Wilderness News Conference
May 4, 2009

At a news conference this morning, advocates for historic preservation gathered to decry the construction of Walmart supercenter proposed for the entrance to Virginia’s Wilderness Battlefield. If built, the megastore would stand across the road from the national park commemorating the bloody struggle, and within the battlefield’s historic footprint.

Robert Duvall, Academy Award-winning actor and descendent of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, led the charge. “The Walmart Corporation has it within its power to be a savior of the Wilderness Battlefield. Simply by moving to an alternate location slightly further from the battlefield, they have the ability to protect this critical piece of American history for generations to come.”

Representative Ted Poe of Texas concurred, saying, “This land, like other battlefields in our country, is consecrated with the blood of Americans. Many are still buried here and known only to God. We owe these Americans the right to keep this battlefield preserved for history and not to have a corporation, like Wal-Mart, lay asphalt over their graves. I feel the definition of corporate responsibility must always extend to respecting America’s hallowed grounds. Those values should not be eroded for the sake of Wal-Mart’s commercial gain.”
Public outcry against to the Walmart proposal surfaced as soon as it was announced last year. Both Poe and fellow representative Peter Welch of Vermont have been outspoken in their opposition. The two men each hail from states that were particularly bloodied during the epic battle; Texas troops fighting at the Wilderness sustained 60 percent casualties, while the death toll among Vermonters on May 5, 1864 amounted to 16 percent of the state’s total combat deaths for the entire war. In February, the two men sent a joint letter to Walmart executives, urging them to reconsider their site choice.
“The 1st Vermont Brigade’s brave stand at the Battle of the Wilderness exemplifies the spirit and sacrifice of Vermont troops in all conflicts our country has faced. This hallowed ground must be protected and preserved so that future generations of Vermonters can appreciate our state’s crucial role in saving the Union,” Welch said.
“I am hopeful that Wal-Mart will respect the history and tradition of the Wilderness site and reconsider its plan to build a store in such close proximity to this treasured landmark.”

“We hope they would be patriotic neighbors and locate their new store away from the battlefield,” added Poe.

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