As the national conversation over the legacy of the American Civil War and the role that monuments play in our society continues, lawmakers are taking the issue to Congress. Democratic New York Rep. Yvette Clark has introduced a bill that would strip the names of any person fought for or supported the Confederacy from government buildings.
The movement to remove monuments and memorials to Confederate veterans has picked up steam in the aftermath of the chaos in Charlottesville, and was recently brought to the attention of the military when Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney requested the Secretary of the Army rename a barracks at West Point currently named for General Robert E. Lee.
In addition to Confederate references at West Point, the Naval Academy in Annapolis also houses two buildings named after navy officers who took up arms against the United States during the Civil War and joined the Confederacy, and would also be subject to a ‘Confederate Ban.’
The subject has taken on special significance for me, as I called West Point my home for four years, and spent considerable time along with my classmates there thinking critically about the legacy of the Civil War and what it meant for our army. Perhaps no other institution in the United States was as uniquely affected by the war. There were 151 Confederate and 294 Union general officers who were graduates of the academy during the war. In 55 of the 60 major battles of the Civil War, commanders on both sides were West Point graduates, and in the other 5, at least one of the commanders was a graduate. 105 graduates were killed in combat, and another 151 wounded, which accounted for 25% of living graduates at that time.