Who was Henry Benning, for whom Fort Benning in Columbus was named?

Who was Henry Benning?

Buoyed by protests over the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police, support for removing Confederate monuments and street names has increased.

In Atlanta, two city-owned Confederate monuments in historic Oakland Cemetery were vandalized, and in Alabama, the bronze likeness of Adm. Raphael Semmes was removed during the night.

» As Confederate statues topple, groups target Decatur's monument

And now, the AJC's Jeremy Redmon reports, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are said to be open to holding a "bipartisan conversation" about renaming nearly a dozen major bases and installations that bear the names of Confederate military commanders.

» Pentagon open to talks about renaming bases honoring Confederate figures

One of those bases is Columbus’ Fort Benning, named for Confederate Army Brig. Gen. Henry Benning. Here are a few things to know about Benning.

Born and died in Columbus

Henry Lewis Benning was born in Columbia County on April 2, 1814, to Malinda Meriwether White and Pleasant Moon Benning. After graduating college, he returned to Columbus, where he established his permanent home. He married Mary Howard Jones and fathered 10 children. Benning died July 10, 1875, and is buried in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus.

» Photos: Confederate memorials in metro Atlanta

Law and politics

Benning graduated from the University of Georgia in 1834 and then studied law. He passed the bar in 1835 and served as solicitor-general of Columbus from 1837 to 1839. Benning had bigger plans, though, and ran for a seat in the state General Assembly. He was defeated. He later ran for Congress, but was again defeated. Between those events, he became an outspoken supporter of secession.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia: Benning "was one of Georgia's delegates to a convention of nine slaveholding states, held in Nashville, Tennessee, to determine the Southern course of action if slavery were banned in the western territories. While the resolutions of the convention helped lead to the Compromise of 1850, which temporarily averted secession, Benning introduced resolutions in Nashville that strongly defended slavery and supported a state's right to secede."

After returning to Georgia, Benning was elected to the state Supreme Court, where he served for six years.

The Civil War

Benning initially presided over Georgia's secession convention, even helping to draft the state's Ordinance of Secession. Georgia seceded in January 1861, and Benning headed to Virginia, where he argued that separation from the Union was the only way to preserve slavery.

Benning helped recruit men to form the Seventeenth Georgia Infantry and was chosen as colonel in August 1861. During the Battle of Antietam, Benning earned the nickname "Old Rock" because of his regiment's unfaltering defense of the Confederate right flank.

Most of Benning’s battles were fought in Virginia, and he was there with his troops in April 1865 when the Confederacy surrendered in Appomattox.

After the war

Benning returned home to ruined lands and no slaves. So went back to practicing law. He was on his way to the courthouse when he suffered a stroke and died July 10, 1875.

In 1918, the Army established its infantry school at a camp partly in Muscogee County and partly in Chattahoochee County. At the request of the Columbus Rotary Club, the camp was named for Benning. It later became Fort Benning.