Letter to Historians Regarding Wilderness Walmart Controversy

Today I received a mailing from the Civil War Preservation Trust asking me to sign an enclosed statement addressed to Lee Scott, President and CEO of Walmart.  It looks like I have  been included in a group of historians asked to voice their concern about the proposed Walmart supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield.  I don't know why I am being included, but perhaps it has to do with my previous posts on the subject [and here].  Anyway, I approve of the statement and plan to sign and mail it tomorrow.  Here is a short excerpt:

As a historian, I feel strongly that the Wilderness Battlefield is a unique historic and cultural treasure deserving of careful stewardship.  Currently only approximately 25 percent of the battlefield is protected by the National Park Service.  If built, this Walmart would seriously undermine ongoing efforts to see more of this historic land preserved and deny future generations the opportunity to wander the landscape that has, until now, remained largely unchanged since 1864.

The Wilderness is an indelible part of our history, its very ground hallowed by the American blood spilled there, and it cannot be moved.  Surely Walmart can identify a site that would meet its needs without changing the very character of the battlefield.

There are many places in central Virginia to build a commercial development, there is only one Wilderness Battlefield.  Please respect our great nation's history and move your store farther away from this historic site and National Park. 

Now who could disagree with that?

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8 comments… add one
  • Scott Ackerman Oct 11, 2008 @ 17:13

    As someone who works at President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington DC, I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that Civil War sites are “one pile of cannon balls after another.” I would venture a guess that other historic Civil War and Civil War related cites (like Frederick Douglass house)would say that they emphasize much more then the military aspects of the war.

    Additionally, the Civil War is marked by “Civil War Trails” in Virginia. True, it is a connection of battlefields and skirmish sites, but usually it does have information providing some of the context, and linking the trail follower to other sites. Providing contextual information and linking visitors to other sites they might be interested in is much more then a pile of cannon balls. I concede that a large number of Civil War sites are battlefield related, but at least agree that their are Civil War sites that focus on aspects other then the battles, and that even these battlefields provide some good contextual information for the visitors.

  • Larry Oct 9, 2008 @ 1:31

    I would not say I disagree with it, but I don’t understand it.

    I ask this as a honest question: What is it with the Civil War and battlefields? Why are battlefields the overwhelming and nearly the only physical spaces that we use for remembering the war?

    The answer might seem obvious–because it was a war, stupid. But this is not the way we memorialize other wars. The Revolution is marked by battlefields, yes, but also by the Freedom Trail in Boston, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the preserved homes of many of the leading patriots. But with the Civil War it is one pile of cannon balls after another.

  • Phil LeDuc Oct 7, 2008 @ 12:18

    I don’t know for sure, but given what little I do know about the folks at the CWPT, I would be very surprised if there hadn’t been some approach made to the developer.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 7, 2008 @ 10:16

    All good points Chuck. Unfortunately, I’m not the person to ask, but I assume you can find what you are looking for on the CWPT’s website. The letter I signed was focused specifically on Walmart’s proposal for the property.

  • Chuck Oct 7, 2008 @ 10:13

    So….CWPT is trying to chase Wal-Mart away, but doesn’t say anything about whether they will buy the property to prevent say, Target from moving in? And there is no mention of the housing proposed for the area either. Shouldn’t they really be talking to the developer?

  • Sherree Oct 7, 2008 @ 8:27

    Make that two pleased readers, Kevin. Your other pleased reader beat me to my line: Bravo!

  • Kevin Levin Oct 7, 2008 @ 6:45

    Pleased to hear that at least one reader is pleased. 🙂

  • Phil LeDuc Oct 6, 2008 @ 20:45

    Bravo, Kevin. And bravo to the CWPT (which I support) for a thoughtful and temperate approach on this.

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