Remove Confederate Names from U.S. Army Bases

Mandated by United States National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA), the “The Naming Commission” was created by U.S. Congress to address the nine Army installations bearing the names of Confederate military officers.

This long-overdue action should not have literally taken an “Act of Congress” to accomplish. Recognizing a problem existed in 2000, the commander of Fort Bliss mandated a main thoroughfare, named after Confederate General and Klu Klux Klan founder, Nathan Bedford Forrest, be changed. Now named Cassidy, the road honors a deceased lieutenant general. Even that commander did not go far enough.

It is not coincidence that most major Army bases are in southern states. The construction and naming of these bases were done while America prepared for entry into World War II. Warmer climate bases assure year round training and mobilization capability.

Correcting the name designations was refused by Army leadership in 2015 with the statement, “the naming occurred in the spirit of reconciliation, not division.” Truth is, those names were selected to win support of politicians and communities of the 1930s and 40s when Jim Crow laws and policies dominated the south. There was no reconciliation in having descendants of slaves and anti-slave Americans watch entire installations being built honoring those who led the war to maintain oppression.

Following the Civil War, southern historians worked hard to revise the cause of succession that resulted in four years of bloody conflict, 620,000 deaths, and 1.5 million total casualties. These revisionist historians commenced claiming the real issue had been “states’ rights.” Addressing this distortion, Confederate General James (Pete) Longstreet was one of the few to speak the truth. A close friend of both Grant and Sherman, Longstreet stated that throughout the war he heard no reason other than slavery.

In addition to Jim Crow appeasement and honoring oppressors of humanity, there are two more problems. First, is that those Confederate officers took up arms and led troops against the very nation they once took an oath to protect. That’s breach of contract and treason.

The other problem is that of the quality of officers being honored. Braxton Bragg and J.B. Hood were two of the most incompetent and self-serving officers to wear either the blue or the grey. Neither are examples of officers that troops of any era should have been required to follow. Yet, both of these ethical wrecks are honored with bases housing corps headquarters with multiple commands which are expected to quickly deploy to combat in defense of the very nation Bragg and Hood renounced.

Then comes George Pickett. A year after his infamous charge at Gettysburg, Pickett ordered the execution of twenty-two Union prisoners captured at the Battle of New Bern (which Pickett also lost). These men had been North Carolina residents forced from local militia into the Confederate Army against their will and conscience. They decided if they were forced into fighting for other than their homes, it would be for the Union. Seven decades later, the person who ordered their murder was rewarded with a U.S. Army base named after him.

The NDAA further mandates that by 2024 the Secretary of Defense is required to "remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the Department of Defense.”

That means the current Fort Bliss commander needs to rename Jeb Stuart Road, the Fort Bragg commander needs to address Longstreet Road, and the list goes on.

As National Guard bases are “assets of the Department of Defense,” then Camp Beauregard (Louisiana), Camp Maxey (Texas), and Camp Pendleton (Virginia) must be changed. Federal funding should be stopped if the states refuse.

The Fort Belvoir (Virginia) name should also be corrected. Once named after Union General A. A. Humphreys, in 1935 the base was re-designated with the slave plantation name that once occupied the same ground.

It should not have taken congressional mandate to get the U.S. Army to correct what should never have happened in the first place. We can’t change what was wrong in the past. It is time we make it right going into the future.

- Colonel Martin’s great-great grandfather Major James Powell led the Union morning patrol that thwarted the Confederate’s surprise attack at Shiloh

©2022 Wes Martin