Speed Reads

It's about time

Army will now consider removing Confederate leaders' names from bases

The United States Army has 10 bases and facilities that are named after Confederate leaders, including one that honors Lt. Gen. John Brown Gordon — a man "generally acknowledged as the head of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia," according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

In February, after the Marine Corps said it would ban Confederate paraphernalia from its installations, an Army spokesperson told Task & Purpose there were "no plans to rename any street or installation, including those named for Confederate generals," adding those names grew from "a spirit of reconciliation, not to demonstrate support for any particular cause or ideology."

Four months later, leadership has reversed course. In a statement Monday, Army spokeswoman Col. Sunset Belinsky said Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy are "open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic" of renaming those bases and facilities. An Army official told Politico that the massive protests over the death of George Floyd "made us start looking more at ourselves and the things that we do and how that is communicated to the force as well as the American public."

The bases named after Confederate leaders are Forts Benning and Gordon in Georgia; Forts Pickett, A.P. Hill, and Lee in Virginia; Fort Polk and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Hood in Texas; and Fort Rucker in Alabama.

In 2017, military historian Army Maj. Mark Herbert wrote in Task & Purpose that most of those bases were built as the U.S. entered World War I and World War II and needed to train tens of thousands of recruits. While the War Department and Army typically named posts after "war heroes or prominent figures in American history," there were times when local commanders were allowed to name the installations, Herbert wrote. In the South, the bases "tended to be named after local rebel heroes — either by the community that still took their Confederate heritage seriously, or by the Army, which believed that Confederate history was a part of its own."