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Vermont's stand
Vermont takes a stand on the Wilderness Wal-Mart

Date published: 2/19/2009

SIX HUNDRED miles of highway separate Vermont from Virginia, but that doesn't mean the Green Mountain State doesn't care what happens in the Old Dominion. Those 600 miles had to be traversed on horse and on foot by soldiers of the 1st Vermont Brigade, who in 1864 shed their blood in the Battle of the Wilderness. Now, in an unusual move, Vermont legislators have passed a resolution asking that proposed commercial development near the battlefield be located elsewhere.

The 1st Vermont suffered 1,200 casualties at the Wilderness, but managed to hold important ground for the Union while suffering the Green Mountain State's largest losses of the war.

Though unnamed in the resolution, the "big-box store, likely to attract ancillary stores" mentioned is, of course, Wal-Mart. The Bentonville, Ark., behemoth would like to open a 139,000-square-foot "supercenter" on ground where soldiers died trying to win the Wilderness.

Vermont is no stranger to pitched fights with Wal-Mart. The state didn't fall to the mammoth retailer until 1993--the last state to yield ground-- and it forced Wal-Mart to forgo big boxes in favor of smaller-scale stores.

No one dismisses Orange County's need for revenue or Wal-Mart's right to grow. But must the store occupy historic ground? As the Vermont resolution says, "The story of the Battle of The Wilderness is one of valor for both armies that fought there." Now, will commerce recognize that and take a second seat? Battlefields can't be moved. Big boxes can.