On July 1861, William McLean owned a plantation in Manassas, Virginia, which became occupied by Confederate General Beauegard shortly after the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. Shortly after William McLean left his militarily occupied home, with his family, the fireplace in his detached kitchen was hit by a shell during the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford. Soon after, William McLean worked as an unpaid quartermaster for the Confederacy. However, after the Second Battle of Manassas, in August 1862, William McLean made the decision to move his family to another plantation in Appomattox, Virginia.
Three years after William McLean moved to his new residence, the outcome of the U.S. Civil War followed him to his new home.
On April 10, 1865, the day after the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse, the first level of the McLean Home was the location where General Robert Edward Lee agreed to meet to officially surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant.
After the surrender documents were signed, General Robert Edward Lee decided to give a speech to the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, after the Union successfully blocked that army from meeting Joe Johnston’s army in North Carolina. Many soldiers objected to surrendering and offered to fight in the mountains conducting guerrilla warfare. General Lee in his farewell speech to his men argued otherwise by stating:
“After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.
I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.
By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from a consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you His blessings and protection.
With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell”.
After General Lee’s surrender, Ulysses S. Grant sent a telegraph to Washington, D.C. notifying President Abraham Lincoln of the fall of the Army of Northern Virginia. April 9, 1865, was General Grant’s last day on the field and he made his way to Washington, D.C. the next day.
On April 11, 1865, after Ulysses S. Grant and Robert Edward Lee had left Appomattox, the artillery surrendered the entirely of their arms to the Union Army.
After the events at Appomattox. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured, confederate gurellia warfare never William Quantrill was captured and Washington, D.C. was planning a victory parade. However, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, also known as the Battle of Palmito Hill, was faught in May 12th and 13th in 1865. The Texan Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers had not gotten word of the Army of Northern Virginia’s surrender and believed that the war was still raging on. Ironically, although the Union had technically won the war the Confederacy won the last battle of the U.S. Civil War.
During the fall of 1865, Timothy O’Sullivan photographed the McLean House while members of the McLean family sat on the porch. After the war, the property around the McLean House continued to operate as a farm and eventually changed ownership.
On June 11, 1926, fifty one years after the end of the Civil War, a confederate soldier reunion, for the North Carolina regiment, was held at the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse.
On April 10th 1940, seventy five years after General Lee’s surrender, a majority in the U.S. Congress voted to establish the Appomattox Court House National Historical Monument. On December 7, 1941, after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, restoration plans for the McLean House were stalled. On November 25, 1947, after the end of World War II, bids for the reconstruction of the McLean House began.
On April 16, 1950, after a speech by historian Douglas Southall Freeman in front of a crowd of approximately 20,000 individuals. Major General Ulysses Simpson Grant III and Robert Edward Lee IV cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony of the McLean House. The meeting of the grandsons of Robert Edward Lee and of Ulysses S. Grant.