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Madam Speaker, May 5, tomorrow, 145 years ago this day, May 5, 1864, 90 miles from where we are today and tonight, Madam Speaker, there were 160,000 troops assembled on one battlefield. Over 100,000 from the North and about 25,000 from the South, and they participated in the 3-day battle called the Battle of the Wilderness.
Madam Speaker, this battle was so intense that the wilderness itself, the woods, caught on fire during the battle and many from both sides burned to death. Casualties were about 30,000.
And if you take the number of men and women we have in Afghanistan and Iraq tonight, 160,000 is approximately the number that we have in those two theatres of war. They were assembled on one battlefield in the great Civil War.
Madam Speaker, during the Civil War there were over 600,000 killed. If we took that and brought it into today's numbers, that would be about 5 million killed.Today I had the honor to be with my good friend, Peter Welch of Vermont, and actor Robert Duvall, on this sacred hallowed ground. We were there for several reasons, but the primary reason was to preserve this battlefield.
During the Battle of the Wilderness, Vermonters had especially high casualties. Of the 3,500 that went into battle, 1,234 were killed.
Peter Welch of Vermont and myself had the privilege to go and see that location, that small area where they were protecting the crossroads. This was the highest percentage of casualties in Vermont history. Most of those that were killed were from the small community of Woodstock.
On the first day of battle, the Union troops were able to push the Southern troops away. On the second day of battle, a Texas brigade, led by General Longstreet, had arrived at the battle after marching all night, 26 miles, at about 6:30 in the morning.
General Robert E. Lee was excited to see the Texas brigade, and he said the Texans always moved them and, yes, they did, they moved the Union forces back a great distance. The general for the Texas Army said that ``the eyes of General Lee are upon you,'' and Lee rode with Texas. About 60 percent of those Texans who went into battle that day were killed.
Madam Speaker, all of the southern States participated in this battle. Eighteen of the northern States participated in this battle, and there are stories like that from all States, this sacred ground, where the Battlefield of the Wilderness, took place.
But today we are faced with another battle, Madam Speaker, because the giant corporation Wal-Mart wants to build a Wal-Mart on that sacred ground. You see, during the battle, blood was spilled so much that one soldier said you can't tell whose blood it was, and that's exactly right, Madam Speaker. Every one of those troops that were killed that day, that fought that day and bled that day, whether North or South, were all Americans.
And that's why Peter Welch and myself and Robert Duvall were there today to get the attention of Wal-Mart to not build on this sacred ground. Yes, they have the legal right to do so, but they should move down the street, down the road a bit and build the Wal-Mart that they want to build.
Because, you see, this ground is consecrated by the blood of Americans, and we don't want Wal-Mart to pour asphalt over the graves that are known only to God himself. So they should be a good corporate neighbor and build down the street.
You know, they need to put respect for history over love for money. They need to put dignity for the dead over lust for profit, because those that try to destroy history will be tried and convicted by history.
Wal-Mart has got more money than anybody. They can put their store anyplace they wish. So we are asking them to be good patriots rather than those who seek the profit motive and go somewhere else.
Peter Welch and I are good friends. We probably disagree on everything except this one thing, that this land is consecrated by the lives of Americans who stood for some principle and died for that principle.
He said it best today when numerous people were there. He said the land, the Battlefield of the Wilderness, is the cathedral of sacrifice.
I agree with my good friend from Vermont. It is the cathedral of sacrifice, and we want to remember and preserve our history. We owe the dead that right, and Wal-Mart needs to move away.
And that's just the way it is.
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