Fort Bragg, CA is Named for a Confederate General

The delightful little Mendocino coastal town of Fort Bragg is named after a Civil War Confederate general, spurring more name change conversation.

California seems thousands of miles from the debate over Confederate monuments that’s broken out since last weekend’s white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, but we do have one little testament to a Confederate general right here in our northern California backyard. Turns out the tiny coastal town of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County is named after Confederate general Braxton Bragg, who fought against the United States as an officer of the Confederate States Army.

You’d be forgiven for not knowing Fort Bragg, CA was named after a Confederate general, even if you’ve been to the city’s history museum called the Guest House. That museum makes almost no mention of Braxton Bragg and has none of his artifacts. The guy never set foot in what is now Mendocino County, and the name Fort Bragg was chosen before the Civil War had even started.

“1857 it gets named Fort Bragg. First Camp Bragg and then Fort Bragg,” the Guest House’s resident historian Sylvia Bartley told CBS 5 (the Civil War started in 1861.) “In the Mexican War, Bragg was considered a hero.”

Fort Bragg was founded by a Lieutenant Horatio Gates, who’d served under Bragg in the Mexican-American War of the late 1840s. The name was a homage to Bragg’s victories in that war, and he was retired when the town named for him. He came out retirement to serve the Confederacy in the Civil War, and he was terrible at it.

According to his Wikipedia entry, “Bragg is generally considered among the worst generals of the Civil War.” Another Civil War historian calls Bragg the “architect of a remarkable record of defeat.”

People in Fort Bragg are aware of their namesake, but it doesn’t seem to bother people much. “I take umbrage with Confederate flags, I take umbrage with statues glorifying what happened in this country during the Civil War,” Fort Bragg mayor Lindy Peters told CBS 5. “The man never set foot in our town, we have no statues, and we’re Fort Bragg because we’re Fort Bragg goshdarnit, and we’re proud of being from Fort Bragg, and we don’t want anyone from outside coming in and telling us to change our name.”

Fort Bragg, California is not the best known Fort Bragg. That distinction goes to the Fort Bragg U.S. Army base in North Carolina, the largest military base by population in America.

 

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