The Time Has Come to Rename the Bases

A.P. Hill

By Peter Galuszka

Momentum is growing to rename three Virginia military bases which bear the monikers of Confederate generals. It is part of a movement to reassess Confederate symbols within the military nationwide.

The three bases are Ft. A.P. Hill, named for Confederate Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill Jr.; Ft. Pickett, named for Gen. George Pickett; and Ft. Lee, named for Gen. Robert E. Lee.

This comes in the middle of a controversy between military leaders and President Donald Trump, who says he won’t even consider renaming bases.

There has been a growing rift between Trump and numerous military leaders, notably James Mattis, a decorated Marine general and Trump’s former secretary of defense, about accusations that Trump has tried to politicize U.S. armed forces.

Part of the tension involves Trump’s controversial plan to use federal units, such as the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division, to crack down on demonstrators after the slaying by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African-American accused of passing a phony $20 bill.

The controversy is extremely serious and eventually could lead to a serious showdown between Trump and military leaders.

Already, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Navy have banned the flying of Confederate symbols such as the Stars and Bars battle flag on military bases.

This isn’t the first time that Virginia has come to terms with the use of Confederate emblems on military equipment. In 1992, for instance, Gov. Douglas Wilder, the state’s first elected African-American governor, ordered Confederate flag images removed from F-16 and other fighter aircraft operated by the 149th Fighter Squadron of the Virginia Air National Guard.

Regarding the three Army bases, some believe the military went along with naming them after Confederate generals as a way to gain popular white support for acquiring massive tracts of land in the 20th century.

But a look at the individuals raises questions. Two of the three generals have mixed or poor records as military leaders. For example:

Gen. Hill, for whom the 77,332 base was named in 1940, had to repeat his third year at West Point because Hill, who partied hard, contracted gonorrhea. During the Civil War none other than Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had Hill arrested on eight counts of dereliction of duty. Today the base is used by the Army, National Guard, Marines, Navy SEALS another other units.

Ft. Pickett, named after Gen. George Pickett, was formed in 1942 to prepare Army troops for service in Europe. Pickett came in last in his class at West Point and was famous for the disastrous “Pickett’s charge” at Gettysburg. In 1864 he ordered 22 North Carolinians wearing Union uniforms hanged and later fled to Canada to avoid criminal charges. Ft. Pickett is used by the Virginia National Guard for training along with various U.S. and Canadian units.

Ft. Lee, of course, was named for Robert E, Lee, arguably the South’s best general. The Petersburg-area base headquarters the Army’s logistical activities and is one of the most important training bases in the U.S. defense community.

For a look at how naming bases can make sense, consider Camp Lejeune in North Carolina (where I lived for a few years when I was a toddler). Its namesake is former Marine Gen. and Commandant John A. Lejeune who graduated second in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy. Lejeune had a storied carrier including service in the Philippines. He commanded the 2nd Army Division at St. Mihiel in France. He later became superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute.

The time has come to rename the Virginia bases.

There are currently no comments highlighted.

32 responses to “The Time Has Come to Rename the Bases

  1. “Give ‘er back George, give ‘er back” — cry from McClellan’s troops concerning McClellan’s wife, Nelly, and her former suitor A.P. Hill, who harassed McClellan’s forces unmercifully.

    “Gen. Hill, for whom the 77,332 base was named in 1940, had to repeat his third year at West Point because Hill, who partied hard, contracted gonorrhea. ”

    No wonder Nelly’s parents objected.

  2. And renaming bases would solve the problem between Trump and military commanders how?

    • Who wants to side with Trump on this? Shouldn’t Trump be worried about why Military commanders are running away from his positions?

      • Who said anything about siding with anybody, Larry? I just want to know how renaming bases solves the problem noted in Peter’s post about politicizing the military.

        • Well you seemed to think that something needed to be done to bring Trump and his Military folks closer together rather than farther apart? Or maybe I misunderstood.

          I see the military moving away from Trump and it’s because of Trump’s attitudes about race as well as the legitimate uses of the Military in domestic affairs.

          This is a “Trump” issue not a military issue IMHO.

      • Who sides with Trump on ANYTHING?

        Conservative opinion writer (The Bulwark possibly) explaining why he voted for Trump in 2016 said something akin to “I find him to be despicable but his policies aligned with mine….”. Hmmm, maybe a morals check is called for?

  3. Doesn’t all this renaming remind of 1984?

  4. Read the book by that renowned right wing nut, Christopher Hitchens, called “Why Orwell Matters”

  5. I’m just not buying into the pain encoded in anyone’s dna from a place name. Who in the general public even knew which side Pickett fought on? I didn’t, and I am fairly well educated and had a father who was a civil war nut. Every day many of us drive on the Washington-Rochambeau route. The main road in York County is the Lewis B. Puller Memorial Highway. Only diehard locals could tell you who Gen. Puller was. Are we next going to rename Stuart Ave., And who were Cary, Floyd, and Thompson? Belvedere is a nono, right? This is misdirection well played. One’s personal responsibility for his or her thoughts and actions is being ignored, replaced by a divisive grocery list of excuses.

    • I agree – partially. Surely you see the irony of young black men volunteering to serve their country and being sent to be trained at bases named for Confederates and a military that still allowed Confederate symbols? No?

  6. Will Rogers once said “You know, everybody’s ignorant, just on different subjects.”

    I did not realize this until now. I wonder how many others did not know this until now?

    I’m amazed at how many black folks joined the military in WWII, Vietnam, eras , got trained at some of these bases and either also did not know it or just kept quiet.

    Now the military has also suddenly become worried about White Supremacy on it’s bases and outlawed Confederate symbols. Up until now, apparently Confederate symbols were allowed in the military.

    .

  7. Thanks for the history lesson. I had read about the trouble between Jackson and Hill, but I did not know about the gonorrhea. That might have been one of the reasons that the puritanical Jackson complained about Hill.

    For new names, there are not a lot of well-known Virginia generals after the Civil War. The most logical person would be Chesty Puller, the most decorated Marine in history. However, I don’t know how the Army would think about naming one of its bases after a Marine.

    Another candidate would be Richard Byrd, a famous explorer and Medal of Honor winner. Of course, he would have two strikes against him: he was an Admiral and then, there was that brother of his.

    If one wants to stay with the Army and the Civil War, there is George Thomas, a well-regarded Union general from Virginia.

    I was going to nominate Doug Wilder (he was in the Army and was awarded the Bronze Star), but forts are usually not named for people who are still living.

    Finally, if we are willing to consider someone with ties to Virginia, but who was not a native Virginian, there is George Marshall, a VMI graduate who lived in Virginia after his retirement.

  8. No shortage of candidate names. I’m fine with changing them. But Peter trying to insult these dead Confederates is pathetic and typical. Nobody had more respect for Hill than the men who fought against him. Grant didn’t shine at West Point. The forts were named in political horse trading just as ships are named (“vote for the money and you can pick the name….”). If Benjamin Davis (Junior) doesn’t have an AF base already, he can grace a fort with his name. It was the Army Air Force when Davis Jr. led the Tuskegee Airmen, but USAF when he got his star I think. His father, Davis Sr., was the first black general but not a flyer — a man who’s career started with service as a Buffalo Soldier and ended with a star and a senior command in WWII.

  9. Believe it or not, there are more than 400 military “bases” in the US, all named for a place or person and just 10 named for Confederates – all in the south.

    https://www.ourmilitary.com/biggest-military-bases-in-the-us/

  10. Steve H. “Typical and pathetic?” It happens to be the truth. I thought you disliked ad hominem attacks. Except when you are making them?

    • No, I’m not going to pass… Peter, of what relevance was Hill’s issues at West Point, or Pickett’s troubles after the war? T.J. Jackson was always feuding with somebody so that was hardly a black mark on Hill. They were both Virginians and I suspect the Virginia congressional delegation at the time picked the names, and other states got the same privilege. Hill died at the very end of the war, and was widely recognized as an outstanding infantry commander. It is enough to say that they took up arms against the U.S. Constitution they had sworn to uphold, on behalf of a reprehensible evil. You are the only person I know who would proudly drag in trivia like that, thinking it tarnished them.

      • I think there are ways to refute Peter’s points without personalizing.

        And yes, more and more, there are personal attacks going on in BR , IMHO.

        It’s really important that we not do that. If it continues and gets worse then people will no longer want to comment for fear that others will attack them and not their point.

        ” We have managed, so far, to avoid posting elaborate rules for participating in this blog. We simply urge contributors and commenters to maintain a collegial atmosphere. Direct all the fire and fury you want at another person’s argument, but do not engage in ad hominem attacks. The publisher reserves the right to delete any comments that violate this basic rule. Additionally, blog contributors have the right to delete any comments on their own posts only that they feel detracts from the quality of the dialogue.”

        Sometimes, we (and I include myself) … “inch” a little and then others “inch” a little back .. and before long, we hear ” and another thing about YOU that I don’t like”… and stuff like that.

        I’m not picking on Steve here.. this behavior is going around here of late.

  11. No, I am not going to let it pass Steve. What I wrote is true. Also, Pickett’s troubles were during the war. Your assessment of Hill us your opinion. What do you think of the Trump-military rift? It is an extremely important question. I have never seen anything like it in all of my 67 years. Also can you please cut out the personal attacks and stick to the issues?’thank you!

    • I think Trump has had his head handed back to him on the role of the U.S. military in civilian affairs. I’ve already criticized the Bible photo op….I suspect Congress could take the lead on the base names and put a bill on his desk. My guess would be about 90% votes in favor, if not higher, especially if they pick new names well chosen. As to nothing like it, what about the firing of MacArthur? Lincoln being opposed in the 1864 election by a deposed general? Did somebody just find the Pentagon Papers in a trash bin? No. As Harry Truman famously said, there is nothing new but the history you don’t know.

  12. Steve H. Good point on Trump and the military.Hope you are right

  13. I find it humorous that the same people who complain about the Military budget are about to inflate in by the millions. If you don’t think the renaming process doesn’t cost millions of dollars, you are fooling yourselves.

    Also, how about instead of spending that money on trivial things like the name of military posts, we spend that money and correct the Military housing issue. You know the things that directly effect people.

  14. Really? The military renames stuff all the time. The National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, the Navy’s top hospital, is now Walter Reed. Blasphemy!

    • Walter Reed closed it’s original structure (2007 scandal and it was 102 years old) and distributed it’s practices and services between Bethesda and Ft. Belvoir. That was done under BRCC, which the Walter Reed move cost $2 Billion dollars.

      So you’re again saying you’d rather spend money on the names of posts vs actually helping the military families with the litany of toxic substances that are contained in on post housing.

      In the military toilet seats do in deed cost $500 dollars, because of the Government. Nothing is ever cheap.

  15. We recently had an elementary school renamed because the namesake – the principal during integration – was suddenly declared a racist. (Never mind that the movement was started by a guy who tended to spend time in the principal’s office for the usual reasons). According to my mother, Mr. Byrd did believe in segregated schools, but when the order to integrate came he handled it professionally. Very few of those who were students at the time had any complaints – unless of course they were troublemakers and had a personal issue with Mr. Byrd. But I stray from my point. My mother, who is of course always right, said that important places should not be named after people, period. People are complex. Place names are better – Waller Mill, Queens Lake, Laurel Lane, etc. One would expect that would solve the problem, unless of course this current crop of snowflakes decides something unethical happened at some oint in the history of mankind at any inocuously renamed site. That, however, would take research and education, so we may be safe.

    • Perhaps… but who would be offended by people like Booker T Washington, or Danny Thomas or Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Betsy Ross,

      I think some of us are perhaps taken aback that folks that we thought were “ok” were not for others…

      I know I spent many years NOT offended by the Confederate statues. The truth about them was never taught in school and it was some number of years after that, that I learned how most of those statues got put up – and what happened to black people at the time those statues were being put up.

      Sorta like how some of us have felt in the “me too” era also.

      That’s all the more reason when someone has an “idea” for a “name” that way more than some small committee be deciding it… Names on buildings and roads and statues – live on – and they need to stand the test of time.

      I pointed out earlier that we have over 400 military installations in the USA – and out of that 400+, only 10 had problematical names… I think that demonstrates that 400 were well named. I suspect that out of thousands of named schools a similar ratio might hold.

  16. Rename the bases already. But notice the continued silence from Democrats and their media toadies about the failure of Minneapolis’s left-wing, Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey to carry out his campaign pledge to rid the police force of cops with bad records like Chauvin and Thao. If Frey had done his job, George Floyd would like be alive today.

  17. Madams. I was making a bad joke. In the late 1950s and early 1960s my Dad headed a medical department at Bethesda. He was career Navy and of course they all considered themselves superior to the Army. Ironically his brother had been an Army doctor

    • “Really? The military renames stuff all the time. The National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, the Navy’s top hospital, is now Walter Reed. Blasphemy!”

      Where was the punchline? That doesn’t appear like a joke, and yes we in the Military do poke fun at one another all the time. However, those jokes tend to require you having served.

Leave a Reply