In the debate over Confederate symbols in the U.S., the 10 Army bases named after Confederate generals who fought for the South during the Civil War have largely escaped scrutiny.
As a former newspaper reporter and a current journalism professor, I have wondered why the media have mostly overlooked this story of military installations that still bear the names of those who fought to maintain slavery and white supremacy.
Working for a newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia, 37 years ago, I covered an event where nearly 30,000 Boy Scouts from across the country converged on Fort A.P. Hill, about 80 miles south of Washington, D.C., for a week of fellowship and fun. It was the Boy Scouts’ 1981 Jamboree, and the theme that year was “Scouting’s Reunion with History.”
Looking back, I feel more than a tinge of regret: I missed the real story at the Jamboree. That story was all about history.
Ambrose Powell Hill Jr. was a Confederate general who died during a battle in Petersburg, Virginia, south of Richmond, in 1865. Before the Civil War, he was in the U.S. Army. But as Virginia seceded from the Union, Hill resigned and joined the efforts to defend the Confederate States of America.
I wonder if the Scouts back in ’81 knew that their Jamboree was being held on an Army base named in honor of a man who fought, in effect, to defend slavery.
That is the story I should have written.
All 10 in the South
Virginia has three of the 10 military installations named after Confederates. Louisiana and Georgia each have two. Alabama, North Carolina and Texas each have one.
The bases were named for such figures as Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who commanded the Confederate Army; Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard of Louisiana, whose troops shelled Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12, 1861, launching the Civil War; and John Brown Gordon of Georgia, who historians say was a Ku Klux Klan leader after the war.