Wilmer McLean lived by Blackburn's Ford, one of a few places where you could wade across Bull Run. On July 18, 1861, elements of Union General Irvin McDowell's army made a reconnaissance-in-force at the ford and were repulsed by the Confederates. Much of the action took place around McLean's house; a Federal shell landed in his fireplace during the artillery exchange.
Later, in 1863, McLean moved his family 200 miles away to a tiny one-horse two built up around a crossroads called Appomattox Court House. On April 8, 1865, a messenger knocked on the door and asked to use the house. Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant needed a place to meet. Lee surrendered to Grant in the parlor of McLean's house. McLean thereafter was able to tell people that the war started in his front yard and ended in his front parlor.