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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Apr-20-10 05:14 PM
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Fighting Back: Preservationnation vs Walmart
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Galvanized by a proposed Walmart supercenter, historians, residents, and Civil War buffs are struggling to protect a threatened battlefield in northeastern Virginia

By Christopher Shea | From Preservation | May/June 2010

Russ Smith, a low-key, 60-year-old superintendent with the National Park Service, noses his official white Chevy Impala off four-lane Route 3 in Orange County, Virginia, and onto a dirt road called Lyons Lane. We drive past the brick remains of an outbuilding and down around a curve, where he pulls to the side. In a few seconds, we're standing at a literal turning point of the American Civil War.

On May 5 and 6, 1864, Union troops marched south along the old Orange Turnpike here and clashed with Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the Battle of the Wilderness, a brutal encounter that involved more than 170,000 men and left nearly 30,000 of them dead, dying, or wounded.

The battle (its name refers to the dense undergrowth common to this region) is still recalled for a specific horror: Acres of nearly impenetrable scrub caught fire, incinerating hundreds of wounded soldiers caught in the no-man's land between opposing forces. But what truly distinguished the battle was its aftermath.

Ulysses S. Grant, freshly imported from the western theater, could have withdrawn the Army of the Potomacstandard Union practice up until that point in the War between the States. But instead, Grant ordered his troops south. "The men began to sing," one Union veteran recalled. Their ordeal would not be in vain. From then on, Grant's forces would relentlessly pursue Lee's army in a merciless war of attrition. The endgame of the Civil War had begun.

On a hill to the west of where we stand, I can see Ellwood Manor, a two-story house that served as temporary headquarters for Union General Gouverneur K. Warren and is now administered by the National Park Service. Officials hope that this elegant plantation house, newly outfitted with electronic battlefield displays, will serve as an enticing and memorable entry point for visitors to the Wilderness, which remains overlooked by tourists flocking to the more famous Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg battlefields farther east.

But there's a catch: Walmart.

FULL story and photo at link.

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