Fort Benning & Distraction Tricks
Updated: Sep 29, 2022
The Naming Commission establishes its bag of tricks when writing about Henry L. Benning and its new proposed name for the fort.
The report does not cite any sources for its claim that "He is on record as saying that he would rather be stricken with illness and starvation than see slaves liberated and given equality as citizens."(pg.15) However, the commission is likely referring to Benning's speech at the Virginia Convention in February, 1861. Why would the report not include this date? Because Virginia voted down secession on April 4th, 1861. If readers could see the date they would know that other men that are analyzed did not go to war for the reasons Benning cites. Regardless of Benning's rhetoric, he is only offering his opinion of Georgia's secession, not a war that did not yet occur.
The commission does this to distract readers from the fact that it has not established what Congress mandated: that bases or memorials are removed for individuals that voluntarily served in the Confederate States of America. As it never takes a position on the definition of a citizen or when the United States became a consolidated republic, it failed to meet its burden.
Moreover, finding Union men that said racist and pro-slavery statements is very easy; for example, General William T. Sherman stated in a letter on 12/23/1859:
"I would not if I could abolish or modify slavery. I don't know that I would materially change the actual political relation of master and slave. Negroes in the great numbers that exist here must of necessity be slaves."
The committee was not tasked with finding offensive comments by Benning or anyone else: only to determine if the individual voluntarily served in the Confederate States of America and if so, how the asset should be renamed.
Congress should ask this commission, or a new one, to complete its mission before making any changes to memorials or forts.