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Named After Confederate General, Fort Bragg Contemplates Its Namesake

FORT BRAGG (KPIX 5) -- In the past 24-hours we have seen cities across the country and in California remove symbols of our confederate past.

Across the United States there are about 1,500 official monuments effectively dedicated to the Confederacy.

You won't find any in California, but what about changing the name of a Northern California town?

The debate comes up from time to time in the small coastal community of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.

No one in Fort Bragg seems too worried about honoring a Confederate general.

"Oh yes, 1857 it gets named Fort Bragg. First Camp Bragg and then Fort Bragg," said Fort Bragg historian Sylvia Bartley said.

Walk through Fort Bragg's History Museum and you won't see much of Braxton Bragg - that's because this town was founded by Lt. Horatio Gates Gibson, up from the Presidio, and he decided to name a fort after his commanding officer in the Mexican American War.

Bartley said, "In the Mexican War, Bragg was considered a hero."

So Bragg himself never even set foot in this town. He was actually retired when the civil war started. He came out of retirement to be a confederate general and proved to be pretty awful at it, suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of Ulysses Grant at the Battle of Chattanooga.

Fort Bragg Mayor Lindy Peters says this issue comes to town whenever current events collide with Confederate history.

Peters said, "It's always funny because it's someone from the outside that brings this issue to us."

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) is a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus. He said, "I think any time you ask any group to make a change to a name, of a school, of an athletic team, there are a lot of emotions involved and we have seen that."

Thurmond said, "You can't legislate understanding."

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber represents San Diego and said, "Because you become immune to these things at some point until someone points it out to you, then you really have to assess it. So we're optimistic that cities like Fort Bragg will eventually have that conversation."

Peters said, "The cost of changing all the addresses, all the companies, all the institutions, it would be a nightmare for the post office, a complete nightmare for our local post office."

He says this is more than a matter of practicality.

"I take umbrage with Confederate flags, I take umbrage with statues glorifying what happened in this country during the Civil War," Peters said.

He says people have revisited this issue many times over the years, and while opinions may vary from neighbor to neighbor, Fort Bragg has made peace with the its namesake.

Peters said, "The man never set foot in our town, we have no statues, and we're Fort Bragg because we're Fort Bragg gosh darn-it, 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."

Locals said the issue does come up from time to time in conversations, especially among people when they first move into the community, but the mayor says folks in Fort Bragg are willing to let it go.

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