No More Confederate General Bases!

Robert E. LeeLast weekend, Jamie Malanowski wrote an amazing OpEd over at the New York Times, Misplaced Honor. I didn’t know this, but 10 United States Army bases are named after Confederate generals. Look, I don’t have it out for the south. In fact, I have almost nothing but fond memories of my time in the south. But all the Confederate flag waving and related activities have got to stop. We can all admit that the Civil War was a tragedy and that most people were innocent of anything other than being caught up in an unfortunate event. What we can’t do is pretend that the south had cause to leave the Union. The people of the Confederacy were traitors. At that is above all true of the generals.

As Malanowki wrote, “Would we have a Fort Rommel? A Camp Cornwallis?” Of course not! And that is not to say that Rommel and Cornwallis weren’t anything but noble men. But even if you don’t wish to say, as I do, that Robert E. Lee was in fact a traitor,[1] we do not name military bases for people who fought against us in war. There are ways to honor men like Lee without naming our bases after them.

And we are not just talking about men who deserve respect like Lee. Bases are also named after vile men. Henry Benning, for example, wasn’t a reluctant warrior; he actively pushed for succession, demagoguing fears that Lincoln would push to abolish slavery. John B. Gordon was an early head of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia. And George Pickett was even accused of war crimes, although in the Obama-style “look forward” philosophy of the time, he was never tried.

It is an outrage that we have military based named after these men. It is now 150 years since the Civil War. We need to stop trying to sooth ruffled feathers over our most destructive war, which was waged against us for the most vile of reasons. Imagine what it says to our African American soldiers that they should be stationed at a base named after one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan. It seems to me that we should be far more concerned about their feelings than those of white southerners who think that the Union was wrong to have stopped their rebellion.

The only way to get past the Civil War is for all of us to admit that the right side was the Union side. We are now all Americans. The Confederacy was never a real nation. The Civil War was a great tragedy, but some good things came out of it. And we should all be proud of that. As Americans.

[1] For the record, I admire Lee. I think he is one of the great tragic heroes of our nation. But taking up arms against the United States is an act of treason. And because of Lee’s brilliance, unthinkable extra men died. If he had headed the Union army as Lincoln wished, the war probably would have been over much sooner and there would have been far less loss of life.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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