.” He was right.
In 1861, McLean was a retired major from the Virginia militia. He was too old to fight in the war between the states, but he was living in the middle of the first battlefield. On July 18, the first engagements in the Battle of Bull Run were fought, and McLean’s home served as the headquarters to a confederate general. McLean was too old to be a part of the fight, but his dinner was interrupted by a Union shell that crashed through his fireplace.
By 1865, McLean had moved from Manassas and was now living in the town of Appomattox, in a home very near the courthouse. On April 9, General Robert E. Lee decided it was time to stop fighting and surrendered the Confederate Army to Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. It is often said that he did this at the Appomattox Court House, but he actually did it in the parlor of McLean’s home nearby. Moments later, the home became completely unlivable: aware of the historic importance of the moment, the soldiers who were present raided the house for every last souvenir. By the time they left, there wasn’t a chair left to sit on.
McLean’s home is part of the Appomattox Court House National Park. Find information about visiting it here.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.