Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another Victory for Walmart (and a Defeat for Civil War Enthusiasts)

Last week, a final approval was passed to build a new Walmart near the entrance of the Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County, Virginia. In a 4-1 vote, officials decided to grant a special permit after a majority of more than 100 speakers rallied in favor of the Supercenter. Regardless of protest from historians, Civil War buffs, and preservationists, supervisors reasoned that they couldn't see a threat, because there is no visual impact to the battlefield. Construction is scheduled to start in a year.

The majority of the Civil War's largest and most significant battles took place in Virginia. At the Battle of the Wilderness 145 years ago, Generals Lee and Grant opposed each other for the first time. Approximately 145,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought, with over 29,000 casualties. Only one-fourth of the Wilderness Battlefield is currently protected. Walmart reasons that it is building in an area zoned for commercial use. Locals claim that a new store will provide jobs, tax revenue, and affordable shopping for the 32,000 residents living there.

Protesters included Ken Burns, Robert Duvall (who claims to be a descendant of General Lee), Virginia's governor, and two congressmen. Last year, the Commonwealth of Virginia appropriated $5.2 million for the preservation of its battlefields. Virginia is committed to protecting and safeguarding her Civil War battlefields. But unfortunately, local response outweighed the desire for historical preservation. Sadly, this may not be the last time such an atrocity occurs.

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