By Larry Jaser
The controversary over 10 military installations in the South being named after Confederate Officers continues to rage. The stories behind the people differ widely. Before the Civil War, most of the officers served valiantly in the U.S. Army and were decorated for bravery.
Some owned slaves and some did not. Read and decide for yourself if they are worthy of having an installation named for them.
In 2015 Brigadier General Malcolm Frost said, “Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history.” He further explained that the historic names chosen “represent individuals, not causes or ideologies,” and that “it was done in the spirit of reconciliation, not division.”
1. Fort Hood, Texas
The official opening of Camp Hood took place on September 18, 1942. It is named for the commander of the Confederate Texas Brigade, General John Bell Hood. It was renamed Fort Hood in 1950. Today it is the largest Armored Post in the U.S. Army.
Gen. John Bell Hood was a Kentucky native and graduated from West Point in 1853.
In 1855, he served with the Second United States Cavalry in Jefferson Banks, Missouri. Hood received a citation for bravery and promotion to first lieutenant after an injury during a fight with Native Americans.
Hood resigned from the U.S. Army in April 1861 and became a first lieutenant of cavalry in the Confederate Army. He trained cavalry in Virginia before his promotion to Colonel. When his unit in Texas expanded to brigade strength, he received a promotion to brigadier general in 1862.
Hood fought in the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Bull Run, and after the Battle of Antietam he became the youngest major general in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. His division also played a significant role in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 where he suffered injuries. Hood eventually rejoined his unit to lead a charge during the Battle of Chickamauga, after which he became a lieutenant general for his bravery.
Despite having his leg amputated, he returned to the battlefield in 1864 to try to stop U.S. General Sherman’s march toward Atlanta. By July, Hood had become commander of the Army of Tennessee and fought Sherman’s forces under a temporary promotion to full general.
Hood was the youngest officer on either side of the Civil War to independently lead an army. He thought of himself as a career military man and did not personally hold slaves but admitted slavery was the main cause of the war.
2. Fort Benning, Georgia
At the request of the Columbus Rotary Club, the Army honored Brig. Gen. Henry Benning when it opened Camp Benning in 1918. It was renamed Fort Benning in 1922. In 2005, Fort Benning became the home of the U.S. Army Armor Center and School.
Benning led troops at the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, and the Battle of Gettysburg. Prior to the Civil War he practiced law and never served in the military.
Benning served as one of Georgia’s delegates to a convention of nine slaveholding states to determine the South’s course of action if slavery were banned in the western territories. While the resolutions of the convention helped lead to the Compromise of 1850, Benning introduced resolutions in Nashville that strongly defended slavery and supported a state’s right to secede.
At the 1861 secession convention, Benning said, “What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery… If things are allowed to go on as they are, it is certain that slavery is to be abolished. By the time the North shall have attained the power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that?”
After the war he returned to Columbus, Georgia, and his law practice.
3. Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Fort Bragg opened in 1918. The local chamber of commerce named the Fort after General Braxton Bragg, the only general from North Carolina during the Civil War. Since the U.S. Army was concerned with mobilizing troops for World War I, they just let locals choose the name. It is now home to the U.S. Army Forces Command, XVIII Airborne Corps, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, 82nd Airborne Division, and many other commands.
Bragg graduated 5th in a class of 50 at West Point in 1837 and served in the U.S. Army until 1856. Bragg was an American army officer during the Second Seminole War and Mexican American War, where his success made him a national hero.
He was also a slave owner before the start of the Civil War and owned a sugar plantation in Louisiana.
He joined the Confederacy and served as a general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
He was not popular with the Confederate troops and ended the war as a military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Historians generally rate Bragg as one of the worst tacticians on either side during the war, and his losses were major contributors to the Confederate States of America’s (CSA) defeat.
4. Fort Lee, Virginia
General Robert E. Lee was a West Point graduate and the leader of the Confederate Army. The U.S. Army named Camp Lee after him on July 15, 1917 during the mobilization for World War I. In 1950 it was renamed Fort Lee. Today Fort Lee is home to the Combined Arms Support Command.
Lee served the U.S. Army for 32 years, distinguishing himself during the Mexican American War and as Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy.
He was President Abraham Lincoln’s first choice to lead the U.S. in the Civil War.
Instead, Lee joined the Confederacy when his home state, Virginia, seceded from the Union.
Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia in June 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign.
Historians generally agree that Lee was less enthusiastic about the cause than many of his fellow Southerners, but he did take command of the Confederate army. After the defeat, he spoke out in opposition to Confederate monuments, writing in 1869 that it is better, “not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.”
5. Fort Polk, Louisiana
Camp Polk opened in 1941 and was named for Leonidas Polk, a West Point graduate, planter, slave owner, and Episcopal bishop who began the Civil War as a major general in the Confederate Army. It was renamed Fort Polk in 1955 and is now home to the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center.
Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk was a North Carolina native. He had no previous military experience, other than his West Point education before the war. He died in action during the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.
Shortly after graduating West Point, Polk resigned his commission in the artillery to enter the Virginia Theological Seminary. Polk was the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana when the Civil War started. He resigned that position to become a major general for the Confederacy.
Polk commanded troops in the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Perryville, the Battle of Stones River, the Tullahoma Campaign, the Battle of Chickamauga, the Chattanooga Campaign, and the Atlanta Campaign.
6. Fort Gordon, Georgia
Camp Gordon, named for Lt. Gen. John Brown Gordon, a native Georgian, soldier, legislator, and businessman, opened in July 1941 as a World War II training camp for the 4th and 26th Infantry Divisions, and the 10th Armored Division. It became Fort Gordon in 1956. The facility is now home to the U.S. Army Signal Corps and Cyber Corps.
Gordon had zero military experience before the war. He became one of Robert E. Lee’s most trusted generals over the course of the war.
At the start of the war Gordon was elected captain of a company of mountaineers and displayed remarkable capabilities. He quickly climbed to brigadier general in 1862, major general in 1864, and lieutenant general in 1865.
A hero to Georgians at the age of just 33, Gordon returned to his home state and began to practice law. There are rumors that Gordon served as a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, but that was a different Gordon, George Washington Gordon, of Tennessee, who also served in the Confederate Army.
When the United Confederate Veterans organization formed in 1890, Gordon was made commander in chief, a position he occupied until his death. In his memoirs “Reminiscences of the Civil War,” published in 1903, Gordon admits slavery was the true spark that ignited the war.
7. Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia
Fort A.P. Hill is a training center which opened in 1941. All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces train there. It is named for Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill.
Ambrose Powell Hill graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1847. He served with an artillery unit during the Mexican American War as well as the Third Seminole War. In 1851 he was promoted to First Lieutenant. In 1855 he transferred to the U.S. Coastal Survey to work in the D.C. area while still holding a commission.
On March 1, 1861, Hill resigned from the U.S. Army and became the colonel of the 13th Virginia Infantry, commanding a unit at the Battle of First Manassas. On February 26, 1862, Hill received a promotion to brigadier general. Following the promotion, Hill served at the Battle of Williamsburg and during the Peninsula Campaign.
Hill was promoted to major general on May 26, 1862 and took command of the Thirds Corps after a promotion to Lieutenant General.
On April 2, 1865, Hill was killed during the Breakthrough at Petersburg.
8. Camp Beauregard, Louisiana
Camp Beauregard, named for Confederate Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard, opened in 1917 and today serves as a training facility for the Louisiana National Guard.
Beauregard was trained in military and civil engineering at West Point and served with distinction as an engineer officer in the Mexican American War.
Following a brief appointment as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy in 1861, and after Louisiana seceded, he resigned from the United States Army and became the first brigadier general in the Confederate Army.
He is best known for his defense of the industrial city of Petersburg, Virginia from Union troops in June 1864.
Following his military career Beauregard returned to Louisiana. In the early days after the war, Beauregard displayed the same antipathy toward freed slaves that most of his fellow Confederate leaders had embraced, but by 1873 he’d had a change of heart and advocated for black civil and voting rights.
At a meeting between white and black leaders in Louisiana, Beauregard made a rousing speech in support of racial cooperation.
9. Fort Pickett, Virginia
Fort Pickett is a Virginia Army National Guard installation which first opened in 1941 as Camp Pickett and renamed Fort Pickett in 1974.
Maj. Gen. George Pickett was a Virginia native. After studying law in Illinois, he attended West Point, graduating in 1846. Pickett finished last in his class of 59.
He entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and served during the Mexican American War. He returned from the war a hero after raising the American flag over a captured castle during the Battle of Chapultepec. Pickett also served on the Texas frontier, where he was promoted to captain.
Pickett resigned from the army shortly after Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861 and started his Confederate service as a colonel in command of defenses on the Lower Rappahannock River.
By 1862, Pickett had earned a promotion to a brigade command under General James Longstreet. He served during the Peninsula Campaign until a severe injury forced him to leave the battlefield in June of that year.
After a promotion to major general, Pickett served in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. He is best known for Pickett’s Charge, a massive frontal assault that ultimately failed.
At the end of the war, upon learning that he was being investigated for war crimes in North Carolina over the hanging of 22 former Confederate soldiers who shifted their allegiance to the Union, Pickett and his family fled to Canada. They returned to Virginia in 1866 after a letter of support from General Grant ended the investigation.
10. Fort Rucker, Alabama
Fort Rucker, named for Col. Edmund Rucker, opened in 1942, and serves as the primary training base for Army Aviation. He is the only Confederate below the rank of general officer with an Army facility named after him.
After a basic education Rucker moved to Nashville in 1853, working as railroad surveyor before becoming an engineer. He was the city engineer of Memphis during the late 1850s.
When the Civil War broke out Rucker enlisted in the Confederate States Army as a private in Pickett’s Tennessee Company of Sappers and Miners. Sent to Kentucky, he was promoted to lieutenant. On May 10, 1862 he was transferred and promoted to captain of Company C, 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery.
Rucker was transferred to the cavalry with the rank of major and assigned to enforce conscription laws in East Tennessee.
In early 1863 Rucker was promoted to colonel and given command of the newly created 1st East Tennessee Legion.
In November Rucker was appointed acting brigadier general, but his commission was never confirmed by the Confederate Congress.
Rucker became far better known after the war as an Alabama industrialist who helped build the state’s substantial coal and steel industries.
Volume 74. Number 3. 2020