US military academies should abandon Confederate names that were adopted in the 20th century and honor instead the "greatest examples, traditions, and leaders of our past," states a new report from a congressional commission that was created to address the controversy over monuments to those who defended slavery and betrayed their oaths.
The report from the Naming Commission, released Monday, stresses that those behind the recommendation — including retired generals, a retired admiral, and Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican from Georgia — have no intention of "erasing history." Instead, it argues that naming roads and buildings after those who served the Confederacy is an undue honor for those who fought to dissolve the United States.
At the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, cadets live in barracks named after famous graduates who defended the Union and fought Nazis in World War II. "Commemorating the Confederacy alongside those graduates," the report states, "honors men who fought against the United States of America, and whose cause sought to destroy the nation as we know it."
For decades after the Civil War, the report notes, West Point pointedly refused to commemorate graduates who were killed in action defending the Confederacy. It wasn't until the 1930s that, under political pressure, it added monuments for those who fought to preserve chattel slavery.
Today, those attending the military academy can walk past a 20-foot portrait of Robert E. Lee, as well as sleep in barracks and homes named after the Confederacy's most famous general. That should change, the commission states, noting that he turned down the opportunity to command the US Army to take up a treasonous cause instead.
"Lee's armies were responsible for the deaths of more United States Soldiers than practically any other enemy in our nation's history," the report notes.
The commission also recommends removing Confederate names — adopted 50 years after the Civil War ended — at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Maury Hall, which houses the academy's department of systems and weapons engineering, is named after an oceanographer and veteran who "viewed African Americans as unworthy of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness," the report states.
A road on campus and the superintendent's home are named for Franklin Buchanan, a former sailor who fought for the Confederacy and indeed commanded forces that "killed hundreds of US Navy sailors," the report states.
In an earlier
report, the commission suggested changing the names of military bases named after Confederate leaders — changing Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Fort Liberty, for example.
The effort to revise names commemorating the Confederacy was derided by former President Donald Trump
as "cancel culture." But, in 2021, the Democratic-controlled Congress passed legislation authorizing an independent commission to develop recommendations for removing names and displays that "honor or commemorate" the cause of slavery.