The Strange Case of Wilmer McLean

Wilmer McLean

The American Civil War was full of strange coincidences and one of the most amazing is the story of Wilmer McLean.

The first major land battle of the Civil War, First Manassas, took place in northern Virginia on June 21, 1861. McLean owned a farm in the area, and his house served as the headquarters for Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard. Due to the location of these headquarters, the fighting of this short battle took place right in front of McLean’s house. It was so close, in fact, that a Union cannonball struck the house and landed in McLean’s kitchen. After the battle ended, McLean decided he’d had enough of the war and moved to a new location: Appomattox Court House.

Nearly four years later, in April of 1865, the Civil War was nearing its end.  At Appomattox Court House, Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Union General Ulysses S. Grant met on the battlefield one final time. Unlike at First Manassas, this was a Union victory, and Lee surrendered his army by the day’s end. Grant drew up the terms of surrender and Lee signed the document … in Wilmer McLean’s front parlor

So, as McLean supposedly said at the war’s end: “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.”

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5 Responses to The Strange Case of Wilmer McLean

  1. John says:

    This iz gud.

  2. Pingback: When the Student Becomes the Master | Butternut and Blue

  3. Bill Wimsatt says:

    I have a first hand account of the Civil War from Wilmer Mclean’s niece Josephine Cleary Wimsatt. If you have an interest in receiving it, let me know.

    Bill Wimsatt
    w a w “at” 1783 “dot” c o m

  4. Lily says:

    Thanks, really helped me out on my history project! Your a lifesaver!

  5. Paul Sangster says:

    I note that the 1850 census taken in Fairfax County in which my gggrandfather Edward Sangster and family is listed was taken by Wilmer McLean, presumably the same person.

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