Remnant of the Lost Cause Ideology: US Army to Rename Bases Honoring Confederate Generals

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For decades, nine US Army bases have borne the names of men who fought against the US military, in a war waged to defend and perpetuate the slavery of people of African descent.

These military installations, all located in the Southern states, were named for such figures as General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Confederate Army; John Bell Hood, an associate of Lee known to be both brave and brash; and Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop who, through his friendship with Jefferson Davis, started the war as a major general. The three enslaved blacks.

Created by Congress in 2021 to recommend names that exemplify modern American military and national values, a federal panel took a major step on May 24, 2022 to weed out this remnant of the “lost cause” ideology.

This ideology is the discredited notion that the Confederate Rebellion was an honorable struggle for the Southern way of life and that what the Confederates viewed as the “Northern Aggressive War” was about states’ rights, not slavery. .

What the government called the Naming Commission proposed to rename nine of the Confederate-themed bases, mostly after men and women of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds – people who “would be an inspiration for the soldiers and civilians who serve in our military posts, and for the communities that support them.

For example, Fort Lee in Virginia would become Fort Gregg-Adams in honor of Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams, African Americans who excelled in logistics and other military support duties during World War II. World War.

Fort Hood in Texas would become Fort Cavazos, commemorating Richard Cavazos, who received the Purple Heart and other awards for his bravery in Vietnam and became the first Latino to achieve the rank of general.

And Fort Polk in Louisiana would become Fort Johnson in recognition of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, who was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 and the Medal of Honor in 2015 for his heroism during World War I. As a black man during the Jim Crow era, Johnson was denied these honors during his military service.

“We wanted names and values ​​that underpin the fundamental responsibility of the military, to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” said Michelle Howard, a retired Navy admiral who chairs the commission.

Undisputed for too long

Four of the bases had been named for Confederate leaders at the start of World War I, and the others at the start of World War II. Until recently, military installations honoring Confederate leaders received little media scrutiny. As a journalist four decades ago, I gave names a free pass.

In 1981, I covered the Boy Scouts Jamboree at Fort AP Hill in Virginia without mentioning that the base was named after a man who turned against the United States and fought to defend slavery.

Movement to rename bases

In recent years, more and more Americans, including those living in the South, have reconsidered the use of Confederate iconography. Those concerns intensified in 2015 after Dylann Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, shot dead nine black people during a Bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Investigators then found a website registered in Roof’s name containing images of Roof posing with the Confederate battle flag.

The issue gained momentum in the US Congress after the 2020 George Floyd protests, when many communities began tearing down statues and renaming buildings that honored Confederate figures.

Congress included the creation of the Naming Commission in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021. Then-President Donald Trump vetoed the bill, but Congress overruled the veto.

find new names

The Naming Commission received over 34,000 suggestions from the public for new base names.

“Each name comes from or resonates with the local communities,” said Ty Seidule, a retired army general and vice chairman of the panel.

In addition to the previously mentioned names, the commission proposed renaming the bases to:

  • Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, who served in Vietnam and other missions, and his wife, Julia Moore, who advocated for military families and reformed Army death notice procedures.
  • General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • Dr. Mary Walker, the first female surgeon in the Army, who received the Medal of Honor for her service in the Civil War.
  • sergeant. Van Barfoot, a Choctaw Indian who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
  • Michael Novosel Sr., a pilot in his forties who volunteered to fight in Vietnam and later rescued his son, who had been shot down and stranded near the enemy. Novosel’s selection recognizes “generational service,” the panel said.

The commission also proposed renaming Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Fort Liberty. Congress and the US Secretary of Defense have yet to approve the new names. But people like Troy Mosley, who for years pushed to clear Confederate names, are encouraged.

Mosley, who has formed a group called Citizens Against Intolerance, said the commission “has done a fantastic job selecting replacement names from the rich patchwork of diverse and distinguished military services.”

For those anxious about the prevalence of Confederate symbols in the United States, the commission’s proposals are long overdue.

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