1865 McLean House View
Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant met at the home of village resident
Wilmer McLean where the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia was
agreed to on April 9, 1865. In
the late summer of 1865, Timothy O’Sullivan made this picture of
McLean and his family gathered on the front-porch.
It is one of at least three photos taken of the house by
O’Sullivan. McLean is the
gentleman closest to the front door wearing the light colored jacket.
He is surrounded by his family; his wife, Virginia “Jennie,”
sits to his left. Also in
the photo are Maria (21), Osceola “Ocie” (20), Lucretia “Lula”
(8), and Nannie (2). Wilmer Jr. (11) does not appear in the photo.
The Raine family built the house in 1848.
McLean bought the house in the spring of 1863.
to some accounts, Wilmer McLean was never a farmer, nor did he ever
serve in the Confederate army. Rather,
he was a merchant who sold goods
to the Confederate government during the war.
Before the conflict, he was in the wholesale and retail grocery
limited farming experience came from managing the Yorkshire Plantation
owned by his wife near Manassas, Virginia. Though McLean liked to tell people that he moved his family
from Manassas to Appomattox to escape the war, the move was primarily
based on economic factors. No
doubt, he did have concerns for the protection of his family after two
battles were fought near his property outside of Manassas.
However, the main reason was that, during the war, he worked as a
sugar broker. Dealing in
this commodity required McLean to spend considerable time in south side
Virginia, and when his northern Virginia property came under Federal
control, it became unfeasible and unprofitable for him to remain in
Manassas. Thus, he moved to
Appomattox Court House out of necessity.
McLeans resided in Appomattox Court House until 1867.
Wilmer McLean did
his part in seeing that the Confederate Cemetery was successfully
established. Not only did
he entertain the guest speaker, Colonel Farrar, who helped raise money
for the project, he also assisted in digging the new graves and
disinterring the bodies from their scattered burials.
Unable to make the
payments on their Appomattox home, the McLean family moved back to their
Manassas home in the fall of 1867.
The surrender house was sold at public auction.
More financial difficulties ensued for McLean, and he later moved
his family to Alexandria, Virginia.
There he worked for the Internal Revenue Service from 1873-1876. In
1876, he transferred to the U. S. Bureau of Customs and remained
employed until 1880. Wilmer
McLean died on June 5, 1882, and his wife died on August 26, 1893.
Mr. And Mrs. McLean and many family members are buried at St.
Paul’s Episcopal Cemetery in Alexandria.
Ragland sold the former McLean house to Myron Dunlap of Niagara Falls,
New York, in 1891. In 1893,
Dunlap had the building dismantled.
He arranged to move and reassemble the house in Washington, DC,
where it would be on permanent display as a Civil War museum.
Dunlap failed to secure funds to complete the project and the
materials remained rotting on the site until the National Park Service
undertook the reconstruction of the house.
Some of the original materials were used in the project
(including over 5,000 original bricks). R. E. Lee, IV and U. S. Grant, III dedicated it on April 16,
The surrender meeting between Lee and Grant occurred on April
9, 1865, in the parlor of the McLean house.
Lee’s military secretary, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Marshall,
chose the meeting site. The
conference between Lee and Grant lasted about an hour and a half.
Altogether, Lee spent about two hours at the McLean House and
Grant remained there for about three hours.
Union General John Gibbon, commander of the 24th
Corps, Army of the James, used the house as his headquarters from April
*Note: This write-up is included with 8 x 10 print of photograph.
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