I was doing a little research for a blog post on the 21st WI Infantry-a unit that fought in the American Civil War. I found out they were mustered in at Camp Bragg in Fond du Lac County. The name of the camp intrigued me since a fellow by the name of Braxton Bragg was a Confederate General (and not a very successful one). Fort Bragg in NC is home to the elite US Airborne Divisions and named for the Confederate General.
Although, I didn’t think the fort and the Civil War camp were named for the same guy the coincidence rang a bell as to how the US Army named their forts and camps in the first place. Camp Bragg in Wisconsin (which only existed during the Civil War) was named for a fellow named Edward Bragg. Edward was a northern “war Democrat” which meant he was in favor of suppressing the Southern Rebellion with force. He ended up a Brigadier General after serving in various Wisconsin regiments. In other words Edward was a local “somebody” who contributed a great deal to the cause. Edward also became a Republican later in his career which I found interesting.
Braxton Bragg was from North Carolina. He was a graduate of West Point and served with distinction in the Mexican-American War. He was considered to be something of an expert in artillery because of the expert way he handled his battery in the Mexican War. In other words he was an up and comer in the US Army before siding with NC when it seceded.
Camp Bragg in NC (now Fort Bragg) was established well after the Civil War in 1918 for the training of the artillery arm of the US Army. See the connection?
The location was suitable and Bragg was an artillery officer (and trainer) in the US Army before he was a Confederate General.
It’s also worth noting that NC provided many soldiers to the Confederate cause as they believed they were fighting for their country. Some Army forts and camps were named for southerners in an effort to heal the nation after a war that cost 600,000 lives. Fort Hood in Texas for example, recognized John Bell Hood’s leadership of the famed Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia.
We should be aware of this point. In 1918 the Civil War was still fresh in American minds. Naming a camp after a local “somebody” was a way to heal the rift between Americans.
This is very different from the Southern States that started flying the Confederate flag as a State flag during the Civil Rights era. The motive there was to intimidate blacks and preserve the hideous Jim Crow laws.
Fort Bragg, as I mentioned earlier is the training ground for America’s elite Airborne warriors. It is home to the Army’s 82 and 101st Airborne Divisions. The fort switched from training the artillery arm to the airborne arm in 1942 during the Second World War. Perhaps it should be remained Fort Gavin for his contributions to the Airborne during World War Two?
Every time there is some sort of crisis the AB are among the first mobilized. I wonder how many of them, past or present, even know or care about the history of their fort\camp? I really do not have a dog in the particular fight to rename Army bases although I’m inclined to let it be and trust the Army to do what is best for the Army and the soldiers in their units.
I will say and say it again…history is nuanced and there aren’t any perfect people. Naming a camp or fort or ship usually had more to do with military contributions than anything else. Erasing history is not a good idea. Teach history fairly, warts and all and we will all be better off.