Yes, in my opinion the 10 Army bases named after Confederate Soldiers should be renamed. Our country is going through a lot of turmoil lately and this is a great way to start healing. Nine of the ten bases were established during World War I and World War II and were named after Confederate Soldiers. The 10th was in Virginia, Fort Lee and was named after General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War. One way to look at this change would be to follow Army Regulation 1-33, The Administration of the Army Memorial Program which postdates the naming of these bases and review them based on that criteria.
Why were these bases named after Confederates? It was twofold, an effort for reconciliation between the north and the south and to gain Southern support for the bases which required lots of land. The “Lost Cause” a narrative of the southern gentleman fighting for states rights not slavery was becoming more widespread around the late 19th early 20th century and really peaked with the popularity of “Gone with the Wind” both the book and the movie in the 1930s and 40s. This also contributed.
The Federal Government with input from local leaders chose Confederate soldiers who were in most cases from the states the base would be established. These are the 10 bases and who they were named after (Wikipedia List of U.S. Army Installations Named After Confederate Soldiers):
- Camp Beauregard near Pineville, Louisiana, named for Louisiana native and Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
- Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia, named after Henry L. Benning, a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army
- Fort Bragg in North Carolina, named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg
- Fort Gordon near Grovetown, Georgia, named in honor of John Brown Gordon, who was a major general in the Confederate army
- Fort A.P. Hill near Bowling Green, Virginia, named for Virginia native and Confederate Lieutenant General A. P. Hill
- Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, named after Confederate General John Bell Hood, who is best known for commanding the Texas Brigade during the American Civil War
- Fort Lee in Prince George County, Virginia, named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee
- Fort Pickett near Blackstone, Virginia, named for Confederate General George Pickett
- Fort Polk near Leesville, Louisiana, named in honor of the Right Reverend Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal Bishop and Confederate General
- Fort Rucker in Dale County, Alabama, named for Edmund Rucker, a colonel appointed acting brigadier general in November 1864, but whose promotion went unconfirmed by the Confederate Congress (disbanded March 18, 1865)
What is so egregious about this list is so many were just mediocre soldiers and Maj. Gen John Brown Gordon was the head of the Ku Klux Clan in Georgia. On the other hand, many Confederate officers were graduates of West Point and served honorably for the U.S. before joining the Confederate cause during the Civil War. Gen. Robert E. Lee had an outstanding career prior to the Civil War and had even served as the Commandant of West Point. Many of these officers are revered and studied during military history. Today we live in a more zero-defect world. When a general falls from grace such as in the Gen. David Petraeus scandal they resign and no one gives a thought to their military heroics. We need to relook the names of these Army bases and follow the criteria set in AR 1-33.
According to AR 1-33, these is certain criteria that must be met before there can be a permanent memorialization of Army real property in honor of a distinguished deceased individual. This is the criteria:
- Only deceased individuals will be memorialized
- Memorializations will honor deceased heroes and other deceased distinguished individuals of all races in our society, and will present them as inspirations to their fellow Soldiers, employees, and other citizens.
- An installation set up for the use of a specific branch of Service or activity normally will be memorialized for a distinguished member of that branch or Service while serving there.
- Facilities should be memorialized for individuals with ranks or grades comparable to those of the main users.
- When possible, facilities will be memorialized for individuals whose careers or actions were important to, and well known in, the locality where memorialized.
- Approval authorities who exercise authority under this regulation must establish and consider the advice and recommendations of the memorialization boards.
- The proponent of the committee will follow all the requirements of AR 15–1 for establishing and continuing the group as a committee. All decisions to memorialize personnel will be made with the understanding that the Army Memorial Program is designed to honor those who served with valor or distinction.
The Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) ASA (M&RA) is the approval authority. So, I say convene a memorialization board and reevaluate the 10 bases named after Confederate soldiers. So, my question is should a soldier who deserted the Army or rose up in arms against the United States be considered a hero or distinguished individual? I think not. The Army Memorial Program is supposed to honor those who served with valor or distinction. I can’t imagine how a black Soldier must feel stationed at Fort Gordon and is named after someone who was the head of the Ku Klux Klan. It is time for a change. What do you think?