Stop the Wilderness Walmart

A Message from Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President


Does America Need a Walmart at the The Wilderness?

Jim LIghthizerDo you believe a Walmart Supercenter belongs within sight of both the Wilderness and Chancellorsville battlefields?

Do you want to see the historical significance of both of these irreplaceable battlefields marred forever by more pavement, more traffic and more development that a Walmart Supercenter will bring in its wake?

And do you want to see this land – within easy artillery range of Ulysses Grant's headquarters during the battle of the Wilderness – turned into just another highway strip of big box stores, fast food joints and convenience stores?

If you just answered "No!" then I need you to make your voice officially heard. Below you will find actions that you can take today:

1. Send your concerns to the Orange County Supervisors through our online letter service

2. Consider making a donation to our “Stop Walmart Fund” – we will use those funds to energize our campaign against this unacceptable intrusion.

The Wilderness Battlefield is no place for a Walmart Supercenter.

As you can see from the map, Walmart is right now planning to build an enormous 141,000-square-foot “Walmart Supercenter” near the intersection of Routes 3 and 20, literally across the road from the existing Wilderness Battlefield, and not far from where Stonewall Jackson launched his flank attack during the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863.

And while the 52-acre site upon which Walmart wants to build is not noted by the Park Service as core battlefield, I believe that – much like the ill-advised Gettysburg Casino fiasco you and I defeated a couple of years ago – building a Walmart Supercenter on this site will lead to so much more traffic, sprawl and destructive development that you and I have no choice but to try to stop it.

Before I say another word, let me remind you that the Civil War Preservation Trust is NOT a knee-jerk, anti-development group; we do not assume that all developers are bad people, and we do not oppose responsible economic growth. In fact, there are several developers who have worked very closely with us to save battlefield land. We welcome and seek out such partnerships!

We appreciate the need for good jobs, and support well-planned economic expansion, effective land-use policies and increasing opportunities for communities through heritage tourism.

However, this “Wilderness Walmart” scheme is the wrong idea in the wrong place at the wrong time. And with your help today, CWPT can stay “in the field,” leading the charge with other national preservation groups who join us in opposing this “Wilderness Walmart”

There are already four Walmarts (three are “Supercenters”) within a 20-mile radius of the proposed site of this new one then if Walmart believes they have to have another store, CWPT will not oppose them in principle, just as long as they move it to a place where it does not harm hallowed ground where Americans laid down their lives.

First, it was a Formula One race track at Brandy Station. Then, the Walt Disney Company wanted to build a theme park near Manassas. A little later, a developer wanted to build 2,000 houses at Chancellorsville. Recently, you and I beat back one of the latest and most outrageous threats yet to a Civil War Battlefield: A gambling casino at Gettysburg!

But despite the struggling economy, some developers and companies have deep enough pockets to keep chugging right along, and they always seem to cast their insidious glances at the scenic, historic land on or around America’s Civil War battlefields.

(As an example of that, here is a copy of an actual letter we received recently, from a developer who had the audacity to write to ask if CWPT would consider selling a parcel of battlefield land that we have just saved at the Glendale battlefield! Unbelievable! I’ve blacked out their name and contact information, but the letter is real, and it just shows that – even in this economy – the developers are still poring over tax maps, looking for big parcels of land to buy and hold, waiting for the housing market to rebound.)

I’m sure that, like me, you consider the hallowed ground at The Wilderness to be a national shrine… a monument to American valor, determination and courage, and one of the places where the Civil War – and the nation – changed forever. 

The Battle of the Wilderness, fought in early May 1864, marked the first clash between legendary Civil War generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. The battle also initiated Grant’s famous “Overland Campaign” that exhausted both armies and took the Union forces to the gates of Richmond.

For two days, bloody fighting raged along the Orange Turnpike (present day Route 20) and the Orange Plank Road. More than 160,000 men were engaged in the struggle at the Wilderness. The see-saw battle culminated in attacks that first had the Confederate Army, then their Union counterparts, teetering on the edge of destruction.

When the guns fell silent on the evening of May 6, nearly 29,000 Americans had been killed, wounded or captured.

Today more than 2,773 acres of the Wilderness Battlefield are preserved as part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. If WalmArt gets its way, however, their new Supercenter would be built within a scant one-quarter mile of the National Park and would pave the way for desecration of the Wilderness with uncontrolled growth. (View our interactive map of this historically rich region.)

A “Wilderness Walmart” would add thousands of extra cars through and around the national park – cars full of people who probably could not care less that one of history’s most monumental battles was fought there – and you know as well as I do that it would also lead to an explosion of sprawl that could engulf the existing battlefield.

This type of development will be a magnet for more big-box and “baby-box” stores, fast food restaurants, strip malls…and before long, I’ll bet we will have to contend with demands to widen Route 3 which runs through the heart of the Chancellorsville battlefield… you and I have seen this type of thing happen time and time again.

The nearby Salem Church battlefield was swallowed up in the 1970s and 1980s by exactly this insidious creeping sprawl.

A “Wilderness Walmart” would wreck the unique character of the existing battlefield park and countryside. It would shatter the reverent atmosphere that suffuses one of America’s bloodiest battlefields (which already endures existing sprawl gnawing away at its edges), as acres of parking-lot lights illuminate the night sky, and increased traffic noise shatters the peaceful setting.

So I hope you will do three things today to help protect this crucial part of America’s heritage:

1. Send your concerns to the Orange County Supervisors through our online letter service

2. Consider making a donation to our “Stop Walmart Fund” – As this will no doubt be a long and drawn-out fight (stopping the Gettysburg casino took nearly two years of continuous effort!) which I anticipate will require polling, a public relations blitz – all the tools of a modern campaign – I ask you to consider a special gift to help CWPT mount this essential effort.

Your generosity today would be a godsend, and would ensure that CWPT has the ammunition to wage this fight. CWPT spent close to $40,000 protecting Gettysburg from a 2,000-slots casino parlor, and I expect it will take that much – perhaps a little more – to protect the Wilderness and Chancellorsville from a 145,000-square-foot “Walmart Supercenter.”

Events are moving very quickly; please let me hear back from you as soon as possible. Thank you a thousand times over.

Very sincerely yours,

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. There is another way you can help that will not cost you a thing other than a few moments of your time. If you have any friends or family who might be interested in getting involved, please e-mail them this same web link ( so they can go-line and read all about it. If they aren’t already members, perhaps a little nudge from you will encourage them to sign up! Thank you!

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