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What are the odds?

June 6, 2011 - Lee Smith
In April, there was a ceremony at Ft. Sumter in Charleston harbor to commemorate the beginning of the Civil War exactly 150 years ago. For the next four years, there will continue to be these kinds of memorials that look back at our nation’s darkest years.

The 40 years (1820-1860) leading up to the Civil War and the war years themselves provide some fascinating history in both the largest and smaller senses. One of the neat little tales within the war involves a man by the name of Wilmer McLean.

The first major battle of the Civil War was Bull Run (or Manassas) in northern Virginia. The initial engagement took place on July 18, 1861, on McLean’s farm. During the fight, a cannonball dropped through the kitchen fireplace of McLean’s house, where the general leading the Confederates had made his headquarters.

McLean, who went on to be a supplier to the Confederates during the war, later decided to move to southern Virginia to protect his commercial activities and the lives of his family members. He moved 120 miles south, near a crossroads community called ... Appomattox Court House.

On April 9, 1865, the exhausted and starving army of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was caught in a trap by Union general Ulysses S. Grant. Lee had no choice but to surrender, which he did — in the parlor of McLean’s house. For all intents and purposes, Lee’s surrender ended the Civil War.

McLean is supposed to later have said: “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.”

You can’t make this stuff up. More to come in later blogs ...


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