Controversy over Wal-mart on Civil War battlefield

A proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter on the site of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles is being challenged by local preservationists.

The case has gone into a new phase as a local court ruled that opponents to the Wal-Mart have the right to bring the company to trial, reports Civil War News.

When the Orange County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors approved the construction of a 138,000 square-foot Wal-mart Supercenter at the edge of the Wilderness Battlefield, part of a National Battlefield Park, two preservation groups and six local residents sued. They say that the location is too close to the battlefield and will ruin its atmosphere.

The Battle of the Wilderness on May 5-7, 1864 was a brutal slugfest between the armies of Grant and Lee that left tens of thousands of Americans dead or wounded. Many historians see the battle as the start of a long war of attrition that bled the Confederacy to death.

The Board of Supervisors challenged the opponents’ right to sue, but a court said that they do, indeed, have a vested interest in the area and may bring Wal-Mart to court. This will delay Wal-Mart’s final purchase of the land and application for building permits.

This case is similar to one concerning the Gettysburg casino, pitting historians and preservation groups against the interests of big business.

Wilderness battlefield photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.