Wilderness National Battlefield: Take a Minute to Make a Difference

Posted on: March 20th, 2009 by Jason Clement

Washington, D.C. is a fast-talking town.

If you've got a point to prove, sometimes all you get is a minute. Literally.

A tradition in the U.S. House of Representatives, one-minutes are an opportunity for members to address their colleagues on any topic they wish at the start of the legislative day. The Speaker of the House decides how much time can be granted for one-minutes each day, and members must ask for unanimous consent before launching into their remarks.

Yesterday, Representatives Peter Welch of Vermont and Ted Poe of Texas used their one-minutes to support the ongoing work by preservationists and historians to save Virginia's Wilderness National Battlefield from getting paved over by Wal-Mart. The Wilderness Battlefield - which was just named by the Civil War Preservation Trust as one of this year's most endangered battlefields - is the Civil War site where Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant launched his bloody Overland Campaign.

Representative Peter Welch:

Mr. Speaker, 164 years ago, brave Texans and brave Vermonters fought on a historical battlefield about 60 miles south of here, the Battle of the Wilderness. There were 165,000 troops amassed there, including Vermonters from the 1st Brigade; 1,200 from Vermont's ranks died. Among them was Daniel Lilly, a teacher in Barnard, Vermont. His funeral is still today remembered as the largest funeral in the history of that town. Another, Ed Holden, fought and survived, but saw his brother with his head shot off die on the battlefield.

Today a different battle is taking place on that hallowed ground. It is a conflict between a great American corporation, Wal-Mart, and a great American historic battlefield, the Wilderness. My friend from Texas and I have joined together to ask Wal-Mart to do the right thing and not build its facility, a 140,000-foot facility, on that battlefield where troops were massing.

The question for us is whether we can honor the fallen. And that, as my friend will tell you, is just the way it is.

Representative Ted Poe:

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the historical comments my friend from Vermont has said regarding Union troops from his home State. The Battle of the Wilderness took place in May 1864.

On the second day of the three-day battle with a statement made by General Lee, "Texans always move them,'' the Texas Brigade successfully forced back Grant's Union troops. However, the Texans sustained 60% casualties.

There were 165,000 troops, Union and Confederate, in this Battle of the Wilderness. That is the number of troops that we have in Afghanistan and Iraq put together on one battlefield. There were 29,000 casualties. The fighting was so fierce in the dense woods it caught fire, and hundreds of wounded on both sides burned to death. Their graves are only known by God.

Mr. Speaker, those troops from the North and South were all Americans. Mr. Speaker, here is the battlefield. It is outlined in this black line. On this hallowed ground right here, you can see this X is where Wal-Mart wants to build one of their beautiful stores. There are other locations available for Wal-Mart. So we from the North and South in a bipartisan way want Wal-Mart to build someplace else.

And that's just the way it is.

The good news is that you can join Representatives Welch and Poe in support of the Wilderness Battlefield, and you don't even have to stress out about giving a speech. In much less than one minute, you can sign our online petition urging Wal-Mart executives to find an alternate location for their proposed Supercenter. And if you're one of the 5,000+ preservationists who have already done so, please take a moment to forward the petition to your friends and family. The more signatures we get, the stronger our voice will be.

Hey, it only takes a minute.

Sign Our Petition to Save the Wilderness National Battlefield

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.