The Jolt: The Pentagon report on how two Georgia military bases came by their Confederate names

<p>Trump administration eyeing Fort Benning for new shelter for immigrant children</p>

Through a request made under the Freedom of Information act, a news website dedicated to military and veteran issues has forced the Pentagon to make public a buried 2017 study of how the names of Confederate generals were bestowed upon military bases in the South and elsewhere.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense report obtained by Task & Purpose, the decisions were usually – though not always -- made by the military bureaucracy, rather than the result of lobbying campaigns by local populations.

In Georgia, we have Forts Gordon near Augusta and Benning adjacent to Columbus. Benning was one of those exceptions, according to the now-public Pentagon report:

The final major post in the south named during [World War I] was the camp at Columbus, Georgia, erected for the Infantry School. In the only known instance of the Army directly taking into account public opinion, in October 1918 the Secretary of War acknowledged the recommendations of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Rotary Club and named the post after Confederate general Henry Benning, who had lived in the area.

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As for Fort Gordon, this was the name of a military encampment on Atlanta’s north side. (It became a hot spot during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.) The base was disbanded, but the name resurfaced decades later:

In response to plans to acquire nine new bases, in June 1941 the Historical Section provided three names for each. For the four locations in the south, there were five Confederates on the list and seven others, though all three candidates for the future post at August, Georgia, had fought for the south in the Civil War.

The Army ultimately picked Lt. Gen. John B. Gordon from the three alternatives. The John Gordon chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans telegraphed the War Department to “thank you for your thoughtful and gracious act.” A local Congressman tried to get the name changed to one of the alternates without success.

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Gordon, of course, is presumed to have been the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia during Reconstruction. The Pentagon report concludes thusly:

Although many major bases in the south are now named for Confederate officers, there is considerable historic precedent for naming bases after non-Confederates. In addition, there is precedent for re-naming bases, though in most extant cases, the Army decided not to do so.

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The Council for National Policy is a quiet organization that over the decades has nexus for conservative activists and their donors. The Washington Post has obtained a trove of videos that recorded meetings of the group in February and August. The Post report includes this:

At the time of the meeting, Trump, his campaign officials and other Republicans were blasting the practice as an abuse by Democrats. “GET RID OF BALLOT HARVESTING, IT IS RAMPANT WITH FRAUD,” Trump tweeted this spring.

But Ralph Reed, chairman of the nonprofit Faith & Freedom Coalition, told the CNP audience that conservatives are embracing the technique this year.

“And so our organization is going to be harvesting ballots in churches,” he said. “We’re going to be specifically going in not only to White evangelical churches, but into Hispanic and Asian churches, and collecting those ballots.”

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Already posted: U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is set to accept the endorsement on Thursday of congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, a controversial fellow Republican who has spread baseless QAnon conspiracy theories and posted racist and xenophobic videos on social media.

This is quite the gamble. The congressional district that Greene is all but certain to represent in January covers much of northwest Georgia. Clearly, the Loeffler campaign is attempting to divide the mountain-oriented political base of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, her chief GOP rival.

But if successful, it would come at a cost during a Jan. 5 runoff, presumably against the Rev. Raphael Warnock, allowing him and fellow Democrats to connect the Republican incumbent to a believer in fringe conspiracy theories – and right-wing militia groups.

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Over at the University of Virginia, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has shifted the Sixth District congressional race between U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, and Republican Karen Handel from “leans Democratic” to “likely Democratic.”

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Senate candidate Doug Collins will kick off a statewide “Trump Defender Tour” on Saturday in Alto. The two week tour will hit more than 60 stops, from “Bainbridge to Blue Ridge, Jesup to Jasper.”

His campaign said he’ll be joined by other Trump boosters along the way, including U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Matt Gaetz; former Trump operative George Papadopoulos and author Carter Page.

The launch, held at Jaemor Farms, will feature American Conservative Union president Matt Schlapp.

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Democrats are planning some counterprogramming ahead of President Donald Trump’s Friday visit to Macon. Georgia’s first “Ridin' With Biden Unity Parade” is set to take place at 11 a.m. and feature state Rep. Miriam Paris and Macon-Bibb Commissioner-elect Seth Clark. Catch the details here.

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Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, is scheduled to travel to Georgia on Sunday. We don’t know more than that just yet.

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According to our AJC colleagues Mark Niesse and Ada Wood, voting slowed to a crawl across Georgia this week in large part because of check-in computers that couldn’t handle the load of record turnout at early voting locations:

The problem created a bottleneck as voters reached the front of the line, when poll workers had to deal with sluggish laptops to verify each voter. Some early voting sites reported checking in just 10 voters per hour at each computer.

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National tracking by Morning Consult has found Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading incumbent President Donald Trump by eight percentage points among voters 65 and older, a “dramatic” swing, given that 2016 exit polls showed Trump winning that group by 15 points.

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The Savannah Morning News tells us that the city of Pooler has done some rethinking. An absentee ballot drop box has been placed at Pooler City Hall, a reversal of the city’s initial decision.

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Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday that he will commit up to $1.5 billion in federal pandemic relief money to shore up the fund that pays unemployment benefits, according to our AJC colleague James Salzer:

Kemp’s aim is to continue paying benefits and keep the state from having to cut them, raise unemployment taxes or take years to repay federal loans to the fund. All that took place during the Great Recession, when Georgia had to borrow about $1 billion to be able to continue making payments to the jobless.

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In endorsement news:

-- Public Service Commissioner Tricia Pridemore is backing U.S. Rep. Doug Collins' challenge to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, making her one of a string of statewide officials siding against Gov. Brian Kemp in the divisive race.

-- The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony’s List has endorsed U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s re-election bid.

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Staff at Atlanta’s veterans hospital are complaining that thousands of veterans are experiencing major delays in getting medical care during the pandemic, according to a Channel 2 Action News investigation.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presented the inaugural Change Maker Award to rapper Michael “Killer Mike” Render at Wednesday night’s Billboard Music Awards. The entertainer is also a social justice activist, business owner and a new acquaintance of Gov. Brian Kemp. Video evidence here.

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