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Episode 6 - Home is Where the War Is

This is one fact that really kind of blows my mind - that Wilmer McLean was that close to these two historic events. The skeptic in me wants to discount the "wow" factor - sure, he started off in a tactically-advantageous area not too far from where the one nation's capital sat literally across the river from a thoroughly hostile nation, so he was going to be close to the fight regardless. But moving to a small town nearly 140 miles to the south and STILL having history knock on your door? To modern ears, 140 miles doesn't sound like all that much, but that's a noteworthy haul for someone without a 1987 Plymouth Reliant in their garage. And the whole point was to get AWAY from the war by moving further from the front to a strategically unimportant location. Also of note - many modern accounts refer to McLean as a "wholesale grocer" at the outset of the war, which may be good and true, but he ran the plantation that he owned by virtue of his marriage. It was called "Yorkshire," and it's often referred to as a farm - it was not just that. People were enslaved there - McLean wasn't just President of the Rah Rah Confederates Club, he was also a stalwart client and devotee of the cause. It's odd that many of the accounts you find obscure that aspect of his life - it may be that they're embarrassed in his glorification and talking about it obscures the "fun" of the story. So to clear that up - Wilmer McLean's accidental role in history is a genuinely interesting coincidence, but his story shouldn't be taken as glorification of the man himself or his ideals. The guy wanted to own people and profit from their labor. The whitewashing of his history is as bizarre as it is unnecessary - even the National Park Service biography of him from 1963 doesn't shy away from his use of enslaved labor. If anything, it's an even weirder perspective, since it discusses just how busy he was and how hard he had to work keeping the enslaved workforce at work. This marks the second time that Robert Todd Lincoln pops up on this podcast, too. One more punch on our Robert Todd Lincoln card and we get a free scoop of Robert Todd Lincoln on our next visit. Oh, and we will, too, because we can't talk about mind-blowing coincidences without at least one more visit with Robert Todd Lincoln, and I've saved the best for last.

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