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Appomattox Court House

During the American Civil War, Wilmer McLean owned the Appomattox Court House.

The Civil War started in McLean's backyard in 1861 and ended in his parlor in 1865. The First Battle of Bull Run, fought on July 21, 1861, took place on the McLean farm. Wilmer McLean was a retired Major in the Virginia militia, but was too old to enlist at the outbreak of the Civil War and decided to move into the Appomattox Court House in order to get away from the Civil War. On April 9, 1865, ironically, the war came back to McLean when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at the court house. The house was also used on April 10 for the Surrender Commissioners' meeting, and over the next few days as the Headquarters of Major General John Gibbon, U.S.A.

The McLeans left Appomattox Court House and returned to Mrs. McLean's Prince William County, Virginia estate in the fall of 1867. When Wilmer McLean defaulted on repayment of loans, the banking house of "Harrison, Goddin, and Apperson" of Richmond, Virginia brought a judgement against him, and the "Surrender House" was sold at public auction on November 29, 1869. The house was purchased by John L. Pascoe and apparently rented to the Ragland family formerly of Richmond. In 1872 Nathaniel H. Ragland purchased the property for $1250.00.

On January 1, 1891, the property was sold by the Widow Ragland for the sum of $10,000 to Captain Myron Dunlap of Niagra Falls, New York. Myron Dunlap and fellow speculators went through two or three plans intending to capitalize on the notoriety of the property, one idea was to dismantle the home and move it to Chicago as an exhibit at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Measured drawings including elevations and materials specifications lists were produced, the house was dismantled and packed for shipping, but due to cash flow and legal problems the plan was never brought to fruition. The home sat dismantled in piles prey to vandals, collectors, and the environment for fifty years.

On April 10, 1940, Appomattox Court House National Historical Monument was created by Congress to include approximately 970 acres. In February 1941 archeological work was begun at the site, then overgrown with brush and honeysuckle. Historical data was collected, and architectural working plans were drawn up to begin the meticulous reconstruction process. The whole project was brought to a swift stop on December 7, 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces causing the United States entry into World War II.

On November 25, 1947, bids for the reconstruction of the McLean House were opened and on April 9, 1949, eighty four years after the historic meeting reuniting the country, the McLean House was opened by th National Park Service for the first time to the public. Major General U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee IV cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony on April 16, 1950, after a speech by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Douglas Southall Freeman in front of a crowd of approximately 20,000.

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