Belle of the Battlefield

Last weekend, my Civil War reenacting unit had its planning meeting out at Centreville, Virginia.  After the meeting, I passed through Manassas National Battlefield, and took a couple of photos on Henry Hill.


Statue of General Stonewall Jackson on Henry Hill, Manassas, Virginia.

I always make it a point of visiting with General Jackson when I’m in the area, but never seem to find time to do much else.  It was freezing, cold and windy, but I promised myself that I would come back again, and spend a lot more time at the battlefield as the weather warmed.

Earlier this week, a coworker of mine brought in a copy of a book, “This Was Virginia, as Shown by the Glass Negatives of J. Harry Shannon, The Rambler”, a book of photographs taken all over Northern Virginia from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.  In flipping through the book, I found an entire section dedicated to photographs from the Manassas area.  One photograph in particular jumped out at me, captioned, “Mrs. Lucinda Dogan of Groveton (“The Belle of the Battlefield”).

Lucinda Dogan

Mrs. Lucinda Dogan in 1902.

I made a copy of her picture.  I had no idea who the Belle of the Battlefield could possibly be in Manassas.  When I think of Manassas, I normally think of Stonewall Jackson and Yanks running across Stone Bridge.  However, I learned a fascinating story of an uncommonly brave woman who was thrust into extraordinary circumstances – not once but twice.  I had to return to Manassas sooner than I thought to tell her story.

Lucinda Lewis was born September 26, 1817, and married William Henry Dogan April 6, 1842.  She and her husband had eight children before his death in 1854.  Her home, Peach Grove, burned in 1860, and she and her six living children moved into an outbuilding on the property, the old overseer’s house.  A frame addition was made to structure,  creating a two-room house with a fireplace in the center.  Cozy for seven people!


Home of Mrs. Lucinda Dogan, showing the outbuilding with the additional frame section added to make a two-room house.

As Lucinda and her family were setting up their new home, States were seceding from the Union, and the infant Confederacy was taking form.  General Lee, who early in the War was an adviser to President Davis, knew that the northern part of Virginia was integral to the defense of Richmond and the rest of the Confederacy.  He knew also that keeping the Yankees entirely out of Virginia was not possible, considering that only the Potomac River separated Virginia from Washington, and the Federals held all of the crossings.  Lee found a defensible position, north of the Manassas Junction near a stream called Bull Run, close to where Lucinda and her family lived.

On Sunday, July 21st, the first battle of Manassas commenced just down the road from Lucinda’s home, in the vicinity of Matthews Hill and Henry Hill.  She could see the fighting from her home, and could see the advance of the troops and hear the rebel yell of the Confederates.

As the battle raged, Lucinda felt she could not stand by idly.  She loaded a wagon with casks of water and provisions and had it driven to the battlefield with orders that the food and water was to be distributed to soldiers in distress, regardless of which uniform they wore.  This act of kindness earned her name of the Belle of the Battlefield, given by both Northern and Southern soldiers.

During the battle some Federal stragglers approached her home and asked for water and food.  Lucinda told them that she would feed them, but that they had to lay down their arms before she would do so.  They complied, and they remained at her home until the next day.  At that point, she turned them over as prisoners.  It’s quite possible that Lucinda was responsible for capturing the first Federal prisoners of war.

Just over a year later in August 1862, Lucinda was drying the breakfast dishes and received a visit from a staff officer of General Jackson.  She was told that another battle would be fought in her vicinity, and this time she and her family were asked to leave the property for their safety.  She and her children traveled to her father’s house a mile or so away.  Not long after they departed, Federal troops took up a position on her property and opened batteries on General Jackson’s line.  There was fierce fighting all around the Dogan home for two days.

When they were able to return to their home, they were met with horrible sights.  Lucinda recalled:

Funeral parties of both armies were burying the dead, though they had not been long at this horrible work.  The Confederates dug long deep trenches and laid their men in the ground that way.  The Union burial parties only shoveled mounds of dirt over the bodies where they lay, and two or three days after a heavy rain made the field hideous.  When the children and I got home, parties of men were collecting the wounded and putting them in rows here in the yard and wherever there was shade.  Doctors were cutting off legs and arms and the moaning was awful….  The children and I took buckets of water out into the fields and we worked that day and into the night, doing what we could for the poor fellows.  Most of them on our farm were Yankees but that didn’t make any difference to us after they got hurt.  All of our bed sheeting and table linen went for bandages.

After the War, Lucinda was recognized by veterans of both armies as a ministering angel on the battlefield.  She was an integral part of reunions held each year at Manassas, and invited to the dedication of three New York monuments on the field in October 1906, when survivors of the 14th Brooklyn wrote:

Old Mrs. Lucinda Dogan, who was in the house during the battles of both first and second Bull Run, now 89 years of age, white haired and wrinkled, was cheerful and communicative, her mental faculties apparently all unimpaired.  Displaying a wonderful memory of incidents of those terrible times, this … lovely old lady chatted familiarly with General McLeer, with Commissioner Rankin and the writer of this narrative, who had been pleasantly presented to her by Mrs. DeMaine, one of the Daughters [UDC] comparing recollections with them. 

Lucinda died at the age of 93, at her home on the Manassas battlefield, and was mourned by veterans of both armies with “profound sorrow”.  She was buried at the Dogan family cemetery with her other family members.  The Dogan family cemetery is found at the rear of the Stonewall Memory Gardens, a modern cemetery adjacent to her home off Lee Highway, Manassas.


Memorial at the Dogan Family Cemetery, found close to Lucinda Dogan’s house in Manassas, Virginia.


She hath done what she could

Summer, 1863.  The citizens of the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania knew the relative calm of a War fought to their south was at an end.  At the end of June, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia entered the State, and citizens of the State were thrown into a panic.  When Confederate cavalry approached Gettysburg on June 30, many citizens had already evacuated.

Some citizens were unable to refugee out of harm’s way.  As it happens, Mrs. Georgia McClellan of Gettysburg safely delivered a baby boy about an hour before the Confederate troops entered town.  There was no discussion of leaving as it was considered deadly to move a woman who had just borne a child; she would convalesce in the bed at her home, attended by her mother and her sister, Miss Mary Virginia Wade, known to her family as Jennie (sometimes “Ginnie”).


The McClellan home on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, showing the Jennie Wade statue in front.

For two days, the battle raged around the little house.  A Federal skirmish line was set up behind the home, and Confederate outposts were all around.  Jennie filled the canteens of the Union soldiers from the well at her sister’s home, and spent time baking bread and giving it to the soldiers at no cost.  Needless to say, Jennie’s generosity and bravery under such difficult circumstances was looked upon with a great deal of admiration and respect by the Federals in the skirmish lines behind the house.

Late in the evening of July 2, the second day of the battle, Jennie and her mother noticed that they were running low on bread, and they prepared some dough to rise overnight in the dough trough in the kitchen for baking the next morning.

At 8am on July 3, Jennie was in the kitchen working at the dough trough when Confederate sharpshooters started shooting at the north side of the house.  The house was struck many times.  One of the sharpshooter’s bullets hit the front door of the house, passed through another door in the home, and struck Jennie as she stood working at the dough trough.  She was killed immediately.


The door of the McClellan home showing the entry hole of the bullet that killed Jennie Wade at the middle right of the door. Many more holes are seen near the top of the door as well.

The screams of Jennie’s sister, Georgia, were heard at the Federal skirmish lines outside the house.  The Union soldiers rushed to the house to see what was wrong.  Jennie’s body was found by them, her hands covered in flour, on the floor by the dough trough.  The battle-hardened veterans who arrived on the scene were stunned at seeing a young woman, dead, covered in her own blood.

The Federal troops tried to convince Jennie’s mother and sister that moving to the cellar of the house was far less risky than staying on the main floor of the home.  Jennie’s mother refused to leave Jennie’s body.  Even going to the cellar had great risk at this point, as they would have to exit the home through the very door at which Confederates were concentrating fire.

The day prior, a Confederate parrot shell had hit the upper level of the house, and tore a hole through the wall between two sections of the house.  The Union soldiers moved Jennie’s body, and assisted her sister Georgia, and her mother and the baby to the upper level, where they all crawled through the hole in the wall, and down the back steps of the house.  From there, the cellar doors were opened and the two ladies, the baby, and the body of Jennie were taken to the cellar, where they remained for the next 18 hours.

After the battle, the Union soldiers buried Jennie in the skirmish lines behind the house, where she remained for some time.  Her family purchased a family burial plot at the Evergreen Cemetery, and her body was disinterred and buried there.


Jennie Wade’s grave at Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg.  Her mother’s grave is to the left.

Jennie’s sister Georgia was emphatic that Jennie, the only civilian casualty of Gettysburg, would never be forgotten.  She moved to Iowa after the War with her her husband, but she attended every Gettysburg memorial event that occurred during her lifetime.  Georgia petitioned for the right to have the American flag permanently displayed at Jennie’s grave site.  The only other American woman with this honor is Betsy Ross.

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The story, however, doesn’t end at this.

Jennie’s childhood friend, Wesley Culp, was a native of Gettysburg, but was working in Virginia at the start of the War.  Thinking the War would be over quickly, he enlisted with the Confederates, but he stayed in contact with his friends and family in Gettysburg.

Jack Skelly, Jennie’s sweetheart, was from Gettysburg as well, and he fought for the Union.  He was badly wounded and captured by the Confederates in Virginia.  On June 15, Wesley came across Jack at a Confederate hospital, and Jack gave Wesley a note to get to Jennie.

The note was never delivered.  Wesley was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg on his Uncle’s property at Culp’s Hill.  Jack Skelly died in the Confederate hospital in Winchester.  When Jennie was killed on July 3, her pocket contained a picture of Jack.

About a girl

Off Wilkes Street just outside of Olde Town proper, there’s a complex of no less than 13 cemeteries.  Several of them date from 1809, which was the year that the City of Alexandria prohibited burials within the city, due to increased growth and concerns about wells and privies located too close to burial sites.


Driving down Wilkes Street, you’re met with an array of directional signs for the cemeteries located there.

I’ve visited St. Paul’s Cemetery on two other occasions, most recently when I came across the grave of Wilmer McLean.  I enjoy taking a bit of time also to stroll around and see the interesting graves.

When visiting St. Paul’s, your eye is drawn to this interesting structure.

IMG_2798No less than 6 family members are interred in this crypt.  I have to admit, this is probably one of the most creepy structures I’ve encountered in a cemetery.  St. Paul’s has at least two of these structures, and I refer to them as “toasters”, because honestly I’m not sure if they’re more appropriately called a crypt or mausoleum, or perhaps some other name.

In examining it closer, you see white marble headstones set into the brickwork.  This particular one is for two people, who I assume are buried inside the toaster.



I imagine the burials were made using the hatch door found in the front of the crypt.  I found myself wondering if the cemetery still has the key available.


The entire structure was stuccoed at some point, but the years have not been kind.  The stucco has crumbled in some places and grass is growing in the resulting cracks.

IMG_2804Across the road from the toaster crypt, this crooked little headstone caught my eye.  Ann Rebecca Cannell is one of eight children of Isaac and Sarah Cannell.  Sadly, only two of their eight children lived to adulthood.  Little Ann Rebecca died at 11 months of age.

As fascinating as St. Paul’s is, today’s visit came about as the result of a conversation with a woman who is a Civil War reenactor.  We discussed where we live, and how much we enjoy seeing the history in Northern Virginia, and she asked what seemed quite an odd question, “Oh, you’re from Alexandria.  You’ve seen the grave of the Female Stranger at St. Paul’s?”

The story of the Female Stranger is a sad tale indeed, with mystery and a bit of the occult thrown in for good measure.


The grave of the Female Stranger is one of several table monuments in the cemetery.  It’s raised above ground-level by a stone enclosure, and had a metal railing as an enclosure at one time.

I attempted to take a photo of the top of the grave, showing the inscription, and used the panorama feature on my iPhone; despite a few tries, I couldn’t quite capture it as well as I wanted.

IMG_2797The top of the monument reads:

 To the Memory of a
whose mortal sufferings terminated
on the 14th day of October 1816
Aged 23 years and 8 months.
This stone is placed here by her disconsolate
Husband in whose arms she sighed out her
latest breath and who under God
did his utmost even to soothe the cold
dead ear of death.
How loved how valued once avails thee not
To whom related or by whom begot
A heap of dust alone remains of thee
Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be
To him gave all the Prophets witness that
through his name whosoever believeth in
him shall receive remission of sins.
Acts.10th Chap. 43rd verse

The story of the Female Stranger has been told for almost 200 years now, with some variations.  In May 1816, an English vessel arrived in Alexandria, carrying a very handsome man and a beautiful woman.  The woman was exceptionally ill upon arrival.  Some stories say she had typhoid, others say she was ill and with child.  The gentleman and his lady were taken to Gadsby’s Tavern in Olde Towne, and rented room #8.  The gentleman sought the care of a prominent local doctor, Samuel Richards, and two nurses.  Despite their best efforts, the woman died in her husband’s arms that fall.

Upon the woman’s death, Dr. Richards, the nurses, and the hotel staff were all sworn to secrecy as to the identity of the man and his deceased wife.  Each of them took this secret to their grave.

The distraught husband disappeared shortly after his wife’s death, but left a very large sum of money to pay for her medical bills, and for purchase of her elaborate grave site, memorial, and the future caretaking of the site.  Some accounts say that the mysterious man borrowed a large sum of money for these expenses from Lawrence Hill, a local merchant, and repaid him with an English banknote which was later found to be a forgery.

It’s said that the Female Stranger haunts room #8 in Gadsby’s Tavern.  She’s occasionally seen at the window holding a candle.  Other people have reported hearing footsteps in the room when no one is there.  Some have even reported seeing her standing next to her tombstone at St. Paul’s, although I wasn’t graced with an appearance.

Who was the Female Stranger?  There’s lots of conjecture, but no definitive answer.  One possibility is that the woman was Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr, who famously disappeared in 1813.  Another tale says the woman was European royalty, or perhaps an unmarried woman who found herself “in the family way”.

Regardless of who she was, it’s striking to notice that her grave is still visited by many people who wonder as to her identity and story.  There were several fresh flowers atop the monument while I was there.  I know there’s still plenty to see at St. Paul’s, but this will remain one of my favorite destinations.

An honored Revolutionary


The Old Presbyterian Meeting House sits on South Fairfax Street in Olde Town.  The congregation began meeting in private homes in 1760, but the first meeting house was constructed on this spot in 1772, and was only the second house of worship in the City.

The Church has a strong connection to General Washington.  At the front door, there is a plaque commemorating General Washington attending services there on May 9, 1798.


Upon Washington’s death in 1799, four separate memorial services were conducted here.  The bell in the church pulpit chimed nonstop from the time of Washington’s death until his interment at Mount Vernon.

IMG_2807The little churchyard behind the Meeting House is the final resting place of about 300 people.  Unfortunately, most of the graves are no longer marked.  Many of General Washington’s closest friends are buried here in the church yard.


James Craik was the Chief Physician and Surgeon of the Continental Army, who died in 1814.

Some of the most poignant stories are told in old burial grounds.  The Reverend James Muir, D.D., was the 3rd pastor of the Meeting House.  I would assume that this is his 7 month old son at the burial ground.


The headstone reads: Frances Wardlaw Muir 1791/2. Died 7 months old. Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

I found this headstone particularly interesting due to the fact that there appears to have been some confusion as to what year the child died, 1791 or 1792?  The headstone appears to have been chiseled with two dates superimposed on one another.  Very odd!

Tucked into the rear corner of the church yard, we find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution.  The remains of this soldier were discovered in 1826 when the foundation for St. Mary’s Church, directly behind the Meeting House, was being dug.  The remains of this soldier were re-interred here at the Meeting House.


This Memorial over the Tomb was created by the National Society of the Children of the American Resolution, and dedicated on Lexington & Concord Day in 1929.  The epitaph reads:

Here lies a soldier of the Revolution whose identity is known but to God.  His was an idealism that recognized a Supreme Being, that planted religious liberty on our shores, that overthrew despotism, that established a people’s government, that wrote a Constitution setting metes and bounds of delegated authority, that fixed a standard of value upon men above gold and lifted high the torch of civil liberty along the pathway of mankind.  In ourselves his soul exists as part of ours, his memory’s mansion.


Services are regularly conducted for the Unknown Soldier by various organizations such as the Children of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, Society of the Cincinnati, First Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line, the VFW, American Legion, and many others.

edit: Found a YouTube video about the efforts to keep the Unknown Soldier’s memory alive.

The church in the woods


There are so many historic buildings in Olde Towne that its difficult to say which of them I love the most.  If I were forced to choose, I would say that Christ Church on North Washington Street is my favorite.

Christ Church, completed in 1773, was the house of worship of General George Washington and his family when they were in Alexandria.  His pew in the church is intact, and marked with a silver plaque.  The Washington pew is a place of great history, beyond even its connection to the Father of our Country; Christ Church traditionally is visited by Presidents while they are in office.  In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt worshiped there with Prime Minister Churchill.  The interior of the Washington pew is marked with silver plaques to commemorate this occasion as well.


The entirety of the Washington pew does not face the front of the Church.  This was a common design of pews in this early time.  The center open area of the box was left open to accommodate a small stove which would be brought from home to keep the occupants of the box warm during services in the unheated church.  I am told that the silver plaque on the pew is not the original, as “they” stole it.  I can only assume “they” were the Union soldiers who used Christ Church during the Civil War to conduct services for the US Army.

The fact that Christ Church was the church home of General Washington contributed to it being used only for church services during the War, when most other churches in the city were used as hospitals or as stables.

At the front of the Church, as directed in 1602 by the Church of England, can be found the Ten Commandments.  Christ Church is unique in that the Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule are also displayed.  These lovely panels were hand lettered by James Wren, who was the architect of the Church.  They have never been retouched since their installation.



Christ Church was called “the church in the woods” as it stood on the very outskirts of Alexandria as it existed in 1773.  The congregation of the church grew and in 1787, it became necessary to add an upper gallery to the Church to accommodate the large number of worshipers.


Looking towards the back of the church showing the organ in the gallery, and the small chandelier which was added in 1817, and now converted to electric.

In 1811, the Lee family moved from Stratford Hall to Alexandria, and this became the church of “Lighthorse” Harry Lee, hero of the Revolution, great friend of George Washington, and father to 3 year old Robert E. Lee.  In 1853, Robert E. Lee knelt at the alter at Christ Church, with two of his children, and was confirmed by John Johns, the assistant Bishop of Virginia.IMG_2746

The churchyard at Christ Church was used as the burying ground for the City of Alexandria until 1809.  After 1809, the Christ Church cemetery was relocated to Wilkes Street, outside of the City.  The original burial ground on-site is a lovely shady spot, cool on a hot day, and peaceful.



I was intrigued by this headstone, which says that Dorothy Harper was the “uxor” of John Harper.  I’ve seen the term “relict” on other headstones, which is the term used for the wife of a deceased husband.  Uxor is a Latin term for spouse.

IMG_2754Finally, in the corner of the churchyard, you can find the resting place of several Confederate prisoners of war who died in Federal hospitals in Alexandria, one of whom is unknown.

Not the Appomattox you think it is


Market Day!

I had the morning all planned — pick up some yummy fresh veggies and fresh bread at Market, and then visit Gadsby’s Tavern for this week’s post.

I should have known today wasn’t going to go according to plan when I was heading down Prince Street in Olde Towne, and stopped at the stoplight at South Washington Street.  I glanced to my right, at the Lyceum, and a sign outside said the gift shop (read: “bookstore”) was open.  Of course, I had no choice but to make a right turn.  It occurred to me as I parked, however, that this was a perfect opportunity for a nice photo of what’s commonly referred to as “the Confederate Statue” at the very corner where the Lyceum is located.


Virginia seceded from the Union on May 24, 1861, and on this very spot that day, 800 troops from Alexandria marched south out Duke Street and boarded an Orange and Alexandria Railroad train.  Their destination was Manassas Junction, where they met with other troops and formed the 17th Virginia Infantry.

After the War, a private from Company H of the 17th Virginia Infantry, Edgar Warfield, proposed a monument to the Confederate dead in Alexandria.  John Elder, from Fredericksburg, heard of the proposed monument and submitted a clay model based on a figure in his painting “Appomattox”.

November 25, 1888, the R.E. Lee Camp received approval for the statue to be placed at the intersection of Washington and Prince Streets.  The dedication of the statue was held on May 24, 1889, and Virginia’s Governor Fitzhugh Lee delivered the address at the dedication.

Unveiling photoAt the base of the statue are found 100 names of the Confederate dead.  The south side of the pedestal reads:

Erected to the memory of Confederate dead of Alexandria, Va by their Surviving Comrades, May 24, 1889.

The North side of the pedestal reads:

They died in the consciousness of duty faithfully performed. 

The name of James W. Jackson, the proprietor Marshall House who was killed on May 24, 1861 was added to the east side of the statue in 1900.

On the corner of Prince and South Washington, you can also see this plaque about the statue:


In the Lyceum, I beelined it for the giftshop, and I was thrilled to pick up a copy of a book I’d never seen before, “This Forgotten Land, Volume II, Biographical Sketches of Confederate Veterans Buried in Alexandria, Virginia” by Donald C. Hakenson.  This book will be really invaluable for upcoming scouting!

Onward to Gadsby’s Tavern.  I checked the website for the museum before leaving the house and read: Tours start at a quarter after the hour and a quarter before the hour and last approximately 30 minutes.  I figured showing up around 11:30 or so would work out well, as that would be in time for the 11:45 tour.  Unfortunately when I arrived, the sign on the door said the next tour would be at 12:45, which was confirmed by a docent.  I had the option of waiting in the heat for an hour, or making a quick change of plan.  The change of plan seemed the best course of action, and I headed back towards my car.  I stopped, however, when I came across this fountain, tucked behind some greenery:


The old fountain is nearly hidden near a side entrance to Gadsby’s Tavern on Cameron Street.  The inscription indicates that the fountain was placed in 1912 by the Mount Vernon Chapter of the DAR in recognition of Alexandria’s Colonial and Revolutionary events.

What isn’t immediately apparent about this fountain is that its made from a cannon.  There were four cannons left by General Braddock in and around Alexandria, and this particular one was found at King Street and the Strand.  The ladies of the DAR felt it important that the cannon be preserved.

About this same time, many of the water pumps found commonly on the streets were beginning to disappear; there were farmers who drove horse-drawn wagons to town for Market, and nowhere could be found where they could be watered.  The decision was made that the cannon would be made into a fountain where humans, horses and dogs could all get a cool drink of water.

Seven designs were obtained for the new fountain, and finally one was selected.  The cannon was sent to Philadelphia to be crafted.  There was every indication that it would be ready in April 1912, as inscribed on the fountain; however, there was a delay as reported in the Philadelphia Press on April 28, 1912:

When it [the cannon] was being drilled for use in the fountain, it was found to contain a solid shot, and as there was every reason to to believe that there was a charge of powder back of the shot, the work of drilling has to be conducted with extreme caution.

 On May 16, 1912, the fountain was placed in the intersection of Cameron and Royal Streets and an official dedication ceremony was held.

The fountain was struck by a car in 1916, and unfortunately the dolphin statue which graced the top of the fountain was lost following this accident.  It was struck again by an Army vehicle in 1918, and following that latest mishap, the statue was removed from the intersection.

Following the two accidents, and the lack of necessity for horses to be watered at Market, the fountain was relocated on a couple of occasions, and now can be found near the Courtyard of Gadsby’s Tavern on Royal and Cameron Streets.

Wilmer McLean and the wrong place at the right time

As a participant at, I receive emails from time to time about people who are researching their family’s genealogy and are looking to obtain photographs of headstones in local cemeteries.

One Saturday morning not long ago, I received such an email from someone who was looking for a grave at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  I knew the Church was located in Old Town on South Pitt Street, so I decided to take a drive down there to get a picture.

St. Paul’s is a lovely old church (the topic of a future post) and as many of the older buildings in Alexandria, has a history reaching back many years.  Some of the church members who happened to be there for a meeting directed me to the cemetery which is actually located off of Route 1 on Wilkes Street.

It turns out that this area of Alexandria is home to many cemeteries, thirteen of them in fact.  Besides St. Paul’s, the Alexandria National Cemetery, Christ Church Cemetery, and a slave cemetery are all found in the same area.

While walking through St. Paul’s graveyard, I happened across a familiar name on one of the headstones, Wilmer McLean.


Wilmer was the son of one of the founders of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  He operated a grocery business with family members, and opened a store near Centreville, Virginia at the beginning of the War.  Unfortunately, his family home was in the middle of the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861.  His home was damaged by artillery fire, and his barn used as a Confederate hospital.

Following the battle, his family relocated to Richmond, where he hoped they would be safe from the privations in Northern Virginia.  In Richmond, Wilmer speculated in purchasing supplies and selling them at greatly inflated prices to the Confederate quartermaster.  As the War pushed south, he relocated his family yet again to Appomattox Court House.

Unfortunately for the McLean family, the War followed close behind them.   On April 8, 1865, McLean gave reluctant permission for his home to be used for the surrender of General Lee to General Grant.  McLean was quoted later as saying, “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor”.

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The McLean house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, 1865.

Following the surrender, Union troops took furnishings from the house as souvenirs, going so far as to even steal a doll belonging to McLean’s young daughter, Lulu.

The McLean family moved back to Alexandria, where Wilmer McLean worked for the Internal Revenue Service.  He died in 1876.

Lulu McLean’s doll, which was taken by an officer on General Sheridan’s staff, was returned to Virginia over 100 years later.  The doll was donated by one of the officer’s descendants to Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in December 1992, where it is now on permanent exhibition.