A Defense Department commission rechristening everything in the military that was named in honor of the Confederacy has unveiled a crowdsourcing website to take suggestions from the public.
The commission is seeking new names for 10 Army posts and two Navy ships named either for Confederate troops or to honor Confederate roots.
“As we work with the local communities, we welcome input from the American public,” retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, chairwoman of the Naming Commission, said in a release. “This feedback will help us determine names that appropriately reflect our military today and recognize the courage, values and sacrifices of our military men and women.”
Up for renaming are Forts A.P. Hill, Lee, Pickett and Belvoir, all in Virginia; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Forts Gordon and Benning in Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Rucker, Ala.; and Fort Polk, La.; as well as the cruiser Chancellorsville and the oceanographic survey ship Maury.
The website offers no parameters for suggestions, but last year, retired Brig. Gen. Ty Seduile, a member of the commission, suggested a list of possibilities in the Washington Post.
They included redubbing Belvoir as Fort Ulysses S. Grant, for the commander of the Union army, and changing Hood to Benavidez, for Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez.
Others have suggested renaming Benning for Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, whose posthumous Medal of Honor nomination for actions in Iraq is still tied up in bureaucracy.
Missing from the list is the cruiser Antietam, which earlier this year had been under consideration.
“It depends on whether or not you see Antietam as a Union victory,” Howard told reporters in May, speaking of the battle that ended in a sort of truce. Confederate troops withdrew though the Union took more casualties.
Camp Beauregard, La., often cited as another Army post named for a Confederate soldier, isn’t under consideration because it’s a state-controlled National Guard installation, and the commission is only looking at DoD properties.
Discussion of renaming Confederate-named posts has circulated for years, but the Pentagon and Congress began making more deliberate moves last year in the wake of nationwide demonstrations against racism.
The most recent National Defense Authorization Act required the Defense Department to stand up a commission and rename all Confederate “items” ― to include not only posts and ships, but street names and buildings — by fall 2023.
“And yes, we understand based on the extensiveness of the assets, that this is going to take some time,” Howard said in May, adding that their lists will include cost estimates for modifying signage and other elements.
That will include anything named for Gen. Robert E. Lee around the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., his alma mater, including the cadet barracks, a road, a gate and an award.
The renaming effort marks a shift embraced at the highest levels of the Pentagon, though former President Donald Trump in 2020 threatened to veto any legislation that included mandatory changes.
“The American Civil War was fought — and it was an act of rebellion, it was an act of treason at the time — against the union, against the stars and stripes, against the U.S. Constitution,” Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers in July 2020. “And those officers turned their back on their oath.”
Furthermore, he added, he personally knew of troops who were uncomfortable with the names, including a Black staff sergeant who served with him at Fort Bragg.
“He said he had to work every day on a base that represented a guy that enslaved his grandparents,” Milley recalled.