In today’s America, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, North is North, and South is South, and never the twain shall meet. This dichotomy, of course, was not always the case, for after the many years of bitter sectional rancor and four years of bloody internecine warfare that took place over half a century before, the North and the South finally managed to overcome their differences and become reunited as one nation.
A shining example of this reconciliation can be seen in the United States Army’s 29th Infantry Division that adopted the Asian unity symbol of ying and yang as its blue and gray uniform patch when the unit was formed at the outset of World War I. As the Division was initially made up of former units from the North and the South that had fought for both the Union and the Confederacy, the patch was to symbolize the concept that even opposing forces are able to coexist.
One of the Division’s present components is the 116th Infantry Regiment whose roots can be traced back directly to the Stonewall Brigade in General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. When the 29th Division was organized in 1917, its 1st Brigade was nicknamed the “Stonewall Brigade” in honor of the unit named for General “Stonewall” Jackson and the present Regiment’s banners still bear the battle streamers awarded to the Stonewall Brigade during the War of Secession. The 29th Division is not alone in regard to Confederate battle streamers however, as forty-eight different U. S. Army units currently carry a total of four hundred fifty-seven such streamers on their unit’s flags.
For more than a century, the spirit of reconciliation embodied in those hundreds of Confederate steamers, as well as the 29th Infantry’s patch, existed in the U. S. Army without incident or complaint and became an integral part of America’s history. Sadly, the feeling of comity between the North and the South began to be radically torn asunder several years ago and in March of last year, Congress went so far as to form an official federal commission under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense to rewrite all such military history.
The group was given a budget of two million dollars and the elephantine title of “The Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.” The eight-member panel, now simply referred to as the “Renaming Commission,” is headed by retired Admiral Michelle J. Howard, the Navy’s first black female admiral, and is charged with making recommendations to remove from all United States military assets any “name, symbol, display, monument or paraphernalia connected with the Confederacy.” Even the gray in the patch of the 29th Infantry and the Confederate ribbons carried on the flags of many units were to be deemed symbols of racism and treason and stripped from those who had fought and died so gallantly in America’s wars. While it was finally recommended that the 29th’s patch be allowed to remain, all the Confederate steamers still must go.
Aside from Confederate symbols connected with individual military units, the Commission also turned its eyes to the larger issue of military bases, particularly the nine U. S. Army forts throughout the South that were named in honor of Confederate military leaders. Also on the Commission’s hit list is any item located on a military base that is in any way connected to the Confederacy, such as buildings, memorials, portraits, ships, statues and streets.
The principle targets, the nine Army bases in the South, are Forts Benning and Gordon in Georgia; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Forts A. P. Hill, Lee and Pickett in Virginia; Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Polk in Louisiana and Fort Rucker in Alabama . . . with diversity and inclusiveness as the name of the Commission’s game.
Under the Commission’s recommendations for the renaming of these facilities, Fort Benning is slated to be called Fort Moore for Lieutenant General Harold Moore and his wife Julia who were once stationed at Fort Benning before he was sent to Viet Nam. The other base in Georgia, Fort Gordon, is to be renamed in honor of former president and five-star general Dwight Eisenhower.
The three forts in Virginia will be renamed for a rather diverse group of individuals, with Fort A. P. Hill being called Fort Walker for a Nineteenth Century female abolitionist from New York, Mary Edwards Walker, who served briefly as a Union Army surgeon in Washington at the end of the War. Fort Lee will become Fort Gregg-Adams in memory of two black officers, Lieutenant General Arthur Gregg, a supply officer in Viet Nam, and Lieutenant Colonel Charity Adams who served with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in England during World War Two. Fort Pickett will become Fort Barfoot in recognition of a Native-American, Sergeant Van Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient who served in Korea and Viet Nam.
Fort Hood in Texas will be renamed for the Army’s first Hispanic four-star general, Richard Cavazos, while Fort Polk in Louisiana will become Fort Johnson for Sergeant William Johnson who served with an all-black unit in World War One and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by former President Obama in 2015. Fort Rucker in Alabama will be renamed for another Medal of Honor recipient, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Novosel, a pilot who served in World War Two, Korea and Viet Nam.
The only Army base that will not be renamed for some individual will be Fort Bragg in North Carolina which will merely be known as Fort Liberty. The preliminary cost estimate for renaming the nine forts was about twenty-one million dollars, but that estimate has now tripled to sixty-two million and many feel the total price tag will be even greater.
The Commission has also targeted the military academies at Annapolis and West Point, with the latter suffering the greatest number of hits. The panel’s recent report cited a number of items at West Point that should be removed or renamed, including Beauregard Place and Hardee Place, as well as a barracks, child development center, gate, housing area and road all named for General Robert E. Lee. All portraits of Lee at the USMA must also be removed, including the twenty-foot painting of Lee that was donated to the Academy’s library by General Maxwell Taylor in 1952. When making the gift to his alma mater, General Taylor said, “Few fair-minded men can feel today that the issues which divided the North and South in 1861 have any real meaning to our present generation.”
Even in the face of statements such as General Taylor’s, the Commission has also placed the Academy’s Reconciliation Plaza Memorial on its list of items that must be altered or removed. The Plaza, a series of large stone tablets, was erected at West Point in 2001 by the class of 1961 in memory of those in the class of 1861, both Union and Confederate, who died during the conflict of almost a century and a half before. Some markers were also designed to “commemorate the reconciliation between North and South.” In addition to the markers bearing the names of those who fell during the War of Secession, others depict a number of incidents that took place during the War.
Not only has it now been recommended that all the Confederate names on the markers be removed from the list of the fallen, but any event that includes a Confederate should also be expunged or somehow “contextualized.” This would even include such scenes as the act of mercy in which, during the Battle of Sharpsburg, a Confederate soldier is shown giving his canteen to the wounded Captain Oliver Wendall Holmes who later became a Supreme Court justice.
Both the Navy and the Naval Academy have far fewer Confederate assets in the Commission’s sights, mainly as all but two of the many Navy vessels that have been named in honor of Confederate leaders, such as two of the submarines in Admiral Hyman Rickovers’s nuclear fleet, the “USS Robert E. Lee” and “USS Stonewall Jackson,” as well as five of the six ships named for Mathew Fontaine Maury, have already been decomissioned. One of the two ships still remaining in service is the oceanographic survey ship “USNS Maury.”
The other ship, the guided-missile cruiser “USS Chancellorsville,” truly demonstrates the insane lengths to which the Commission is going in its misguided wokeness. A number of past U. S. Navy ships have been named for famous American battles, such as the World War Two aircraft carriers “USS Bunker Hill” and “Saratoga,”, and three current cruisers are named for battles in the War of Secession, the “USS Antietam,” “Gettysburg,” and their sister ship, the “Chancellorsville.” The only crime committed by the “Chancellorsville,” however, is that while it also represents an equally important event in American history, it was a Confederate victory.
Furthermore, the Commission wants to rename two important buildings at the U. S. Naval Academy, Buchanan House, the superintendent’s residence, and Maury Hall, the Academy’s primary engineering facility, both of which date back to the early 1900s. Ignored completely are the many years of important service both Captain Franklin Buchanan and Commander Mathew Maury devoted to the United States and the Navy.
In Maury’s case, both before and after the War of Secession, the man known as the “Father of Modern Oceanography” contributed much to America’s progress as one of its greatest oceanographers, astronomers, meteorologists, cartographers and geologists. In 1854, Maury created the U. S. Naval Observatory and Hydrographical Office and served as its first superintendent. While opposed to both secession and slavery, when his home state of Virginia seceded, Maury resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Navy. Aside from his development of electric mines for the Confederacy, he engaged in no actual fighting during the War, and was employed mainly on diplomatic missions to Europe.
As for Buchanan, during his forty-five years of service in the U. S. Navy, he commanded warships during America’s war with Mexico and one of Commodore Perry’s ships in America’s 1853 opening of Japan to the world. In 1861, Buchanan was the commandant of the Washington Navy Yard, but his greatest contribution was made in 1845 when he, along with Maury, suggested and planned the U. S. Naval Academy, with Buchanan being named as its first superintendent in 1847. In later years, three Navy destroyers were named in his honor, two of which saw service in World War Two and the third, a guided-missile ship that was decommissioned in 1991.
Believing that his home state of Maryland would soon secede, Buchanan resigned his commission in April of 1861. When Federal forces prevented Maryland from leaving the Union, Buchanan asked that he be reinstated in order to continue serving his country, but Navy Secretary Gideon Welles refused his request, saying that he did not want “traitors or half-hearted patriots in his navy.” Buchanan then offered his service to the Confederate Navy and became its only full admiral.
It would appear, however, that the Commission is seeking other targets beyond military academies and bases. At a recent press conference, Brigadier General Jame “Ty” Seidule, the Commission’s vice-chairman, stated that the Confederate monument in Arlington National Cemetery is “problematic from top to bottom” and that it “should be stripped and removed down to its granite base plate.” For over a century, the monument by Moses Ezekiel has stood over the more than sixteen thousand Confederate graves at Arlington, including Ezekiel’s. The memorial was authorized by President Taft in 1906 and dedicated by President Wilson on June 4, 1914, the hundred sixth anniversary of President Jefferson Davis’ birth.
In taking their actions, the Commission claims it is not erasing or even rewriting America’s history, but merely putting historical events and individuals in their proper context. History, however, cannot be “contextualized” and the accounts of what took place in another age, and with an entirely different sense of moral standards, cannot, and must not, be judged or altered to meet today’s view of what some feel history should have been.