It’s been awhile since we posted an historical synchronicity. This one involves a man named Wilmer McLean who, though a civilian, became the unofficial ‘host’ of the American civil war. This post was snatched (and edited) from the archives of Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog.
Wilmer McLean (1818-1882) was a Virginian farmer and merchant who had the great misfortune to own a farm near Bull Run where, in 1861, the first great battle of the American Civil War took place. In fact, McLean was so close to the action that his house was briefly taken over by the Confederate general Beauregard, who used it as his headquarters: and one of the first Union cannonades went crashing into Wilmer’s kitchen destroying the general’s dinner.
McLean soon after took his family away – wisely given that the territory around Bull Run would continue to be contested. He moved, in fact, to peaceful Appomattox County in the south of the state of Virginia. Anyone who knows anything about the US Civil War will see where the story is headed.
Fast forward four years and in April 1865 the last full-blown battle of the Civil War was fought virtually outside McLean’s new front door, with the weakened Confederate army being beaten into submission. Enter Wilmer again. Colonel Charles Marshall, one of General Lee’s staff, grabbed the ‘veteran’ of Bull Run as McLean walked down the street and asked to use his house for the signing of the surrender.
McLean foolishly agreed. ‘Foolishly’ because his home was subsequently ransacked by Union souvenir hunters who took anything that they could carry: McLean’s table, for example, ended up in the grubby hands of a Major General George Custer. (Custer’s last table?)
And McLean’s consolation? He is quoted as uttering one of the best lines in all American history: ‘the war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlour’.
The only parallel experience we can think of is storm rather than war-related. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida and some residents drove north to Long Island to stay with relatives. Upon arrival, they were greeted by… Hurricane Wilma, which had turned north.