How Fort Moore lost its Confederate name – without controversy

The first exhibit inside the National Infantry Museum, in Columbus, Georgia, is a long aisle of life-size battlefield scenes from Yorktown, Omaha Beach, Desert Storm. The exhibit is a march through the Army Infantry’s history. So too are the soldiers it depicts. 

The scene from Antietam shows Henry Benning, a Civil War Confederate general and native here in Columbus, Georgia, aiming a rifle past a short bridge. 

Farther forward, inside the open cab of a helicopter, a projector plays black-and-white footage from the Vietnam War. In the film, Harold “Hal” Moore, who retired a lieutenant general and whose memoir became the movie “We Were Soldiers,” waves off a chopper. 

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Fort Moore in Georgia holds lessons on how to rename military bases once named for Confederates. Asking locals what they thought helped lead to a smooth transition.

It’s a fitting cast. Beside the museum is one of the country’s largest Army bases, which trains America’s infantry. Up until this May, its name was Fort Benning. Now it’s Fort Moore, having been renamed for Hal and his wife, Julia – one of nine posts once named for Confederate soldiers being re-designated this year. 

That change was required in the defense bill passed by Congress in 2020, the kind of Washington mandate that could have easily rent a Deep South town and its beloved Army base over the politics of memory. Instead, Fort Benning became Fort Moore with no protest and few complaints. 

“I don’t think anybody who looks at it logically and fairly will ever say it was imposed on us,” says Pastor Jimmy Elder of Columbus’ First Baptist Church, who participated in the renaming process.