Wilmer McLean was born in 1814, was orphaned before he was nine, was raised by relatives in Alexandria, Virginia and became a prosperous food merchant in Alexandria. In 1853 he married Virginia Hooe Mason a wealthy widow, with extensive real estate holdings and other property. She owned Yorkshire plantation in Prince William County, Virginia, estimated to have some 1200 acres; a tract of 330 acres in Fairfax County, and two other tracts containing 500 acres in Prince William County. She also owned fourteen slaves. There were two daughters by the first marriage, Maria (born 1844) and Osceola (born 1845). Both girls lived with the Wilmer McLeans at
and were described by Confederate officers as McLean’s
“two pretty daughters.” Two other children were born of the McLean
marriage, Wilmer McLean, Jr. (born 1854) and Lucretia Virginia (born 1857).
Following the First Battle of Manassas, Mrs. McLean and the children left the area. Wilmer McLean, however, worked diligently as a civilian with the Confederate Quartermaster Department. He worked to expedite the flow of food supplies to the troops in camp near Manassas. There was a time when the troops were down to one day’s rations.
experience as a wholesale merchant was invaluable in solving the purchasing of
supplies in the fertile country around Manassas.
Further evidence of his disillusionment was his growing price demands on the Quartermaster.
apparently purchased candles and other scarce items in Richmond, had them shipped to Manassas, and then sold
them to the Confederate Quartermaster for the highest price he could get.
Wilmer McLean had left the area in March 1862 as the Army retreated. From his experience as a merchant he knew that a long war would cause the price of commodities to rise higher and higher. He began to speculate in sugar and made a tidy income during the war.
moved his family to the quiet
to escape the fury of war. But fate once again took a hand. The war which had
virtually begun in village
of Appomattox Court House McLean’s kitchen in Manassas, when a Union
artillery shell exploded in the cookhouse at Yorkshire,
ended in his front parlor in Appomattox Court House where General Lee
surrendered his army to General Grant.
McLeans left their
rented house in Appomattox
and returned to the Manassas
area, virtually penniless. McLean still owned
many hundreds of acres of land in ,
but the land was virtually worthless for resale and Prince
William County McLean
was heavily in debt.
Eventually the ever practical McLean turned his attention to politics, joined the Yankee Republican party, supported Grant in the election of 1872 and was rewarded by an appointment to a U.S. Treasury job. Wilmer McLean died on June 5, 1882 and is buried in St. Paul’s Cemetery in Alexandria.