Archive for Saturday, January 3, 2009

Historians battle Wal-Mart over key Civil War site

A view from the Salem Church Battlefield site is seen Dec. 10 in Fredericksburg, Va. Wal-Mart wants to build a Supercenter within a cannonshot of where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first fought, a proposal that has preservationists rallying to protect the key Civil War site.

A view from the Salem Church Battlefield site is seen Dec. 10 in Fredericksburg, Va. Wal-Mart wants to build a Supercenter within a cannonshot of where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first fought, a proposal that has preservationists rallying to protect the key Civil War site.

January 3, 2009


— Wal-Mart wants to build a Supercenter within a cannonshot of where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first fought, a proposal that has preservationists rallying to protect the key Civil War site.

A who’s who of historians including filmmaker Ken Burns and Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough sent a letter last month to H. Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., urging the company to build somewhere farther from the Wilderness Battlefield.

“The Wilderness is an indelible part of our history, its very ground hallowed by the American blood spilled there, and it cannot be moved,” said the letter from 253 scholars and others.

Wal-Mart and its supporters point out that the 138,000-square-foot store would be right behind a bank and a small strip mall, a full mile from entrance to the site of the 1864 clash that left thousands dead and hastened the war’s end.

Local leaders also want the $500,000 in tax revenue they estimate the big box store will generate for rural Orange County, a gradually growing area about 60 miles southwest of Washington.

“In these economic times, the fact that Wal-Mart wants to come into the county is an economic plus,” said R. Mark Johnson, a tire shop owner and chairman of the county’s board of supervisors. “This is hardly pristine wilderness we’re talking about.”

Grant’s Union troops were headed to Richmond on May 4, 1864, when they confronted Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The Battle of the Wilderness involved more than 100,000 Union troops and 61,000 Confederates. The fighting, according to National Park Service estimates, left more than 4,000 dead and 20,000 wounded.

Some 2,700 acres of the Wilderness Battlefield are protected as part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Preservationists regularly square off against developers in Virginia, where much of the Civil War was fought.

This dispute, however, has stirred an outcry similar to the one in 1994 over The Walt Disney Co.’s plans to build a $650 million theme park within miles of the Manassas Battlefield. The entertainment giant bowed to public pressure and abandoned the project.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, which opened nearly 200 stores in the U.S. in 2007, said it studied a lengthy list of sites in Orange County before settling on the spot near the battlefield and its gentle hills dissected by neat footpaths.

“We recognize the significance of the Wilderness Battlefield, but we are not building on the battlefield,” said Keith Morris, a spokesman for the world’s largest retailer.

Preservationists argue the store site is still significant because it was used as a staging area by Union troops.

“Is it blood-soaked ground? No, but it is a part of the battlefield,” said Jim Campi, a spokesman for the Civil War Preservation Trust, which lists the Wilderness Battlefield as endangered.

Supervisors will have the final say, after county planners decide whether the retailer should be granted a zoning variance. Hearings likely will be scheduled in February and March.

Supervisor Teri Pace said there are “more appropriate places” in the county for Wal-Mart to build. She envisions an economic development plan that taps the county’s history — including President James Madison’s restored home, Montpelier — and its agricultural heritage, which now includes several popular wineries.

“If we define ourselves and promote ourselves as something different, with tourism and agriculture, we really have huge opportunities here,” Pace said.


Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 4 months ago

It is time to de-glorify war. Just because this ground was once drenched in blood does not make it a holy site. War can be necessary, it can be justified, but never glorified. A Wal-Mart would be much better.

Confrontation 9 years, 4 months ago

Wow. Cleo just keeps getting more ignorant. It's called "history." Learn some, and maybe you'll appreciate it.

deskboy04 9 years, 4 months ago

People who are visiting the historic site could do some shopping...nice!

denak 9 years, 4 months ago

I have never been a Wal-Mart basher and don't believe it is the root of all evil but in this case, I am going to side with history.Unfortunately, this sort of thing has been going on for quite awhile. Our battlegrounds, memorials, landmarks are being torn down with no regards to our history. Or they are being squeezed between resturants, hotels, box stores etc.A few years ago, I went to the Alamo. I had this image in my head that it would be in some field somewhere standing in all of its glory. I was a little disappointed when I realized it is just in the middle of a street. And to me that is the problem, when there are all these stores, resturants etc. around these landmarks, there is a sense of reverance that gets lost. The landmark becomes just another piece of the landscape instead of a memorial befiting respect and introspection.People did die there in order to bring our country back together and to free other human beings, and we should respect that sacrafice by keeping these places hallow.Dena

bearded_gnome 9 years, 4 months ago

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nationmight live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here,have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forgetwhat they did here.---Abraham LincolnCleo reveals herself as a very far left fringie, Lincoln who sent many young men to their deaths, would certainly disagree with her attitude. courage is not the lack of fear, it is doing what is necessary despite being afraid. we today in our country are the beneficiaries of so many heroes' courage. in 1864 the democrat candidate for president running against lincoln wanted to settle the war and let the south have its slaves. sometimes force is necessary, and peacenicks only serve to strengthen the hand of the evil in our world.

labmonkey 9 years, 4 months ago

Cleo is stupid...she has a whole blog entry about the greatness of shopping at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart will never take no for an answer. They will eventually build there, and people are stupid enough to shop there.

Boeing 9 years, 4 months ago

Wow LJWorld is now pulling articles from Virginia to attack Wal-Mart huh?

Curtis Lange 9 years, 4 months ago

From what we see in that picture, there is already a 4-6 lane road/highway in that area. Any talk of preservation with a major road like that through the same area is ludicrous. As long as the Walmart isn't on historically protected ground, let them build.

George_Braziller 9 years, 4 months ago

Leslie/Cleo/Irish -Guess you would prefer a shopping mall or parking lot on top of Omaha Beach or Dachau to make better use of the land. Then you could park near the front door so you dont have to strain yourself as you walk across blood soaked ground to buy toothpaste and cheap underwear.

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