Despite vows from the White House to block any name change of military bases named after Confederate officers, the proposal is gathering bipartisan momentum.
The Senate Armed Services Committee included in its draft of the annual defense authorization bill a proposal to change the names of bases honoring Confederate officers. The proposal mentions that the name changes happen within the next three years and a commission review potential replacement name changes.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), said that he voted against the renaming, during the closed-door session, but was overruled by a majority of members, including some Republicans.
On Thursday, House members Reps. Anthony Brown (D-MD), and Don Bacon (R-NEB), introduced a new bill that will force the name change even faster. Their legislation aims to rename any current military installations honoring Confederate generals within a year.
“The symbols and individuals that our military honors matter,” Brown said in a statement. “It matters to the black soldier serving at an installation honoring the name of a leader who fought to preserve slavery and oppression. It matters to the culture of inclusivity and unity needed for our military to get the job done.”
At issue are 10 major military bases named Confederate officers. Most of those men served in the U.S. Army prior to the Civil War. They include:
Ft. Benning, GA: Named after Confederate Brigadier General Henry Benning who fought at Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. He was a very vocal voice of pro-slavery prior to the war. The base was named after him in 1918.
Ft. Bragg, NC: Named after Confederate Major General Braxton Bragg. Bragg served in the U.S. Army with General Grant during the Mexican-American War. Grant remembered Bragg as “naturally disputatious.” The crotchety, ill-tempered Bragg wasn’t much more popular with the Southern troops. He was considered to be arguably the worst tactician of either side during the Civil War. The base was named after him in 1918.
Ft. Hood, TX: Named after Confederate General John Bell Hood. Hood was one of the most aggressive leaders on either side. An outstanding Brigade and Division Commander, yet he was over his head when given command of an Army. He did not own slaves but believed in the practice. The base carrying his name was opened in 1942.
Ft. Lee, VA: Named after Robert E. Lee, the most famous of all Confederate generals. Lee was a U.S. Army officer who put down the revolt of John Brown when he raided the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. Lee was offered command of all Union forces but opted to stick with his home state of Virginia. His mansion was seized and became Arlington National Cemetery. The base opened in 1917. Lee was opposed to the practice of creating monuments to the Confederate leaders, stating it was best to put the past behind.
Ft. Polk, LA: Named after Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, cousin of former U.S. President James Polk. Polk was killed in action during the 1864 Battle of Atlanta. Polk had no military experience before the Civil War. He is considered a close second to Bragg in terms of a bumbling tactician. The base was opened in 1941 and is considered by many veterans as one of their least favorite places to be stationed.
Ft. Gordon, GA: Named after Georgia native Lieutenant General John Brown Gordon. He had no military experience before the war but grew to become one of Lee’s most trusted and capable generals. The base was named in 1941.
Ft. Pickett, VA: Named after George Pickett, famous for his division’s ill-fated charge at Gettysburg. Pickett was a graduate of West Point (last in his class) and was a U.S. Army officer before the war. The base was named in 1941.
Ft. A.P. Hill, VA: Hill was another U.S. Army officer who resigned when his home state of Virginia left the Union. He rose to Lieutenant General in the Confederacy and was a conspicuous figure on the battlefield with his red calico shirt. He was killed in the Battle of Petersburg.
Ft. Rucker, AL: Rucker is the Confederate officer, who is not a general and has a base named after him. Rucker was a Colonel in the Confederacy but after the war built the state’s coal and steel industry. He lost an arm during the war. The base was named in 1942.
Camp Beauregard, LA: Named after General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, who was a Louisiana native and a West Point graduate. He became superintendent at West Point in 1861 but resigned to join the Confederate Army. Beauregard changed his tune towards slavery in 1873 and delivered a speech to a mixed audience calling for cooperation:
“I am equally convinced that the evils anticipated by some men from the practical enforcement of equal rights are mostly imaginary, and that the relation of the races in the exercise of these rights will speedily adjust themselves to the satisfaction of all,” Beauregard had said.
The Louisiana National Guard training base was named after him in 1917.
After some leaders in the Pentagon said that they were open to changing the names of the bases if there is bipartisan support, President Trump took to Twitter to dispel any hopes of his supporting the proposal.
His administration, Trump said, “will not even consider the renaming of these magnificent and fabled military installations.” He called the proposal disrespectful to U.S. troops who died in overseas wars.
“Our history as the greatest nation in the World will not be tampered with,” the President tweeted. “Respect our military!”