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Historian weighs in against Walmart
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian says Walmart site is hallowed ground-an integral part of Wilderness battlefield

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PDF: Summary of the testimony
Date published: 10/13/2010


One of the nation's top historians has agreed to testify in the court case over a Walmart Supercenter planned in the Wilderness battlefield area.

James McPherson, who received the Pulitzer Prize for his "Battle Cry of Freedom," will testify that the Walmart site was blood-soaked ground in 1864's Battle of the Wilderness.

Masses of Union casualties were treated there; it wasn't merely a staging area for the battle, as claimed by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and its backers, according to a summary of his testimony submitted to the Orange County Circuit Court.

"[T]housands of wounded and dying soldiers occupied the then-open fields that included the Walmart site, which is where many of the Union Army hospital tents were located during the battle," McPherson writes in the nine-page document.

An attorney for the local residents trying to stop the development in eastern Orange said McPherson has been asked to testify at the trial, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 25.

"There has been a debate on whether the Walmart would be built on the Wilderness battlefield. We sought Dr. McPherson's testimony on this subject because he is a world-class expert on the Civil War," said Robert Rosenbaum of Washington's Arnold & Porter law firm.

"His report leaves no doubt that the site was indeed part of the battlefield. His report also makes it clear that this is hallowed ground where wounded and dying soldiers were sprawled and being treated during the fighting."

Some 185,000 Union and Confederate troops fought in the area for three days, with casualties. Historians view the Wilderness, where forces led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee first met in battle, as pivotal.

"Those three days of trauma in the Wilderness were the beginning of [the] end, even if the end was still eleven months in the future," McPherson wrote. "The hinge of fate in the Wilderness did indeed decide the destiny of the continent for centuries. If Grant had turned north instead of southeast when he came to that intersection near the proposed Walmart site, the destiny of the United States might have been much different."

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