11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Wilderness Battlefield

Year Listed: 2010
Location: Orange & Spotsylvania Counties, Virginia
Threat: Development

Significance

In May 1864, almost 186,000 Union and Confederate troops endured two days of desperate fighting during the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia's north central Piedmont region, halfway between Washington and Richmond. The nation was shocked by the battle's 28,000 casualties – dead, wounded, or missing.

Nearly 150 years later, a new battle at this hallowed battleground is pitting the nation's largest retailer against a group of fiercely determined local citizens and a national coalition of preservationists, academics, and National Park advocates.

One of the most significant engagements of the Civil War, the Battle of the Wilderness was the first time that legendary generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant faced off against one another. The Wilderness also marked the beginning of the end of the Civil War, and is as important to American heritage as Gettysburg, Antietam, or Appomattox. 

If Walmart ignores American heritage and bulldozes the battlefield, the first impression 95 percent of visitors to the National Park would have of the Wilderness Battlefield would be an oversized bunker of a big-box store in a sea of asphalt perched above a massive intersection. Preservationist do not oppose sustainable economic growth, but this type of large-scale development and ill-conceived sprawl is simply not appropriate at the entrance to a National Park, especially when three other Walmarts each sit just 15 miles away.