One of the latest issues dominating the media is the demand for the removal of statues located around the country that celebrate government figures and military generals.
Currently, there are 10 military bases in the country that are named after Civil War generals. The only person who is adamant about saving the forts from a name change is President Donald J. Trump.
I am somewhat familiar with some of the Southern bases because my late brother David served in the Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg and Camp Gordon.
It is fair to ask why these bases bear the names of a bunch of generals who fought to keep slavery alive in America? The more you look into the history books, the more you learn that the decision to honor the generals wasn’t made with the purest of intentions.
There are two stories circulating about the reason these installations bear the name of disgraced generals. One version is that the U.S. Army needed large tracts of land to build military facilities prior to World War II and to placate Southern governors; they named them after Civil War generals. The second reason is a little more unsettling.
It seems that a number of Southern politicians were upset about the fact that the Army was accepting a growing number of black soldiers. Those soldiers were being trained at the Southern bases and their introduction into the local communities was unsettling to their constituents. It is said that in order to placate the bigots, a number of the bases were named after the Civil War generals.
There are 10 examples of namings that are worth looking at but let’s talk about three of them. Fort Bragg bears the name of General Braxton Bragg. By all accounts, according to Wikipedia, Bragg was considered a “bumbling commander.”
He lost all of his battles and sacrificed the lives of thousands of his men through his stupidity. Following the loss of the Battle of Chattanooga, he was relieved of his duties.
Fort Benning is named after Brig. General Henry Benning. He was outspoken in his desire to keep slavery alive and frequently reminded his supporters of the evils of freeing black people. He warned that if the South lost the war there would be “black governors, black legislators, black juries and eventually black everything.”
As an extra historical fact, let’s talk about General John Bell Hood. Fort Hood bears the name of the man who lost numerous significant battles. His biggest loss was Atlanta, Ga, which helped accelerate the demise of the Confederacy. Hood considered slavery the “heartbeat” of the South.
President Trump is prepared to veto the military funding bill, which is currently before the Congress because it contains a provision that the bases must be renamed in 2021. No one has ever doubted President Trump’s desire to appeal to any group that resents minorities of all kinds.
Trump feels that the Southern military base issue is good for his re-election. A smart politician would want to name military bases after Gen. George Patton or General Colin Powell, but no one ever accused Mr. Trump of being that smart.
It is undeniable that there are some groups who are advocating the removal of monuments to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. America is one of the few genuine democracies in this world. Both of these men may have owned slaves, but thanks to their historic efforts, we are a democracy and not a British colony.
We are living through a time of great drama. The country is coming to grips with a frightening pandemic and the recognition that racism must be addressed.
Our elected officials must demonstrate that they have the spine to attack these challenges. To move forward, we should do the easy things like re-naming military bases, and the hard things like finding a vaccine and purging racism from our nation.