As the Sesquicentennial remembrance of the American Civil War begins, battles continue for ground considered sacred by many but just land and areas ripe for commercial development by others. Back in July we blogged about the plans for a new casino – too close for some to the blood-soiled battlefields of Gettysburg. Read my post here.
Since the early 1980s preservationists led by The Civil War Trust have raised funds, gotten grants and land donations to preserve about 29,000 acres of battlefield lands. But much had already been lost – historic buildings razed while other are choked by incroaching development. Even the National Park Service struggles to maintain and preserve this precious history.
Now the preservationists and developers skirmish over a super-sized Walmart planned for the Wilderness Battlefield area in Virginia. The Battle of the Wilderness was one of the most significant engagements of the Civil War – where nearly 186,000 Union and Confederate troops battled for two days. Legendary generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant faced off against one another. For locals and the Lowell connection – Major Henry Livermore Abbott of Lowell of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry died here during this battle. The Wilderness also marked the beginning of the end of the Civil War and is considered as important to American heritage as Gettysburg, Antietam, or Appomattox.
And so as countless numbers of Americans come to honor and remember the Civil War that started 150 years ago and what it means in American history – the big box of Walmart, the cry of the slot machine and a “sea of asphalt” could indeed be their first impression!
Read these articles to learn more about the rally of hundreds of historians, preservationists, academics and National Park advocates – including Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson, filmmaker Ken Burns and actor Robert Duvall – against the encroachment on this hallowed ground.
From National Trust for Historic Preservation – “11 Most Endangered Historic Places: Wilderness Battlefield.”
From Newsweek – “Battle Over the Battlefields” One hundred and fifty years after the start of the Civil War, we’re still fighting. This time it’s development vs. preservation—and development’s winning
H. L. Abbott and the 20th Massachusetts were in Hancock’s II Corps – perhaps the best corps in the Army of the Potomac (see map) . For more on Abbott check this link. He is buried in the Lowell Cemetery.