Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, United States
McLean House Appomattox Court House National Historic Park Reviews
McLean House Jun 10, 2014
The McLean House in Appomattox Court House National Historical Park is where the American Civil War came to an effective end when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant.
The house was built in 1848 and bought by Wilmer McLean in 1862. McLean owned a farm in Manassas that came under fire in a skirmish just before the First Battle of Manassas in July 1861, which was also the first major battle of the war. He fled to Appomattox hoping to escape the conflict, only to have it come full circle when Lee's disintegrating army, fleeing Richmond, wound up at his new doorstep. It is said that the war began in McLean's backyard and ended in his front parlor.
McLean was bankrupted by the war and the house was sold at auction in 1869, then purchased by speculators in the 1890s who dismantled it in hopes of moving it to Washington as a tourist attraction. They ran out of money and the wood and bricks were never moved, sitting in piles for another fifty years.
When the National Park Service bought the land in the 1930s, they salvaged what they could from the rubble in rebuilding the house, which didn't open until 1949 due to another war that came along. The current building is thus a reconstruction, but one in which much of the brickwork and even some of the interior woodwork is original. The front porch was again replaced just a few weeks before my visit.
It's still an interesting place to explore, to stand in the same space where a momentous event in U.S. history took place. Lee was the first to arrive on the morning of April 9, 1865, Grant showing up a half hour later. They spent ninety minutes in the parlor negotiating the generous surrender, the Southern troops allowed to go home so long as they turned over their weapons. When Grant introduced his officers, Lee was surprised that one was a native Indian and commented, "At least there is one real American here."
A park ranger is present to answer questions though you can wander about on your own. Some of the furniture is original to the house but most of it simply dates from the period. There are restored slave quarters out back worth checking out, as well as the many other buildings of the old town that comprise the park. Admission is $4 and the receipt is good for for seven days. A short film at the nearby visitor center is a good historical primer. Photography is permitted.
Part of the Virginia Road Trip travel blog
Part of the list Civil War
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