There is an argument to be made for the preservation of battlefield land, but it doesn't help the cause if it is framed in the overly-emotional language of "Yankee Invaders" and "Yankee greed." I absolutely love this comment from Eric Wittenberg's blog:
pioneering strategies, from the store’s inception with Sam Walton to
the present, as well as the store’s innovative practices of adopting
environmentally pro-active packaging policies well ahead of most other
corporations. However, Wal Mart’s decision to blunder its way into
hallowed ground reminds me that the corporation has a powerful spin
machine, and behind the mirrors the company’s actions speak louder than
its PR machine. My great grandfather fought at Fredericksburg,
Chancellorsville, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania with the Palmetto
Rifles of South Carolina. He was fighting, not for slavery, but to stop
the incursion of the Yankee industrial might from taxing the common
people to death, raising the prices of imported goods with higher
tariffs (this is why Texas was founded by Steven Austin to get away
from Yankee corporate greed) and to impinge on the individual freedoms
of South Carolinians, forcing them to sell their farms and work for the
large New York-based agricultural (cotton) companies. Now 145 years
later, Yankee greed has come at last to devour the memory of those who
fought to keep their land free from exploitation. All in the name of
commerce. What irony.
At least try to get the basic facts right. Wal-Mart is not a northern company, assuming that regional identification is even possible in this day in age. Of course, this is just one example, but most of what I've read over the past few days is not much better and most of it is even worse. It's one thing for a reader to babble on about nothing, but it doesn't help if a newspaper like the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star cannot do any better:
The original, of course, was the 1864 conflagration between Gens.
Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. The first meeting of the two on the
field of arms took place in western Spotsylvania and eastern Orange
counties, a wild, thicket-laced area along the old Plank Road. The
battle involved over 160,000 troops and marked the start of Grant's
Overland Campaign, an offensive that took the Union Army clear down to
Richmond. Before the smoke cleared–literally: bullets set the dry
brush on fire and many wounded burned to death–almost 4,000 soldiers
rested in the arms of God.
This year's invaders cannot rightfully be called Yankees, since
Wal-Mart is headquartered in Bentonville, Ark., and trades with the
world. But the 142,000-square-foot store it proposes could be as
devastating as anything Grant unleashed. The site, near State Routes 3
and 20, lies irreverently within a quarter-mile of the Fredericksburg
& Spotsylvania National Military Park. Also, Wal-Mart's site plan
includes four pads for "junior big boxes." And another group wants to
put a 1.65-million-square-foot retail, office, and government complex
on 846 adjacent acres. Developments in toto larger than Central Park
would lap at the entrance to a national shrine.
The FLS owes it to its readers to present a more balanced account of what is at stake at the intersection of Routes 20 and 3. I suspect that most people in the area cannot identify Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant or that a major battle took place in something called the Wilderness. Please, let's get off our moral high horse and take the time to frame the argument in the clearest and most persuasive terms. Stop trying to fit Wal-Mart and any other potential developer into our silly Civil War memes. [The title of the FLS's editorial is "Worse Than Yankees", but I would argue that the coming of the Yankees was not necessarily seen as problematic by a fairly large section of the population. Just ask John Washington. Two can play at this game.] I constantly tell my students that the best way to convince through formal argument is to present the best case possible for the other side and then show why it is still mistaken. Let's try that hat on for size for a change.