WASHINGTON – The Army on Wednesday defended its past practice of naming forts and posts after Confederate Army generals, saying they memorialize historic figures, "not causes or ideologies."
The issue arose following the deadly church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and amid debate over Confederate flags and other symbols of the Confederacy. Numerous Army posts in the South are named for Confederate soldiers.
The Army's top spokesman, Brig. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, issued a brief statement in the aftermath of questions about whether the military ought to consider changing the name of bases like Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is named after the man who led the Confederate Army of Tennessee, Gen. Braxton Bragg.
"Every Army installation is named for a soldier who holds a place in our military history," Frost said. "Accordingly, these historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies. It should be noted that the naming occurred in the spirit of reconciliation, not division."
According to the Army's Center of Military History, the earliest official policy on the naming of posts and forts is found in War Department General Order Number 11, dated Feb. 8, 1832. It said, "All new posts which may be hereafter established, will receive their names from the War Department, and be announced in General Orders from the Headquarters of the Army."
In the World War II era of 1939-1946, almost all military installations designated as forts or camps were named after distinguished military individuals, including veterans of the Confederate Army, according to the Center for Military History.
Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that he is unaware of any discussion within the Defense Department about changing the names of bases that memorialize Confederate soldiers. He said it was a matter for the individual services, not the Defense Department.