The U.S. Army base Fort Bragg in North Carolina is being renamed to Fort Liberty in accordance with the Biden Defense Department’s push to scrub the military of Confederate memorabilia, garnering harsh pushback from some veterans.
The renaming occurred in a small ceremony on Friday at the base, with signs being changed and the fort’s website edited to reflect the new name “Fort Liberty,” which was chosen out of 188 names by the Naming Commission. The base has been named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg since 1918.
The removal and/or replacement of Confederate statues and memorabilia, such as the name “Fort Bragg,” has been the subject of debate for decades. The Fort’s website attempts to assuage the concerns that many veterans have that their heritage is being erased by the renaming, explaining to veterans:
“No act can take away from the heritage this installation’s service members created while stationed here or anywhere else, serving our nation. We understand the original name’s prestige in the eyes of some of the Soldiers, Families, and our nation, was built upon the bravery and dedication of those who served here, not because of an obscure, incompetent, ill-tempered Confederate general’s legacy. Nevertheless, our nation’s representatives felt a need to move on from that name and put the redesignation into law, and we are abiding by that law.”
Despite the fort’s reassurances, many soldiers who serve at the fort or have served previously are heavily critical of this decision, as many see it as a part of their history, with many feeling their service has been dishonored as the Fort where they served is being erased by bureaucrats in Washington.
This sentiment is shared by soldiers of all races, as black Army veteran George Postell Jr., who served at the base for more than four years, explains, per the AP, “I shared my blood, and I know a lot of my other brothers that did the same for the namesake of Fort Bragg,” Postell said. “To me, it will always be Fort Bragg, no matter what they call it.”
U.S. Army veteran and president of the Fayetteville chapter of the NAACP James Buxton Jr. agrees with the renaming, but calls the replacement name “Liberty” an “off the wall” decision. Buxton had a creative solution: To keep the original name of Fort Bragg and instead dedicate the fort to Union General and accomplished U.S. representative Edward Bragg as a compromise that both retains the historical significance of Fort Bragg while acknowledging the suffering that that name might have caused to many African Americans.
This is just the first base to be rebranded by the Naming Commission appointed by Congress with the ultimate goal of renaming nine military bases across the country featuring Confederate soldiers and generals as part of their titles. The project is estimated to cost about $62.4 million, according vice chairman of the Commission and retired Army Brigadier General Ty Seidule.
According to The American Battlefield Trust, Braxton Bragg was a key figure in the Confederate war effort in the Deep South, scoring minor victories in the early war against the Union in battles such as Chickamauga and Stones River, but rarely scoring a decisive blow against the Union. Bragg resigned as a general in the Confederate army as he suffered a crippling defeat in the Battle of Chattanooga, removing any possibility for Confederate control in Tennessee and losing thousands of men. Bragg served the rest of the war as a military advisor and plantation owner, where he owned over 100 slaves.
The renaming process is set to be completed by December 31.