Home Commentary A Modest Proposal for the Confederate Fort Names

A Modest Proposal for the Confederate Fort Names

President Donald Trump’s tweet is right. Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, all those forts that are named after Confederate generals—they are, as he wrote, part of “a history of Winning, Victory and Freedom.” Every single one of those generals fought—and lost—a rebellion that actual U.S. forces Won (through Victory!), leading to Freedom for millions of slaves.
Trump’s tweet responded to a push from Congress and others to rename Army bases currently named after white supremacists.

I propose a compromise. Let’s keep the naming principle and change the names. We can rename the forts after different losers over which U.S. forces have Victoriously Won battles for Freedom. There are ten U.S. Army bases named after Confederate generals. Here is a list of ten defeated enemies of the U.S. for whom the forts could be named, without commemorating men who fought for slavery.

Fort Cornwallis, for Charles Cornwallis, a.k.a. The Earl Cornwallis, whose surrender in 1781 at the Siege of Yorktown effectively ended British efforts to quash the American Revolution.
Fort McFarlane, for American Revolutionary War veteran Maj. James McFarlane, who led the forces opposed to the whiskey tax in the 1790s. He was mortally wounded in a contest over the federal government’s power to give revenuers Freedom to collect taxes from distillers.

Fort Karamanli, for Tripoli’s Pasha, Yusuf Karamanli, whose inauguration gift to President Thomas Jefferson was a demand of a tribute of $225,000 in 1801 dollars. Karamanli’s defeat wasn’t total, but after the U.S. captured the city of Derna, Karamanli accepted a mere $60,000 in ransom for U.S. prisoners and slunk off. The campaign also had unanticipated musical consequences; it inspired the “to the shores of Tripoli” line of the Marine Hymn.

Fort Menawa, for Creek Chief Menawa, who fled the Victorious forces of Andrew Jackson after the 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend, ending the Creek War and enshrining the Freedom of the U.S. military to wrest millions of acres of land from Native Americans, even those who fought alongside U.S. forces.

Fort Pakenham, for British Maj. Gen. Sir Edward Pakenham, whose troops were routed in a 30-minute clash at the Battle of New Orleans. The thrashing humiliated the British, launched Andrew Jackson as a national hero, and provided more unanticipated musical consequences, in the form of a hit song by Johnny Horton. Pakenham was mortally wounded in the battle, so history never had a chance to record the look on his face when word arrived later from Europe that the fray had been fought 18 days after the War of 1812 had ended.

Fort Pirate, for The Unknown Aegean Pirate, a name we can use to designate the collective leadership of the pirates on the Aegean Sea defeated by flotillas from the United States and many European powers in 1828. The campaign included a grab by the USA of the Grabusa citadel commanded by Christian refugee pirates (which is a phrase it never occurred to me I would someday write).

Fort Muhammad, for Uleëbalang Po Muhammad, whose forces at Kuala Batee, Sumatra were routed and whose village was bombed and looted by U.S. troops in 1832 to demonstrate the U.S. military’s Freedom to massacre anyone who lived near the site of a previous massacre of a U.S. merchant ship’s crew. I am not aware of any unanticipated musical consequences to this battle, which is unfortunate, because the world is a poorer place without a song whose lyrics include “Uleëbalang Po Muhammad” and “Kuala Batee.”

Fort Santa Anna, for Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, whose 1848 defeat in the Mexican-American War (which, in Mexico, for some reason, is not called La Guerra de la Agresión del Norte) established the Freedom of the U.S. military to expand the country’s territory through conquering non-indigenous neighbors.

Fort Wenzong, for Emperor Wenzong of Qing, who fled Beijing in 1859, at the end of the Second Opium War, in which the USS San Jacinto aided British Imperial and French forces to ensure the Freedom to sell drugs on the lucrative Chinese market.

Fort Montojo, for Adm. Patricio Montojo, whose fleet was shattered in 1898 at the Battle of Manila Bay, during the Spanish-American war, by ships commanded by Montpelier native Commodore George Dewey. Dewey’s victory ensured the U.S. government’s Freedom to avenge the loss of a warship and its sailors to a mysterious explosion in Havana—by colonizing a country half a world away. Unintended musical consequences include a half dozen or so songs named “Remember the Maine,” including one by M.C. Duncan’s Dog and Pony Show that strings together random-ish phrases like “Remember my birthday and to call your mother.”

This is hardly an exhaustive list; it is just enough suggestions to replace the names of forts currently commemorating generals who made war against the United States to preserve slavery. There are a plenitude of other names to choose from. The United States has been Victorious in battles somewhere on the globe in 223 years of its 244-year history, so many enemies of the nation have been Defeated, enabling Freedom to spread throughout the world. And doesn’t “Fort Pirate” have a nice ring?