21 August 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 27 comments

There are three major corporations that I absolutely despise. I absolutely and categorically refuse to do business with two of them. Unfortunately, I am forced to use the third’s products, whether I want to do so or not. I hate Microsoft because of its crappy software and its monopolistic tendencies. I use its products because I have to, not because I have any desire to do so. I refuse to do business with Starbucks. I don’t drink coffee anyway, but I find their predatory tactics of specifically targeting locally owned business to drive them out of business disgusting.

The third is the Walton empire. Wal-Mart is notorious for forcing its way into communities and killing off local businesses, whether it’s wanted or not. In many instances, it’s not wanted, but it matters not to Wal-Mart. The latest atrocity by Wal-Mart is probably the most unforgivable of all: it wants to build one of its superstores ON the Wilderness battlefield, regardless of the historical significance of the ground, and regardless of what the community might have to say about it. It MUST be stopped.

Here’s an article on this from the last issue of Civil War News, which, coincidentally, was one of the last articles by Deb Fitts:

CWPT Leads Effort To Stop Wal-Mart At The Wilderness
By Deborah Fitts

THE WILDERNESS, Va. Plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the Wilderness battlefield have prompted a coalition of preservation groups to deliver a shot across the mega-store’s bow.

The 145,000-square-foot facility would be sited on a 55-acre tract in Orange County, north of the intersection of routes 3 and 20. The site lies immediately across Route 3 from Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.

In hopes of warning off Wal-Mart, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) has rallied a coalition of groups to send a joint letter citing their opposition to the plan. Trust spokesman Jim Campi said the letter was mailed on the July 4 weekend.

“It’s the opening round,” said Campi of the letter. “It’s to put Wal-Mart and county officials on notice that we’re going to oppose this.”

Campi said of the Supercenter, “This is just going to be a magnet for sprawl.” Besides the Wal-Mart itself, he said there are plans for a large parking area and “two baby box stores” on the site.

The letter, sent to Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. in Bentonville, Ark., asserts that the store “would pave the way for desecration of the Wilderness with unnecessary commercial growth. Such a large-scale development is inappropriate next to a national park.”

The letter also warned that such major development “would impair the rural nature of the area and would increase traffic dramatically.” In fact, the store would boost pressure to expand Route 20 to four lanes through the Wilderness battlefield, the letter states. “That expansion is unacceptable to this coalition.”

Leading the charge against the Wal-Mart plan are CWPT and the Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council. Their “Wilderness Battlefield Coalition” also includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Parks Conservation Association, Friends of the Wilderness, and Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields. Representatives of all six organizations signed the letter.

Campi cited “significant” local opposition as well. Orange County has long indicated a desire to block major development in this area, he said. Although the land was zoned for commercial development back in the 1970s, “quite a few elected officials think that was a mistake.”

Spotsylvania County, meanwhile, right next door, “is trying to keep commercial development east of Chancellorsville.” (And in Appomattox County Wal-Mart is on track for a 26-acre project near the national park.)

The letter states that the battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5-6, 1864, “marked the first clash between legendary Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.” More than 160,000 troops were engaged and nearly 29,000 were casualties.

The battle initiated Grant’s Overland Campaign, “that exhausted both armies and took the Union forces to the gates of Richmond.”

The letter also notes that the park protects 2,773 acres of the Wilderness battlefield. Although the park boundary does not encompass the Wal-Mart site, the land “is within the historic limits of the battlefield.”

Campi said Wal-Mart will need a special use permit in order to go ahead, and that will entail public comment. As of mid-July no dates had been set for a hearing.

Campi said CWPT members will be kept apprised of the Wal-Mart project on the Trust’s Web site, civilwar.org.

The CWPT is leading the way on this. For more information, including steps that you can take to help stop this abomination, click here.

Scridb filter


  1. Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 9:20 am

    Critically important.

    We are working with CWPT on our mountain of WIlderness material to produce something to help raise funds and awareness.


  2. Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 9:45 am

    I got that too Eric. I live approx. 15-18 miles or so from The Wilderness and I can drive past THREE other Wal-Marts on the way there!!!! Each one is within one exit of one another!!!

  3. Paul Taylor
    Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 10:22 am


    Despite my conservative leanings, I believe that Wal-Mart is truly one of the most evil influences in our country. Like you, I will not shop there. Interested parties should check out Bill Quinn’s “How Walmart Is Destroying America And The World: And What You Can Do About It.”


  4. Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 11:08 am

    While I am most assuredly a proponent of the free-market, I share your dislike for these corporations. Wal-Mart moved into our area and killed the downtown Mom and Pop shops.

    I feel the same way about the McDonalds’, Burger Kings, etc. “Chain-mania” has so homogenized our country and culture that you often can’t tell the difference from one part of the country to the other, at least when driving through the by-passes.

    I truly miss the uniqueness of the cities and towns of the various parts of the U.S. Each had so much to offer 25-40 years ago in regards to variety.

  5. Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 11:10 am

    PS – Yes, I am a member and enthusiastically support the CWPT and have done so for years!

  6. Ken Noe
    Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 11:41 am

    I’m starting to think that Wal-Mart has outsourced its PR department as well as its manufacturing to the People’s Republic of China. In April, under intense media pressure, they finally had to back down from suing Debbie Shank for the money the company contractually paid for her care after she was brain-damaged in a a traffic accident. You’ll remember that Mrs. Shank lost all of her short-term memory in the accident, and thus mourned anew every day for her son, recently killed in Iraq. Just a few weeks ago, whistle-blowers alleged that Wal-Mart executives were pressuring employees to vote Republican this fall. And now this. Perhaps the Waltons’ hubris is finally catching up with them. It’s hard to be hopeful though–in the nineties I watched with horror as a local government in Georgia approve a K-Mart superstore that now sets on top of a Confederate cemetery.

  7. Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 1:41 pm

    As I mentioned on my blog yesterday, large sections of the battlefield have already gone under the bulldozer to build subdivisions. The park service has done a great job masking that off (on the Flank Trail for instance) for the benefit of the visitors. The fact that one can even get a sense of the battlefield is in no small part due to the work of the NPS and preservation organizations such as CWPT, CVBT, and FOWB.

    Seems to be a lot of “get an inch then take a mile” going on with the developers lately. First get an easement or right of way. Then ask for an addition. Then when traffic is unbearable, demand for whole-scale infrastructure additions. In the end, they get what they wanted in the beginning, one piece at a time in small battles. I pray this won’t be the case with the Wilderness.

  8. Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I’m sure most of you will find this dataflow map to be quite interesting or should I say disturbing: http://projects.flowingdata.com/walmart/

  9. Thu 21st Aug 2008 at 9:38 pm

    I agree Eric! I despise those corporations as well!

    I suggest you all to sign and forward the poll and petition on the CWPT’s website to stop this travesty. http://www.civilwar.org.

  10. Fri 22nd Aug 2008 at 4:09 pm

    “The latest atrocity by Wal-Mart is probably the most unforgivable of all”? Surely you are engaging in hyperbole here, Eric. Not that this is not terrible, but there are many things that rank higher on the list of terrible things this company does and has done than building a store on a historically signficant property. Ken just described but one of them.

  11. Eric McDannell
    Fri 22nd Aug 2008 at 10:37 pm

    It makes me wonder why developers/companies etc. continue to seek out historically significant ground. They cannot enjoy the opposition and criticism that comes with projects like this. I know it’s been said before but we can’t move the Wilderness. Wal-mart unfortunately can move anywhere.
    By the way Eric, I met David Gregg’s great grandson(or was it great,great grandson?) Pretty cool.

  12. matthew vantress
    Sat 23rd Aug 2008 at 5:32 am

    would any of you people gripe and moan and raise the same stink if target,costco,high cost ufcw union grocery stores wanted to build in the same spot?of course not.get off your trip about walmart killing mom and mom stores.how does walmart kill mom and pop stores folks when walmart has no control or say in what mom and pop stores charge for goods?you folks are fed the same ufcw union and govt propaganda and tired old garbage.all your favorite stores folkshave done things far worse than and have treated workers far worse than walmart has ever been accused of.why dont you folks go pick on all the fast food joints instead and leave wm alone.

  13. Sat 23rd Aug 2008 at 9:47 am

    While I’m not a big fan/advocate of Wal Mart, in their defense, the real bad guys with regard to the Wilderness problem are the developers.

    Wal Mart didn’t arrive at the intersection of 3 and 20 to claim the land with a big blue and white flag. The developers got wind of the corporate expansion strategy, looked for a geographic location that fit the demographic Wal Mart had set as the objective, then made their move. It was the developers who selected the ground, made the plans, and made the proposal. Wal Mart could really care less if the ground used is adjacent to the park or not, so long as they have ample access for the logistics.

    The last bunch that made the pitch to develop that area, back in 2003 if I recall, were specialists at the “neighborhood development” scheme. They were stopped dead when surveys detailed the lack of infrastructure to support expected growth.

    I won’t stand in the way of anyone throwing rocks at Wal-Mart, but am hesitant to make the toss myself (on this particular issue) until more details emerge. The CWPT has posted the letter of intent from the developer (with the company masked out). If the infrastructure expansion will require more dollars than the developers forecast, then this proposal dies. I submit that is the first patch of key terrain in this campaign.

  14. Doug Fitchett
    Sat 23rd Aug 2008 at 11:58 am

    Well, I’m no fan of Wal-Mart, but I do shop there. As for how does Wal-Mart kill off the Mom and Pop stores. It’s called competition and buying power. My family owned a small mom and pop hardware store before a Wal-Mart came in the town. Afterwards, they struggled, but continued to find a niche in the market. Eventually they sold out. The new owners lasted about 3 years. Once all the mom and pops went out of business. The prices at the Wal-Mart started to rise. I have seen where the same item in two different Wal-Mart stores, 30 miles apart, would be prices as much as 60% higher in the store were there was no competition. The new stores are loss leaders until the competition is gone.

  15. Sat 23rd Aug 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Good to know.

  16. Sat 23rd Aug 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Hi, Eric! I looked and looked for an email address on your site and couldn’t find one. Would you please email me about possibly reviewing a book on your site that takes place during the civil war? Thanks! ~Trish

  17. Eric McDannell
    Sun 24th Aug 2008 at 11:16 am

    Sorry, but I think the whole point here is that there should be no development in this area, period. Whether it’s wal-mart or a grocery store or anything else you can insert in that category. wal-mart’s business ethics -or lack thereof- are not the issue.

  18. Alex
    Sun 24th Aug 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Walmart is the lowest of employers and doesn’t deserve to be anywhere on this planet.
    Walmart is the cancer of business. Its legacy will forever be an unfair, selfish retailer that will sell out a countries manufacturing jobs just so it can bring in slave labour goods from China.

  19. Tue 26th Aug 2008 at 2:39 pm

    As a marketer and instructor I have often praised Wal Mart for their 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.

  20. Brooks Simpson
    Wed 27th Aug 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Wal Mart was founded in Arkansas, a center of Yankee greed. So much for historical accuracy.

  21. Thu 28th Aug 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Why, despite the mountains of information to the contrary do people like Michael Shandrick continue the tariff arguement?

  22. Thu 28th Aug 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Why, depsite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, do people like Michael Shandrick continue to push the tariff aguement?

  23. Sat 30th Aug 2008 at 12:12 pm

    As a Texas History teacher, I’m not sure where Mr. Shandrick studied history, particularly Texas history, but it probably wasn’t in a classroom in our fair state.

    First, it’s “Stephen,” not “Steven,” Austin. Second, it wasn’t his idea to settle Texas in the first place. Two things can be argued here. 1) Filibustering expeditions under the likes of Philip Nolan began in the late 1700’s. Austin did not come with his “Old 300” (the original Texas colonists) until 1821. 2) It was Moses Austin, Stephen’s father, who requested a land grant from the Mexican government for settling what is now Texas. Third, the Austin family’s expeditions into Texas had nothing to do with tarrifs and the high price of imported goods. It did have to do with some group of people getting rich, but not the group Mr. Shandrick points to. The colonization of Texas was a business proposition designed to make the Austin’s rich. A similar plan had been successful for Moses in the 1790’s in Missouri under the Spanish when it controlled that area. (Yes, it later became part of the Louisiana Purchase. But that also explains the reason the US laid claim to Texas until the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. Spain and France had swapped Texas in these transactions as well.) Oh, and by the way, the Austin’s were lead miners from Virginia, as well as investment bankers (land speculators), lawyers, and plain old politicians. So, the “Yankee corprate greed” comment is a little humorous.

    I have offered a brief rebuttal to Mr. Shandrick’s inaccuracies. I realize I have not provided sources, but, since this is not my blog, I have tried to keep it short. Should Mr. Wittenberg desire, I’ll be happy to provide readers with sources to verify these statements in greater detail.

  24. Sat 30th Aug 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Moses Austin’s request for a land grant was to the Spanish government. While it was granted, Moses died and Stephen took over the project. In the interim, The Mexican Revolution of 1821 occurred and Stephen had to obtain a second grant, for the same land, from Mexican officials.

  25. Sat 30th Aug 2008 at 12:27 pm


    My antipathy toward neo-Confederate hooey such as that posted by Mr. Shandrick is well-known. I am all for anything that rebuts, so please, feel free. Please feel free to put up whatever you want to rebut it.


  26. Sat 30th Aug 2008 at 3:13 pm

    First, let me say, any comments I make here or on other blog sites are as a reformed Confederate apologist. I, too, once accepted generally held, but historically inaccurate, beliefs in much the same way as Mr. Shandrick. Then, I became a history teacher! I am a native Texan able to trace ancestry to a veteran of the Texas Revolution of 1836 who fought at San Jacinto. I have a great-great grandfather who served in the Confederate army. That being said, on two accounts I’m not blowing smoke up anybody’s hindquarters. Both personally and professionally I’m interested in this. But as a former journalist (I was a newspaper editor and publisher before I became a teacher), I am also interested in accuracy. That is the reason I’m a reformed Confederate apologist.

    Sources for additional information in my previous posts can be found at the following sites and in the following books.

    A brief biography of Philip Nolan by noted Texas historian Archie P. McDonald in his syndicated column “All Things Historical” can be viewed at http://www.texasescapes.com/AllThingsHistorical/PhilipNolanAM703.htm.

    A good biography of Moses Austin is D.B. Gracy, II’s Moses Austin: His Life published by Trinity University Press in 1987. Additionally, Moses was born in Connecticut and later moved to Virginia. So, if the tariff was truly what the Austins were against by establishing a colony in Texas, isn’t that a little hypocritical given Moses’ actual birthplace? (Of course, as “Billy Yank” points out, this comment ignores the mounds of historical evidence against the tariff argument as a cause of the Civil War. James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom is a secondary source that bears this out well.)

    A brief biography and links to several letters by Stephen Austin are available at the Texas State Library & Archives Commission webpage http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/giants/austin/austin-01.html.

    The Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 and France’s and Spain’s swapping of Louisiana and Texas can be found in several good histories of the United States. The Oxford Companion to United States History by Paul S. Boyer is one that discusses the treaty’s impact on both United States and Texas history.

    While this has become an effort to set the record straight as to why Moses and Stephen Austin established a colony in Texas, I’ll say this about battlefield preservation. Any battlefield, from any war, contains so much area associated with it that if we halted all development because of this there would be little development to be had, particularly on the eastern coast of the United States where three major wars of our history have occurred. I’m not saying battlefield preservation isn’t important. What I am saying is that we need to temper our desire to preserve these things with the knowledge that we cannot preserve all of it, but we should focus on the most important parts of the battlefields where fighting actually took place. We would do well to follow the example of all good generals in choosing the time and place of our engagement rather than letting our opponents do it for us.

    Over commercialization is a problem in this country and Wal-Mart is a prime culprit. From the comments, it seems that many have more problems with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. rather than the actual planned development of the area. Mr. Aubrecht points out that three Wal-Marts exist along the route to this area. That would seem to be poor marketing on Wal-Mart’s part, not to mention the reason for so much ire from locals and history lovers everywhere – no matter whom it’s directed at, Wal-Mart or the developers. Bill Quinn’s book is a good one, but Mr. Quinn (with whom I have conversed with on the phone on several occasions and have a deep respect for) and many others totally ignore the corporate nature of all such endeavors that Mr. Williams alludes to in his post above. While we cannot save everything, we must, as historians, researchers, teachers and history lovers endeavor to prevent the most egregious mismanagement of these site, ones like in Georgia of which Mr. Noe speaks.

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