Op-Ed

Fort Bragg’s Namesake Braxton Bragg ‘Enjoyed and Benefited from Slave Labor All His Life’

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Confederate General Braxton Bragg [Picture from the Library of Congress]

As I read about Braxton Bragg, for whom Fort Braggs (in both California and North Carolina) are named I become more and more dismayed.

As someone born into a slave holding family in North Carolina, Bragg enjoyed and benefited from slave labor all his life and never said a single word against this unjust system. When he went off to West Point, a slave accompanied him for personal service. When he took up a military command and fought in the Mexican War a slave was forced into labor for him.

After the Mexican War he married the heiress to a wealthy slave owning family in Louisiana. He and this wife named their 1600 acre plantation Bivouac and joined “the elite ranks of the slave owning aristocracy.” They worked 105 enslaved Black men, women and children on their estate for their personal economic advancement earning “a net profit of $30,000” in 1859. He defended his use of slave labor thusly: “We have a large class in subordination – just and necessary…”

Joining the secession of southern states Bragg rejoined the Army as a Major General and said of secession: “Our course is just and we must triumph.”

(All quotes are from the book Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man in the Confederacy by Earl J. Hess.)

It seems to me absurd that our town honors a slaver and traitor by bearing his name. He never set foot on the Mendocino Coast and was, by all accounts, a terrible bungler as a General. as well as a raging alcoholic.

Soon the Department of Defense will order the renaming of the military base, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We will be the last place in the country named for Braxton Bragg.

Two years ago Confederate Corners, California renamed itself Springtown. We are now the last place in California bearing a Confederate name.

Renaming Fort Bragg, CA. has nothing to do with being “woke” or being a “snow flake” or, God help us, being a “socialist.” It has to do with cutting ties to a racist past that enslaved Black people and building a future that includes all Americans. And it’s about time.

Philip Zwerling

Categories: Op-Ed

27 replies »

  1. So again we will toss the name of the town an the history, to avoid conflict over who the town was really named after, lets all go down an pull sum statues over, show the world how we really feel, then we can rewrite the history books while we are at it. Whats wrong is the truth too much? There are things that really need fixin , but that aint one.

  2. No one is erasing history by not honoring the Confederacy. We need to understand the fact that it was an act of sedition, treason. If you fought against the actual flag of the United States, I don’t think there’s any merit for you being honored for that.

    • Sorry i’m new here…but wasnt it the aide of the American flag that was seditious to the British empire ?

    • Sorry im new here… But wasn’t it the side of the American flag that was actually making an act to sedition to the British empire ?

  3. We are not rewriting history. We should not honor soldiers who fought against the U.S. Can you imagine if there were towns in Germany named for Hitler, Goebbles, or the admittedly brilliant General Rommel? Then, there’s the ‘Fort’ part of the name, which refers to the subjugation of the Pomo people. If the real history of this town were taught in the schools, perhaps folks who grew up here would feel differently about the name.

    Even though I’m a relatively recent arrival of 50 years, the name Fort Bragg has always been an embarrassment to me.

    • Actually looked up to see if there were still places in Germany named after Hitler and Rommel. There are. There are many streets still named after Hitler and some of the barracks of the military are still named after Hitler and Rommel. Don’t think the Fort Bragg California is the only one with names of people in history that have done bad things. Sometimes maybe you need to check your sources before you start blabbing

      • Every German town and city had a street named after Hitler in the period 1933-1945. With the defeat of Nazism ALL those streets were renamed. It was a symbolic and clear break with the past.. Kind of like renaming Confederate place names after the secessionists were defeated in the Civil War. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_streets_named_after_Adolf_Hitler
        or renaming Fort Bragg, North Carolina (upcoming very soon) or renaming Fort Bragg, CA. Yes, “you need to check your sources before you start blabbing.”

  4. This is not a question of honor, or who this guy fought for, or being a slave holder. every dollar bill you have has a slave holder printed on it. its about common sense, that is what the locals named the place. the name should not offend you, since its been there at least a 100 years before you were born. an anybody that had offence to that is long dead. put the broom back in the closet, have a long peaceful life. an stop trying to make waves. there are enough things for people to worry about. and im sure ol Braxton wont mind either! .

  5. Changing the name of Fort Bragg is not about rewriting history. Who is Braxton Bragg to any of us? He was just a guy with a bad attitude and we’ve been saddled with his name. The times have changed and we no longer think it’s cool to glorify the sadistic history of slavery or to honor the men who fought against the United States in an effort to preserve slavery. Changing Fort Bragg’s name is a way of telling our children and the people who view us from the outside that we get it. It is a chance to repudiate the errors of the past and to find a more meaningful name to call ourselves. There is beauty surrounding us here, why not celebrate that instead of some long dead hero of the Lost Cause.

  6. When the “woke” mob burns their T-Shirts and flags with the White Supremacists Che Guevara and Karl Marx, I’ll believe they are actually interested in “removing the stain of racism of the past.”

    • These people come up here with a two bit education, an cant wait to stir up sum feces. johnny come latelys at work again. go back where you came from an snivel there. no matter what it will never be good enough. lets push the locals out an make our own laws. pull up the ladder im aboard.

  7. “De-Nazification” eliminated ANYTHING named after Hitler. Rommel, a member of the opposition to Hitler, is held in better regard.

  8. I was recently reminded of a scripture found in The Holy Bible that says we’re not to remove the old landmarks. That settles it for me.

    • I don’t mind a disagreement on principle and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But people are not entitled to their own facts. The Bible is replete with God’s instructions to tear down monuments and false idols. See Deuteronomy: “And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” Certainly the slavers Confederate monuments qualify for destruction. Does that settle it for you?

    • Further, the biblical reference about not removing landmarks explicitly means do not move your neighbor’s fence line to enhance the size of your property. It is plainly about “you shall not commit robbery”. I am happy to provide you with a detail explanation by biblical scholars if you care to know more, but please understand the Bible is against graven images and false idols and contains copious instructions/commandments to tear them down.

  9. I think i agree with you. I guess I’m just asking myself now if it’s a monument or an idol. Thank you Phillip Z. 🙏😁🙏

    • The land mark is the bronze plaque (registered and numbered as a California landmark) on the big rock on the sidewalk in front of the Guesthouse Museum. We need to remove it (and his name on our town).

  10. Thanks Clare!
    I love still being able to enjoy others points of view. And their wisdom. It Brings me joy to hear what you have to say . It makes me want to crack.open a Bible and do a little reading… Sweeeet 🙏😁🙏

  11. The removals have been driven by the belief that the monuments glorify white supremacy; memorialize an unrecognized, treasonous government, the Confederacy, whose founding principle was the perpetuation and expansion of slavery; and that the presence of these Confederate memorials over a hundred years after the defeat of the Confederacy continues to disenfranchise and alienate African Americans.

    The vast majority of these Confederate monuments were built during the era of Jim Crow laws, from 1877 to 1964. Detractors claim that they were not built as memorials but as a means of intimidating African Americans and reaffirming white supremacy after the Civil War. The monuments have thus become highly politicized; according to Eleanor Harvey, a senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and a scholar of Civil War history: “If white nationalists and neo-Nazis are now claiming this as part of their heritage, they have essentially co-opted those images and those statues beyond any capacity to neutralize them again”.

    Time period / Number of removals
    1865–2009 / 2
    2009–2014 / 3
    2015 (after Charleston church shooting) / 4
    2016 / 4
    2017 (year of the Unite the Right rally) / 36
    2018 / 4
    2019 / 4
    2020 (after murder of George Floyd) / 96

    Why do people have to hang onto such a horrific man’s legacy. Are you proud of this?

    Why is it so hard for people to right the wrong? What is wrong with making it right by naming it by the attributes of this town’s history?

    Such as:
    Native Americans – Pomo Tribe (until forcibly moved/relocated to Mendocino Indian Reservation-Noyo)
    Climate – Mild weather
    Ocean, Harbor, Rivers, Creeks
    Nature, Parks and Recreation
    Lumber
    Commercial Fishing
    The Arts
    Railroad
    Tourism

  12. The Romans were slavers but they never changed the name. Ditto London and Amsterdam. This whole cancel culture is the product of a poor education in history.

  13. Perhaps Phillip will contribute the estimated 350k to 500k it would cost to fund such an endeavor as. Name change…perhaps that would ease his persecuted soul!

    • ah, BK, no one knows what a name change would cost and so you are throwing around some wild guestimates there pulled out of thin air..

      What we do know is 1) we learned in Sunday School that personal costs should not stop us from doing the moral thing and 2) our State legislative representatives have already assured us that once residents vote for a name change they will work to have the state cover the costs. I don’t think my financial contribution or yours will be necessary.

      I don’t know what a ‘persecuted soul’ might be, BK but maybe we could agree o eschew the name calling and personal attacks? What if we agreed we both love our city and love our neighbors and just disagree about how to move the city forward?

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