No Fort “George Washington”, “Patton”, “Pershing”, “Bradley”, OR “Douglas MacArthur”?

But we have ALL these bases named after CONFEDERATES?!?! I never put it together.

Sorry, but I’m totally with this guy. I don’t care how long it’s been that way. Time to CHANGE THAT SH*T.HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, FORGET I EVER MENTIONED IT

Misplaced Honor

N the complex and not entirely complete process of reconciliation after the Civil War, honoring the dead with markers, tributes and ceremonies has played a crucial role. Some of these gestures, like Memorial Day, have been very successful. The practice of decorating the graves arose in many towns, north and south, some even before the war had ended. This humble idea quickly spread throughout the country, and the recognition of common loss helped reconcile North and South.

ut other gestures had a more a political edge. Equivalence of experience was stretched to impute an equivalence of legitimacy. The idea that “now, we are all Americans” served to whitewash the actions of the rebels. The most egregious example of this was the naming of United States Army bases after Confederate generals.

Today there are at least 10 of them. Yes — the United States Army maintains bases named after generals who led soldiers who fought and killed United States Army soldiers; indeed, who may have killed such soldiers themselves.

Only a couple of the officers are famous. Fort Lee, in Virginia, is of course named for Robert E. Lee, a man widely respected for his integrity and his military skills. Yet, as the documentarian Ken Burns has noted, he was responsible for the deaths of more Army soldiers than Hitler and Tojo. John Bell Hood, for whom Fort Hood, Tex., is named, led a hard-fighting brigade known for ferocious straight-on assaults. During these attacks, Hood lost the use of an arm at Gettysburg and a leg at Chickamauga, but he delivered victories, at least for a while. Later, when the gallant but tactically inflexible Hood launched such assaults at Nashville and Franklin, Tenn., his armies were smashed.

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.”

Not all the honorees were even good generals; many were mediocrities or worse. Braxton Bragg, for whom Fort Bragg in North Carolina is named, was irascible, ineffective, argumentative with subordinates and superiors alike, and probably would have been replaced before inflicting half the damage that he caused had he and President Jefferson Davis not been close friends. Fort Polk in Louisiana is named after Rev. Leonidas Polk, who abandoned his military career after West Point for the clergy. He became an Episcopal bishop, owned a large plantation and several hundred slaves, and joined the Confederate Army when the war began. His frequently disastrous service ended when he was split open by a cannonball. Fort Pickett in Virginia is named after the flamboyant George Pickett, whose division was famously decimated at Gettysburg. Pickett was accused of war crimes for ordering the execution of 22 Union prisoners; his defense was that they had all deserted from the Confederate Army, and he was not tried…

By the way, the is some absolutely fascinating combined American/Army history contained in these posts: “Posts” being used in both the Army base AND blog sense.

29 Responses to “No Fort “George Washington”, “Patton”, “Pershing”, “Bradley”, OR “Douglas MacArthur”?”

  1. aelfheld says:

    And when do you plan on renaming Washington, D.C.? And banning Huckleberry Finn? And all of those other reminders that the past was not like the present?

  2. Skyler says:

    I don’t think an army base is dignified enough to be named after George Washington. MacArthur deserves a latrine to be named after him, but no more.

    I’ve no problem with naming army bases in the south after southern generals. We don’t need to rewrite history completely.

  3. JeffS says:

    Please remember that these installations were named a long time ago, when memories of the Civil War were a lot fresher.

    Fort Hood, for example, was created in 1942. A lot of Civil War veterans were still alive back then. Maybe Fort Hood (and other bases bases) was named thus because, in 1942, America was mobilizing for World War II, and the Civil War was finally a non-issue. Because we were fighting a greater evil, fascism, and the split was finally buried. If the survivors of that bloody affair supported it (and I’m sure that the choice was not unanimously supported), I do not see there being a problem here.

    I am NOT for the South rising again. And I fail to see how not recognizing fellow Americans for the soldiers they were is a good idea. That they fought for a failed cause is hardly a reason to ignore their existence. They didn’t receive medals or pensions after the war — if they survived it, as many didn’t (Jackson and A.P. Hill, to name two). Nor should they.

    But naming a base after them? They are honored as soldiers, not patriots. And damn fine soldiers they were; in the end, the Confederacy lost because its lack of industry, and a few fatal mistakes (e.g., Lee at Gettysburg).

    It’s a compromise of sorts; they have a place in the history books, as soldiers, not as Americans. We can study their tactics and admire them, while not supporting the rise of the Confederacy in the first place.

    And we keep on remembering that we had a civil war, and the reasons for it. And the reasons to avoid another one, talk of which is entirely too prevalent these days.

    And odd, isn’t it, how this is suddenly an issue? These bases have been around for generations, and suddenly, the New York Times, The Fish Wrap of Choice™, up and complains about it.

    This, in an era when the President of the United States, Barrack H. Obama, is doing his best to divide the United States, through demagoguery and insults.

    Why would the New York Times, The Fish Wrap of Choice™, who ardently supports Obama, suddenly this bring up this long standing bit of history? Is someone hoping to rewrite history, and divide the military? More than it already is, I mean.

    Odd that, like I said.

  4. tree hugging sister says:

    Don’t be ridiculous, aelf. WTF.

    The bases were named well AFTER the South LOST, mind you. Doesn’t it strike you as a little strange that, with ALL the heroic individuals in the United States Army ranks ~ from the Revolution forward ~ there are bases are named for the losing side?

    Skyler, you’re killing me. And gonna start a war with jeff.

  5. tree hugging sister says:

    Actually, Jeff, it’s not a “suddenly from the Times” ~ I just happened to stumble across it today. If you went to the Google search link I put up, you’ll see some of the discussions about this go back quite a few years. The Times is late to the party.

    And, like I said in the link, the whole base naming learning curve has been pretty damn interesting.

  6. JeffS says:

    Actually, I agree with Skyler. No war there! 🙂 Not this time time, anywho….

    I distrust anything published by the NYT, be it sudden or part of a national trend. Especially when it comes to [re]writing history.

    As for the bases being named long after the South lost… I said, I’m sure that naming Fort Hood was not a unanimous decision. This has been a contentious issue since the Federal government seized Lee’s estate to establish Arlington (a fitting move, IMHO, although I suspect that Lee wasn’t happy about it).

    But these former Confederates were soldiers, valiant foes, and, finally, Americans at the end of their lives. Rewriting history just to soothe ruffled feathers generations later strikes me as something that Alinsky would approve of. Or Stalin.

    Is this a good part of our history? No. It’s the real history. We need to embrace it, learn it, and learn from it. Hiding it on the back pages of old history books is not a good idea.

  7. Mr. Bingley says:

    I’m with Aelf, Skyler and Jeff. The past is not the present and I don’t want to forget it so we don’t repeat it. Revisionism is political obfuscation and ‘squirrel!’ governance designed to re-inflame old wounds for modern political gain. Sorry, ain’t playing. Certainly recognize that these men were flawed individuals (ZOMFG! Our nation’s capital is named after a SLAVE HOLDER! Do you realize the atmosphere of IMTIMIDATION that creates for any non-Society-of-Cicinnati-member who is forced to live and work there? I feel so oppressed!!!!) but also get over it.

  8. tree hugging sister says:

    It’s hardly “revisionist” when ~ as Jeff points out ~ they’re not even named until damn near 100 YEARS after the fact, so get over it.

    And the FACT IS that, unlike the cultural and economic existence of slavery throughout every segment of society then (so get over THAT tired, wilted cheap shot), taking your sacred oath as an officer of the Army of the United STATES of America and then breaking it to lead armies AGAINST your country makes you a TRAITOR.

    Brave guy for whatever reason, schmaybe. And we all want to live together afterward, sure, and remember Grampa fondly, and what great deeds he did that day, of course. I find the fuss over the Battle Flag ridiculous, but also know these goobers here USE it specifically to be assholes.

    But you don’t name the very bullwark, bastions and barracks of the valiant guys who died defending them (and still do), for guys who turned their backs on everything they stand for. Period.

    Will it ever change? Cold day in hell. But I also doubt many people realize.

  9. JeffS says:

    Mr. Bingley makes a good point, and one that has been made before. I recall a case where a statue of George Washington was covered up for a ceremony, comprised entirely of African- Americans. They don’t like the First President because he was a slave owner. I can offer evidence that at least one other of those names in the title of this post would be rejected as the name of an Army base by TWO ethnic groups here in the Yew Ess of Eh.

    We’ve fought TWO major wars against Germany. One against Japan. One against Italy. Today, they are our allies (after a fashion, anyway, certainly not what we had during the Cold War). This after we bombed the living crap out of their nations, hung their leaders, and imposed democratic government on them. All of which took place in the last century.

    We don’t rub Hitler in their faces. Nor Tojo. Nor Mussolini. Each of whom was a vicious son-of-a-bitch who directly and deliberately facilitated the murders of civilians and soldiers for purely ideological reasons. Germany, Italy, and Japan really don’t learn their histories; they hold them at arms length. Japan tries to hide it. How well are those nations fairing these days?

    I really don’t care to follow in their paths.

    Further. All of the Confederate soldiers were indeed traitors. Who were held to justice by due process at the time. Prison sentences and executions included. The South was not allowed to govern themselves for many years. Southern states remain under close scrutiny of the Department of Justice on voting even unto today. Lee lost his extensive estates. The Reconstruction of the South was something of a joke, in the end.

    Yet, in the end, the traitors re-joined America. Former Confederate generals became members of Congress. The children of Confederates have fought — and died — in multiple wars since then. The South is a major economic power today, and contributes heavily to our well being (Texas oil, for example). Justice was done, and we started to heal. As evidenced by the naming of these military bases generations after the Civil War.

    I fail to see how rewriting history will benefit anyone but those professional victims who become outrageously outraged at the drop of a hat. If they want to “de-myth” the Confederacy, start teaching American history again. All of it, not just the pre-digested pap that our current crop of liberal professors teach.

  10. major dad says:

    I do find it a bit odd that all these places are for the most part anyway in the south. The confederates did lose. No Ft Sherman? How is that possible? And Skyler, MacArthur was egotistical, arrogant and a mama’s boy but he was still a military genius, I recommend William Manchester’s “American Caesar”, the definitive book on MacArthur.

  11. tree hugging sister says:

    No one’s denying any of that, Jeff. I just will not see where their names should be HONORED by being on the one thing they turned against. As I said above, the slavery issue is a cultural canard.

    And I’m really sick of this “rewriting history” crap. YOU’RE “rewriting history” 60+ years later when you name that base after a CSA general, when there are so many worthy Americans who kept that oath. Name the town after him. That’s a civilian matter and their choice, he didn’t break his faith with THEM.

    There’s no Fort Arnold, is there? And there WAS.

    It’s neither here nor there as far as changing the front gate sign, like I said. But it for sure bugs me. Especially the “revisionist” bullshit.

  12. aelfheld says:

    THS, you and I are normally on the same page but you’re wrong on this. As JeffS has pointed out, these bases were named for soldiers who did their duty.

    As for them being ‘traitors’ that depends as much on whether you see them owing fealty to the federal government or their state governments: Lee believed his first loyalty was to Virginia, though he thought little of the Confederacy and secession. Had the South gained its independence, they would be viewed in much the same way the Founders are seen; the victors have the disposition of the defeated and the retribution effected by the North was extensive, both during the war and in the aftermath.

    One thing – most if not all of the Confederate generals resigned their commissions in the U.S. Army before taking up arms for the CSA. Their doing so nullifies the charge that they were in violation of their oaths.

  13. Mr. Bingley says:

    I think Ft. Arnold is the perfect example of why the government should be prohibited from naming ANYTHING after anyone until the person has been dead a minimum of 10 years.

  14. Mr. Bingley says:

    As an aside, this discussion made me look up the Constitution of the CSA which is notable for a couple of things. One, it is in large part a verbatim copy of the US Constitution. Second, the majority of the changes involve enshrining slavery.

  15. nightfly says:

    I always thought Fort Polk was named for James K Polk, our eleventh President.

    Good excuse to link this, anyway.

  16. JeffS says:

    Frankly, Sis, we just need to agree that we disagree on this one.

    I do understand your point; I simply don’t accept it as being a valid argument to rename Army bases nearly 150 years after the Civil War was won (or lost), and maybe a century after Reconstruction was over.

    There are certainly other equally suitable candidates to name bases after. If so, make the change in order to honor them for their deeds. Don’t look for candidates as an excuse to take Confederate names off the map.

  17. JeffS says:

    Mr. Bingley, the single greatest mistake of the Confederacy was to embrace slavery. The Civil War started because of state rights versus Federal overreach, of which slavery was the most poignant issue. Those Confederates fought for the right of their respective states to make decisions for themselves, and not have the Federal government dictate internal actions. Something that’s an issue unto this day.

    Unfortunately, the southern aristocracy (and hence the economy) was built on the sale and ownership of human beings as chattel. This was a major reason why European powers did not recognize the Confederacy up front. So the South lost the moral war even before Fort Sumter.

    And not only is slavery (of any sort) a repugnant practice, it guaranteed the South being locked into an agrarian economy, while the North industrialized. In the end, the Union was able to out resource the South.

    A definite lose-lose scenario.

  18. major dad says:

    This has nothing to do with slavery guys. Lose that canard. This is about naming Army installations after confederate officers. Sure some were noble and all that crap but still they lost. You delve into this and it was political. Not one of you naysayers/revisionist callers have given one reasonable answer as to why they were named after confederate officers so late after the Civil War and why so few Continental Officers were so honored. Why wasn’t Sherman honored arguably the father of manuever warfare? Pershing? Take your blinders off and think about it.

  19. Kathy Kinsley says:

    Oh, good grief – it has nothing to do with anything except land grants and local politics. “You want to build a base on our land – fine, then name it after one of OUR heroes.”

    I went to HS in NJ (9th grade-American History) and NC (10th grade-American History). Let’s say they were the same UP UNTIL the Civil War. After that, they differed quite a bit until WWI.

    Both sides had their points. And slavery, quite frankly, was the least of it (except for being a rallying point).

  20. Kathy Kinsley says:

    Oh, and… how many US Military bases are there in the North, anyway?

  21. Kathy Kinsley says:

    Side note to THS – you might note that there is NOT ONE (none, zero, zilch) Marine base located north of the Mason Dixon line.

  22. Kathy Kinsley says:

    P.S. Lose George Washington – he got the nation’s capital named after him. I think that’s enough.

  23. BillN says:

    THS I give you Fort Devens, Fort Dix, Fort Knox and Fort Ord.3 of the 4 built for WW 1 and named for Union Generals Fort Knox being named after the Continental Army’ Chief of Artillery.
    They aren’t prominent any more but I don’t think it is some conspiracy to name forts after “traitors”.

    No I think it’s a conspiracy by the NYT to stir up shit.

  24. tree hugging sister says:

    Side note to Kathy: Duh. Because Marine Corps bases are AMPHIBIOUS. AND, by George, they are named after famous Marines. Lejeune and Pendleton weren’t established until the early 40’s. I think even you would agree the vast track of coastline required to suit their needs was pretty much unavailable from points north. (Virginia’s Camp Pendleton, by the way, is a State military reservation named after Robert E. Lee’s Chief of Artillery. But that’s a state thing and completely their business.) The base at Quantico, established as a barracks in 1917, was named for the town. The airwing bases grew up in close proximity to support the Division bases, and were also named after the local towns or topographic features. So your POINT would be what?

    And I’m not “losing Washington”. He’s got a bridge, too. Whoop.

  25. tree hugging sister says:

    I never said it was a conspiracy, Bill. I just said it bugged me. Like naming one after Jefferson Davis. I mean WHY? AT least that one’s a historic site now.

  26. Mr. Bingley says:

    “Not one of you naysayers/revisionist callers have given one reasonable answer as to why they were named after confederate officers so late after the Civil War and why so few Continental Officers were so honored.”

    Because they were built in the South and as the article itself said the names were very much a matter of local politics. That seemed pretty obvious. How many bases have been built in the North in the 20th century? Those that have were named I would imagine in a manner like Stewart Air Base, which was named according to wikipedia “19th century Scottish-born sea captain, Lachlan Stewart, and his son, who donated the land it now occupies” or like Hancock Field in upstate NY which was named after a NY Congressman. Again, local politics. With regard to Sherman you’d best ask the folks of Ohio, as it might be a bit much to expect an installation in GA or SC to be named after him.

    No one is saying that this is “about” slavery but rather that this is the very same common leftist tactic of historical mudslinging using our modern moral preening and oh so refined attitudes to besmirch and dishonor those in our past. You’re simply not going to see any places named now after Revolutionary War heroes as no local politician will want to be seen honoring those Dead White Guys; you’ll get rather a Camp Iroquois Justice League or some such.

  27. tree hugging sister says:

    Flogging a dead horse, since no one seems to get what I’m talking about. But, in any event, I’ve learned something I didn’t know previously and that’s one more noodle in the cup.

  28. Greg Newsom says:

    Everyone loves a rebel.Jessie James has more books written about him than US Grant.
    DB Cooper-hijacker- is still on the History Channel.

  29. Mr. Bingley says:

    That’s true, greg.

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