Walmart Conquers the Wilderness: Virginia Board Allows Big Box Store to Build Near Civil War Battlefield

300px-Battle_of_the_WildernessIt took almost 150 years, but Virginia has finally surrendered at the Battle for the Wilderness — without firing a shot. In a terrible blow to historians and preservationists, the Orange County Board of Supervisors caved into pressure from Walmart and business groups to allow the construction of a huge Walmart store next to the historic Wilderness battlefield where 145,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought and close to 30,000 were killed or wounded. Despite international objections to the damage to this historic area, the pro-development board voted 4-1 to side put a big box store ahead of its own proud legacy.

I will admit to being a military history nut, but this is a story that should outrage every American.

One of the most intriguing things about these historic areas is how locals will often show away such legacies to developers, even for a big box store. It is a sharp contrast to the courage shown by thousands of men who gave their lives in the area. Rather than protect the sacred ground around this site, they selected a Superstore.

The Wilderness battlefield is where generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee first met in battle. It turns out that if General Grant had simply offered retail opportunities, he would have been welcomed with open arms.

We are now approaching the 150th anniversary of the battle — just in time to coincide with the opening of the Superstore. No doubt many of these board members will be present to espouse pride in their legacy at those celebrations after selling out to a big box store. It will also not likely stop some citizens from denouncing the lack of patriotism of other citizens and waiving the flag when they just sold out part of our history for cheap Superstore.
For historians, that is not even thirty pieces of silver, it is more like selling out for a slurpie and a discount card.

Only one-fourth of the Wilderness area is protected. Supervisor Chairman Lee Frame insists that “the current proposal … is the best way to protect the battlefield.” That is much like the theory that you must destroy a village to save it.

Barbara Wigger insisted in one article that “I know we’ve been referred to as ignorant shoppers. I feel bad about that but I’ll live with it. Let us have our Walmart and let us stop the battle.”

Locals ignored one of the most impressive collections of world leaders and historians ever assembled. They included authors David McCullough and James M. McPherson, filmmaker Ken Burns, actor Robert Duvall, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, and congressmen from Vermont and Texas. However, Wal-Mart and its lobbyists were on the other side with a promise of jobs and tax revenue. That was an easy choice for the board.

mjohnsonZACKTEELGOODWIN (3)WEBLEEFRAME (11)WEBIt is quite a legacy for these four board members who voted to sell out to Wal-Mart: Supervisors R. Mark Johnson, Zack Burkett, Teel Goodwin and Lee Frame.

pacesmallOnly Teri L. Pace stood with the area’s proud history and legacy.

For the full story, click here and here.

39 thoughts on “Walmart Conquers the Wilderness: Virginia Board Allows Big Box Store to Build Near Civil War Battlefield”

  1. IS,

    Because an abuse of the eminent domain power is the exact same thing as zoning regulations?

    I have no idea why you think people should be allowed to do what ever they want with their property. Especially when the actions have a long term effect on others’ property. Mis-use of land has a much greater impact on your neighbor than playing your music to loudly, but I bet you’d call the cops on your neighbor if they were blasting music at 2:00 AM and wouldn’t turn it down.

  2. Gyges:

    then what do you call Kelo v. City of New London?


    you got that right. where I live the local supervisors controll private property through over arching/reaching environmental laws. If I was a lawyer I would have them in court claiming they were “taking” my land (by my inability to build) without just compensation.

  3. DayLabor,

    You’re misrepresenting what happened. The vote wasn’t “should we stop a land owner from building on his land?,” it was “should we permit a land owner a special exemption from the existing laws?” The community had decided in the 70s that the land should be zoned for business, but that there should be a size limit on individual buildings. Unless the land owner bought the land before the area was zoned that way, they bought the land with the understanding that there was a size limitation on what could be built there.

    Permitting special treatment solely based on an increase tax income? I’d call that selling out.

  4. I’m confused. Are they building the WalMart on the National Park land, the land that the (national) “public” has decided to designate as a battlefield monument? If not, are they perhaps building the WalMart on (local) public land, land that the local citizens have decided to remove from the tax roles and, at public expense, tax themselves so they might purchase the land?

    If not, then the remaining option is that they are building the WalMart on private land that is available for the sort of gradual development that has occurred on most private land over the past two centuries. If it’s private land, the owners of the property have quite extensive rights to do ordinary things that one does with land, including farm it, or build houses, or build commercial buildings. Moreover, the Constitution says that those rights may not be taken away by the government without just compensation.

    So the entire political fracas is a red herring. If you want to do something else with the land, BUY THE LAND, by some legitimate and ethical means. Otherwise, your attempt to “take” it via political means is as unjust as if six of the neighbors in a ten-neighbor block voted to prevent you and three of your (unlucky) neighbors from building, living in, and enjoying houses on your private property lots. If it would be coercive and immoral to do it on your block, it is just as immoral when done by a political force, sanctioned by a “government,” of a majority discriminating against a minority.

  5. IS,

    So the best monument to a war that was fought for a variety of reasons, none of which were “protect capitalism” is Wal-mart or a Sky-scraper, both of which are often used as symbols of capitalism?


    I suppose you think we should build a giant library at Waterloo, because that makes just about as much sense.

  6. Every business has it’s bad supervisors, that dose not mean the entire company is corrupt. Hopefully those supervisors will be fired or demoted.

    All pit bulls are dogs, some pit bulls attack and kill children therefore all dogs kill children.

  7. By this logic every battlefield in the world should be preserved. Wal-Mart is a shining example of capitalism and what it can produce. Had I died on a battlefield of the Civil War I can think of no more fitting monument, except possibly a 20 story skyscraper and a prosperous society living in freedom. To bad it hasn’t turned out that way.

    The average citizen has it right, Robert Duvall should stick to acting and if he wants to preserve land he should use some of his considerable fortune to buy land. To much land belongs to government and more should be put into production-timber, coal, oil, and various other natural resources. This will put people to work as will Wal-Mart. Environmentalists have eliminated the good paying jobs such as oil and mining, all we have left is Wal-Mart.

  8. GWMom,

    Your comment about the feelings within your center made me sad.

    I hope someday soon you’ll feel completely at ease.

    I’ve never seen you walk, but I like the way you talk just fine. You can do it louder too if you’d like, I don’t mind 🙂

  9. lotta writes: But was that the first time you really felt PROUD of your country? 🙂

    Joking aside, I agree about visiting DC, it’s a pilgrimage all Americans should make. I’d have liked to have made the trip later in my life than I did, it would be so much more relevant and spiritual now than it was when I was much younger.

    me: hmmm. proud of my country…. let me think.
    I was what? 32 when I first visited DC and 18 during the height of the Viet Nam war and 22 during the Watergate hearings. 11 when JFK was assassinated. So that is a disconnect. I just don’t think I have that USA First thing. I’m not a nationalist in any real way. Sure I like it when we get gold at the olympics. Maybe there is a disadvantage to feeling like a guest in a foreign country. I was reared in the shadow of the holocaust. for better or worse, the idea that it could happen here has always been slightly at the center of my being. we jews are only as safe as our host nation allows us safety. so far this country has been willing to accept up side by side, as long as we don’t talk too loud or walk too proud.

    anyway, your second home is where your kids live so my second home is DC for the foreseeable future.
    not for nothing, everywhere you go there are like 5 kinds of cops and cameras recording every step you take.

  10. GWLSM: “…I never felt truly American until my first visit to DC…”

    But was that the first time you really felt PROUD of your country? 🙂

    Joking aside, I agree about visiting DC, it’s a pilgrimage all Americans should make. I’d have liked to have made the trip later in my life than I did, it would be so much more relevant and spiritual now than it was when I was much younger.

  11. we took the grand tour of civil war battle sites about a decade ago from fredricksberg to gettysberg. there are things that help connect us to our history and one of them is standing in the places where ordinary americans made extraordinary history.
    my family did not arrive in this country until the early/mid 20th century. its not easy to find connection to how americans feel about being american unless you look for it in places like The Wilderness or Antietam, another disgraceful encroachment on hallowed ground. I never felt truly American until my first visit to DC and that was cemented by our visits to these sites. quite possibly this trip had much to do with my kid’s choice of schools and ultimately her choice to make DC her home.

  12. I hate everything about Wal-Mart. This situation is just one more time where they have bought their way into a location that should have been spared.

  13. We ‘Mainahs’ and the local wildlife population had better luck with one particular wetland area. Wal-Mart was forced to build elsewhere!

    Wal-Mart commits to habitat
    Wednesday, April 13, 2005 – Bangor Daily News Email This Article To A Friend Print This Article Go Back

    “…In battles like that over Bangor’s Penjajawoc Marsh, Wal-Mart’s massive stores have become symbolic of the fight between environmentalists and developers. Now, the company aims to transform its reputation by committing $35 million over the next 10 years to protect more than 138,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the United States. A Washington County conservation project will get $6.1 million from Wal-Mart in the first round of funding.

    In partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the company intends to buy, or protect by easement, at least 1 acre of wildlife habitat for every acre nationwide covered by Wal-Mart stores, parking lots and distribution centers, company executives announced Tuesday in Washington, D.C.”

    Read on…

  14. Can’t blame the North on this one. Southern company invading Southern land. Pretty sad actually. If this time of economic gloom does not make people re-evaluate the excessive worship of profit and materialism, then I don’t know what will.

  15. Imagine that? Middle class, middle-aged white guys putting money over history, or courage, or just about anything else. Looks like a Bush rally.

  16. A disgrace and the only one that stood her ground maybe knew something about birthin a baby.

    I suppose the American Flags that they sell at Wal-Mart will be made in the North? I am sure, North Korea.

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