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Tue Jun 23, 2015, 09:38 PM

What About the Army Bases Named For Confederate Generals? [View all]

I am a Civil War buff. I don't do re-enactments but I do attend educational seminars held in various places throughout the year. For the last seven years - to encourage serious and factual scholarship on this important time in our history - I've sat through lectures at the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) in Richmond; something I swore I would never do since it was - until fairly recently - a major force behind the "Lost Cause" myth. I've been going now for about 8 years. The first 2 years I thought that I made a serious fucking mistake showing up because the audience was and usually two out of the five speakers were - to put it mildly - rabidly biased toward the Confederate side. Two years ago I was in the audience, when the MOC announced it was merging with the American Civil War Museum. There was an audible gasp from some in audience while people like me applauded. This symposium has gotten much better with speakers who provide a balanced and fact-based assessment of both sides.

Anyway, getting back to the army bases. I drive down from my home in the North to Richmond. I pass by Fort A.P. Hill. As a Liet. Gen., Hill commanded Third Corps for the Army of Northern Virginia and is believed to have instigated the first skirmishes which led to the Battle of Gettysburg. Hill would be killed in the waning days of the war in April 1865. At some point, the U.S. army named a military base for him. I would say there are more worthy candidates. A.P. Hill is not the only Confederate general to have his name bestowed on a military facility. This article names 10.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/opinion/sunday/misplaced-honor.html?_r=0

Fort Benning in Georgia is named for Henry Benning, a State Supreme Court associate justice who became one of Lee’s more effective subordinates. Before the war, this ardent secessionist inflamed fears of abolition, which he predicted would inevitably lead to black governors, juries, legislatures and more. “Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that?” Benning wrote. “We will be overpowered and our men will be compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth, and as for our women, the horrors of their state we cannot contemplate in imagination.”

Another installation in Georgia, Fort Gordon, is named for John B. Gordon, one of Lee’s most dependable commanders in the latter part of the war. Before Fort Sumter, Gordon, a lawyer, defended slavery as “the hand-maid of civil liberty.” After the war, he became a United States senator, fought Reconstruction, and is generally thought to have headed the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia. He “may not have condoned the violence employed by Klan members,” says his biographer, Ralph Lowell Eckert, “but he did not question or oppose it when he felt it was justified.”

Other Confederate namesakes include Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, Fort Rucker in Alabama and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana. All these installations date from the buildups during the world wars, and naming them in honor of a local military figure was a simple choice. But that was a time when the Army was segregated and our views about race more ignorant. Now African-Americans make up about a fifth of the military. The idea that today we ask any of these soldiers to serve at a place named for a defender of a racist slavocracy is deplorable; the thought that today we ask any American soldier to serve at a base named for someone who killed United States Army troops is beyond absurd. Would we have a Fort Rommel? A Camp Cornwallis?

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