Madam Speaker, it does us well to remember our American history.
Over 145 years ago, this country was engaged in a great Civil War, from the North and from the South. And during that war between the States, several battles took place not far from this Capital. One took place over in Orange County, Virginia. It's called the Battle of theWilderness. It had the sixth highest number of casualties on both sides during that conflict.
Just to put it in perspective, it occurred on May 5 through May 7 in 1864, 145 years ago. There were 160,000 troops involved in that battle: 100,000 from the North, 60,000 from the South. That's the number of troops today we have in all of Iraq and all of Afghanistan put together. During that 3-day battle, 29,000 casualties: 18,000 from the Union, 8,000 from the Confederates.
The battle was so fierce, Madam Speaker, that in the wilderness, the woods, where this battle took place during those 3 days, it was so heated, literally, that the woods caught on fire and many soldiers from the North and from the South that were wounded burned to death. Two of the States had the highest casualties, one in the North and one in the South. The highest in the North was from Vermont. The Vermonters sustained 78 percent casualties. In the South the Texas Brigade sustained over 60 percent casualties. On the first day of the battle, the Union troops were able to move the Southern troops back. The second day General Robert E. Lee sent the Texas troops in the middle, and he said that Texans always moved them. Be that as it may, the casualties were high on both sides.
I bring this attention to the House today and to you, Madam Speaker, because all of these casualties, all of these troops that engaged in that battle were Americans and we should not forget that. And that is why we have the Battle of the Wildernessbattlefield today. About 900,000 Americans a year go to this battlefield in Orange County, Virginia.
But now we have a problem. The corporation called Wal-Mart wants to build a Wal-Mart on this sacred, hallowed ground.
I have a map of theWildernessbattlefield. It's outlined here. But you see right up here in the northeastern portion where this X is, that's where Wal-Mart wants to profit from these 900,000 people coming into Orange County every year. They have the legal right. The county fathers have said they can build in this location. But we would hope that Wal-Mart would change their mind. And I say ``we'' because Mr. Welch, the good man from Vermont, and I have written Wal-Mart and we have asked them to do the right thing and locate this Wal-Mart 3 miles away from the battlefield.
Now, Madam Speaker, I'm not sure what Wal-Mart's intentions are, but I can tell you their corporate model down in Texas. They build a Wal-Mart. They build it from property line to property line. They lay that asphalt. They build one of those beautiful stores, and a few years later, they abandon that property and move down the road and build another Wal-Mart. I don't know if that's their plan here or not, but be that as it may, they should not build this Wal-Mart in this location.
We've written Wal-Mart. We have received no written response from them. Military historians from all over the world have asked Wal-Mart don't build on this battlefield because that's a part of American history. So far they continue to deal with this and say they're going to.
I support property rights. I support the idea of a corporation making money. No question about it. They now have the legal right to move here. But now they need to make the American decision to do what's best for America and not what's best for this corporation.
Madam Speaker, this land, like other battlefields in our country, is consecrated with the blood of Americans; 29,000. Many are still buried there and known only to God. And we owe them the right to keep this battlefield preserved for history and not to have a corporation like Wal-Mart come in and lay asphalt over their graves.
So we are asking Wal-Mart to do the right thing. Put your Wal-Mart somewhere else, 3 miles down the road, so that this battlefield can be preserved for American history.
Madam Speaker, I will include in the Record a letter that Congressman PETER WELCH from Vermont and I have sent to Wal-Mart.
Madam Speaker, it is our hope and our desire that we as Americans preserve the heritage of this country, save this sacred land, and have corporations do the right thing, not only don't build here but maybe donate some of their corporate money to save this land.
And that's just the way it is.
WASHINGTON, DC, February 25, 2009.
MICHAEL T. DUKE,
President and Chief Executive Officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 702 SW 8th Street, Bentonville, AR.
DEAR MR. DUKE: We write to you with profound disappointment in your company's decision to locate a new store near The Wildernessbattlefield in Virginia and urge your immediate reconsideration.
While we may represent different political parties and states on opposing sides of the Civil War, we stand united in our support of respecting hallowed ground such as The Wildernessbattlefield. The Wilderness, as well as other battlegrounds throughout the United States, represents the great struggles and sacrifices our soldiers made to defend freedoms they cherished deeply enough to risk their lives. Four thousand men on both sides died and twenty thousand were wounded during this battle in the spring of 1864. These lands and lands near them should always be spared from commercial development. Further, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, formed by Congress to protect the historical significance of our nation's Civil War sites, has defined your proposed land for development as part of The Wilderness battlefield.
There are countless other locations your company could consider for a more responsibly sited development in this region. We feel the definition of corporate responsibility must always extend to respecting storied lands and respecting a community's natural landscape and surroundings when choosing a site for a store. Those values should not be eroded for the sake of commercial gain.
We urge you to listen to feedback you've received from groups close to The Wilderness battlefield and others who care deeply about keeping this nation's history and lands preserved and look elsewhere for development. We look forward to your response.