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Battle Anniversary Used To Criticize Wal-Mart Plan

Two members of Congress and an actor who played Robert E. Lee in "Gods and Generals" led an attack Monday on Wal-Mart for its plans to build a superstore on Virginia's
Wilderness Battlefield at a press conference hosted by Wilderness Battlefield Coalition.

Standing on the battlefield in front of the recently restored Ellwood Manor and not far from where Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's left arm is buried, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Rep. Pete Welsh (D-Vt.), as well as Robert Duvall, who is a descendant of Lee, accused Wal-Mart of putting profits before patriotism.

Poe told those who had gathered to mark the 145th anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness, "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."

Welsh said, "We hope [Wal-Mart] would be patriotic neighbors and locate their new store away from the battlefield."

Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for comment.

The Congressmen each represent states where a large number of their soldiers were killed, injured or reporting missing following the battle. In February, the two men sent a joint letter to Wal-Mart asking them to reconsider the proposed location for a new 138,000 square-foot facility that is planned for a 52-acre site.

Although the site is outside the boundaries of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, it is across a road from the park and within the area identified by the National Park Service as part of the battlefield. Only 21 percent of the battlefield is permanently protected.

Duvall told the audience, "The Wal-Mart Corporation has within its power to be a savior of the Wilderness battlefield. Simply by moving to an alternate location slightly farther from the battlefield, they have the ability to protect this critical piece of American history."

Those opposed to the Wal-Mart site say a large commercial venture at that location will attract even more development and traffic to an area that so far has seen little change since the Civil War.

An offer to fund a study on the effects of development on the battlefield by the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, whose membership includes nine national and local preservation organizations, was recently rejected by the Orange County Board of Supervisors. The board plans to go ahead with a previously scheduled May 21 public hearing on the Wal-Mart issue.

By Linda Wheeler  |  May 3, 2009; 10:04 PM ET
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How sad that elected officials in Orange County may allow Wal-Mart to pave over the unmarked graves of thousands of young Americans who gave their lives to preserve our nation. Surely these officials could find another location in Orange County that would meet the needs of preservationists and profiteers alike.

Posted by: bethns | May 7, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

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