You are here

Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield


The Old Germann Plank Road Trace runs near the site of the Wilderness Tavern on the Wilderness Battlefield at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Wal-Mart is proposing a massive development on the edge of the battlefield. NPS photo.

Northern Virginia is a much more crowded place than it was during the Civil War. But Civil War historians, preservationists, and buffs, as well as National Park Service officials, are still flummoxed by Wal-Mart's wish to place a super center next to one of the most poignant battlefields of the Civil War.

"I am very disappointed they didn't consider other sites and didn't listen to the feedback they got that this site is too close to the Wilderness battlefield," Russ Smith, superintendent of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

Wal-Mart's plan is to develop a 53-to-55-acre tract of land just north of the Wilderness Corner intersection. Part of the proposed development would hold a super center covering nearly 140,000 square feet, with enough room left over for additional retail outlets. While that land is not part of the national battlefield, it is, historically, part of the Wilderness Battlefield.

According to the Park Service, the Battle of the Wilderness was fought on May 5-6, 1864, with troops under both Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee engaged. "It was the beginning of the Overland Campaign, the bloodiest campaign in American history and the turning point in the war in the Eastern Theatre," notes the agency.

Last summer a coalition of groups -- the Civil War Preservation Trust, Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Piedmont Environmental Council -- wrote Wal-Mart president and CEO, H. Lee Scott, Jr., asking that his corporation look elsewhere for its project.

The Wilderness Battlefield was determined to be one of the most historically significant battlegrounds in the nation by a blue ribbon panel created by Congress in 1990. In an exhaustive 1993 report, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC) identified Wilderness as a Priority I, Class A site, its highest designation. The commission identified the 55-acre parcel as part of the Wilderness Battlefield.

Today more than 2,773 acres of the Wilderness Battlefield are preserved as part of Fredericksburg and
Spotsylvania National Military Park. This Super Wal-Mart would be built within one-quarter mile of
the National Park and 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.

At the Civil War Preservation Trust, policy director Jim Campi told the Free Lance-Star that the location of the proposed development is "extremely inappropriate for any kind of big-box commercial, especially a Wal-Mart.

"We're not telling Wal-Mart 'No way.' We're just telling them, 'Not here,'" he said.


NO NO NO NO NO!!! Have respect for this precious land! ! ! !...............there are ENOUGH Walmart's & shopping centers!!!!

Walmart = Greed.....plain and simple.

If it isn't Walmart, will it just be some other development? Walmart is always an easy target bash. The real issue is what to do about this property if it is important to the battlefield.

I agree with the previous comment that this is not about Walmart. Would people be as concerned if it were a housing development? If the land is privately owned, does not the owner have the right to use the property as he/she pleases?

Absolutely, Anonymous. If the land is outside the park and privately owned, the owner does have the right (at least under a free society) to develop the land. How long has this land been there, unused, sitting? How long has there been an opportunity for a conservation easement, for someone, like the Nature Conservancy or other concerned citizens, to buy the land and set it aside permanently?

But let the Wal-Mart bashing continue.

Let the looting continue.


Who is John Galt?

Frank and Anonymous, you both hit on a point that comes up time and again when there's talk of development beyond a park's borders, whether it's the case of the American Revolution Center near Valley Forge, this Wal-Mart proposal, or oil and gas drilling in Utah.

Does an amicable solution exist? Where do a park's borders end, its viewsheds? What's appropriate in those settings?

My concern is that as more and more growth and sprawl occur, many of these places are going to become isolated islands and slowly wither on the vine. But private property rights are private property rights. That's not a complaint; that's just the way it is.

Would a Whole Foods or let's say an REI outlet cause as much ire from the NPT readership as a Wally World? If this parcel of land was so important to preserve you'd a thunk by now that some concerned group or individual would've purchased it. Am I right?

I'm sure the new store will sell a wide range of Civil War souvenirs and memorabilia, just like their Tuscaloosa, Alabama store which has a whole section devoted to the Crimson Tide or their Destin, Florida outlet that sells a wide range of seashells, sand dollars and conchs for way cheaper than the roadside rip-off shops strung along U.S. 98.

I can't wait to visit the new Wilderness Super Center when it opens for business. Think I'll buy me a Confederate infantry hat and give a great big rebel yell in the parking lot.

Not too surprising, considering the "Yellow Tavern" battlefield just North of Richmond is the site of an expansive mall complex today. The site where JEB Stuart received his mortal wound can be found nearby, after a tedious search through suburbia, surrounded by homes.

To have more of these sites compromised would be a travesty. Let's hope the coalition of groups listed above can influence the final decision as to where to build yet another supercenter.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide