FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Among the many calls for change in the wake of George Floyd’s death has been renaming military bases that honor members of the Confederate Army.
That includes Fort Bragg in Cumberland County.
Born in Warrenton, North Carolina Gen. Braxton Bragg went on to West Point. He later became a hero of the Mexican-American War. While he may have had high marks on the battlefield, he did not when it came to his personality.
“As a general officer, he was competent. He knew his tactics. He understood weapons. He understood how to maneuver an army and how to supply an army, so he had real skills,” said Stephenson But his personality was such that he couldn’t get along with people,” said Prof. Joseph Glatthaar. He is a Stephenson Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina.
Glatthaar has spent his career studying and writing about America’s military history.
That competency on the battlefield carried into the American Civil War where his cantankerous reputation continued.
In the old Army, you had to handle a multitude of jobs,” Glatthaar said. “Bragg was the quartermaster, the commissary officer, and he commanded a company of soldiers. So, as a company commander, he requested some equipment. And as a quartermaster, he declined it. He did this all on paper. Writing it out. When he turned himself down, he explained why he did it.
“Then Bragg, as the company commander, protested his own decision. Finally, the post commander intervened and said, ‘Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with everyone in this entire army, and now you’re quarreling with yourself. Now what kind of a person would do something like that?’ It represents very much his character.”
Bragg’s last stand was as second in command at the battle of Bentonville in Johnston County. It brought him home to North Carolina and to defeat.
“By this point, Sherman’s army is really big and really strong, really skilled, and they caught him off guard and drove them back. But, then Sherman launched a counterattack, and he was on the verge of just crushing the Confederate Army and Sherman called a halt to it,” Glatthaar said. “He didn’t want to get more soldiers killed at that stage of the war. It didn’t make any sense. He knew the Confederacy was lost.”
Not lost, even in 2020, is his namesake. Fort Bragg is, by population, the largest military installation in the world. But why is it named after Bragg?
The simple answer is that the name Bragg is short.
“The rationale was that it would save in writing or print, and things like that. So, when you look at their names, sure enough, they are short: Fort Hill, Fort Lee, Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, Fort Hood, Fort Polk. These are all really short names,” Glatthaar said.
“It’s kind of amusing that you would use that as the basis for naming them. And then, of course, they’re all in the south, so they thought it was a great idea to elevate Confederate heroes.”
Now, 155 years after the end of the Civil War, Bragg is in a different battle during another chapter in America’s history. The United States Senate Armed Services Committee voted last week to require the Pentagon to rename military bases named after Confederate generals. President Donald Trump said he doesn’t support the move.
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