Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Because I Got Nothing
Josh Marshall posed a provocative question: Why should we continue to name so many military bases after men who committed treason and broke the vows they took as officers in the US Army by taking up the cause of secession?
I think that's a fair question. Part of the problem, of course, is that these bases were named - as Marshall points out - during a time when we were still trying to reconcile the country. Others were named during a time when powerful senior Southern Democratic lawmakers controlled these things. This was as much about patronage as about "heritage".
Some of these forts named for treasonous generals are very important: Ft. Bragg, Ft. Hood, Ft. Gordon. Frankly, I'd like to see Georgia ask to rename Ft. Gordon as Ft. Longstreet. While John Gordon was a remarkably tough soldier having survived being shot in the face at Antietam, he was half the soldier Longstreet was. Longstreet, however, reconciled himself to the Union, joined Grant's administration and criticized Lee (accurately) for his decisions at Gettysburg.
If you're going to name a military base after a Confederate general, at least do it after one who re-committed himself to the Union.
The decisions to lock in certain names also denigrates generals who served AFTER the Civil War.
Matthew Ridgway was one of the finest officers this country ever produced. He was born in Virginia. Why not rename Ft. A.P. Hill after him?
George Patton invented American mechanized warfare. Why not rename Ft. Hood after him?
George Marshall was the architect of Allied victory in World War II. Why not rename Ft. Bragg after him?
Of course, the easy answer is that there are enough people who still see the Confederacy in an inaccurate historical light and therefore don't see the problem in lauding these Knights of the Old South.
But the simple legal fact is that these men took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and then violated that oath when they were unhappy with the electoral returns of 1860.