On April 11, 1861, Brig. Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard, commander of Confederate forces in the Charleston area, demanded that Maj. Robert Anderson of the Union Army surrender his command at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Anderson refused. Beauregard opened fire. And the Civil War ensued.
Today, Beauregard has a U.S. Army base in Louisiana named after him. Anderson does not.
Beauregard was not alone in receiving such a high honor as a traitor to the United States. At least nine other major Army installations are named for generals who led Confederate troops — a practice the Army has defended for years based on the assertion that they have “a significant place in our military history,” as one Army official recently said.
Among the former states of the Confederacy, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina each have one Army base named for a Confederate general, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service report. Louisiana and Georgia have two each. And Virginia, which served as the seat of government for the Confederacy, has three such installations.
Most of these bases were established during World War I as “camps” and periodically shuttered between wars. In World War II, many of them were formally established as “forts” with their original names intact. But in at least one instance, a training area within a fort was named for a Confederate as recently as 1979 — Wilcox Camp, named for Brig. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox, within the confines of Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, itself named for a Confederate general.
Why haven’t the names been changed already?
The NAACP has long advocated for changing the names of military bases honoring Confederate soldiers, arguing that the battle flag glorifies “treason and a hateful history of white supremacy and black subjugation.”
The call to remove Confederate leaders’ names surfaces every time the continuing issues of race and the grim legacy of the Civil War and slavery in the United States are brought to light by current events. It was discussed following the mass shooting of nine black worshipers in Charleston, S.C., by avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015. Roof documented his fetishization of the Confederate flag in a blog before carrying out the attack, and also embraced the flags of Apartheid-era South Africa and the white-controlled nation of Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe.
After white supremacists marched on Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, ostensibly to protest the proposed removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the idea of renaming Army bases was again floated by academics and pundits alike. Military leaders publicly denounced racism at the time, but Gen. Mark A. Milley, then the Army chief of staff, elected not to pursue renaming bases. Milley has since become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He received criticism last week for accompanying President Trump from the White House to a church in his camouflage uniform on June 1, moments after the area had been cleared of peaceful protests by security forces using tear gas.