All News & Blogs
Hundreds of historians urge Wal-Mart to relocate proposed development at Wilderness battlefield
Date published: 12/11/2008
By CLINT SCHEMMER
America's historians are coming out full force against Wal-Mart's proposed retail center in the Wilderness battlefield area.
In a letter faxed yesterday to the retail giant, 253 historians urged the Bentonville, Ark., retailer to scrap its plan to build a 138,000-square-foot Supercenter at Wilderness Corner in Orange County.
Among the signers are many of the nation's top historians including Virginia professors William C. Davis, Gary Gallagher and James I. Robertson, the authors of dozens of Civil War titles; two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner David M. McCullough; James McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Battle Cry of Freedom"; Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns; and Edwin C. Bearss, chief historian emeritus of the National Park Service.
Lee White, executive director of the National Coalition for History, said the action of such a large and diverse group shows how important the Wilderness site is to American heritage. NCH is one of the eight national and regional groups in the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, which circulated the letter. "No one has a deeper, more abiding respect for all that this ground symbolizes than the men and women who make it their lives' work to study historic sites and events. And clearly, they understand the irreparable damage that this would do to a tangible piece of our history."
Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust, said the response illustrates the near-universal opposition to Wal-Mart's proposal in the Civil War and historic-preservation communities. In their letter, the historians call the Wilderness a "unique historical and cultural treasure deserving careful stewardship," declaring it "an indelible part of our history" made sacred by the blood shed there.
Nearly 29,000 Federal and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded or captured in the intense fighting on May 5-6, 1864. The Battle of the Wilderness began the Union Army's Overland Campaign, which ended with Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. It marked the first time Gens. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant faced each other in battle.