COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — We are moving closer to a monumental change at the U.S. Army post near Columbus.
This time next week Fort Benning will be no more. The new name of the installation will be Fort Moore, named for Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife, Julia.
Dr. David Kieran, the Hallock Chair of Military History at Columbus State University, can put the name change into perspective. And he’s uniquely qualified because he has studied and written about the cultural changes in the U.S. Army.
For 105 years, Fort Benning has carried the name of Henry L. Benning, a Confederate general.
He was a lawyer, legislator, and Georgia Supreme Court justice before the Civil War.
“The Civil War and how we should remember the Civil War has been a topic of debate in American life since 1865, since the moment the war ended,” Kieran said. “And throughout the post-Civil War period, there have been debates about who should be remembered, what should be remembered, what should be memorialized, and particularly which figures from the Confederacy should be remembered, and how we should talk about the Confederacy. And we saw an acceleration of that debate in the past couple of years, particularly after the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and renewed attention to the politics of race in America.”
Three years ago, Congress called a Commission to study changing the names of nine Army forts that carried names of those associated with the Confederacy.
The commission made its recommendation and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in January ordered those names changed by the end of the year.
“And in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Bill, Congress stipulated that the Department of Defense would create a commission to study ways that military post and other military facilities named for people who had volunteered to fight for the Confederacy could be renamed,” Kieran said. “So, it was really part of a much longer history of grappling with the history and the legacy of the Civil War that in the last couple of years, Congress has mandated that the military take a close look at.”
Kieran says at this point military officers on post at Fort Benning are carrying out an order when it comes to the name change.
“Military leaders don’t wake up in the morning and decide to make major changes,” Kieran said. “They follow the orders of their civilian leaders. And in this case, they’re following the law that was passed by Congress to study the military installations that were named for Confederate leaders and to develop alternatives, which there was a very lengthy and vigorous process that the Army followed, the Department of Defense followed in creating a commission to study this that wrote several reports. And now the leaders at Fort Benning are implementing the findings of that report at the direction of the secretary of defense, who’s following the law that Congress passed.”