Friday, January 28, 2011

Wilderness Wins- No Wal-Mart Will be Built

Wal-Mart Abandons Store Plans Near Civil War Battle of the Wilderness
Mark Whittington
Thu Jan 27, 2011

Usually protests against building a Wal-Mart are driven by unions who are put out that Wal-Mart's workforce is not unionized. But a plan to build a Wal-Mart near the site of the Civil War Battle of the Wilderness aroused the ire of Civil War preservationists.

Plans to build a Wal-Mart store one mile from the entrance to the Wilderness Battlefield Park. Unfortunately the site chosen for the Wal-Mart, according to historians, was the site of General Ulysses S. Grant's headquarters and also a makeshift hospital where Union casualties were treated. This was the basis of groups such as the Civil War Trust who campaigned vigorously against building the Wal-Mart on the site.

Wal-Mart made its decision to walk away a day before a court trial was to take place. Those slated to testify against the Wal-Mart included Civil War historian James McPherson, filmmaker Ken Burns, and actor Robert Duvall. Burns had produced an award-winning documentary series on the Civil War that first ran on PBS in 1990. Duvall had played the part of Robert E. Lee in the Civil War epic "Gods and Generals."

Wal-Mart will now look for an alternative site elsewhere in Northern Virginia. It is a decision that has been applauded by all concerned.

History of the Battle of the Wilderness

The Battle of the Wilderness, which took place in 1864, was the first of many clashes between General Ulysses S. Grant, who had taken command of the Army of the Potomac, and General Robert E. Lee, long term commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The three day battle resulted in thirty five thousand dead, wounded, and missing. Though the Wilderness and the later Battle of Spotsylvania were bloody and inconclusive, General Grant did not retreat north, as so many commanders of the Army of the Potomac had done before. Instead, he pressed on, moving further and further south, probing for weaknesses in Lee's Army, fighting bloody battles of attrition, using his massive advantage in numbers and fire power.

When Lee found out that Grant was not retreating, it is said that he knew that he was confronted by a different kind of Yankee General. That truth must have hit home a year later when Lee finally met Grant at Appomattox to tender the surrender of himself and his Army.