Augusta, Georgia is a pretty dumpy small city that does have an economic asset—the U.S. Army’s Fort Gordon.
Augusta’s Fort Gordon was named after John B. Gordon, one of Robert E. Lee’s most admired generals. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Volunteers, who may have saved the Union at Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, recounted accepting Gordon’s surrender to him at Appomattox:
Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier’s salutation, from the “order arms” to the old “carry”—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!
Now, of course, our moral intuitions about the participants in the Civil War being assuredly so much better than those of Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, we are scandalized by Gordon being honored. So the military is spending $62 million to rename Fort Gordon and other relics of American attempts to heal the scars of the Civil War.
The Army asked local Augusta leaders whom they’d like to rename Fort Gordon for, and they came up with Fort Eisenhower: Augusta has one glamorous distinction: each spring, Augusta National Golf Club hosts America’s top golf tournament, The Masters, the first of the four major championships.
The modern list of the four major championships appears to have emerged from a quote from Arnold Palmer in 1960 when he articulated his ambition to win all four major championships that year. One reason that The Masters was universally acknowledged as a major in 1960 was that President Eisenhower vacationed twice per year at Augusta National, accompanied to Augusta by much of the Washington press corps.
Eisenhower’s regular caddie, local man Willie Perteet (whom Ike nicknamed “Cemetery” because he had somehow survived having his throat cut by a jealous woman and was taken to the morgue, where he woke up to the shock of the attendant), became the world’s most famous caddie.
(Today, it’s considered shameful that any black man ever carried the clubs of a white man, so PGA tour caddies tend to be the pro’s brother or college golf team buddy. The last time I played with a caddie, the caddies were white Duke University students who found it profitable to fly in to the Hamptons from North Carolina for a weekend of work. Thus, equity advances. Or something. Nobody seems to have thought much about it.)
Not surprisingly, when the U.S. Army asked Augusta community leaders whom they wanted to rename Fort Gordon for they came up with Fort Eisenhower. The Washington Post is shocked, shocked:
How Black troops lost out in bid to sever Army post’s Confederate ties
In the effort to rename Fort Gordon, community leaders in Augusta, Ga., declined an opportunity to elevate a person of color. They picked their own finalist: Dwight Eisenhower.
By Alex Horton
October 7, 2022 at 5:00 a.m. EDT
AUGUSTA, Ga. … In the end, however, the commission chose to go in another direction entirely and rename the base after Eisenhower—bypassing the five Black candidates and other groundbreaking people of color.
That idea gained traction only after last-minute lobbying from some of the meeting’s attendees, according to people familiar with the gathering. Jim Clifford, city administrator for neighboring North Augusta, recalled someone suggesting Eisenhower would be a more desirable alternative and then “pretty much everyone else piled onto that.”
The unexpected outcome has both perplexed and rankled others who believe the selection of a prestigious White man is at best a missed opportunity, and at worst a failure of the renaming commission’s goal to not merely kill off the military’s racist relics but to elevate minorities in the process. Detractors say it looks like a bid to capitalize on Eisenhower’s association with Augusta National, a longtime symbol of racial division that did not admit its first Black member until 1990, nearly six decades after the golf course opened.
Bill Allison, a military history professor at Georgia Southern University, called it “a chamber-of-commerce-y decision.” …
“I don’t think it meets the intent of the naming commission,” said Parin Amin, a longtime Augusta resident. He was invited to last year’s meeting but not the smaller one this spring, he said, and characterized the list of participants in April as “not very representative of the community.”
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a Georgia native who, like Eisenhower, was an Army general, issued a memo to Pentagon leaders fully concurring with the commission’s recommendations and ordering their implementation pending a 90-day waiting period required by Congress. Austin is the first African American to attain the military’s top civilian post.
This account is based on interviews with 17 people either directly involved in or familiar with the renaming commission’s work, a sprawling effort projected to cost $62 million, and encompass name changes for naval vessels, buildings and streets, in addition to the nine Army posts. Even as some cast doubt on the integrity of the renaming process in Augusta, several said that, in the end, Eisenhower is a sound choice, one that honors a respected statesman. As Amin put it, “Progress is progress.”
Augusta-Richmond County, with a population exceeding 200,000, is nearly 60 percent Black, according to U.S. census data. …
… The renaming commission had said that “ideally” its recommendations would have “some affiliation” with either the state where the base is located or its mission. …
Eisenhower died in 1969. In choosing him, the commission disregarded its own list of finalists representing some of the most distinguished soldiers in Army history.
Bravery is actually pretty common.
Beating Hitler’s Wehrmacht and winning the Big One is not.